OVING NIGERIA FROM THIRD TO FIRST WORLD
If human resources alone are the requisites, Nigeria should be a nation in the category of First World nations today. Nigeria boasts of the highest number of professionals in diverse fields that rub shoulders with their counterparts all ovr the world. The patriarchs of the Nigerian Public Services, whose contributions still stand out indelibly are Chief Simeon Adebo for the defunct Western Region, Chief Jerome Udoji for the Eastern Region and Sir Kashim Imam for the Northern Region. They were known as Heads of Service and Chief Secretaries to their Premiers. The extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states that: “There shall be a Civil Service of the Federation” and goes ahead to describe the responsibilities of the Head of Government in appointments to political offices and other top positions. These clearly indicate the importance of bureaucracy to the proper conduct of governance.
The effect of their tutelage by the British prepared the civil service for its role as the bedrock upon which the government is seated and balanced. In recognition of its importance as the hub for the implementation of programmes, policies, plans, and actions of government. The quality of the public service largely determines the pace of development of any nation. And leadership plays a critical role in the provision of guidance and management of human and material resources. Chief Simeon Adebo had some major strengths that contributed immensely to the evolution of the Western Region civil service as a model. Adebo was a leader who consulted extensively and encouraged his subordinates to speak their minds freely. He trained top civil servants like P.T. Odumosu, I. O Dina, and Augustus Adebayo, and others, who later became very prominent bureaucrats who entrenched the pattern put in place by the colonialists. Women rubbed shoulders with men.
Mrs. Fola Akintunde-Ighobalo, Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emmanuel and Princess Tejumade Alakija soon appeared on the scene. Professionals too started having a taste of what the office of Permanent Secretary tasted with the appointment of Engr. CSO Akande, then Controller of Works Services on the same salary as Permanent Secretary as Head of Service. Mrs. Tejumade Alakija Foreign Service too was dominated by brilliant minds like Ambassadors Olujimi Jolaoso, JTF Iyalla, Leslie Harriman, Aminu Sanusi, Olusola Sanu, George Dove-Edwin, Emeka Anyaoku, Olu Adeniji, Akporode Clark; down to the juniors the set of Amb. Oladapo Fafowora, a very brilliant mind who at the age of 44 years was Nigerias Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Only the best made the list.
BUILDING ON THE FOUNDATION
In the early part of post-independence Nigeria, lower cadre employees; like Clerical Officers, Technicians and Confidential Secretaries were also well groomed. Majority of employees went through the furnace and got prepared for their career advancements. Governments Financial Regulations and General Orders (Rules of the Administration of the Public Service) were really understood and applied. The civil service is a Due Process agent of government that must be so treated by the three arms of government. Even Messengers could quote the relevant part of the General Orders that applied to any situation, without opening or consulting the compilation. The colonial model of public management contained various other elements. Politics and elected politicians were kept separate from the administration and appointed administrators. Administration was seen as continuous, predictable and rule-governed. Administrators were appointed according to their qualifications and were trained professionals. There was a functional division of labour, and a hierarchy of tasks and people. There was also an ethic of serving the public: resources belong to the organization, rather that individuals who worked in it; public servants were expected to serve public, rather than private interests. (McCourt and Minogue (2001),
Obviously, the civil service remains the hub for the implementation of governments’ policies and programmes and should, therefore, be regarded as an instrument that could make or mar a nation. Indeed, standards have fallen in all aspects of human endeavour; the civil service inclusive. It is for this reason that management experts have always placed emphasis on training and re-training off personnel. A professional who is untrained is worse of than his or her counterpart that is physically constrained. Mr. Folorusho Abiona, one-time Secretary to the Government/Head of the Civil Service of Osun State once asserted that: Unless the Civil Service is healthy, strong, reliable and dependable, this nation’s dream of achieving rapid economic and social transformation may remain a mirage. By extension, the achievement of vision 2020 may also remain a pipe dream. But this phenomenon is global in outlook. A survey conducted by the United Nations (2007) reveals that every so often, government is seen by citizens, the media, and sometimes by public servants and political leaders themselves, as plodding, inefficient, bureaucratic, change-resistant, incompetent, unresponsive or corrupt.
It continues: Citizens often complain that governments provide services that are inadequate, inappropriate, inferior or too costly of their hard-earned tax payments. Frequently, people see government officials to be acting in their own interests rather than responding to the needs of citizens. In many countries, the claim that we are from the government and are here to help you is met with popular derision. Surveys and opinion polls confirm that the public wants improvements in the ways in which governments serve citizens, that is, a public administration that delivers better services and extends their reach and coverage more effectively and efficiently.
THE WAY FORWARD
The Singaporean experience is apposite here. Former Governor of the Central Bank, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, utilizing the Singaporean experience as an example notes that: That tiny island-state was able to catapult itself to the first-world category from its third-world status due largely to its possession of a strong, reliable and committed Civil Service. we intend to argue that to make progress, the question of how to use oil and other natural resources must be put on the table, and the obfuscating legal-institutional arrangements around it/them, together with the distributional politics of the day, must be dismantled and or reconfigured. Without this, it is difficult to see a prosperous future for Nigeria. This cannot happen with the current elite aloofness to politics. We need to radically overhaul the entire incentives- sanctions regime in order to realign our politics from its current consumption-orientation to a production-driven regime. Nigeria must have a strategy to attract and retain talents within the body politics. Even more pointedly, Nigeria must have a strategy for youth involvement in our body politics. (Soludo; 2010)
MOVEMENT FROM THIRD TO FIRST WORLD
Lee Kuan Yew (Singapores Prime Minister for 31 years and the man who built Singapore into a modern advanced economy) wrote a 729 paged book entitled From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965- 2000. Soludo, in the lecture quoted Lee Kuan Yew profusely. According to him (Lee) (p.135) It had taken me some time to see the obvious, that talent is a countrys most precious asset. After several years in government, I realized that the more talented people I had as ministers, administrators, and professionals, the more effective my policies were, and the better the results (p.136). In Chapter 41 of the book, Lee Kuan Yew deals with Passing the Baton. Here he summarizes his major lessons and how they deliberately groomed talented people to succeed his generation. Soludo posited that: My experience of developments in Asia has led me to conclude that we need good people to have good government. However good the system of government, bad leaders will bring harm to their people. On the other hand, I have seen several societies well-governed in spite of poor systems of government, because good, strong leaders were in charge. I have also seen so many of the over 80 constitutions drafted by Britain and France for their former colonies come to grief, and not because of flaws in the constitutions. It was simply that the preconditions for a democratic system of government did not exist. None of these countries had a civic society with an educated electorate. The single decisive factor that made for Singapores development was the ability of its ministers and the high quality of the civil servants who supported them (p.663-4).
Mr. Yew deliberately scouted for talents:
The builder of modern Singapore is quoted as stating that: My colleagues and I had started to search for younger men as possible successors in the 1960s. We could not find them among the political activists who joined the PAP, so we scouted for able, dynamic, dependable, and hard-driving people wherever they were to be found. In the 1968 general election, we fielded several Ph.Ds; bright minds, teachers at the universities, professionals including lawyers, doctors, and even top administrators as candidates. In by-elections in 1970 and 1972, we fielded several more. We soon discovered that they needed to have other qualities besides a disciplined mind able to marshal facts and figures, write a thesis for a Ph.D., or be a professional. Leadership is more than just ability. It is a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character, and ability that makes people willing to follow a leader p.664 To do this I had to find and get into office a group of men to provide Singapore with effective and creative leadership. Had I left it to chance, depending on activists coming forward to join us, I would never have succeeded. We set out to recruit the best into government. The problem was to persuade them to enter politics, get themselves elected, and learn how to move and win people over to their side. Successful, capable professionals and executives are not natural political leaders, able to argue, cajole, and demolish the arguments of opponents at mass rallies, on television, and in Parliament; p.665
GOVERNANCE IS A TASKING BUSINESS
It is to be noted that governance is the hardest of tasks. Several people outside the system have ideas about how to move societies forward; but might not be that good in harnessing resources. Leadership is an endowment. The thinking of Lee in the area recruitment of best materials and theorists is reflected as follows: Had we known how complex and difficult the problems that lay ahead were, we would never have gone into politics with the high spirits, enthusiasm, and idealism of the 1950s p.685. I learned to ignore criticism and advice from experts and quasi-experts, especially academics in the social and political sciences. They have pet theories on how a society should develop to approximate their ideal. p.688 Would I have been a different person if I had remained a lawyer and not gone into politics? My work experience would have been more limited and my horizons narrower. In politics I had to range over the whole gamut of the problems of human societyMy responsibilities gave me a wide perspective of human societies and a worldview that a lawyer would not have p.688. (Politics in Nigeria by Professor Chukwuma C. Soludo (2010)
REORIENTATION: PEOPLE ARE CITIZENS; NOT SUBJECTS
Government’s effectiveness is gauged by a number of parameters, including performances and results, which directly affect the well-being of the society. All over the world, it is the effectiveness of the legislative arm of government that distinguishes it from other forms of government. The people themselves, are citizens; not subjects. (Jeffrey Sachs) Some of the obstacles to development in the developing world could be traced to the inability of the nations to introduce legal and institutional reforms capable of advancing socio-economic and political development. The people who occupy position of power are not rulers but superiors; they hold office temporarily and possess limited authority.
Once a policy has been decided upon by a Minister/Commissioner or by the ruling party, civil servants should be relied upon to carry out such policy to the best of their ability whether or not they agree with it. It is to be noted that the Great Purge of 1975 did incalculable harm to the psyche of civil servants who since then have guarded the tenure of their appointments jealously. Most civil servants, have since that unexpected action become afraid to put their feet down, even when rules and regulations are violated by their political bosses. And they are the custodians of government’s institutional memory; a form of power that guarantees continuity, to prevent chaos in administration. While not requesting civil servants to be disobedient, a lot more could still be done by way of policy formulation and implementation and serving as Chief Advisers to political heads of Ministries/Departments and Agencies of Government.
It is highly commendable that the current Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winnifred Oyo-Ita has placed training and retraining of federal government employees on the fast track. Those appointed purely on merit and competence will enjoy the respect of their political bosses. TERRIFIC HEADLINES is reliably informed that Vice-Chancellors of the University of Ibadan up till the days of Prof. Horatio Oritsejolomi-Thomas used to be among the first ten in Order of Protocol of the Federal Government. What has happened after that is anybodys guess. Vice-Chancellors today are not likely to be on the first 100 positions on the Order of Protocol. An OECD Report, documented by the Secretariat, Advisory Unit to the Secretary-General points out that: Some of the obstacles to development in the developing world could be traced to the inability of the nations to introduce and successfully enforce legal reforms that are capable of advancing economic development.
The Report says: It is compelling that there must be in existence, identifiable coherent implementation of policies for the enforcement of rules and regulations introduced for the economic and political transformation. These rules include periodic elections with universal suffrage; primary political decision-making carried out by elected officials; rules and procedures that maintain accountability and transparency, rule of law, and freedom of expression and association. One of the channels of influencing development is through reforms. These, therefore, have to be periodic and as the need arises. In all societies, these include economic policy reform, including deregulation, transparency reforms; including steps to assist administrative processes affecting trade and investment; public sector law, service reform to manage the size of bureaucracies; public finance reform to promote auditing and accounting skills; judicial reform; commercial law reform; strengthening the civil society through public education and the reform of law enforcement agencies, to eliminate internal corruption and enhance development
In the opinion of Tunji Olaopa, a retired federal permanent secretary, certain basic steps have to be taken to reposition the civil service for the attainment of better results. In a paper, Olaopa submitted that: At the strict administrative level, we need to spend the next three to five years to put in place a paradigm for rethinking the way we conduct the business of government. There is, however, a compelling need for fundamental shift in the intellectual base of the civil service moderated by new mentors and coaches as managers and supervisors, who will be able to lead employees, develop programmes and projects and apply e-government and PPP models to deliver better services and better integrated resources and programmes. (Olaopa, 2015)