Ekweremadu canvasses restructuring of federal character principle
Says policy currently abused
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, deputy president of the Senate, has requested a change of the use of the federal character principle in public sector recruitments as a precondition for the progress of the country.
According to him, “The present application of the federal character principle has compromised the integrity of recruitment in the federal public service thereby bungling the objective of the principle.”
In his new book due for public presentation later this month, the senator said the fears of marginalisation that have suppressed meritocracy in the recruitments into the public service have remained tenuous as qualified Nigerians could be found in every part of the country.
In the book titled ‘Who will love my country: Ideas of building the Nigeria of our dreams’, Ekweremadu argued that champions of federal character have rather used the principle to improve mostly their folks to the detriment of the larger population in their own ethnic groups.
Although he acknowledged that federal character had played an important role in fostering national unity and promoting cross-cultural interactions, he asserted that it has over time been abused and exploited to put mediocrity at the expense of merit in the leadership recruitment process.
His said: “The reality is that federal character, like any human enterprise, has been abused and exploited and is in dire need of reform. Regrettably, federal character has become a euphemism for recruiting unqualified people into the public service. Those who engage in this conduct wittingly or unwittingly increase the polarisation of Nigeria along ethnic lines by redefining federal character to include hiring unqualified and clearly unsuitable people just because of their ethnic origin.”
Ekweremadu said he was troubled by any attempt to staff the public service with people hired, not for their talent or qualifications as it has provoked fears that employment standards have been recalibrated to shortchange the system.
These employees, he argued decreased productivity, weakened the nation’s public service, and ultimately render it inefficient.
He said that federal character was designed to ensure that particular ethnic groups to the exclusion of others do not disproportionately occupy government jobs and positions, but lamented that the employment has been distorted by patronage, nepotism, or tribalism.
“Federal character, as currently administered, risks undermining the integrity of recruitment in the federal public service; we must re-examine the way it is administered. Ethnicity is a reality in Nigeria, and people would have to be irrational or willfully blind not to care about it.
But we must understand that federal character does not mandate ignoring or even lowering recruitment requirements to accommodate any ethnic or geographical zone,” he stated.
The deputy president of the Senate cautioned that using federal character, as a euphemism for recruiting incompetent and ill-qualified relatives and cronies was “a recipe for political instability, economic stagnation, and failure.”
He urged that the disturbing and counterproductive prioritisation of ethnic background over competence must be addressed for Nigeria to move forward as a democratic nation.
Furthermore, he said: “The federal public service will undergo a transformation if we commit to excellence and make concerted efforts to search geographical zones for those with the best qualifications for openings in the public service.
“Some people will be reluctant to support efforts to enthrone meritocracy as the operating philosophy of the federal public service. In fact, they will resist this precisely from fear that meritocracy will be used to exclude their people from public service. The fear is baseless. I believe that competent and qualified people in all fields of human endeavour exist in virtually all segments of the country. The problem is that most people are unwilling to look beyond an immediate circle of cronies, friends, and relatives to find them.”