From the beginning of time, the concept of division of labor has been a sacrosanct requirement for maximized productivity.
Division of labor involves the separation of tasks in any system so that participants may specialize at divisional levels of management in order for desired outcomes to be effectively and efficiently maximized.
In the Christian account of the story of creation recorded in the Bible, God created the first man Adam, but then, the omniscient God sensed a lack of completion in His creation. He felt that it is not a good thing for Adam to take sole management of the world He has created, so God created woman called Eve to partner and assist Adam.
The partnership and assistance provided by Eve led to the multiplication of the human race such that the world population currently stands at more than 7.7 billion.
Even if your scientific mind doubts the biblical account of human creation, it is impossible to fault the fact that it must have taken the existence of a first man and woman for the human race to have multiplied.
Such is the power of a divided labor!
One of the early thinkers of the division of labor concept which led to its formal practice in economic and political management was Scottish social philosopher and economist Adam Smith, who lived from 1723-1790. He believed that a society with a sophisticated usage of division of labor can be more productive and therefore, would develop more quickly than a society without it.
A cursory look at the management system of the Nigerian state reveals a system that assumes a management stance of being wiser than God. It shows a management system that stubbornly refuses best global management practices for a system that depends on the whims and caprices of whoever wields state power.
Nigeria practices a federal system of government in which there is a central government and federating units. This is why we have a federal government, 36 state governments and 774 local governments.
The governance system is designed in such a way that the powers of a single President who heads the federal government is greater than the combined powers of 36 state Governors and 774 local government Chairmen. What makes this Presidential power much more dangerous is the fact that the accountability system to checkmate it is weak.
To put this insane power in clearer perspectives, the incompetence of a single President can render useless the competency of 36 state Governors and 774 local government Chairmen when measuring national progress with varying metrics.
Consequently, in order for this peculiar power to be maximized for the progress of Nigeria, whoever wields it must have the moral and intellectual embodiment that is at least equal to that of 36 state governors and 774 local government chairmen combined. Of course, this is impossible! No single human being can be that blessed.
This is why the country keeps running around in the same circle. The fate of a complex diverse nation has always been placed in the hands of one man who wields presidential powers and the country’s progress inevitably becomes dependent on the action and inaction of one person.
Definitely, this kind of system is a recipe for disaster in productivity and development. The current state of the Nigerian economy and politics perfectly explains the result of not fully embracing division of labor in political management practices.
David Hume (a Scottish philosopher and economist) has this to say of the indispensability of the concept of Division of Labor –
when every individual person labors apart, his force is too small to execute any considerable work; his labor being employed in supplying all his different necessities, he never attains a perfection in any particular art; and as his force and success are not at all times equal, the least failure in either of these particulars must be attended with inevitable ruin and misery. By the conjunction of forces, our power is augmented: By the partition of employment, our ability increases: And by mutual succor we are less exposed to fortune and accidents. It is by this additional force, ability and security, that society becomes advantageous.
Division of labor creates strong institutions. When institutions are strong, the deficiencies of certain individuals will not be able to create a major damage to the whole system.
The Nigerian police for instance is performing dismally in internal security because it operates a centralized management structure. The heavy corruption and criminality within the Nigerian police force continues to thrive because of a centralized system that is unable to conduct effective oversight of the operations of its vast security network.
It is common sense that the best way the Nigerian police can function effectively is to put their operations under the complete authority of state Governors. The empty argument against this is that state Governors cannot adequately fund a police force except for Lagos. It is a simple mathematics – the allocated funds deployed to run a centralized Nigerian police force should be re-channeled to the 36 states to fund a decentralized police force. The state Governors can take it up from there.
The vast kilometers of federal roads in Nigeria like the Lagos-Abeokuta express road are in a state of rot because they are under the authority of the President. Put these roads under the complete management of state Governors and the residents of each state will be able to effectively hold their Governors accountable. The state of these roads continues to undermine the economy and put citizens’ lives at risk.
That state Governors rely on monthly federal allocations to fund their operations is an archaic, inefficient and enslavement financial management practice. The system needs to enable state Governors independently manage their economy and generate their own revenue. The 36 states combined will most likely outperform a single federal government in fiscal management.
Immanuel Kant noted the value of division of labor:
All crafts, trades and arts have profited from the division of labor; for when each worker sticks to one particular kind of work that needs to be handled differently from all the others, he can do it better and more easily than when one person does everything. Where work is not thus differentiated and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, the crafts remain at an utterly primitive level.
By the virtue of conferred powers, the Nigerian President is a jack-of-all-trader. Such trader ends up being a master at nothing. An historical observation of the performance of different heads of state in Nigeria reveals a tale of management failures.
A look at the proposed 2020 budget of Kaduna state under the management of Nasir el-Rufai clearly shows that the fiscal intelligence that goes into preparing that budget was more thorough and progressive than that of the 2020 national budget.
The management style of the current Governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde, easily beats that of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in all parameters of good governance. Yet, the President holds all the powers that matters to the nation’s well-being.
No matter the good management practices in Kaduna, Oyo, Lagos etc, they are all still within the Nigerian entity and are not insulated from the consequences of action and inaction of the Nigerian President by virtue of the insanely concentrated powers in that office.
Lord Acton, an historian and moralist said:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. When a person’s power increases, their moral sense diminishes.
It is therefore not a surprise that presidential aspirants passionately make developmental promises during election campaigns and become something else when they enter Aso rock. The powers vested in the Nigerian presidential office is more than enough to make any human beings grow complacent and disconnected from the people he represents.
The federating units of Nigeria needs to be fully constitutionally empowered to take control of their socio-political, security and economic fate. The excessive presidential powers needs to be shed off and given to federating units for optimum use in bringing about transformative sustainable development.
It is a once in a lifetime that exceptional leaders like Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew, Abraham Lincoln and the likes emerge to change the fate of a nation. Strong institutions can consistently be relied on to get the job done. Strong institutions only exist where there is a clear-cut division of labor, clear-cut division of power and authority such that an individual is unable to do reasonable damage to the system no matter how powerful he/she is. The case of Donald Trump and the United States of America is a classic example.
In my reasonably factual opinion, Nigeria cannot get out of this circle of mediocrity until the constitution is fundamentally altered such that the President, by virtue of conferred powers, ceases to be the Alpha and Omega of the Nigerian state.
Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari etc – they have all failed to give us the Nigeria of our dreams. We need strong institutions, not strong leaders.
We need a system that can survive all seasons. A strong, truly federal system.