I recently stumbled on a very brilliant lecture delivered by one of the most outstanding public servants that Nigeria has produced, Alhaji (Dr)AdamuFika, CFR, who ended his glorious public service career as Secretary to the Government of the Federation & Head of the Civil Service. AlhajiFikabelonged to the class of civil servants who were brought up in the British tradition in First Class civil services nursedby highly respectedregional heads of civil services – Chief Simeon Adebo for the Western Region, Chief Jerome Udoji for the Eastern Region, and Sir Kashim Imamfor the Northern Region (all of blessed memory) The thought-provoking lecture highlighted the importance of bureaucracy to the proper conduct of governance at a period that could be safely described as ‘the golden years of the Nigerian Civil Service’.The occasion for the frank talk characteristic of the first generation of Nigeria’s civil servants was theYear 2011 edition ofBarewa Old Boys Association Annual Lecture. And the lecturer: Alhaji(Dr) AdamuFika. The title:‘Going Back to Basics: The Past as Prologue’. One could safely speculate that there may be no patriotic soul that would go through the speech that would not ponder over its contents, out of genuine love for our dear country and our collective responsibility to build a greater nation.
The contents of this document sourced from Governor El-Rufai’s collections speak very eloquently about the need for us all to use past occurrences as lessons for moving the polity forward along the envisaged path of progress.It is the type of document thatmakes one think about the place of History in Public Policy; and to recall the submission of a CanadianPublic Historian, Jean-Pierre-Morin, who stated that: ‘’As someone who must wear both the “historian” and the “policy analyst” hats, I’ve come to realize that what I’m doing is applying the historical thinking I’ve learnt through my historical training to the process of policy analysis. ‘’This adds value to an often convoluted and complex policy process. ‘’For example, when making policy recommendations on the Canadian government’s approach on Indigenous issues, I use historical methods and approaches to provide the best possible contextual information. ‘’I aim to use the tools from my “historian’s toolkit,” to borrow from Alix Green, to better organize information, challenge assumptions, and use historical approaches to help fill the information gaps in the policy making process.’’ This is exactly what AlhajiFikaadvocated for in the lecture under reference.AdamuFika kicked off this way: ‘’The theme of my speech today is based on an observation made by Chief S.O. Adebo on the value of learning from our past and respecting our past leaders. He observed that:
“From my experience of public affairs and my recent dealings with government officials, there is a high level of ignorance of seemingly educated men about past events in this country. ‘’On any major issue many public officers behave as if there had never been a past and that we must copy new-fangled ideas and procedures which are then labeled as progressive reforms. ‘’This applies to virtually every aspect or facet of our national life and activity. Needless to say that anything that is new becomes old in the course of time, and if we get into this tendentious habit of disowning not only our past but also our past leadership, we would end nowhere. ‘’Let us learn from them, without forgetting what they did for this country. ‘’A large part of the problem confronting Nigeria in general, and the public service in particular today, is the result of an unpardonable ignorance of the past, and an unjustified and unwarranted aversion to all the lessons and benefits the past has to offer.’’
AdamuFika continued: ‘’We often live and work under the illusion that only what is new is good, forgetting that it is in the nature of whatever is new to itself ultimately run out of fashion one day. What is new today becomes old in the course of time; and as Oscar Wilde once said, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to change it every six months”.It is indeed distressing to see supposedly educated and experienced public officers behave and conduct themselves as if matters have no precedent; and they go on to regard and treat the past with so much condescending levity. They conduct public business as if there has never been a past; and they borrow, and copy, and graft and latch onto every latest fad and new craze with absolute capriciousness, in the end effectively making the public service rootless. ‘’But if we are to progress as a nation we must learn to pay due respect to the past and learn from it and treasure the legacy bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers and their immediate worthy successors—the pioneer public officers in both mufti and khaki—who toiled to make Nigeria what it is today.’’
SUBVERTING THE PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION
He continued: ‘’This unfortunate disrespect for the past and what it represented and the disdain for the memory of the great personalities who led our country were the result of a series of disastrous events, beginning with the dumping of the people’s Constitution in 1979. ‘’The Constitution that was drawn up after many years of extensive consultations from the grassroots upwards and after keenly-attended General and several Constitutional Conferences by the representatives of the federating regions was unceremoniously discarded in favour of one enacted after only a few months of discussion by a few of the elite under the direction and supervision of the military. ‘’The imposed Constitution completely changed the tone and character of governance by stipulating that Nigeria should have a presidential system of government; and it went on to foist the presidential system on our country without any justification other than military dictate. ‘’When he inaugurated the Constitution Drafting Committee on 18th October 1975, General Murtala Muhammed made it clear that the Supreme Military Council had come “to the conclusion that we require An Executive Presidential System of Government” Thus, the Presidential System was really foisted on the country even before the commencement of deliberations by the Drafting committee and subsequently by the Constituent Assembly.’’
REMUNERATION OF PUBLIC OFFICERS
‘’……The attitude of our leaders in the last two decades or so but particularly since the return to civilian rule in 1999, no doubt, contrasts sharply with those of the past leaders. The President then used to earn £7150, which he inherited from the colonial era and fixed since April 1953 and remained the same until January 1966; the Prime Minister was on £5,000 fixed since the office was created in 1957, but in 1962 his salary was reduced to £4500 and remained on that salary until he was murdered in January 1966. A Minister at the Federal or Regional Level was on a salary of £3000, fixed since 1954, but this as reduced to £2700 and remained as such until January 1966. A regional Premier earned £4000 fixed in 1954 when the office was created, but was reduced to £3600 in 1962. ‘’The Senate President and Speaker of the House each earned £3000 before 1962 but was reduced to £2700 in 1962. Salary of a Senator or Member was £1000 before 1962 but was reduced to £900. The salary of the Clerk of Parliament remained at £2940. Those were the good old days in the past.’’
LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE
When authentic Statesmen led the nation at the centre and the regions, and rules and regulations were respected and proper procedure was strictly adhered to in the conduct of Government business, the country witnessed the best specimen of leadership by example.First Republic politicians were leaders who sincerely believed in, and faithfully practiced the best tenets of democracy; and were always guided in all they did by the public interest.They played their politics with a passion, formulated their policies for the public good and believed they had a sacred mission to lead their societies on to the path of growth and political, social and economic development. And to achieve this they were ready to go to any length, perform any task, offer any sacrifice in order to ensure a higher standard of living for their people.While they were partisan politicians they still led governments that were inclusive and blind to people’s politics and they tolerated and worked amicably well with the opposition. For them partisanship ended with the elections, and governments formed were for all the people. While the majority had its way, the minority had its say—and it was always listened to.In their control and management of public resources the leaders were accountable to the last penny; because, with the system that they had put in place and jealously guarded, they perhaps couldn’t have been otherwise.
The best type of leadership is one that is exercised by example; and, in general, there is little doubt that politicians of the First Republic led this nation by the power of their example. Their conduct in government and even out of it made it ever so clear that they were not in politics for what they could get out of it: theirs was a commitment to making life better for the people.A very good sign of their commitment to the public good, their public spiritedness and readiness for self-sacrifice was the comparatively low level of pay they fixed for themselves, which they didn’t hesitate to further reduce when the situation demanded. For instance, throughout the duration of the First Republic the Secretary to the Prime Minister earned £3540, a salary that was more than that of any Minister; and in general, a Minister marginally earned £60 per annum more than a Permanent Secretary. And there were at least three heads of professional departments and a Permanent Secretary (Finance) who earned £3180, that is, £180 more than any Minister.’’
This was the situation before 1962. In 1962, the salary of each political office holder was reduced by 10%;thus the salary of the Minister was reduced by 10% to £2700 but the salary of the Permanent Secretary remained unchanged at £2940 per annum.And nowhere was the readiness of the political leaders to sacrifice more in evidence than in 1962, when the First National Development Plan (1962-1968) was launched. Almost immediately after launching, it became clear that the plan could not be implemented fully if government revenues were not increased and recurrent expenditure drastically cut.Accordingly, the government introduced austerity measures, and, in addition to that, decided to cut the salaries of all politicians in government by 10% across the board, from the prime Minister down to those officers earning as low as £400 per annum, and abolished their allowances. But, pointedly, these measures didn’t affect civil servants, because, according to the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello:“with regard to the civil servants their salaries and some of the allowances are part of their conditions of service, and although the Regional Government has the power to cut arbitrarily the salaries and allowances of its employees,… as a model employer, it would be wrong for the government to cut arbitrarily without consultation with them through the normal channels”. (To be continued) MallamAdamuFika, CFR; sourced from the records of Governor Nassir El-Rufai.
Evolution of the People’s Constitution
In 1922 Sir Hugh Clifford extended the membership of the Legislative council to include the representatives of some parts of Nigeria for the first time. Under the new arrangement there were eighteen officials members in addition to the Governor, and eighteen unofficial members, the majority were Nigerians, including three elected members and elected members respectively to represent the municipality and Calabar respectively. The remaining Nigerian members represented the Colony Division, the Ibo Division, the Niger African Traders, the Egba Division, the Rivers Division, the Oyo Division, the Warri-Benin Division, the remaining seven unofficial members represented British commercial mining, banking and shipping interests in Nigeria. Northern Nigeria were not represented.
In 1947, Sir Arthur Richards introduced a new Constitution by which Northern provinces were represented by Northerners in the unofficial membership of the Council in the legislative Council which increased to 28, 25 of whom were Nigerians and 9 of the 25 were from the North.
By the time Sir Arthur Richard left Nigeria in November 1947, the constitution named after him, which had come into effect on 1st January of that year. It was supposed to run for nine years before it would be reviewed in 1956, although minor reviews could be made after every three years, in 1950 and 1953.
Sir Arthur and succeeded by Sir John Macpherson who assumed duty in April 1948, barely 15 months after the introduction of the Richard’s Constitution. He immediately embarked on a four-month country-wide tour of Nigeria ending in August of that year. He then convened a meeting of a Legislative Council in the same month, the first under his Presidency.
He briefed the Legislative Council members on the outcome of his tour of the country and stating that he had observed that the Constitution had been accepted by the generality of the people and it was working very well indeed. So well that he thought the Council should consider seriously the review of the Constitution at a date earlier than the nine year period recommended in the Constitution. He also suggested that if Council accepted his view in that regard the review should start from the grassroots and go up to the highest level.
The Council accepted the suggestion by the Governor and appointed a Select Committee of the Council, comprising of all the 25 Nigerian members of the Council, to work out modalities and submit its recommendations to the Council at its meeting scheduled to take place in Ibadan early in 1949.
The Select Committee recommended that Nigerians at all levels should be involved in the Constitutional review with consultations to take place from village levels to district and divisional levels. At the Division level participants would select from among themselves delegates to represent them at the provincial conference to take place at each provincial headquarters. The Divisional representatives would submit to the Provisional Conference the result of the deliberation and conclusion as to the Division’s stand on the type of constitutional arrangement should be suitable for Nigeria. The Provincial Conference in turn would collate the decisions of the various divisions with within the Province and agree on the type of Constitution it wanted Nigeria to have and would also select its representatives to participate at the Regional Conference to take place in Kaduna, Enugu, Ibadan and Lagos.
The Regional Conference would collate the views and conclusions from various provincial conferences for onward submission to the Drafting Committee. The Select Committee also recommended that, Regional Conferences, would elect delegates to participate at the General Conference as well as nominate members to represent them on the Drafting Committee which would “prepare a statement setting out draft recommendations for constitutional changes based on the issues of the Regional and Colony and Lagos Conferences and submit the statement for consideration of the General Conference”.
The recommendations of the Select Committee were approved by the full Legislative council at its meeting held in Ibadan in March, 1949. Thereafter consultations and conferences took place throughout 1949. Delegates were elected by the Regional, Lagos and Colony conferences to participate at the General Conference.
Membership of the General Conference
The members of the General Conference representing the Northern Region were the Emir of Gwandu Yahaya, the Emir of Katsina Usman Nagogo, the Atta of IgbirraAlhaji Ibrahim, the Emir of Abuja Suleman, Bello Kano, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, IroKatsina, Aliyu MakamaBida and Yahaya Ilorin, all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were Emir of Zaria Malam Jaafaru, Malam Ahmadu Sardauna of Sokoto, Malam Muhammadu Wali of Borno, Malam Muhammadu Ribadu, ShettimaKashim, Malam Sani Dingyadi, Alhaji Shehu Ahmadu SarkinShanu (Kano), AlhajiAbdulmalikiIgbirra, and Malam Ali Turakin Zaria.
Those representing Western Region were the Ooni of Ife Sir AdesojiAderemi, the Oba of Benin Akenzua II, Mr. AkinpeluObisesan, Mr. T. A. Odutola, Mr. Gaius Obaseki and Mr. A. Soetan, all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were Mr. A. E. Prest, Archdeacon L. A. Lennon, Rev. I. O. Ransome-Kuti, Mr M. A. Ajasin, Mr. S. O. Awokoya and Mr. M. G. Ejaife.
Those representing Eastern Region were Mr. H. Buowari Brown, Mr. C. D. Onyeama, Mr. A. Ikoku, Mr. NyongEssien, Mr. F. A. Ibiam and Mr. E. E. E. Anwan, all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were MaziMbonuOjike, Mr. E. N. Egbuna, Dr.E. M. L. Endeley, Rev. O. Effiong, Mr. M. W. Ubani and Mr. EyoIta.
Those representing Lagos were Dr.. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mr. AdelekeAdedoyin and Dr. I. Olorun-Nimbe—all members of the Legislative Council. The additional members were Chief Bode Thomas, Chief Obanikoro, and Mr. T. A. Bankole.
The Colony was represented by Rev. T. A. Ogunbiyi who was a member of the Legislative Council and the additional member was Mr. C. D. Akran.
Membership of the Drafting Committee:
Members of the Draft Committee representing Northern Region were Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Ahmadu Sardauna of Sokoto, and Mallam Muhammadu Wali of Borno.
- ii) Those representing Western Region were Dr. A. S. Agbaje, S. O. Awokoya and Rev. I. O. Ransome-Kuti
iii) Those representing Eastern Region were Mr. C. D. Onyeama, Mr. E. N. Egbuna, and Mr. A. Akon
- iv) The Colony was represented by Mr. Oladipo Amos, Esq and Lagos was represented by Mr. Bode Thomas.
The Drafting Committee met in October and November 1948 and submitted statement of recommendations to the General Conference which met throughout January 1950.
The resulting Constitution came into effect on 1st January 1952. It introduced for the first time ministerial and representative system of government. Its main thrust was the creation of a House of Representatives at the Centre, a House of Assembly each for the North, West and East, a House of Chiefs each for the North and West, and also a Central Council of Ministers for Nigeria and an Executive Council each for North, West and East.
The constitution introduced on 1st January 1952 worked smoothly for 15 months up to 31st March 1953. On that day Chief Anthony Enahoro, on behalf of the Action Group supported also by the NCNC moved the motion standing in his name that This House accept as a primary political objective the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956”. Malam Ahmdu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto on behalf of the NPC moved an amendment that “1956” be deleted and be substituted by “as soon as practicable”. Malam Ibrahim Imam of the NPC dropped a bombshell when he moved a dilatory motion citing a Standing Order of the House which had in effect of delaying further consideration of both the original motion and the amendment to it which was unacceptable to AG and NCNC and so in protest the members of the two parties staged a walkout leaving NPC and parties to pass the dilatory motion. In effect, the self government motion was never debated.
The incident in the House and subsequently outside the House when Northern members including Chiefs were felted and stoned outside the House created a major crisis to the extent that the North had taken steps including holding a referendum all over the region to opt out of the country. The tense situation in the country made it impossible for any kind of contact between the political leaders in the North and south to meet anywhere in the country. It was left to the British Government to convene a Constitutional Conference in London in July and August 1955.
The 1952 Constitution was used as a working document and the basis of discussion to produce the 1954 Constitution, with the enactment of which Nigeria formally became a Federation. An Exclusive Legislative List delimited the powers of the Federal Government, but shared with the regions, responsibility for subjects on the the Recurrent Legislative List. The regions had residual powers, that is, all the legislative subjects which were not included in the two lists were the responsibility of the Regions. An office of Premier was created in each region.
Thereafter, further constitutional conferences were held in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1963. At each conference additional steps were taken towards independence and the attainment of republican status. In 1957 the Office of Federal Prime Minister was created, the Eastern and Western Regions attained self government status, and the Northern Region gave notice in 1958 and became self governing in 1959.
The main thrust of all these reviews was the proper establishment of democratic institutions and a viable, functional and politically neutral but committed and efficient public service in order to formally entrench democracy, the rule of law and proper administration of justice. It could thus be seen that it took our leaders the whole of 15 years to fashion the people’s Constitution.
This was the document that was jettisoned and replaced by a constitution drawn up by military fiat. Not surprisingly, matters began to deteriorate with alarming speed. Aside from the fact that the new system was proving too costly, too unwieldy and perhaps unworkable, the so called presidential system of government was just not understood, or practiced or respected; and, even worse, it was at the same time wreaking untold havoc on crucial national institutions that had hitherto served us so well.
In spite of the time and effort painstakingly put in fashioning the peoples Constitution our Founding Fathers believed that no humanly made document would be portent to me. Therefore, the Prime Minister invited the Regional Premiers for a meeting to discuss the state of the nation. They agreed to have the constitution reviewed. The meeting of the Prime Minister and the four Regional Premiers was held in September 1965. A communiqué was issued at the end of the meeting announcing the agreement reached to review the Constitution. They accordingly agreed to set up a twelve-member drafting committee under the chairmanship of the Attorney-General Dr. T. O. Elias. Other members were three representatives of the Federal Government and two representatives of each of the four Regional Governments. They also agreed that the Constitutional conference would be convened to consider the recommendations of the drafting committee to be attended by the representatives of all the Governments in the Federation and major political parties as well as the representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Medical Association, Nigerian Teachers Association, Trade Unions, National Union of Journalist, Nigerian chamber of Commerce and Nigerian women politicians.
The first meeting of the drafting committee was held on 10th December 1965. As soon as the Chairman declared the meeting open, Dr. Kalu Ezara, one of the representatives of the Eastern Region interrupted the meeting and announced that his Premier had told him that the Chairman of the meeting was part of the three Federal representatives. He remained adamant in spite of the clarity of the communiqué issued at the end of the leaders meeting that the five of them jointly appointed the Chairman. He nevertheless insisted that he would not participate in the meeting and would continue to raise the same issue as long as the Prime Minister did not seek clarification from the Premier.
The meeting therefore had to adjourn to seek clarification as demanded by the Eastern delegate to resume after the forthcoming Ramadan period. The military struck in January, 1966 during the Ramadan. The Prime Minster and the Premiers of the Northern and Western Nigeria were killed and so was the attempt to review the Constitution.
Discarding the merit-based system of the Public Service
The next casualty of the aversion to any policy establishment by our Founding Fathers was the merit based system of Public Service was also discarded at the end of March 1988. It was replaced by the obnoxious patronage-spoils system.
The fundamental objective of a merit-based public service is to insulate it from political interference and influence so that appointments and promotions are based on merit and on merit alone.
It should have come as no surprise that a constitution that did not derive its strength and legitimacy from the will of the people would sooner be subverted than be obeyed; and the institutions that derived their own power from it were worse affected, with the public service most adversely so.
The basic principles of the service were inherited at independence in a fully-fledged merit system as agreed to by our leaders during the constitutional conferences but this was discarded in favour of the patronage – spoils system.
The question of control of appointment, promotion and discipline of public service arose during the August 53 session of the Constitutional Conference when one of the NCNC delegate wanted such to be controlled by the politicians. To this, the presiding British Minister, himself a politician strongly advised the Nigerian leaders to adopt the British system of merit based public service. He pointed out that “the principles of the British system, which has stood the best of time, are that the Civil Service is recruited by a body completely independent of Ministers and that it has its own machinery for promotions, which except at the highest level, are not even submitted to Ministers for formal approval. Even when that approval is sought, Ministers are, by tradition, guided by the advice of the senior members of the service. There is no question of the dismissal of holders of offices in the civil service, at any level, in consequence of the change of government. The British tradition is the appointment and dismissal, and, with exception, the promotion of the civil servants, is outside the competence of Government. History has shown that no other system works satisfactorily. It will be disastrous to have a civil service under the control of the Executive and for appointments to change according to the turn of the political wheel will lead to instability”.
Our leaders accepted the advice and reaffirmed their acceptance in January 1954 when the leaders – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Malam Aminu Kano and Professor EyoIta issued the following statement committing their respective parties:
“We fully support the principle that all Public Service questions, including appointments, promotions, transfers, postings, dismissals and other disciplinary matters should be kept completely free and independent of political control. We hope that the traditional principle of promotion according to qualification, experience, merit without regard to race will be maintained”.
In the constitution, resulting from the deliberations of conferences, section 14 provided that:
“The power to appoint persons to hold or act in offices of the public service of the Federation…..and to dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices should vest in the Public Service Commission of the Federation”
In sub-section (2) judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court of Lagos and any police officer in the Police force were removed from the competence of the Public Service Commission and vested in the Judicial Service and Police Service Commissions respectively.
In addition, the power to appoint a person in the offices of the Permanent Secretary, Principal representatives of Nigerian abroad, Director of Audit, Clerk of the Parliament, Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in charge of Regional command was a joint responsibility of head of Government and the relevant Service Commission.
Our leaders acted honourably and kept their promise. They acted strictly in accordance with the relevant provisions of the constitution in handling public service matters.
The London Constitutional Conference “recognized that in view of the importance and dignity of the position of chief representative of a country overseas – Ambassadors and the Commissioners—it, from time to time be best to fill such posts not by career officers in the Public Service, but by distinguished citizens appointed for broad reasons of policy”. To the credit of our past leaders, they did not abuse that opportunity for between 1960 and 1966 they appointed only twelve non-career heads of missions out of over 100.
Perverting Remuneration of the holders of Certain Public Offices.
In an attempt to ensure that holders of certain public offices performed their duties without fear or favour to the political executive and members of the legislature, remuneration of such officers were fixed by law and insulated from the arbitrariness of politicians in both the executive and legislature. The independence and political neutrality of the officers are guaranteed by the constitution because of the sensitive nature of their work, and also because in the performance of their duties, they are not subject to direction or control by any other body or authority.
These bodies were the Public Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the Electoral Commission, Justices of the Supreme Court and High Court of Lagos, the Director, Auditor and the Director of Public Prosecution. The criterion for the selecting of these offices for promotion of the recommendation of holders is fact that their decisions are final and are not subject to review by any other person or authority.
From 1954 when these Commissions were first established first as advisory bodies to the Governor-General and the Governors, that is before Independence, and then became fully independent of Government after 1st October, 1960, there has always been such provisions in the constitution, protecting the renumeration of holder of any of the offices from the arbitrariness of the political executive or the legislature.
In the 1960 Constitution the remuneration of the holders of such offices was provided for in Section 127, as follows:
- i) There shall be paid to the holders of the offices to which this Section applies such salary and allowances may be prescribed by Parliament
- ii) The salary and allowances payable to the holders of any office to which this section applies shall be a charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation
iii) The salary payable to the holder of any office to which this Section applies, and his term of office, other than allowances shall not be altered to his disadvantage after his appointment.
4) This Section applies to the Offices of Governor-General, Chief Justice of the Federation, Federal Justices, Chief Justices and other Judges of the High Court of Lagos, members of the Electoral Commission of the Federation, members of the Public Service Commission of the Federation, members of the Police Service Commission of the Federation and Auditor-General for the Federation.
In the 1979 Constitution the National Population Commission was added as one of such bodies. To me, it did not and still does not appear to merit inclusion in this category of public officers. In the first place it is not one of the extra-ministerial institution because its subject matter is always assigned to a member of the executive secondly the result of its work is subject to acceptance or rejection by the Executive.
From 1989 when RMAFC was established to date the members of such offices has increased beyond reason as shown in Annex I of this paper. The Commission also created a number of fringe benefits and, in the name of monetization awarded about 1500% of basic salaries to the beneficiary public officers. The good intention of our Founding Fathers has been perverted into a status symbol and is now applied to legitimize brazen looting of public funds. Such Offices now include the President, the Vice-President, Ministers, members of the National Assembly, Governor, Deputy Governor and members of State Houses of Assembly, and even politicians at the local government level. Now Virtually every elected or appointed politician including politician appointed on the governing body of a commission and an agency.
Since the original intention was to protect the holders of such sensitive offices from the anticipated arbitrariness of the political class. It does not make sense to extend it to include these same politicians from whom the protection is sought.
The truth is that the whole exercise has been perverted and converted into an elitist and conspiratorial club anchored by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. And since 2002 RMAFC has been reviewing the salaries of those Public Officers at least biennially, while the salaries of ordinary workers had not been reviewed for many years.
Review Procedure adopted by RMAFC
From records of RMAFC, it appears the Commission seeks the opinion of the beneficiaries ….. guide for the commission to recommend increases. When RMAFC embarked on the last review it asked the beneficiaries by group to say which factors should be taken into account and what weight should be assigned to each factor in determining the increases as to their existing salaries.
The factors identified RMAFC and agreed to by the beneficiaries were inflation, exchange rate, growth of the economy and political factors. The response from the various groups of the beneficiaries collated and published by RMAFC and reproduced below:
(a) Federal Level
Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006
(b) State and Local Government Levels
Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006
In the second stage, RMAFC asked same beneficiaries if they supported an increase of 100%, 200% or 300% to their basic salaries. The responses collated and published by RMAFC and reproduced below:
(c) Federal Level
Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006
(d) State and Local Government Levels
Source: RMAFC Field Survey, 2006
Eventually RMAFC awarded the beneficiaries a little less than 200% in basic salaries.
From the foregoing, the attitude of our leaders in the last two decades or so but particularly since the return to civilian rule in 1999, no doubt, contrasts sharply with those of the past leaders. The President then used to earn £7150, which he inherited from the colonial era and fixed since April 1953 and remained the same until January 1966; the Prime Minister was on £5,000 fixed since the office was created in 1957, but in 1962 his salary was reduced to £4500 and remained on that salary until he was murdered in January 1966. A Minister at the Federal or Regional Level was on a salary of £3000, fixed since 1954 but this as reduced to £2700 and remained as such until January 1966. A regional Premier earned £4000 fixed in 1954 when the office was created but was reduced to £3600 in 1962. The Senate President and Speaker of the House each earned £3000 before 1962 but was reduced to £2700 in 1962. Salary of a Senator or Member was £1000 before 1962 but was reduced to £900. The salary of the Clerk of Parliament remained at £2940. Those were the good old days in the past.
Leadership by Example
When authentic Statesmen led the nation at the centre and the regions, and rules and regulations were respected and proper procedure was strictly adhered to in the conduct of Government business, the country witnessed the best specimen of leadership by example.
First Republic politicians were leaders who sincerely believed in, and faithfully practiced the best tenets of democracy; and were always guided in all they did by the public interest.
They played their politics with a passion, formulated their policies for the public good and believed they had a sacred mission to lead their societies on to the path of growth and political, social and economic development. And to achieve this they were ready to go to any length, perform any task, offer any sacrifice in order to ensure a higher standard of living for their people.
While they were partisan politicians they still led governments that were inclusive and blind to people’s politics and they tolerated and worked amicably well with the opposition. For them partisanship ended with the elections, and governments formed were for all the people. While the majority had its way, the minority had its say—and it was always listened to.
In their control and management of public resources the leaders were accountable to the last penny; because, with the system that they had put in place and jealously guarded, they perhaps couldn’t have been otherwise.
The best type of leadership is one that is exercised by example; and, in general, there is little doubt that politicians of the First Republic led this nation by the power of their example. Their conduct in government and even out of it made it ever so clear that they were not in politics for what they could get out of it: theirs was a commitment to making life better for the people.
A very good sign of their commitment to the public good, their public spiritedness and readiness for self sacrifice was the comparatively low level of pay they fixed for themselves, which they didn’t hesitate to further reduce when the situation demanded. For instance, throughout the duration of the First Republic the Secretary to the Prime Minister earned £3540, a salary that was more than that of any Minister; and in general, a Minister marginally earned £60 per annum more than a Permanent Secretary. And there were at least three heads of professional departments and a Permanent Secretary (Finance) who earned £3180, that is, £180 more than any Minister.
This was the situation before 1962. In 1962, the salary of each political office holder was reduced by 10% thus the salary of the Minister was reduced by 10% to £2700 but the salary of the Permanent Secretary remained unchanged at £2940 per annum.
And nowhere was the readiness of the political leaders to sacrifice more in evidence than in 1962, when the First National Development Plan (1962-1968) was launched. Almost immediately after launching, it became clear that the plan could not be implemented fully if government revenues were not increased and recurrent expenditure drastically cut.
Accordingly, the government introduced austerity measures, and, in addition to that, decided to cut the salaries of all politicians in government by 10% across the board, from the prime Minister down to those officers earning as low as £400 per annum, and abolished their allowances. But, pointedly, these measures didn’t affect civil servants, because, according to the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello:
“with regard to the civil servants their salaries and some of the allowances are part of their conditions of service, and although the Regional Government has the power to cut arbitrarily the salaries and allowances of its employees,… as a model employer it would be wrong for the government to cut arbitrarily without consultation with them through the normal channels”.
But it was not only on this issue that First Republic politicians led by example. They were also exemplars of democratic virtues. The following incidences in the life of the Sardauna shed light on how they played their politics and how they scrupulously separated politics from governance.
(a) Concern for the welfare of others, particularly Civil Servants
Dr. RAB Dikko the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health requested for the use of the Northern Communication Flight to fly a sick health officer from Idda. Unfortunately, the only plane operating at the time had been booked for the Premier, for 10am the following day.
As secretary to the Executive Council, Chief Sunday Awoniyi controlled and authorized the use of Communication Flight. Finding himself in a difficult situation with little choice, he approached the Premier and informed him that a higher priority of use of the plane had arisen for conveyance of a sick officer. The Premier agreed and ordered his car to be got ready for his own journey while the plane was put at the disposal of the Ministry of Health for their sick officer.
The officer was brought from Idda to Kano, to be flown abroad but died in Kano before he could be flown out. The Premier, on later reflection on the turn of events, profoundly thanked Awoniyi for asking him to give up the plane for the use of the deceased officer.
(b) Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia
On a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the Premier used to pay all expenses for himself and those he sponsored from his own resources. He also paid customs duties on any goods he brought on which were subject to customs duties. On one occasion, the customs officer charged him customs duty of £26.10s which he promptly paid by his Bank of the North personal cheque. However, in a subsequent correspondence, the Customs Office refunded the cheque with an apology because the Sardauna’s goods had been over assessed by £1. A new demand of £25.10s was made on him and replacing cheque of £25.10s was issued.
(c) Standing up for Selfless Public Service
A part member of the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) applied for a car advance and requested for an increase of sitting allowance. Since the requests were not covered by existing policy, the matter had to be referred to the Premier who decided to reply the member directly:
“I appoint you and other people to serve on various Regional Boards with the firm belief that you will render useful service to your Compatriots, in other words, it is a sort of National Service. The idea is by all means not for you to regard the opportunity as a money making privilege! In this connection, I would like to inform you that I was made to understand that in the last meeting you insisted, quite adamantly, on the question of elevating members’ allowances. This attitude will certainly not be of any credit to you, or us, in the eyes of the general public… If your intention is to make money rather than helping your fellow countrymen, then the best course for you to take is to resort to trading or some sort of business which can quench your inordinate monetary thirst.”
American Example—In an attempt to muzzle the public service it has often been argued here that because of the presidential system in operation in the country, the role and character of the service will have to change to conform. But nothing could be furtherer from the truth.
Both America and Britain practice the same system of merit based public service. It was only after trying the spoils system with tragic consequences that the United States of America from where our presidential system was borrowed, imported and implanted the principle of the merit system from the United Kingdom in 1884.
Irrespective of the system in operation, there is no difference in the core values of public service – integrity, impartiality, objectivity, merit, permanence, accountability and independence. As the machinery for the achievement of the political and economic development goals of the nation, the role of the public service is the same and its characteristics remain the same irrespective of the system of government in operation.
Indeed, it was to this independence and the service quality of permanence that former US President Gerald Ford referred to as he assumed duty while lauding the role of the US Federal Public Service in the aftermath of the difficulties occasioned by the Watergate scandal. Ford made this observation:
“Whatever else, recent experiences have proved one thing about the Federal Government, it can continue to function and move ahead even under the most difficult circumstances. This is due chiefly to the more than two million career civil servants who, day in, day out, give of themselves in a thoroughly dedicated and efficient manner to assure this continuity”.
Obviously, there can be no replacement for the past; and Nigerians cannot hope to see a return to past glory for their nation until they honour the past. As we can all see, our contempt for the past and disrespect for our past leaders and their ways have landed us in a political and socio-economic quagmire from which there is no hope for escape unless we change our ways.
While our past leaders spent their lives establishing and laying down the foundation of merit in our public system; we are spending ours demolishing their legacy. No wonder everything is irretrievably breaking down; and, as a result of this breakdown in the Public Service and, with it, in all our national institutions, the nation itself is slowly grinding to a halt. And the reason for this is clear enough.
We have painfully found out that the absence of merit and independence in the public service is the most effective key to unlocking the floodgates of corruption and accelerating the rate of the breakdown of national institutions. And once the gates are open, there is no stopping the torrent: it will most assuredly sweep everything that gets in its way.
And while we must respect the past, we must also respect ourselves and learn to respect the will of the people as drawn up in the constitution made in their name, and be guided by that will as expressed periodically in elections in which the people freely cast their votes. The way to respect the past is by taking the right lessons from it; and the way to respect ourselves is by showing respect to the system and electing as leaders people who will lead us by example.
It was a direct result of the absence of leadership by example and the abandoning of merit that the custodians of public wealth found it easy to appropriate all of it for themselves; and they are today living in a world away and different from our own.
Their headache is treated in European hospitals, their children educated in American schools; their drinking water is bottled, their power supply from generators provided, maintained and fueled at public expense; and their traffic jam is cleared for them by the blare of sirens. They are in every way and in every sense totally divorced from the harsh realities of life and the many excruciating problems in present-day Nigeria, problems which they have signally failed to solve.
As we can see, the Nigerian problem is not in the economy; it is not in the politics or in the society—it is in us. And it will not change until we ourselves change. In order for us to begin the process of change, the future of this nation must be entrusted, as it was in the past, into the hands of people—politicians and civil servants—who will, in word and deed, and through self-sacrifice, lead us by example; and who will always exercise the leadership function in the public interest and for the public good.
We must therefore first bring about a most fundamental change in the way we do everything; and the first step in this long journey is to look back into our past and take what we will need; for, we must begin in the past—and go on to the future.
I started this lecture with a quotation from Chief S.O. Adebo. I will end it with other quotation this time from the preface written by Professor Wole Soyinka in a biography on Mrs. Francesca Emanuel, where he said:
“Today Francesca silky soprano evokes nostalgia for those days when work and leisure fused into one seamless process of creativity that defines the collective existence of a community that came to define itself around the impulse to simply create to express oneself in explorative ways within the artistic template. Does this sound like the familiar lament of old fogies like us, a lament known and scoffed at as the language of ‘the good old days’? Of course.” “But look around and tell me if the present comes remotely close as a befitting replacement.”
I thank you very much for your patience.