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4 years, Not Enough?

“Four years is too short for a President or a Governor to embark on any meaningful programme because it takes about a year or two before the administration settles down even with the right set of Ministers or Commissioners. Then, if the latter turn out “not to be good”, after one year or two, the President or Governor is compelled to reshuffle his cabinet and by the time the new cabinet settles down, it is time for another election, and everyone is busy trying to win an election”

These are the reported words of President Jonathan at the May 26 pre-inauguration lecture, as captured by Dr. Reuben Abati in his article – “The Speech Jonathan Shouldn’t Have Made” (May 29, 2011).

It is baffling that at the onset of this presidential project, the manager already is convinced that the primary issue of concern is time. Worse still, the time concern is not about service delivery, but rather, of political decision making and testing the waters.

Typical project management frameworks require first that a project manager defines the Project Objectives and Strategies (POS) in alignment with stakeholders. Subsequently, a Scope of Work (SoW) is crafted out, detailing the work required to complete the project.  The SoW provides an initial answer to the question “What are you going to do and accomplish?” It is broken down into measurable deliverables with individual activities and tasks assigned to specific responsibilities. When activity definition and sequencing is completed via a project schedule/plan, it is then that the project manager can ascertain what the estimated duration of the project, associated costs, and resources required, will be. How then is it that Mr President decided to inform the public of the inadequacy of a 4 year term, just before inauguration? Has a scope of work been developed and made available? Or do we assume the grandiose pre-election manifesto serves this purpose? One would think not. 4 years certainly was never too short for the proliferation of corrupt activities by some, neither was it too short for past regimes, so what is it too short for?

An alternative method to project scheduling would be through constrained timing. Stakeholders constrain the project manager to a time limit. In such an occurrence, the PM is required to deploy his skill of work sequencing, resourcing and schedule optimisation to ensure that the project goals are realised within the constrained timeline. In spite of the imperfections of the 2011 elections, it became an example of project implementation under a constrained timeline. INEC was constrained to optimize resources to ensure a May 29 handover date. Some would argue then, that the time constraint became the undoing of the whole process and as such many managers would not willingly assent to such terms. However, this method of time constraint is typically deployed where there is urgency involved and the project must be brought to completion at a certain date, for strategic reasons. Would one be able to fault the fact that Nigeria is in such a state requiring urgent development? Perhaps the constitutional time constraint of 4 years is most needed at this time.

Any ideas for tenure extension must be premised on cogent arguments. Has the scope of work increased significantly? Where true, is it impossible to establish continuity of governance such that project deliverables are progressed by subsequent governments? The recent alleged argument of term extension to quell the violence that attends second term electioneering campaigns is weak and amounts to a lame excuse. A scenario of tenure extension to a single term of 5 or 7 years prevents the incumbent from re-running for office while giving additional time without the guarantee of performance. The rival candidates, who now realise that the price of battle is a longer term one-off contract, will go to the utmost extent, violence inclusive, to secure and maximise the ‘benefits’ of that single term. What this implies is a greater boomerang effect of violence.  With elimination of repeatability (via a single term), and a higher, more attractive price (5 or 7 years), the effort will magnify commensurately, with attendant negativities.

At a time when the world is clamouring for the emergence of Nigeria and Africa as a whole, the focus of government should be concentrated on the service delivery dimensions of speed, quality and dependability. While not compromising on the quality of our development initiatives, we must realise again that history is in a hurry and speed is of essence. Hence, the Goodluck generation, as aptly described by Tolu Ogunlesi, must get to the drawing table, to itemise a scope of work, achievable within the constitutional limit of 4 years. We cannot afford to waste time passing a constitutional amendment bill to change term limits and conditions. Such an act, amounts to a misplacement of priorities. While Boko Haram is wreaking havoc from the North East down to the Middle Belt, State governments are struggling to guarantee payment of a revised minimum wage, young Nigerians remain jobless in the face of mass unemployment, and kerosene supply continuously fluctuates, term limit extension is an evident strategic misfit, failing to address domestic needs.

Mr President, let’s put the numbers aside for a bit. Reveal your scope of work and what you intend to achieve reasonably within 4 years. Ensure prompt service delivery and let your achievements outlive your term. Reformers are not majorly known for how long they spent, but rather how well they performed.