Repositioning the civil service



IT is just as well that President Mohammedu Buhari is paying close attention to the critical role the civil service plays in good governance. Civil servants have the onerous duty to execute government’s policies and programmes.

The impact of such policies and programmes on the citizens is determined by whether they have been implemented excellently or shoddily. This in turn depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service.  President Buhari, instructively, ran his government for almost six months without ministers, relying only on civil servants.

Thus, as a machinery for the delivery of good governance, the civil service deserves the greatest attention. There is also need for concerted government efforts to pinpoint the weaknesses of the service, streamline past efforts to revamp it, and apply vigorous measures to make it a truly enduring and supportive institution.

The president made some changes lately through the removal of 17 permanent secretaries and the engagement of 18 others. But this alone will not make the civil service more efficient. All civil servants, beginning from the permanent secretaries to the lowest official, should have a new template of values for them to be effective.

Efforts at improving the civil service have not been in deficit as many panels had been set up to reform it, beginning with the Morgan Commission of 1963; followed by the Adebo Commission of 1971, the Udoji  Commission of 1972-74, the Dotun Philips Panel of 1985 and the Ayida panel  of 1994. Even after the country returned to democracy in 1999, fresh attempts were made to reform the civil service. This resulted in some reform proposals made in 2009 by the then Head of the Civil Service, Stephen Oronsaye. But despite these reforms, the civil service has not been in a position where it can discharge its functions irreproachably.

In its glorious years, the civil service was a great stabilising factor in governance. Civil servants guided new public officers, such as ministers, on their duties. They checked the excesses of some ignorant or mischievous public officers.  Over the years, civil servants deviated from their stabilising role in governance, and gradually became the breeding ground for many societal ills, including greed, depravity and infamy. Instead of guiding fresh public officers on how to effectively perform their duties, civil servants began to teach them how to truncate those responsibilities. They taught them how to exploit or create loopholes in the laws of the land to amass wealth for themselves.

An otherwise upright public officer would succumb to the pressure from civil servants to be corrupt if he does not guard his values jealously. In the end, most public officers lose their integrity to the pressure of civil servants who then benefit immensely from the consequence. Today, many civil servants are among the richest Nigerians, acquiring choice property at home and abroad.

Apart from directly stealing from the treasury, they also steal from the citizens, by deliberately causing delay and loss of opportunities; by demanding bribes to perform their statutory duties, including taking a file to a superior officer, awarding contracts or granting access to their superiors.

Thus, to return the civil service to the path of honour, there must be value re-orientation. The civil servants must imbibe the virtue of contentment. They must learn to live within their legitimate incomes. They must not forget that they are occupying offices meant to serve the people. They must not use these offices to immerse the people they are meant to serve.

The new permanent secretaries have a role to model good conduct. Their character must be exemplary such that those working under them would nurse no doubt that a moral pattern has been set for them. The permanent secretaries cannot expect those working under them to make judicious use of available resources when they (civil servants) can see that their superiors are misappropriating official funds.  It is only when the permanent secretaries are disciplined that they can enforce discipline among the civil servants.

President Buhari says he is set to run a prudent government. For the permanent secretaries to be relevant in this government, they must align themselves with this vision of the president. Prudence and integrity must be the watchwords in the performance of their duties so that enough resources can be freed to improve the well-being of the citizens. They cannot perpetuate a culture of impunity, profligacy and ostentation at a time the president has said that the nation is broke and that he would run a lean government. If they deviate from this template, they stand the risk of being retired prematurely; or going to prison for misappropriating the nation’s resources.

  • Abraham Inosezilo Obode


    Long, long time ago when the
    likes of Jerome Udoji, Ahmed Joda, Philip Asiodu, Allison Ayida, Sule Katagum,
    etc. where still in the service. When the best of graduates from the Nigerian
    virgin Universities where picked right from the ‘tree’ and when competence,
    discipline, intelligence and accountability was the watch word, the Civil
    Service stood out tall like the statue of Liberty. Then the implementation of
    Government policies was solely dependent on the technocrat-Civil Servants who
    brought in their wealth of professional skills, academic prowess and experience
    in getting the job done. Nigeria had a towering domestic and foreign policies
    that were the envy of the African continent hence they earn the name-the Giant
    of Africa.

    Yes it is true that in those days,
    when there was healthy competition and constructive criticism among opposition
    the political parties, the government of the day was resolute, focused and
    determined to positively affect the average Nigerian; when governance was seen
    as a calling driven by dedication and commitment to serve the nation so as to
    leave a lasting legacy for future generations, politics and politicians stood as
    tall as the Eiffel tower. During this glorious period, great men like the
    Sardauna of Sokoto, Zik of Africa, Awo of blessed memory and their likes where
    in government pushing for policies that will bring succor to those they were
    representing; while relying on the astute Civil Servants to finish the jobs for
    them. Their struggles yielded ripen fruits that brought in the famous groundnut
    pyramids, Cocoa house, NTA, coal mining industry, etc.

    And in those good old days when
    Pastors, Imams and Priest [now known as ‘Men of God’ and ‘Prophets’], where
    bringing the ‘good news’ of salvation and the message of Islam to the good
    people of Nigeria; integrity, concrete steel and hard core morality helped to
    sharpen the personality traits of men and women of the Nigerian society. Evil
    and good were perfectly understood, a clear cutout differences drawn between
    them and few of those that indulged in evil hid their faces in shame so as not
    to be identified because even their families and societies were they live would
    not even blink to harbor left alone entertain them.

    Unfortunately, that was long time ago. In contrast today, a
    modern era when competence, discipline, intelligence and accountability is
    being driven [in the Civil Service abroad], by creativity, critical thinking
    skills/thoughts to produce cutting edge tools and technical skills used in driving the development of the country through
    the effective/efficient implementation
    of Government policies; the Nigerian Civil Service remain so backward in its operations
    and methodology that the traditional routines and rituals of files and
    resistance to modernity is being celebrated, despite its crippling effects on old
    policies as well as the prevention of new ones.

    Hitherto, while the
    European, American and Asian governments are in a rat race of being the first
    to usher their respective communities into the 22nd century, with modern touch screen and voice command
    tools, our current crop of investors, sorry, politicians [in uniform or
    coloured clothing], that have ruled this country stretching far back as 30
    years, are still having problem of effectively focusing on developing and
    implementing policies that can drive the country into the 20st century which is now obsolete. But the other focused
    countries are so much in a hurry into the 22nd
    century that they cannot wait for us despite the fact that People can now be linked
    even from the remotest part of the earth surface. This is why the United
    Nations publication on human development reports (1999) stated that ‘people
    living around the globe are now linked more deeply, more intensely and more
    immediately than ever before’. But we seems to be cut off technically and
    catching up might be a mirage if we continuously refuse to wake up from our
    deep sleep and play ethnic and religious sentiments with our collective future.

    is hardly interesting to note that of all the computer network, the internet is
    the world’s largest that was estimated to be reaching millions of users as at
    1998 but this number doubles each year (Schaefer;2002;587). According to
    Reddick and King (2000), the internet evolved from a computer system built far
    back in 1962 by the U.S. defense
    department to enable scholars and the
    military researchers to continue to do government work [Civil Service] even if
    part of the nation’s communication system was destroyed by a nuclear attack.
    But funny enough, while the modern world activities have been enveloped in
    thousand times thousands of apps and softwares that drive every aspect of their
    lives making living much more easier, we over here are satisfied with twitter
    handle, facebook apps, whats apps, and other social media which we use to show case our borrowed lives.

    Sadly though, due to the failure
    of our religious houses that have taken to the gospel of prosperity and burning
    witches and every perceived enemies by fire; ‘Men of God’ initially in a rat
    race for SUVs, has now jettison such obsolete ideas for private jets maintained
    with constant seed offering and tithes from ‘glorious/prosperous members,
    destiny for eternity’. It is no longer news that being a ‘man of God’ or a
    radicalized Imam is now as lucrative as being a politician, just look around
    you objectively. The funny Nigerians who are increasingly finding it difficult
    to distinguish between what is good and bad or the difference between their
    needs and wants are stranded between craving for wants driven by taste and the
    hypnotized leadings of the so called ‘men of God/Imams’. Kudos to the religious
    leaders that has also helped to polarized the family institution, the very
    foundation of our existence- ‘Men of God, Imams, Prophets and Politicians what have
    you led us to?

    Time will not allow me to talk
    about the evil that goes on in the processes that occur in the setting up,
    monitoring, implementation and methodological approach for punishment of erring
    entrepreneurs in the areas of education, power/energy, transportation,
    agriculture, religious homes and by goad, what have you. All these regulations
    and implementations are traceable to the Civil Service whose teethes and fangs
    have collapsed due to a new culture of greed and impunity driven by lack of
    creativity/critical thoughts and fawn by self-righteousness saddled with religious/ethnic

    Until recently, before the coming
    of President Muhammad Buhari, Nigeria was almost going off the cliff with a
    little of it left behind on the other side of the cliff. It took the long 12
    years battle for the N0. 1 seat to make PMB come to realize that the Civil
    service is the core, the engine seat of Government success. That is why it took
    him almost three months to scrutinize the Civil Service, diving deep into the
    various ministries and critically examining and exploring the nature, mode of
    operations, methodology and the challenges and defects eating and killing it.
    PMB has come to realize that for him to succeed, he would need an astute
    responsive force injected with a new thinking philosophy and driven by a passionate
    call for the 22nd century
    which he hopes to manage with the lieutenants recently approved by the senate.
    Hence the result has been to collapse Ministries so as to improve efficiency/effectiveness
    and bring back transparency and accountability.

    But unfortunately, those that
    have been long deep in the dark attacked the President when he told the world
    in Paris that the Civil Servants are the technocrats while the Ministers where
    noise makers. It would take an intelligent mind to see through that statement
    and visualize while the policies of past governments have failed and fallen

    However, there is a bug. Though
    PMB has done well so far, there is yet another huddle, probably the biggest one
    yet to be identified by this present government.

    I must therefore emphasize here that
    collapsing the ministries and scrutinizing their modes of operation is good but
    the government needs to introduce, inject and enforce the doctrine of
    creativity. This is the key tool driving every modern democratic and communist
    government all over the world. All old traditional stereotype, routine and
    ritualistic methodologies that stand as a brick wall to effective policy
    formulation and implementation must be jettison for creativity. Government must
    as a matter of urgency, review the activities of all ministries as a way of bringing
    out the Civil Service from the 19th
    century and re-introducing it into the fast approaching 22nd century. In so doing,
    policies will be redefined and new agenda set to meet current needs.

    As this is going on, sitting
    governments must begin to also redefine their method of governance and start
    putting square pegs in square holes. State Governors and President must develop
    tools to track workers activities, their potentials and creativity while
    rewards and punishment introduce to step up competition within the Service. The
    government must also have a clear cutout baseline [such as IT compliance, basic
    knowledge of professional competence, etc.], for workers irrespective of their
    cadre and very senior officers such as Directors, PSs, Commissioners and Board
    Chairs, that are supervising the foot soldiers, should be given such managerial
    roles base on competence and skills and not base on mere years of service or
    party liability sorry affiliation. The government must also set up a monitoring
    and evaluating tool saddle with the responsibility of tracking the activities
    of workers, especially those placed in managerial roles so as to help
    strengthen the system.

    Furthermore, every expired hand
    whether due to poor educational proficiency, academic/professional
    incompetence, ignorance, age or lack of inability to meet up with the current
    trend of events, should be shown the way out without prejudice. This will pave
    way for those that remain to be given a new task or challenge of reviewing
    policies, bringing in new policy proposals, new thought processes, and creative
    thoughts, strategically targeted at development.

    The sitting Government must also
    summon the courage to hold town hall meetings with middle level Civil Servants
    [who are behind the scene in the development and implementation of these
    policies and strategies], along with identified creative youths in the private
    and education sector to forge a common frontier in projecting the future of
    this great nation. These meetings will help government develop a new thinking,
    allow these ones rediscover themselves and keep them on their toes as they
    begin a journey of trust and responsibility of the future of the nation state.

    Conclusively, Kofi Annan, a former United nations Secretary-General once
    stated that ‘if globalization is to succeed, it must bring hope and good news
    to both the rich and poor alike. It must deliver rights to no less than riches.
    It must provide social justice and equity no less than economic prosperity and
    enhance communication’. With
    these words from Annan, let me say that in the goal of urbanization and
    community development, there is so much development that can occur when
    government begin to tap into the intelligent younger generation that can help
    it reposition the Civil Service from the routine and ritualistic settings into
    a well advanced intricate system programmed and re-packaged for the 22nd
    century. Without a well-articulated, repositioned Civil Service system,
    government at all levels will continue to run around in circles, so Comrade and
    PMB, start making the calls.

    Inosezilo Obode; 08091937277, 08035332530