JUICY OR NOT JUICY MINISTRIES/DEPARTMENTS/AGENCIES OF GOVERNMENT:
RESTORING THE PRESTIGE OF THE CIVIL SERVICE
It sounds absurd and demeaning for people who should know to start talking about juicy or non-juicy Ministries/Departments/Agencies at the three tiers of government. Whoever is posted to any of these government establishments is representing the President/Governor/Local Government Chairman and not his or her locality. Even socio-cultural organzations fight on behalf of their tribes for juicy positions. Pray, is the appointee going there for juice or to carry out the directives of the big boss who is the appointing authority, and whom he or she represents? If I fight for a juicy position on behalf of anybody, that means I expect to be compensated in one form or the other. Additionally, anybody representing Mr. President and Mr. Governor in any Ministry/Department/Agency of government would not have been appointed to champion the cause of a defined territory. The whole country in the constituency of the President while the whole State is the constituency of the Governor. Those who should do so are Members of the National Assembly who are elected by their constituents to represent them.
I hold the conviction that seniority, merit, competence and inherent capabilities should be the overriding consideration in such matters and not place of origin. After all, the quality of inputs of these public officers would ultimately affect the general citizenry and not any particular part of the state. I want to advocate a style that would make heads of governments sack immediately, public servants who offer guidance with the objective of misleading their bosses to act in a way that favours their areas to the detriment of other areas which should naturally be affected by such recommended actions. Regrettably, it is now possible indolent public servants to rise to the pinnacle on account of quota or federal character while intelligent, efficient and brilliant hands are superseded by their lazy contemporaries and juniors.
The result is that there is always serious lobbying by public servants due for promotion, especially at the top echelon of the service. It should be naturally expected that civil servants know one another’s inherent capabilities, thus making it impossible for those who manouvre to bag top appointments to be respected by their peers and superiors. Regrettably, intrigues have reared their ugly heads in the system, with favouritism, on account of race, tribe and religion gaining the upper hand and working against the faithful implementation of policies and programmes. There have been instances of lobbying for postings to ministries and government departments considered juicy, when in fact public servants are expected to go round on transfer to be able to acquire wide experience that would prepare them for leadership roles. If the political class is found to have exhibited disdain for top bureaucrats, such may indeed may have been caused by these top civil servants whose rat race for appointments and promotions give the politicians the opportunity to disrespect them. The net result is that these public officers, who ordinarily should be able to put their feet down in guiding politicians to adhere strictly by regulations, have become very serviletruly, they have become ‘your obedient servants’!
The politicization of the civil service is equally one of the banes of the system. Ordinarily, a civil servant must be apolitical and maintain, at all times, a neutral stance on issues relating to policy implementation. This is no longer the case. Nowadays, civil servants play politics and participate in politics openly, and with reckless abandon, all for the purpose of being compensated with one position or the other and for some other extraneous reasons. The fact remains that there exists in the system some civil servants who are ‘untouchable’, by reason of their closeness to those who wield political power. The most logical and reasonable thing to do is for the supervisors and direct bosses of these civil servant-politicians to call them to order. When people talk about successful societies, they forget that there are some critical drivers of achievement that were embraced by these societies before recording considerable successes which they enjoy today. It is trite that visionary and purposeful leadership engenders the evolution of a near-perfect society where virtually everything works. Servant-leaders are bred by the society in which they live and the prevailing circumstances.
Nations and organizations could record failures for many reasons. Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chukwuma Soludo, writing in Thisday Newspaper points out that ‘’When people talk about the successful Asian countries, they ignore or forget that the critical success factor was a meritocratic public service cadre that attracted and retained the best. In the case of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew actually deliberately groomed future politicians and leaders by recruiting the best minds from the best universities in the world, including PhD holders and encouraging them to run for elections so as to better understand the ‘real world’. ‘’That way, the quality of human capital that made up the parliament and cabinet in Singapore was second to none. ‘’Also the civil service salary and conditions of service were such that attracted the best and the brightest to the service. It is only when people are given public responsibility on merit that you could charge them to act in the ‘best interest’ of the country. If they get to positions to represent their ethnic group or state of origin, it is only natural that they act to protect those narrow interests first, and those of the nation only accidentally. The message is simple: if we want to learn from the Asians, we should go for the full menu. ‘’Successful First World nations did not attain the heights they reached by any magic wand. Leadership may have the responsibility of directing affairs but, fostering growth and development is responsibility of the general populace.’’
Elsewhere in his address to a meeting of the Global Coalition for Africa, in Gaborone, Botswana on 25th October, 2001, former President Olusegun Obasanjo asserted that ‘’Governments can be more competent only if the great prestige of the civil service attracts the best educated people. Governments must attract very skilful people into their ministries, and the leadership of the public sector must have both personal and institutional legitimacy, if government is to play the role of the provider of public goods. He noted further that‘’ the cardinal elements of good governance for economic efficiency and growth include transparency in government accounts, effectiveness of public resource management, and stability underpinned by regulatory policies for private sector activities.’’ Therefore, said Obasanjo, government must encourage ‘’ the building of effective policy-making institutions, and improve public sector accountability, through transparency in government budgeting process and execution, general public sector expenditure management, including improved public sector accounting and auditing.Building a Greater Nigeria is a collective task that should not be abandoned. Nigeria is the largest black nation in the world, harbouring over twenty percent of the population of Africa.Crude oil prices have fallen so drastically that a reconfiguration of the political and economic space has become imperative.