4 thoughts on Achieving Sustainable Leadership Through E-government in the 4th Industrial Revolution By Seyi Makinde

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Being the text of a speech by Governor Seyi Makinde at the ICAN 50th Annual Accountants Conference, April 6, 2021.

I bring you greetings from the good people of Oyo State. Let me thank you for the privilege and opportunity to be here to share my thoughts on the issue of sustainable leadership. Let me specifically thank your 56th President, Dame Onome Adewuyi, for putting together the 50th Annual Accountants Conference.

Achieving sustainable leadership through e-government in the 4th industrial revolution.

Leadership and sustainability are two topics that are quite close to my heart. And have remained a focal point of governance and administration in Oyo State. Recently, when we held our envisioning session for the Oyo State Development Plan (2021-2040), I restated that our plan was to leave a legacy in Oyo State for the next set of leaders to build on. Sustainability of policies and programmes will play a key role in that process. We should be very interested and invested in structures and infrastructure that can be maintained.

So today, I will be discussing leadership with a particular focus on the role of e-governance in achieving sustainability in the 4th industrial revolution. Three keywords stand out for me in this topic. I have already highlighted the first one: Leadership. The other two are e-governance and the 4th industrial revolution.

When I think of the phrase e-governance, the first thought that comes to my mind is the heavy amount of paperwork in which we have buried governance in this country. I always talk about the full ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ of files that we have to log around whenever we travel and which is a constant reminder to me about how things must change.

I didn’t really fully understand the meaning of bureaucracy until I came into government. In the first few weeks, I realised that sometimes when civil servants are unable to get work done, when they are said to be pushing files, it is because they do not have any options. So, one of the few ways that we can get the system working faster and more efficiently is to integrate technology into their work process. But this also means that they must be trained in the use of technology, be convinced that technology is better. In addition, leaders must drive the adoption of technology.

And that brings me to the third keyword: the fourth industrial revolution. As some of the speakers have alluded to, we have had three industrial revolutions before this one. The first was marked by mechanization of processes, the second by standardisation, the third by digitisation and automation and finally we are in the era that I choose to describe as the re-engineering of processes.

I want us to think about the words that marked the first three industrial revolutions: mechanisation, standardisation, digitsation. The truth is that the world will not be talking about the re-engineering of processes, if the processes were not in place to start with. So, the first three eras served to provide the base on which the fourth is built.

And herein lies one of the biggest challenges with e-governance in Nigeria: the processes, the standards, the structures and the blue print are not in place. So, while the rest of the world talks about integrating blockchain into governance, we are discussing digitisation of documents. While others are discussing the Internet of Things (IoT), we are struggling to have six hours of electricity each day.

I am happy that the organisers of this event have taken time to focus on the history of the world’s industrialisation. History is a very important aspect of human living. The existence of history means that we can have a more holistic view of issues, and our decisions are not made in a vacuum.

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I often think of Nigeria as a slow-starter. But being a slow starter does not translate to coming behind in the race. We can pick up speed and catch-up with the rest of the world. In fact, being a late starter gives us an advantage. We may not be pioneers, but we can see the things that people have tried that didn’t work, so we don’t have to experiment with those anymore. We can quickly adopt the things that worked. This means it will take us less time to get things done.

That is why now more than ever we need focused leadership.

People often say that Nigeria has both a leadership and a followership problem. I agree. But I strongly believe that the leadership problem is more important than the followership problem. If we are to achieve sustainable growth and development, we must have leaders who have a growth and development mindset. It is this mindset that will make leaders think more about the consequences of being left behind as the world rapidly moves into the fourth industrial revolution.

Before I talk about what we have done regarding e-governance in Oyo State, I want to do a bit of math. I know that as accountants you like adding and subtracting figures so this shouldn’t be a problem. I want us to take a look at the duration of each revolution. From 1750 to 1870, how many years was that? 120 years

From 1914 to 1950, how many years? Just a little less than 40 years.

What about from the fifties to just about ten years ago?  Roughly another 40 years.

What does this data show us?

From an engineering point of view, I see the importance of a good foundation. One hundred and twenty years of building the first industrial revolution based on mechanization of processes using water and steam was the foundation needed for the second industrial revolution based on electricity. Because a good foundation had been laid by the first revolution, it took just one third of the time for people to go from electricity to automation using technology. Lots of things can happen when people have power supply.

And of course, it took even less time for the world to build on this technology and start building the fourth industrial revolution. When you think about it, there is not really that clear a distinction between the third and fourth industrial revolutions unlike the first and second. So, again, the foundation is the most important part of sustainable development.

That is why when a new government comes into power, it is easier for them to move forward and achieve more if the people before them have done well. It is harder to see what an administration is doing if they have to go back to building the foundation all over again. And our people are not very patient. They want to see quick results. I remember the days when I was called “audio governor” because we were setting the foundation.

Remember when I spoke about the importance of strong and focused leadership? What we mostly see happening in Nigeria is that the leaders respond by picking the low hanging fruits. They make cosmetic changes, people hail them for those quick wins. They give themselves acronyms ascribing to themselves pioneer status until the next person comes into power and the cycle continues.

As I said earlier, in our first year in office in Oyo State, we had to start building the foundation. One of the things we quickly realised is that we had limited resources for all the things that needed to be done. Yet, there were so many loopholes through which these resources were being siphoned. The opacity of governance made it easier for certain persons to make away with our common wealth. So, we needed to plug those holes.

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This is one thing that accountants and engineers have in common. We are very familiar with leakages. Our natural tendency when we see a leak is to close it. Leakages imply waste. And we don’t like waste. One of the most helpful tools we have used to block the leakages in Oyo State is digitisation.

You may be asking, what did we do in practical terms?

We created an E-governance Plan.

First, we started by digitising all government processes and services in order to raise the coverage and quality of information and services which we provide to the general public. Just recently, we procured and distributed about 1,100 computers across the secretariat and installed high-speed internet/intranet connectivity by the laying fibre optic cables across the secretariat. We also procured state-wide digital productivity tools and Microsoft licenses.

As at today, all civil servants in Oyo State have been issued official email addresses with the “oyostate.gov” extension and the requisite training on digital skills have been conducted for all.

We are working towards getting rid of paper files. I am sure my SA Special Duties, Lolade Ajibola, won’t be missing the Ghana-Must Go!

We have embarked on the development of a Business Process Automation/ Electronic Document Management System (BPA/EDMS) platform. This platform will enable prompt decision making as our officials will be able to access and action on important documents at any time and from any location.

Additionally, our administration has been able to foster Government-to-Citizens interactions by developing e-portals. These include our new official State web portal. This web portal serves as a complete information repository and a link between the state and her citizens. The people of Oyo State have access to a comprehensive directory of all Oyo State’s political officials, institutions and so much more. In fact, our website won the “Outstanding Website of the Year 2021 Award” at the Southwest Nigeria Excellence Awards, 2021.

On the campaign trail, I had promised that our administration will never be far from the people, that we would listen to them, take their feedback and use it to improve governance. For this reason, we opened the Oyo State Government Feedback Service accounts which run on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. Through this channel, the people of Oyo State can reach out with their complaints, enquiries, and suggestions and get fast and sometimes immediate responses.

Our budgeting process has been made open and accessible. Not only do we hold town hall meetings before each of the budget cycles, but our E-governance initiatives mean that citizens are able to view the state’s annual budget online.

Another project which is part of our E-governance plan is the development of a job recruitment portal for all recruitment activities in the state. This platform manages the application/registration phase, down to the interview scheduling, examination process and result checking. Currently, this platform has had over 250,000 applications and has covered recruitment for TESCOM, Civil Service Commission, Hospital Management Board and so on.

That is not all. The Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) and E-procurement platform powered by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) were developed for efficient contracting processes. Not only do we have the procurement process online, even our vendor registration process has been digitised.

The State has also digitised the C of O processes creating a platform that would enable all residents of the state apply, process and collect their Certificate of Occupancy digitally without going through the stress that comes from manually obtaining it.

All Government HR and Payroll Services have also been digitized. There is also the EMIS portal available for students and teachers in the state secondary schools.

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Currently, Oyo State Government is compliant with the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR). This means the state is available to collaborate with any organisation including foreign investors, as the state’s collection, processing and management of citizens’ data meets international standards.

Laudable as all of these may sound, we are still more in the third industrial revolution than in the fourth. The collaborations that are a hallmark of IoT, AI and Machine Learning are still things that we dream about in governance circles. But we are not in despair. With focused leadership, we will get there.

You may wonder, what has been the result of our installing these processes? In what way has E-governance benefited the people of Oyo State? Massive savings. Let me share one example. When we came in, we got consultants to look into the processes in our tertiary institutions and make things more transparent. We created a database of all staff and did identity management for them. We also put the prices of all items that a university needs for day to day running in a database. And so, when a requisition is made, the price has to tally with that in the database. In just one school, The Polytechnic Ibadan, we got a savings of 1 Billion Naira by following this process.

When people ask, where is the Oyo State Government getting money to pay salaries when other states are struggling to pay percentages. Is he borrowing money to fund recurrent expenditure? The answer lies in openness and transparency with which we have approached leadership and governance. Especially with the use of technology.

I have heard people say that Oyo State has been turned into a massive construction site. We are building a state that everyone should be proud of. And technology is playing a huge role in our work. We know that the foundation is very important. When the pioneers of the first industrial revolution started work in the 1750s, they could not have imagined how their work would be built on. 270 years down the line we are talking about a fourth revolution. This is what focused governance entails. Looking beyond one’s tenure in government.

What I have learnt so far in Oyo State is that E-governance is possible. The transparency and openness it offers is desirable. But there are challenges. Aside from the initial cost of building the infrastructure which might appear restrictive if a leader is not looking at the bigger picture, there is also the loss of political capital that comes with it. And I must say, the latter is a bigger reason why governance in Nigeria has remained in an analog state.

Recently, Oyo State has been in the news. The perception that has been created in some circles is that the state is insecure. Some people have even gone to town with claims of cannibalism. But when you dig deeper, you will find that sponsors of these messages are people who no longer have access to the state’s coffers. They are people who believed that it will be business as usual. These days you see them gathering to talk about how their political age confers on them some superior level of thinking or how they will be taking over in 2023.

So, for any of you here thinking of making changes in governance in the next few years, you must think in terms of bringing the transparency and accountability that digitisation and setting up processes have given to the private sector into the public sector. This is how Nigeria can really benefit and become a leading voice in this fourth industrial revolution.

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