Functional institutions: The only way forward

Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Functional systems and institutions guarantee a reasonable measure of predictability and thus progress. They make it easy for individuals and businesses to predict behaviours and outcomes, to make plans and take informed decisions. In other words, effective institutions reduce uncertainty.

All societies experience periods of uncertainty and risk. The task is for leaders of institutions to establish and nurture thriving functional institutions that can navigate these periods of uncertainty and mitigate risk. It was the renowned French historian of ideas, Michel Foucault who said: “society can only exist by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions.”

That proficient systems and institutions are the dividing line between developed and developing societies is not a new theory. That we need laws, policies and regulatory environments that constrain human excesses, reward ingenuity and keep us all equal before the law, is not a novel argument or concern. The question is, why in the face of proven facts and tested ideas, have developing nations like Nigeria been unable to build effective institutions? The answer lies in our penchant for the ‘big man’ syndrome.

Why, for example, do we still have problems with our judicial systems, and why is law enforcement still an arduous task. The problem is systemic. So whether we are talking of the judiciary, law enforcement, education, health, transportation, etc, it is clear that there needs to be a revamping of our public systems and institutions; an overhauling of the standards, procedures, and regulations that make our civil service an unwieldy bureaucracy. The truth is, no matter how strong our rhetoric is on change and development, there will be no guaranteed delivery until the systems and institutions are revamped and positioned for 21st-century realities.

This is a priority. The government has done a laudable job in selecting talented people to serve in the cabinet. However, talent is often overwhelmed and frustrated by dysfunctional systems and institutions. This is evident in the current state of the nation. The same people who succeeded as governors, in the corporate world nationally and internationally are beginning to show signs and strains of frustration due to systemic inefficiencies and institutional mediocrity.

Furthermore, the economic wellbeing of the country is partly contingent on extensive direct foreign investment. The trust investors have in Nigerian institutions is a precursor for large-scale investment. The time to build, rebuild and reorganise our institutions in NOW. Change cannot and should not be aesthetic, it needs to be comprehensive and address the root causes of the nation’s problems.

According to the OECD, “States can only achieve the sorts of results intended, when they are underpinned by effective and accountable institutions and systems.” We cannot change the state of the country without changing the state of its systems and institutions.

Nigerians are eager to believe in change… but change has to mean that the status quo that led the country to this period of uncertainty will be completely overturned to create more efficient sustainable, accountable and functional institutions. We encourage every arm of the government to make this a priority. And for the rest of us, individuals and groups, we have to understand that nature abhors change, and be ready to make necessary sacrifices and contribute our quota by cooperating with the leadership in building the Nigeria of our dreams.

Nigeria Has A Great Future

Pastor Taiwo can be reached at

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