The 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Hage Geingob has come and gone without meeting the high expectations that many had of it.
Expectedly, the anticipation by the opposition was predictable. In the days before the SONA the local media was abuzz with the public expectations of the SONA, which on closer scrutiny reflected no more than narrow parochial expectations of a few, based on their own sectional interests, whether tribal, political or particular business/trade interests.
This was a far cry from what the SONA should be, because it cannot and should not be about satisfying narrow parochial interests, some of which may be extremely selfish, self-centred and greedy, as opposed to being broad and inclusive. The SONA – in the most simplistic understanding – is about the state of the nation in the true sense.
Also, while SONA must and should also be about the condition of health of the State, it must fundamentally be about the challenges we face and how such challenges can be met head-on from the day of delivery of SONA.
SONA cannot and must not be about the vision of the Head of State singularly, but must reflect on the performance of the government in the various sectors, based on the policies, vision and mission, objectives and goals of the government, and indeed the whole country, as informed by the governing party – with input from all and sundry.
It must be a sober and honest reflection and/or review or re-assessment of how the country has been doing in the various sectors. It must be about how various government programmes have panned out in response to the challenges the country has been facing and is facing.
One thus presumes that before any SONA, the necessary data is gathered to inform the Head of State of any progress and/or lack thereof, action and inaction, and most importantly, the unintended or unexpected consequences of policy implementation.
SONA cannot be just about whether the government has met its pledges and/or promises to senior citizens by pushing up their monthly allowances to the current N$1,200. It must also be about the extent to which such support has rendered senior citizens healthy, prosperous and happy citizens.
Because senior citizens as a group cut across all religious, cultural and /or ethnic groupings and thus cannot be said to be a self-centred grouping, but a socio-economic grouping spanning all shades of parochialism. Thus when talking about the state of health of senior citizens, one cannot talk about an exclusive and narrow grouping, but a group that is national in character.
Housing is another issue that cuts across narrow parochial interests. Because when one talks about the lack and/or shortage of descent shelter, this is a phenomenon that is witnessed across the country without exempting any of its 14 regions.
One is compelled to emphasise this, because as the views of the public before SONA 2017 indicated, many – if not the majority – seemed to view the SONA purely in terms of the problems bedeviling them personally, as opposed to the challenges facing the whole country, like youth unemployment or unemployment in general.
The state of the nation must be assessed in view of the problems affecting the whole country. This is not to deny that a section of the populace may have illnesses that are specific or isolated, but such can only be said to be a concern to the health of the nation depending on how many citizens are affected, how critical and infectious it is and the potential broader impact on the health of the whole nation.
One is also aware that the SONA would be followed sooner or later by State of the Region Addresses (SORAs) by the regional governors, with each region reviewing its state of health.
This begs the question whether the SORAs should not ordinarily be part of the SONA. How can SONA be a SONA without inputs from the SORAs? As a matter of common sense and understanding, should the SONA not be an aggregation of the SORAs? If the SORAs are to follow SONA later in the year, how can SONA live up to its name without the necessary inputs from SORAs about the state of health of the regions?
But seriously, based on the latest SONA, without jumping on the bandwagon of those who did not think much of it in terms of providing inspiration, certainly the country needs to up the SONA game, lest it become just another fashionable political gadget in the make-believe world of political rhetoric, instead of a real, purposeful and critical tool of governance.
Despite the fact that the Head of State seems willing to deal with questions after SONA, the fact is that the questions seemed to be coming only from a section of that august house, rather than involving every member – irrespective of which side of the chamber she or he is on – in posing sound questions with national interest and real and good governance at heart, which is paramount.