Repositioning NILDS For Greater Efficiency – Prof. Abubakar O. Sulaiman, DG
Cascading into the new dawn in the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, in a season of great expectations sign-posted with new ideas, a refreshing direction and new policy thrust, a new chapter is unfolding at West Africa’s foremost regional hub for legislative capacity development and parliamentary studies, NILDS.
This week marks the landmark, 100 days, a parameter that has evolved over time to measure, either the direction or effectiveness of an administration. From the official handover ceremonies a few months ago where a well-defined blueprint was unfolded, the new Sherriff in NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman demonstrated, pragmatism.
He left no one in doubt about his sense of mission and the urgency of now.
He assiduously hit the ground with his vision. As a scholar with several years of teaching experience in the field of academics at the University, coming on board an institute that is equally the intellectual hub and research organ of Nigeria’s National Assembly and the legislature as a whole, is not an unfamiliar terrain.
Beyond on-going administrative restructuring, the Institute, both in context of its mandate and the content of its training curricular is witnessing a re-freshen blend of academic and intellectual theories of the Universities, practical experience from the field of partisan politics and the lessons as a technocrat, having served as a one-time, Minister of National Planning.
The pragmatic reformatory institutional policies reflect a blend of experience and such are what Harvard and the Ivy League institutions are noted for. The Legislative institutions would gain tremendously from such a combination of broad and deep experience.
Armed with an ambitious roadmap, the new Director General of the National institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies looks good, as he leaves no one doubt that he has his job perfectly cut out. From his first interactive interface and subsequent engagements with staff, he reeled out ambitious and impressively, progressive policy ideas that would take the Institute to the, long awaited new heights.
One thing that was upper most in his mind was staff welfare and output, he did not mince words on his knack for professionalism, which would naturally translate into legislative efficiency. In one of the first moves and against the backdrop of the dynamics of power in African politics and the challenges of managing seemingly intractable no-love lost relationship between ruling parties and the opposition in most African democracies, Prof. Sulaiman, a political scientist understood this very lesson and indeed hit the ground running.
At a public event organized by the Institute, Prof. Sulaiman denounced publicly his membership of any political party. Penultimate week on his assumption of office, he had promised to expand the frontiers of legislative capacity development. This he has demonstrated in the first major assignment of training the Ugandan Members of the opposition in the Parliament. An audacious step that would not only enhance their legislative capacity but improve bilateral cooperation among African legislature and so far and specifically, between Nigeria and Uganda.
His agenda for the institute to become impactful finds expression in the various engagements. In a paradigm shift, Sulaiman says that one legacy that the Institute must nurture at this formative stage of the 9th NASS and broadly, the State Assemblies, who share similar peculiarities in terms of membership turn-over rate, is to institutionalize a knowledge-driven legislature that can compete on both regional scene and the global democratic space.
This is coming against the high turn-over of 70% fresh legislators at the 9th National Assembly, which is put at, 59%, for the Senate, and House of Representatives, with 204 new Members. The DG envisions a new legislature that would parade the best, in terms of legislative content, which derives of course, from research output of the Institute.
He has consistently promised that Nigeria’s legislators cannot be left behind in the scheme of global parliamentary practices and procedures.
This is anchored on his belief that, the need of the moment for Nigeria’s emerging legislature and democracy is operational efficiency. The training of the special assistants and the support staff of the parliamentary bureaucracy, who equally have knowledge gap has continued to reinforce the need for training and consequently, better service delivery by legislators and democratic dividends to the constituents.
The goal of building a highly resourceful technical organ of the National Assembly and the import of capacity building activities of the Institute will continue to receive special significance and take a pride of place in the years ahead. This becomes more so, as a result of the high turn-over of legislators in the 9th National Assembly.
The Institute remains focused and would continue to provide the core function of research, documentation services, analytical work, bills drafting and analysis and other extension services that would provide skill, competence, professionalism and strength to the 9th NASS.
Prof Sulaiman has within this short period as DG provided a liberal environment for critical thinking to flourish among staff, and even the management has found a resounding voice in the last couple of months.
As an accomplished scholar who believes in the plurality of ideas, he has continued to encourage new thinking and fresh ideas from both staff and management. In an uncommon display of “down-to-earth” style, he has continued to engage staff at various strata on how the institute can better achieve its mandate of providing support to NASS, State Assemblies and deepening the countries democracy. This is anchored on his belief that every staff just like every unit in the Institute is as important as the other. His on-going wide engagement of all critical stakeholders of democracy is exemplary. With the impact he has shown, not a few would agree that he is systematically, gradually and already securing a chapter in Nigeria’s democracy.
Expanding the frontiers for regional collaboration is one of the concerns of the Institute’s current leadership. In other to adequately position the 9th National Assembly for the task ahead, the Institute is exposing the legislators to World Best Parliamentary practices with a view to, improve their legislative output. One of such initiatives is the recent bilateral capacity development exchange programme, a laudable collaboration between Malaysia and Nigeria’s legislators; two countries who share common values in democracy.
This mutually beneficial collaboration would bring together political actors in other institutions of democracy, of both countries.
The recent visit of the Director General to Tokyo Japan, is already yielding fruitful results. One of the low hanging fruits is the bilateral agreement on the proposal for greater collaboration between NILDS and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). At an event in Japan, the President of Japan-Nigeria Parliamentary Friendship League has also promised more robust cooperation and exchange programmes between, Nigeria’s Legislature and Japanese Parliament. All geared towards leveraging from the Japanese success story of the linkage of parliament, technology, economic development and democratic consolidation.
Another notable institutional game-changing initiative, is the vision to deepen the Institute’s collaboration with reputable international institutions and organizations. Towards this goal, the institute is working on finding sustainable solutions to the energy challenge in Africa, beginning with Nigeria.
The Institute has concluded plans with the University College London (UCL) on a research project on Energy Democracy and the Politics of Energy Transition in African Countries. The Project would be funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), ESRC, NERC and Innovate UK as part of the ‘UKRI-GCRF Sustainable Energy and International Development: Beyond Technology’ call.
In furtherance of this goal, a new Unit for has been set up for International Cooperation and Development.
The Institute has also recorded great strides in strategic partnership with broad-based political interventions. The existing relationship with the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP is assuming a new life with the recent focal agenda on deepening democratic knowledge of stakeholders through a collaborative mechanism between NILDS and the UNDP.
Radio broadcast remains a veritable tool for promotion of democratic values and getting governance and democracy to the real people. The Director General is assiduously working on plans for the establishment of “NILDS Democracy Radio” to promote political, citizens’ awareness and enlightenment. Throwing its weight behind this initiative, the UNDP Country Director, Mohamed Yahya, while acknowledging the partnership with NILDS over the years, lauded the initiative of the Radio Station, adding that it would help in charting the future of Nigeria’s democracy. The DG has also been speaking on the need to get all democratic stakeholders to understand the democratic tenets, as this is key to the consolidation of Nigeria’s democracy.
With hope and expectations, the staff and stakeholders look forward to a promising new phase, a fresh page of NILDS trajectory that would continue to reflect, visionary policies, strategic pronouncements, pragmatic steps and innovations in the days ahead.
History beckons on a man with pragmatic turn of mind, a man who in just three months of assumption of office, on the saddle, has demonstrated a style that promises to be a catalyst for not only the legislature but Nigeria and regional democracy. He has brought institutional innovation in words and in deeds and demonstrated an uncommon strength of character.
The motivation of staff, which was abysmally low in the last 8 years, has witnessed an unprecedented boost. For instance, staff who have hitherto, not participated in any training program are already undergoing various skills enhancement training programmes across board. While others are already scheduled. In addition, promotion of over 70 % of the staff who have stagnated on same level are being considered while regularization of others that have been on contract, temporary appointment are awaiting NILDS Governing Council’s approvals.
The relationship between the management of both the National Assembly Bureaucracy and NILDS management has also improved tremendously.
With wide engagements and consultation, the former Minister of National Planning, and the Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, is steadily and gradually consolidating this foremost institute that holds a lot of hope and future for Nigeria’s democracy as Africa’s democratic capacity development organ.
Prof. Sulaiman has started well by showcasing his short term vision, It is hoped that before the end of the year, the Institute would be able to move to its permanent-site, as this holds a lot of benefits for the Institute to implement fully its 2019 Work-plan programmes.
What next? The long term vision will be unveiled as we move into the next phase for the Institutes development agenda, under Sulaiman’s watch.
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PROF. ABUBAKAR O. SULAIMAN, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE AND DEMOCRATIC STUDIES SETS UP A TECHNICAL COMMITTEE ON COVID-19 TO ADVISE THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY