The art of good governance in a plural society  

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Nation-building in any circumstance is difficult. It is no easy task. It is hard and thankless work. Let alone societies where these proceedings are underpinned by tribal considerations. The minutiae of everyday life is subject to ethnic animus. It leaves leaders exhausted. Moderates give up and migrate. The population becomes weary of the insolvent and intractable wrangling which never seems to cease. Polarization is ubiquitous, even in times of a public health crisis which presents an existential threat to all and sundry. Nothing or no one is spared. Everything is ethnicized. Against this regrettable backdrop, governance which proceeds from honorable intentions must be executed like an art. Those who exercise tutelage over the state apparatus in a plural society and wish to dabble in long-term nation-building would be well advised to adhere to sentiments being expressed in this column. It behooves those who hold the reigns to proceed with extreme caution, especially when attempting to distribute resources. This only applies to regimes that are interested in the long-term development and the social cohesion of a plural society. If you consider governance to be a big hustle with short-term gains and personal aggrandizement, please disregard this submission forthwith.


The literature on good governance suggests that the popular phrase, good governance, has its origins with the intellectual musings of the IMF and the World Bank in the early 1990s. The concept includes all the niceties and politically correct terms such as transparency, accountability, efficiency and fairness. As good as it sounds, I doubt these multilateral agencies’ intellectuals spent much time dabbling in governance in the land of many waters. If they did, I am confident the experience would alter all their hypotheses, theses and postulations. The land of the mighty Roraima is a special place that requires rare governmental and policy-making stamina. Any sitting government could turn water into wine or bricks into bread, once that government does not represent a particular ethnic camp, they cannot be satisfied. Hence, whether it is training programs, the distribution of cash grants or budgetary disbursements, the art of governance in a plural society demands the highest standards of transparency and the appearance and perception of fairness. This is perhaps the only way a government can insulate against accusations of discrimination or ethnically biased policy-making. Again, this posturing only applies in cases where there is an attempt at governance which proceeds from rational and honorable intentions.



The appearance of fairness in the governance process in a plural society is best achieved with systems and due processes that can withstand the highest scrutiny. How is this achieved? If any government means well, it is not difficult to achieve a reasonable level of good governance. If the intentions are dishonorable, it becomes near impossible. Once you sit at policy desks in the cauldron of the tribal melting pot, you must be supremely mindful of the implications if the programs are rolled out without serious consideration for achieving ethnic balance. First, you must be mindful of who controls the program. The sentiments being expressed here would suggest that any program which involves the public distribution of resources should not be under the watch of politicians. Second, you must ensure that there are clear criteria for the disbursement of resources. Again, you cannot appoint political apparatchiks to do this, the principles of good governance are not remotely close to their DNA. If you engage ideologues in monumental cash distributions in a plural society, you have commenced the descent into governance hell and the destruction of the average plural society. This writer would strongly advocate that any major cash distribution of national consequence, regardless of what fiduciary standards are in place, should not be executed by politicians. Good governance would demand that such a program should be placed within the remit of a reputable NGO or international organization because the fiscal truth is: money mixed with politicians and added to tribalism in a plural society, equals nothing but trouble.


What happens if the art of good governance is not achieved in a plural society? What are the outcomes if there is a perception that the resources of the society are being directed to one section of the society? As you may have gathered by now, this is dangerous business. When there is a toxic mix of shadows of the oil curse, unprecedented economic pressure and bad governance which is viewed as ethnocentric policy-making, we are flirting with the possibility of social unrest which can metamorphose into something much more cataclysmic. I am not a Marxist but I like the concept of internal contradictions. The invention of the concept is genius. Internal contradictions mature in plural societies where there is bad governance and those on the losing end will rebel. In the end, the very existence of peace and order will be at stake. The final consequences are not a pretty sight to envision. There is an abundance of documented history that screams for caution.

 The practice of good governance in a plural society is crucial for the very survival of the country as it is constituted.

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