The change expectations on President Buhari are now an accepted expectancy in Nigeria, but how should he approach this mammoth agenda. Nigeria is a vast and complex country with intertwined imponderables and interdependent interests and realities. But without taking the electorate for granted, President Buhari currently only has a four year mandate. What will happen in 2019 in too anybody’s guess.
So focusing on the current mandate; what should President Buhari do to deliver some level of change in the country in four years’ time? As I see it, there are only two ways to approach this; Wide and Shallow or Narrow and Deep. The president can either choose defined but narrow areas of government and implement deep changes that will irreversibly embed new practices and transformation. This approach will accept that there will still be plenty of other areas that he will not be able to touch or initiate any change in his four year term. But the narrow areas he is able to touch will be deeply transformed in an irreversible form.
The second approach is a wide and shallow proposition. This will enable him to initiate change across all major areas of government, but he will not have the time to deepen the changes in the next four years. This will involve across the board change initiations but they will not be embedded in any way by the end of the four years term. These initiated transformation activities can then be easily reversed by a future administration, thus setting the nation back significantly.
So the dilemma for Mr President is which of these two options is the better approach to build the nation? Wide and shallow will give an impression of lots of change activities across the board and will generate lots of news and commendations of what he has been able to initiate. But these will be spread across far too many areas to be deeply embedded in the limited time his government has till 2019. However, a narrow and deep approach will require him to prioritise which areas are more urgent and pivotal to the emergence of a new Nigeria and simply focus all his energy in deepening change in those areas in a way that makes it an irreversible transformation. This approach will mean there will be plenty of other areas untouched by his change machinery during this term that many commentators could begin to dismiss his achievement because of ongoing problems in the areas not within the scope of the narrow scenario.
This is the challenge of which there are no easy answers. In my opinion, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Mr President cannot presume or take it for granted that he will be voted in again for a second term; so he has to approach governance as if all he has is this current term. Consequently, I will advocate a Narrow and Deep approach to change in Nigeria. Fighting on too many fronts will dissipate energy and reduce effectiveness. He has to choose his battles as fighting every battle is a recipe for defeat. Choose the key areas that are essential to a thriving nation and drive irreversible change into these areas. There will still be skirmish of past failures in other areas, but he should focus on his identified narrow areas for now, as embedded change in one area can drive improvements in other related or dependent areas. We cannot and should not expect miracles from President Buhari, but he can help lay a vital foundation in key areas upon which other will build in future for the construction and emergence of a nation of our dream.
So what should these narrow but essential areas be? That will be the subject of my follow on article in due course. Choosing your battles is an apt counsel for anyone who wants to make maximum impact within a limited timescale and this will be a good counsel for President Buhari to heed. Otherwise, he will become too tired and too stretched to deepen any change in a meaningful way. We pray for God’s guidance and wisdom for him and his team.