Praise the Lord! Today is a departure from the norm. I want to give the Nigerian political space and the politicians a breathing space. Nonetheless, there may be cause to throw jibes at them in the long run. But verily, the nitty-gritty of this piece does not really concern the political class. It is for the sham called the Nigerian civil service and its occupiers called the Nigerian civil servants.
More often than not, a sizeable amount of Nigerians tends to blame the woes and misfortune plaguing Nigeria on the political class — myself inclusive. On rare occasions do we put the blames on ourselves, majority of whom populate the Nigerian civil service. Indeed, if there is anything that can explain the place of Nigeria in the comity of nations today — away from the politicians and politics — it is the sham (scam if you like) called the Nigerian civil service.
The civil service is the backbone of any nation. It represents the mechanism of governance and is the platform for the manifestation of governmental policies. If a nation maintains its rightful place, disturb yourself not, check the organization and composition of its civil service. The Nigerian civil service is, however, the opposite or the caricature of what an ideal civil service is and should be. From the recruitment exercise to the retirement exercise, scam is the word that best defines the Nigerian civil service.
An average Nigerian civil servant — local, state or federal — is a serial offender of rules and regulations that guide the civil service. He comes to office at will. He resumes late to work. He disdains his duties and obligations. He tells unpalatable lies in a bid to deceive the populace. He sleeps on duty. He takes his job with levity. He is not committed. He takes bribes, engages in sharp practices and involves in all manner of shady deals. He conducts himself when under supervision. When there is no supervision, he goes back to his normal self. Worse still, he is unfit and unqualified.
He is there in our ministries handling what he has no knowledge of. He is there in our various commissions cutting corners to feather his nest at the peril of dear country. He is there in our various departments sacrificing merit on the altar of nepotism and sheer loyalty. He heads a unit and has been blocking the ways of those who uphold the ideals and are bent on sanitizing the system among his subordinates. He is there in our public schools evading classes and teaching what is not clear to him in the first place. He is virtually everywhere ruining the system. Ironically, at the end of the month, he gets his take home. Is take home not supposed to be for those who worked for it?
A case in point is JAMB. JAMB, as you may know, stands for Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. Since the birth of this board, it is not on record that it remitted close to a billion. It kept on remitting the same amount every year — the increase in the price of form and admission seekers notwithstanding. Definitely, something is wrong somewhere!
Until recently when a new head took over the mantle of leadership of this board, a snake continued to swallow money incessantly by crook. Prof. Oloyede, the current registrar of JAMB, shocked his vociferous critics with his positive deviance of remitting the three-fold of what JAMB had been remitting to the federal government in the recent past. What am I driving at?
The JAMB of yore is a replica of what an average Nigerian civil service stands for. Corruption-laden. Nepotistic. Less concerned about merit. You may add. It doesn’t matter that a professor heads it. Whither the sanity in the Nigerian civil service? It is only in Nigeria you walk into a local government office like many other public offices, and you find out that most of the workers are nowhere to be found. Not even the head of the office. It is only in Nigeria you agree on following due process and you won’t get what you want in 5 years to come until you cut corners.
It is only in Nigeria you send an email to a ministry requesting one or two things, and surprisingly you won’t get a feedback. It is only in the Nigerian civil service that ghost workers continue to get salaries they did not work for. Only in Nigeria you find civil servants that are double paid. No consequence for bad behavior. Rather you are patted at the back and told to ride on!
So, when I see civil servants throwing all manner of salvos at the government for the misfortune plaguing Nigeria, I laugh and laugh. This is a case of a pot calling a kettle black. An average politician loots, an average civil servant loots; an average politician engages in sharp practices, ditto an average civil servant… Two is dividing four in this scenario. But there is the concept in social psychology: fundamental error of attribution. What it says is that we tend to justify our misdoings and are quick to blame others for their misdoings.
Yes, the minimum wage is low and the salary structure of the Nigerian civil servants is not encouraging. But you knew this from the outset before enrolling for the job. I am not in any way absolving the government of blames. In fact, 70% of the blames should go to it. Nonetheless, it is not a justification for your dereliction of duty, non-commitment to work and scorning of civil service rules and regulations.
The Nigerian civil service can work. JAMB is a testament. In fact, we have, in spite of the anomalies that have come to define the Nigerian civil service, public officers that are committed to work. We only need good heads to preside over these public offices and thorough inspection on a daily basis to get the “theory x” acclimatized into the system. If we can still have more Oloyedes, more Bolaji Abdullahi’s — I mean the former commissioner for education in Kwara State and not his body double “Kofi el-Ghanawiy” that had sacrificed integrity for blind loyalty in recent times; I don’t know what has become of him these days — the Nigerian civil service can still be redefined.
It’s possible the Nigerian civil service works; just let the change begin with you. Start by upholding the ideals in your office. You will be hated but you will conquer. Oh! I have stirred the hornet’s nest, apologies folks. The truth must be told no matter how bitter. But again, this is not purposefully written because of you. Yes, I mean you! Should it, in any way, appears like that, it is the handiwork of that cliché called coincidence. It is, indeed, a macro problem. But micro approach can be adopted to tackle it. Let the change begin with you. Nigeria shall rise again!
Abdullah is a public affairs analyst. Reach him via 08090637356 or [email protected]