Maximising Nigeria’s civil service for nation building

(By Goke Omolade)

 In the days gone by, the civil service was perceived as a big-hearted employer of both the employable and unemployable hands, irrespective of their competence or readiness to learn while on duty thus further compounding the prevailing problems of hidden unemployment or underemployment. In nations, which cherish merit, competence and brain-power, the days of empty/lop-sided employment are gone for good!

BEFORE anything, some clarifications about certain issues. What are really meant by these concepts; the Public Service Rules (PSR), Government Workers/Civil Servants, Public Servants, the all-encompassing power of the employer as well as the unassailable rights and privileges of the employee? As expressly codified in an official gazette of August 25th, 2009 and tagged PSR 2008 edition; PSR can be regarded as those Regulations and Procedures in the Public Service whose objective is to effectively reposition the service for higher level of efficiency, effectiveness and enhanced service delivery. Similarly, the revised 2008 PSR became imperative so as to ensure the entrenchment of fundamental issues such as; transparency, accountability, justice, equity, due process and the rule of law.

   In a presidential forward by the late Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the 2008 PSR was adopted in order to deliberately create the enabling environment, which was to flush out the obsolete rules and hindrance-laden practices of the past. It was the lofty dream of the then president that the reviewed PSR would be part of the national development agenda/collective goals of making Nigeria one of the world’s 20 leading industrialised nations vis-à-vis having a focused and vibrant Public Service. However, between you and I; is Nigeria as it is now positioned, serious-minded, to be a member of the Club 20 of industrialized nations?

   Pertaining to the PSR and its unique relevance in our governmental/societal setting, it is quite important to make mention of the essential features such as its abiding rules and regulations; appointments and conditions of service-exit; rewards and sanctions on the one hand. At the other side of the divide are the packages of emoluments and attendant increments, leave matters, conditions of career progression and promotion. On its own are the conditions that deal extensively with disciplinary issues.

   Here come the big, intertwined often misconstrued issues of who is a civil servant and who is a public servant? From experiential observation, a civil servant is a career officer on pensionable appointment in government service; while a public servant is a non-career officer on non-pensionable appointment in the public service. from hindsight, while people who get elected to public offices can be taken as public servants such as the president, governors, members of the legislative bodies as well as those on political appointments; civil servants are the silent, powerful and strategically positioned lot whose terms of appointments are clearly stated, a prior, by certain guiding conditions of service and by their orientation, they are the silent operators who initiate, brew, implement, review governmental policies and regulations.

   This corps of officers is so influential that no government; democratic or otherwise, is complete without their meaningful and larger-than-life support. In the arena of decision-making process, the PSR and civil servants are essentially two of a kind because while the former acts as the guiding ethos for a charted journey, it is the totality of available civil servants through their sheer resoluteness, loyalty, civility, diligence, sincerity of purpose who decidedly determines the achievement rating of a typical government.

   No less important are the attitudinal orientation and shared values of the power wielders and allied rank and file of civil servants, which borders on the esprit de corps guiding virtually all professions. Just as it is often advised that the exit date of a career officer from service is (unconsciously) right on the reverse side of each officer’s appointment letter and owing to this valid fact of life; the duty performance of each civil servant are, expectedly, guided by the ethics of job security, guaranteed emoluments, cognate job-experience.

   Civil servants usually operate on their codified rules of engagement along with the PSR thereby playing the balancing role between the oft-complex art of statecraft and the power intrigue of the top political decision makers. They, civil servants, play the chief role of translating the nitty-gritty of the PSR and bringing to bear the visionary focus of political leaders. Obviously equipped with the required resources, civil servants act as the meeting ground/connecting point between achieving governmental set-goals and lofty dreams of the people. Aside the clearly stated codes of guidance, civil servants are a veritable sort who assist in the policy implementation of the political elite.

   The bureaucratic machinery readily comes to the fore in the event of husbandry of scarce resources among several contenders with the use of demonstrable modern techniques such as management by objective (MBO), public private partnership (PPP), entrepreneurial innovative venture (EIV). Central to this managerial and typical ethos is the existence of a healthy, functional and forward-focused civil service.

   For those of us old enough with retentive memory and relished pride; one recalls the typical Civil Servants of yore like Phillip Asiodu, Allison Ayida, Musa Daggash, Ibrahim Damacida, B.N. Okagbue, HA Ejuyitche, Yusuf Gobir, S.O. Wey et al. These were individual actors who stood their ground for such solid values that the admirable civil service of their time was guardedly built on.

   Never-the-less, in this age of quest for accountable governance and craze for profiteering-privatisation, no government worthy of its billing can afford to be unduly burdened with a leviathan-civil service without sound-result mentality. In the days gone by, the civil service was perceived as a big-hearted employer of both the employable and unemployable hands, irrespective of their competence or readiness to learn while on duty thus further compounding the prevailing problems of hidden unemployment or underemployment.    In nations, which cherish merit, competence and brain-power, the days of empty/lop-sided employment are gone for good!

Indeed, the civil service has over the years been accused of being too lackluster and resistant of innovative ideas. Not only is it guilty of institutional lethargy, individual disorientation but it still harbours dead woods who have well passed their useful prime coupled with the incorrigible and impervious lot whose sole, inordinate desire is to make money at all cost.

   As the main governmental agency for policy execution, the civil service to a large extent goes the whole hog to act as the measuring barometer on the overall success/failure of the government of the day. For instance, it is through the activities of the civil service and its vast and numerous arms/outlets that policy initiation, execution and review can be gauged.

   On solid and practical note, Nigerians ardently take after their leaders who they regard as their frontal mirrors and on instructive cues, if typical leaders decide to operate on virtues; so too would the Nigerian citizens. At the other extreme, if those in charge of affairs elect to be corrupt rulers rather than altruistic and conscientious leaders, Nigerians, far and wide, are ever-ready to outdo such cunning rulers in their own theatrics on all fronts.

   Advisedly, each civil servant should regard every additional day in government service as the last when all privileges/entitlements of regular and steady income would have ceased. In fact by then, the present/available connections, acquaintances, friendships and fraternities taken for granted now would be so longingly sought but most of which would by then be beyond their reach. Either long or fresh in service, now is the appropriate time to commence preparations for post-retirement life.

• Omolade

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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