As the largest selection and recruitment of technocrats into government, next Tuesday’s induction of members and chairmen/women of Federal Government boards of entities is a verysignificant event. It should be a big event because, although it is claimed that this is no longer the golden age of the intrusive state, only the naive believes such propaganda stunt as governments remain the most dominant institution in town. The government remains the most powerful actor in all societies, even more so in the Western world where governmentality is the definitive framework of power. And all of that rely completely on a technocratic bedrock – that space of the intellectuals of state power based not on ‘facts and figures’ as erroneously understood before now but on the power over the interpretation of such facts and figures. As the ones who make sense of facts and figures, it is actually the technocrats who determine governance rather than politicians who will ever remain unimaginative, mediocre and incompetent because politics itself is not a field for rational behaviour. In most societies, politicians have their say quite alright but the technocrats have their way and the society is the better for it.
It could be argued that Nigeria was a classical example of this. As long as the technocrats held sway under the military, there was consistency, deep philosophical rooting of government programmes and so on. As soon as the military felt threatened by the powers of the technocratic bourgeoisie and sought to disorganise it through the purge in the civil service under the Murtala Obasanjo regime in the mid 1970s, confusion set in regarding clarity of state direction. Those who say that Nigeria has not recovered from that blow are spot on. The typical technocrat is today a shadow of him or herself, saying yes even before the political leaders have said anything, clapping even before the political leader finishes his or her statement and seeing nothing wrong in kneeling down before power, calling such abuse of the public sphere respect for elders. It is as if this is not the same country where a Secretary to the Government of the Federation told a military Head of State, “General Gowon, I am not your Secretary but the Secretary to the Government”. And General Gowon did not fire him or even punish him. That is probably why some scholars such as Professor Mvendaga Jibo would insist that General Gowon ran a civilised government because he was too elevated in mind to be vindictive.
In the case of next Tuesday’s exercise, the Buhari regime compounded the confusion by announcing names of dead persons on the list of members of boards of government owned entities. There could, however, be said to be changing fortunes. The changing fortune under reference is the assumption now that the list that came out last week is a re-worked or updated version of the earlier mess. The assumption is also that Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has taken charge. There can be no knowing what Boss Mustapha has done to the list or not done to it until the boards perform or fail to. The only thing at this moment is to reckon that Boss Mustapha is, himself, a man to watch. He is because he is about the only politician of a clear tendential impulse in government today. He is a social democrat. In other climes, every step of his would be a subject of close analysis or marking on that term rather than his ethno-religious and regional identity. That would be because social democrats came with the promise of correcting Communism, Socialism and even liberal democracy and those who proclaim it would have to be kept in view regarding how well or how badly they are keeping faith.
No social democratic rhetoric have been heard from Boss yet but he was certainly part of those working along with the late Prof Claude Ake trying to put together a social democratic template for the now disbanded Peoples Solidarity Party, (PSP) under the Babangida transition. The great thing about having someone with a tendency background is that when such persons err, it is not on account of ignorance of the implications or consequences of the actions/decisions/roadmaps they take but the outcome of ideologically informed choice. They are, therefore, to be preferred or the country is safer in their hands than those who take decisions completely ignorant of the implications of such actions or pronouncements for the stability of the Nigerian system or order. Unfortunately, there is more of this latter category at all levels of governmental power in Nigeria today. And that is why we experience certain things we ought never to experience in a country such as Nigeria.
As long as we do not know what surgeries Boss Mustapha performed or did not perform on the ‘new look’ list, we cannot say anything yet. But even then, something interesting has happened already for those who may care to note. The reworked list found its way into the email of many media houses last week, neatly compartmentalised. It is not typical of information management in that office. The innovation might be the work of his staff officers but it is hardly possible for staff officers to excel under a boss that is opposed to excellence.
There is an emerging totality so far in favour of the position of scholars who are saying that the state is neither a neutral arbitrator nor an instrument of the ruling class but a field of actions. Power is relational and everyone is a player, irrespective of his or her insertion in the field. In other words, there is a government in which the president prefers to be seen as a puritan, the Vice-President a neo-liberal player and a SGF who is a social democrat and each is powerful in a relational manner, combining in one level of power or the other to produce power!
The implication is that Boss Mustapha, the social democrat in government, has his own sphere for which he can be praised or criticised independently of the president or the cabinet. It means he puts himself on trial in the court of public opinion as from next Tuesday as far as the aggregate quality of the Federal boards, his supervision of them all, especially taking note of how far and how quickly they distance themselves from obsequious behaviour and outlandish sycophancy in favour of the technocratic mandate, all in just about half a year left for this government before the campaigns cripple everything else! Such a big but inviting challenge for a social democrat!