Civil Service A Cesspool of Corruption?
My parents sent me to school, I mean western education type school believing they were charting a better life for me. They believe life would be better and rightly so. They made sure I had the best education. The education provided by the state during our time was better and comparable to any country of the world. It was one of the best legacies of the colonial admingistration.
During my days in school, it was fun everything was paid for by the state. Our books, uniform and other basic supply were un ending, the teachers were like our parents, you don’t miss home that much while in school. It was really a family away from home. Unknown to me, I was also building relationships that would prove so dear to me later in life. The love, the candour, honesty and sincerity we shared as classmates was endless. We never knew the bond and love would last through out our adult lives. We cherished those moments and the nostalgia to date each time we meet .
As we moved from our elementary schools to the higher institutions the bond that existed between us kept waxing stronger life was full of the anticipations of the good things ahead.
When we come home for holidays we are the darlings of our communities, the “Bature’s in the making “. The University life made us look like the white men who occupied the colonial offices we were being prepared to take over.
Our mates who were not lucky to progress with us to higher institutions look at us with envy each time we were home . Though, they no longer look like us but the bond we developed while we were younger never faded away. Our new outlook mesmerised them, the clean left over school uniforms, the clean shaved head, the sport canvases given to us for physical education are part of the paraphernalia that mesmerised our friends in the village.
Soon came the time when we have to leave the walls of our Alma Mata, ready polished in ethics and etiquette to join the elite club of the public servants .
The most amazing thoughts about leaving the University was the dreams and hopes of the good things out there we were about to start enjoying.
The question of struggling how to find a job does not even come to mind. The jobs were there for us, just for the picking without sweat or struggle.
Months, in some cases a year before our graduation, some had already gotten several job offers from their regional, state governments or companies. Some even come our to institutions on graduation day to ferry us away to the good things of life our parents wished for us. Picking a job was therefore a matter of choice depending on which one we liked or the one that suits our callings.
It didnt take time for us to discover that life in the public service was going to be amazing, fascinating and interesting. It had all the good future our parents had wished for us.
On assumption of duty you are spoilt with the goodies of life, a car and house and the promises of good future without lobbying for it. You instantly begin to feel the aura and the dignity and sense of responsibilities that goes with it.
The hallmark of all these were service, respect, and dignity and professionalism. The mentoring by our senior colleagues were excellent,. Your ability and hard work you put in duties determines your successes and what you become.
Materialism was never in our lexicon but rather ethics, practice and procedures determined how we operated.
The ethos built into us were honesty, integrity, dignity, professionalism and respect of the public trust we have sworn to uphold. Sanctions and reward were applied across board. There were no them versus us. Merit and hard work were the rules of the game. Everyone knows his ranking in the system. This was how things worked out. Promotions were carried out when due, no jumping from one cadre to another. The hierarchy in leadership were never abused.
The political class that took over from the colonialist were nationalistic in their outlook and conduct of the state affairs.
The civil servants who were there at that time built a career on honesty and hard work. They were not afraid to tell the truth, and never bent over backwards to succumbent rules and regulations to accommodate personal or sectional interests, service and public trust was the key.
This was what the generation that came before us met. They inherited Nigeria full of opportunities, the semi egalitarian state that our founding father tried to build and bestow to those coming behind them.
Suddenly, the journey was trancated by the Military, the once near perfect civil service was destroyed. Indiscipline, nepotism, selfishness, greed and materialism took over.
The confusion created by the intervention of the Military also affected our way of living. It introduced the unitary way of life of the military. The single command structure which was the rules of engagement of the military was wholesomely transferred to the civil service. The dictum of do first before complaint became the norm.
Several years since the military went back to the barracks the once near perfect civil service never came back to its glorious days.
The change also left behind the burden of how to deal with the fragmented society arising from the civil war that took the life of about one million Nigerians.
It also affected and severed the bond that was developing after the independence struggle .
The nationalistic fervour demonstrated by the founding fathers of the nation gave way to acrimony and despair, the once communal society degenerated into individualism, the once tolerant society succumbed to chaotic sectionalism and religious bigotry, nepotism, regionalism, greed and personal interests took over merit and due process, consumptive life and materialism gave rise to corruption and mal – administration.
Soon the writing on the wall became apparent, the good future our parents had hoped for us started disintegrating, heading for the abyss. The rules of the games started changing rapidly, the destruction started in earnest
Nigeria became a laboratory where all kinds experiments were conducted. Every administration that came into power formulated some hypothesis on how to move the country forward.
No sooner they begin to test the hypothesis anther government will take over. The fallacy about all these changes were that some of these hypothesis remain untested, those that were about to be implemented were either left on shelves or discarded completely. The country remained a guinea pig where all sorts of reforms were tried, in the process we lost our forecast as a nation.
Several reform were introduced by successive governments, from austerity measures, structural adjustments, power reform, pension reform, national health insurance reform just to mention a few.
We also had our fair share of political programmes introduced by successive governments , the green revolution programme introduced by Shagari administration to move the country from over dependence on oil, operations feed the nation by Obasanjo, the structural adjustment program by Babangida, the seven point agenda by Yar’adua government, the change mantra and fight against corruption by the Buhari administration.
In order not deviate from this polemic since our concern is not to ex Ray successive governments in Nigeria but rather to try and understand why the once vibrant civil service was destroyed.
To locate the causes of the problems we need to examine some historical events that took place in our political development viz-viz the distraction of the Civil Service.
The first salvo was fired by the General Murtala Muhammad administration. When the government came into power with the zeal to sanitise the civil service. According to Ajayi, the former president of the Association of Nigerian Professional Bodies, when he said “the foundation for the destruction of Nigeria’s civil service began in 1975 during the military reign of late Murtala Mohammed.
He said during this period, the late Head of state commenced sacking civil servants through announcements on the radio and that this act drastically reduced the morale of the country’s civil servants.”
Ajayi, however said “though it was unintended because it was supposed to sanitise and strengthen the civil service, it ended up destroying the civil service because it was counter-productive as there was no longer security of tenure among civil servants.
But rather than strengthen the service, it created opportunities for serious job insecurity and corruption.
In this case, civil servants who no longer felt safe, had to resort to corrupt acts.
He said successive governments have since relegated the importance of the civil service and reduced it to just carrying out the orders of the President or the governors as the case may be.
As a result, junior officers are sometimes imposed on their senior officers just to balance the political equation and this, according to him, only destroys the civil service
The former Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF), Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, blamed the regime of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), for laying the foundations of the rot that currently permeates the nation’s civil service.
Sali said the reforms carried out between 1985 and 1988 were largely responsible for the dearth of professionals and committed public officers in the public service.
The Head of Service made the allegations in a paper he delivered at the opening session of the 36th Annual Conference of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSAN).
He explained that the implementation of the Professor Dotun Philip’s report and subsequent promulgation of Decree 43 to give legal backing to the implementation of the recommendations of the report largely eroded the vitality, standard of performance and cohesion of the public service.
He said: “The subsequent reforms of 1985-88 which arose from the recommendations of the Dotun Philip report was given legal effect through Decree 43 of 1988. The legislation paved the way for all comers into the top echelon of the civil service.
The Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, in the same vain also accused former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida of “destroying” the Nigerian Civil Service.
He made these assertions recently while delivering a keynote address to mark the State’s Civil Service Day, held at the Cultural Centre Complex in Calabar, the state capital.
According to him, IBB’s implementation of his Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, during his eight year rule destroyed the civil service built as far back as 1934.
The civil service remains the hope of the vast majority of Nigerians and it has direct impact on the success or failure of any administration. But in just eight years, the Structural adjustment programme instituted by the Babagida administration destroyed the values, dignity of civil service which have painstakingly been built since 1934″.
Apart from the reasons given above, the untold real reason was that the Military, were envious of the professionalism displayed by the Permanent Secretaries of those days. Many of which have resisted to take orders from them while they were in the Ministry of defence. So when they took over power their main goal was to deal with those super Permanent Secretary as they were then referred to.
As a result of these the purging of officers in the Civil Service was not careful thought out and this resulted in eroding the moral and consequently the destruction of the Civil Service.
In capturing the mood of what is going on in the civil service today, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator Dahiru Kuta, lamented that civil service jobs in the country are now meant for only those who can bribe their way through. Jobs are now go to the highest bidder.
He added that marginalization and ethnicity in the civil service have robbed the country of dedicated workers.
What is more worrisome of recent is that, jobs and promotion in the service are now meant for the highest bidders.
“Many workers now do not put in their best where they work because merit and professionalism have given way to cronyism and nepotism .
Heads of MDAs give undue advantage to people from their ethnic origin or cronies to ensure that they continue milking the system long after they have left the service.
Appointments to the top echelon of the service also follow similar considerations.
The exam system popularised by the former Hos Oransanya is perhaps the second most damaging innovation introduced in the Civil Service. The process is riddled with manipulation, corruption and nothing about it is transparent no matter how much they want us to believe.
The arranged exams produces only those who the cabals want to become Permanent Secretary or Leaders in the system .
For instance how can you explain how someone who just become a Director in January and by February he is a Permanent Secretary. He comes back to the same Ministry after the “so called exam” and becomes a boss to his seniors who mentored him on job for several years. What sort of work environment are we creating? How can anything meaningful come out of this? That is why today we have the types of Maina the embattled chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team in the civil service.
In considering these types of appointments in my view so many factors ought have come into play not just “exam”. The civil service is a professional body governed by rules and regulations. One is required to spend certain period of time on each post in order to equip him for a higher responsibilities . You need some experiences in order to do certain jobs. But just because some people want to succumbent the process and become big men we jestession reality for parochialism
Oransanya who was the architect of the exam policy, came from the private sector and got himself into civil service through the back door to become a permanent secretary and head of service within no time.
To perpetuate this mischief he brought in phony consultants who were usually their cronies to set the exams, which they quickly mark and come with phony results that are vetted by committee headed by former Hos and Permanent Secretaries who were themselves beneficiaries of the scum to choose from among their candidates and pass the names of the so called successful candidates to the executive for approval.
Governor Liyel Imoke reminisced the long forgotten ambitions of our parents when he said, “the ambition of most Nigerians in the past was to become a top civil servant as “such was a guarantee for a good standard of living then and it also afforded many to sponsor their children to schools, build houses, and buy cars.”
“Even the Youth Corps members on passing out would think of buying a Volkwagen Igala for a start. My father was a civil servant. My mother was a civil servant and when I was growing up I wanted to join the diplomatic service so the civil servant should be celebrated because they are the ones who are daily in touch with our people”.
Sorry, Mr governor things are no longer the same the Civil Service has over the years turn into cesspool of corrupt officials,who buy their ways through corrupt processes. The professionalism, the respect, and dignity that keeps the system together has broken apart. The wishes of our parents for a good, honest and decent and professional life in the Civil Service has given way unbridled corruption, nepotism, cronyism and graft.
Hope may not be totally lost, but it requires a massive commitment on the part of all to reverse the rot.
I am looking forward to the time when I can proudly tell my children to join the civil service as my parents did to me.