‘Revive national development plans, focus on self reliance’ (3)
CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY
DURING the Gowon era for instance, the public perceived some Permanent Secretaries to be even performing the role of policy makers and they were therefore called “Super Permanent Secretaries”. Civil Servants also have long tenure of thirty-five years in office. Their actions and inactions therefore have long lasting effects. The Civil Service will therefore be a very, if not the most important instrument for putting self-reliance into practice successfully.
There is a need today to reform and reorientate the Civil Service so that it can adopt modern methods based on the use of computers for information acquisition, storage, analysis and dissemination, in performing its duties. Civil Servants also need to be more willing to inter act with members of the public and in humility. Special interest groups, philanthropic organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), particularly those advocating human rights protection and self-reliance should be welcomed with open arms in all Ministries. The Civil Service Rules should be updated so that every civil servant from the level of Messenger to that of the Permanent Secretary has his duties clearly defined and that he is provided with all the resources he needs to perform such duties so that he can be held responsible for his actions and inactions. Efficient officers should be handsomely rewarded through timely and even accelerated promotion as appropriate. The Report of the Udoji Committee on the Reform of the Public Service of 1974 should be used for the exercise. In this way we shall be learning the important lesson of building on a good foundation constructed by others.
The transformation of the Civil Service should include making it the arm of the public service that is the promoter and defender of the nation’s intellectual capability in the same way that the Military is the defender of the nation in the physical sense. There is no doubt that Nigeria has a large number of individual citizens both at home and abroad with talents and intellectual capability not inferior to those of other human beings anywhere in the world. What is lacking is our not mustering and harnessing these qualities for the development of the nation and our common good. The use of these qualities to our advantage is the kernel of self-reliance. The Civil Service should seek out gifted individuals within and outside the public service, who will not only identify problems facing the nation but also more importantly proffer innovative solutions to them.
The transformed Civil Servants should guide and influence the actions of political public office holders and curb their excesses by using superior arguments inherent in the mass of information and experience at their disposal. This is why a comprehensive computerised databank is recommended for each Ministry. During the military era, many civil servants were afraid of being summarily dismissed with immediate effect if they advised military personnel holding political offices not to do something irregular or even break the law. This threat no longer exists under the current civilian dispensation. The press is also there now to expose any such victimisation without being shut down.
The behaviour of individual civil servants should be exemplary, steeled in discipline, fairness, modesty and humility, especially when they are out of their offices. On the roads they should obey all traffic rules, stopping at pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and yielding the right of way at road junctions to traffic going in other directions to ease traffic flow as necessary. In this way they will be showing example to other road users that the best way to enjoy one’s rights is to respect the rights of others. They will thus be in a position to stop political office holders from using siren blasting, club swinging, whip lashing and gun-totting escorts, acquired with public funds, to frighten, shock, terrorise, maim and kill innocent road users who are quietly going about their daily businesses.
Concerted effort should be made to recruit into the Civil Service, many of our citizens who are voluntarily or otherwise residing and working in the technologically advanced countries, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The Internet can be especially useful in this regard. The guidelines for remuneration given in the Udoji Report should be used to entice them to return home, in which case the remuneration of a specialist recruited from abroad to provide a particular service may exceed that of a Permanent Secretary or even the President who is currently the highest paid public official. This will show that we are prepared and determined to acquire whatever it takes to tackle difficult problems primarily by our own efforts, so that Nigeria will be a nation where things work properly, and law and order will prevail. The “Nigeria factor” will then become a factor for merit, orderliness, generous rewards for excellence, justice and other positive values.
The Ministries in charge of Agriculture, Education, Engineering, Environment, Finance, Health, Housing, Industries, Minerals, Petroleum, Power Supply, Science and Technology, Sports, Telecommunications, Transport and Water Resources should have Permanent Secretaries who are members of the relevant professions. Such Permanent Secretaries will be in a position to interact meaningfully with the appropriate professions in the pursuit of self-reliance. They will be conversant with the performance of the various individuals, consultants, specialists, etc in their respective professions. They will be able to formulate policies that are in consonance with the goals and objectives of their professions. In this way the Political office holders they are advising will receive first hand advice on technical matters instead of diluted and often mutilated advice through Permanent Secretaries with background and training only in performing administrative duties in the Civil Service.
•Oseni is a former Director, Development and Engineering, Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja.