By Diran Fashesin
In 1976, when the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, thought that the civil service had become a behemoth, he took drastic actions which eroded the core values of the civil service, especially, diligence, hardwork, commitment to duties, trustworthiness, accountability, transparency and security of tenure. The consequences were that the Civil Service became unstable and attractive to corruption of need, corruption of greed and grand corruption as well as mental slavery. The woes were compounded by the reforms of Prof. Dotun Philips in 1988, under the Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB). Sanity was slightly restored to the civil service by General Sanni Abacha through the Chief Allison Ayida reforms of 1995. Despite the perceived maladies and inadequacies of the Civil Service, it is statutory and will continue to be relevant in government and governance, in every part of the world.
When Nigerians were eager to see President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, he told them that “Civil Servants were doing the real job, that ministers were just ceremonious and noise- makers”. Since November, 2015, they have justified the assertion. In the words of Senator Abiola Ajimobi “no government can succeed without the support of the Civil Service bureaucracy”. It must be appreciated that the Nigerian civil service is a replica of the British White Hall, because it was inherited from our former Colonial masters. It was designed for a conservative prime ministerial (parliamentary) system of government and for an evasive, fantastically cocooned British monarchy, due to the fear of domination by the highly qualified technocrats who were graduates of Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and allowed to join the elitist British Civil Service.
It is not just happenstance that the period when Nigeria practised the conservative and cost- effective parliamentary system of government, combined with the equally conservative British model Civil Service, has been described as the golden era of good governance. It was the period Chief Obafemi Awolowo laid the foundation for modern governance in the pace-setting Western Region as Premier, with numerous accomplishments in all facets of human endeavours. The feats, even after over 60 years, have remained indelible and reference point globally. This was attested to by Dr. Tunji Olaopa, who remarked “that the Chief Awolowo/Adebo Model of administration in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria is yet to be replicated anywhere in the world”.
In contrast, since 1979, when Nigeria adopted the America-styled Presidential System of government, which thrives on lobby and patronage in Spoils System of government that is expensive, explorative and requires a lot of competences, it has attracted highly qualified and competent professionals into politics and government as against the preponderance of professional politicians, with moderate intellectual capacity in the First Republic. In the face of this dynamism in government and governance, the Nigerian Civil Service is still expected to be anonymous, conservative, neutral, apolitical and impersonal, even with its abundant highly cerebral, skilled and intellectual personnel. It is no doubt, a repository of knowledge, experience, exposure and information.
So, to an average new breed politician, especially since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the civil service is perceived to be docile, incompetent, ineffective, inefficient and incapable of driving developmental democracy and good governance.
It is therefore, very easy to assume that the civil service is inconsequential and that the resources committed to its maintenance is a colossal loss, that the population is infinitesimal, especially with the global economic depression, national recession and sub-national financial distress. We must also emphasise that the civil servants are the core of the middle class, who buy the goods and services of the businesses and engage the artisans (the masses). So, when they are paid, industries dispose off their goods, keep on business and engage more people to curtail the menace of unemployment. Whereas, it is expected to be apolitical and non-partisan, but in actual fact, it is multi-partisan, because all political parties that have won elections, and formed government at all levels, have always left elements of their tendencies, in the service after the expiration of their respective tenure.
There is no doubt, therefore, that the professional environment of the civil servants is highly politicised and polarised with patronage and lobby, god fatherism, nepotism and favouritism. So, the problem is not in the size or the resources committed to their remunerations, either active or passive; the real problem is the re-alignment of the ethics of the inherited British Civil Service with the American Presidential System of Government. It is a case of the White Hall versus the White House. “We must remember the advice of Abraham Campbell, that “any nation that allows its civil service to falter will fail”.
The challenges of democratic governance in Nigeria are poor leadership and flawed leadership selection process, political instability, poverty, political violence, election rigging, resource allocation, corruption, weak political parties, weak institutions, mediocrity, high cost of governance, policy discontinuity, poor policy formulation and execution, budget indiscipline, delay preparation and late approval of budgets. We must all be advised that the ultimate goal of a viable civil service is to raise the quality of services delivered to the population, support economic and social development, enhance the capacity to carry out core government function i.e revenue generation, financial management, personnel management, policy formulation and implementation. This, to my mind, is the imperative