Home Africa REMINISCENCES: HOW THE GREAT PURGE AFFECTED THE PUBLIC SERVICE

REMINISCENCES: HOW THE GREAT PURGE AFFECTED THE PUBLIC SERVICE

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The Federal Government of Nigeria that came into force of account of the palace coup that removed Gen Yakubu Gowon from office as Nigeria’s military Head of State had a reformist proclivity. Gen Murtala Mohammed, in his address to the nation asserted that the take-over was necessitated by the need to return power to civilians and operate responsibly and efficiently. The regime set up panels on the question of new states and the federal capital; cancelled the controversial 1973 population census and reverted to the 1963 census among others. In what has been described as the Great Purge, more than 10,000 public officials and employees of federal and state governments were sacked on account of age, health, incompetence, and malpractices. The purge affected the civil service, judiciary, police and armed forces, diplomatic service, public corporations, and universities. In truth, some top civil servants had by then become so powerful that they could circumvent the directives of their political bosses. Some were called: super-permanent secretaries on account of the influence and powers they held.   The purge had its functional and dysfunctional results. It restored sanity into the system. However, the exercise negatively impacted the civil service tradition of security of tenure; as many officials who were yet to attain the statutory retirement age were sent packing through broadcasts on the electronic media.  The Dotun Phillips Reforms of 1988 also came to radically alter the system of appointing bureaucrats – Permanent Secretaries; now with the title of Directors-General who could be appointed from outside the system. Before that novelty, the civil service was apolitical, characterized by the norms of impersonality and well-organized authority. All these have adversely affected quality, morale and efficiency. Undue interference and manipulation through outside influences have greatly worked against attempts to ensure that merit and competence are the keywords for recognition of excellence and promotion to higher positions. Promotions are now not strictly based on merit, seniority, competence, or vacancies.  More often than not, juniors have been promoted over and above their seniors in the public service on account of local government of origin at the state level, or state of origin at the federal level, all in accordance with the demands of the federal character. And these means of achieving and maintaining mediocrity have been written into our Constitution.   SOME STRANGE DEVELOPMENTS In the past few decades, such issues as quota system, balancing on account…

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