In the face of pressing challenges and despite several efforts to address our multidimensional challenges as a country, the political class seemingly always resort to “politicking” and “manipulation”. Despite several recommendations and policy framework adopted in the past, very few credible reforms have been made amid the growing economic stress, political uncertainty, and persistent violent conflicts. As a new administration assumes the mantle of leadership (pending the outcome of the litigation issues surrounding the 2023 General Elections), how can ordinary Nigerians mainstream the right conversations and foster governance based on critical issues?
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nigeria and Young Professionals in Policy and Development (YouPaD) organized a two-hours interdisciplinary public policy conversation on “Issue-Based Governance: How Ordinary Nigerians Can Mainstream the Right Conversations.” The conversation, which was hosted on 26 May 2023, gathered over eighty (80) experts and young professionals under the #AgoraByYouPaD Public Policy Series, to brainstorm and discuss on how Nigerians can facilitate Issue-Based Governance, by leading the right conversations.
Nigerians especially young people have witnessed a longstanding marginalization, disenfranchisement and underrepresentation in governance for decades. This is often the case in most parts of the world, particularly across low and middle-income countries but the ratio of under-representation of young people in Nigeria is unprecedentedly high. Young people are often left out of key decision-making processes. Meanwhile, in many cases, the younger generation are better positioned and more knowledgeable, equipped, and prepared to address the fast-rising issues of today’s world, caused by globalization, and development.
With an approximated 60 percent of its people under the age of 25 years old, Nigeria and indeed Africa has the youngest population in the world but has the least representation of young people in government. This fundamental disconnect between policymakers and the youth amplifies problems and has limited the economic growth and development of the region. The repeated calls for change seem to have been ignored over the years, and policymakers have rarely taken any proactive measure to correct the longstanding menace. Thereby leaving much of the youth-bulge with old leadership and institutions that are unable to take any meaningful actions to address the issues most relevant to young people.
Some of the key elements of Issue-based governance identified during the discussion are:
- 1. Problem-Oriented Approach: Issue-based governance focuses on understanding and addressing specific problems or challenges faced by the society. It involves adequate diagnostics of issues, their causes, and their potential solutions based on evidence and expert knowledge, often driven by research and due diligence.
- 2. Citizen’s Participation and Stakeholder Engagement: It emphasizes the involvement of various stakeholders, including government officials, civil society organizations, experts, and affected communities, in the decision-making process. This includes active participation of citizens in the decision-making process. That is, Citizens are involved through consultations, public hearings, and engagement platforms to provide input, feedback, and monitor the progress of issue resolution; thereby ensuring a broad range of perspectives are incorporated into the discourse which increases the legitimacy and effectiveness of policies and propositions.
- 3. Evidence-Based Decision Making: Issue-based governance relies on the use of empirical evidence, data, and research to inform policy decisions. It emphasizes the importance of objective analysis and evaluation to ensure that policies are well-informed and effective in addressing the identified issues.
- 4. Multi-Sectorial and Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration: Issue-based governance recognizes that solving complex problems requires collaboration across different sectors, such as government, civil society, academia, and the private sector. It encourages partnerships and cooperation to leverage the expertise, resources, and diverse perspectives of multiple actors.
- 5. Flexibility and Adaptability: Issue-based governance is adaptable to changing circumstances and emerging issues. It requires the ability to respond promptly to new challenges, adjust policies and strategies as necessary, and continuously monitor and evaluate their effectiveness.
- 6. Public Accountability and Transparency: Issue-based governance promotes accountability and transparency in decision-making processes. It involves clear communication of policies, their objectives, and progress to the public, and mechanisms for public scrutiny and feedback.
- 7. Long-Term Perspectives: Issue-based governance takes a long-term view, considering the implications, intended and unintended consequences of policy actions beyond immediate political cycles, by addressing issues that have long-lasting and sustainable impacts on the society.
- 8. Systems Thinking: Systems thinking is a way of making sense of the complexity of a thing by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its parts. It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective solutions to complex problems. In other words, it is a strategy for effective problem solving that examines the interrelationships, interdependencies, and interconnectedness of issues. It also takes a more sustainable approach to issues, recognizing that effective solutions could often require sustained efforts and long-term strategies.
With the recent inauguration of new leaders in Nigeria, these timely conversations set the tone to renew the hope of young activists while stirring them up to actively participate in leading the change they so desire. This series was moderated by Mercy Ohamuche, Head of Operations, The Electricity Hub, while Friday Odeh, Country Director, Accountability Lab and Joy Oballum, Senior Consultant, Oxford Policy Management served as lead discussants.
The discussion ended with the screening of the movie “Katera of the Punishment Island”. The participants noted that proper teamwork/ partnerships, issue – based conversations, proper training, approaching development with the right tools and relentlessness were themes identified from the movie.