Perm Secs’ pro­mo­tion: Flip flop is the norm

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

The re­cent flurry of ac­tiv­i­ties and tense at­mos­phere among our nor­mally staid and deskbound Di­rec­tors in the Fed­eral Civil Ser­vice pre­par­ing to swot and sit for ex­am­i­na­tions to fill va­cant posts of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries was as a re­sult of what a Daily Trust edi­to­rial of 27th July 2017 called a flip fop of gov­ern­ment pol­icy. The same gov­ern­ment on com­ing to power in 2015 had can­celled the ex­ams as an un­wor­thy path of reach­ing the top ech­e­lons of the civil ser­vice. The gov­ern­ment then re­turned to the old, neb­u­lous man­ner of ap­point­ing Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries and even got a few from out­side the sys­tem. Ap­par­ently af­ter re­al­iz­ing the fu­til­ity of that whim­si­cal ar­bi­trari­ness this gov­ern­ment now had a change of heart and was ready to flip flop. And be­cause it took some time for the change of heart, it ac­cu­mu­lated many va­cant posts of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries who had re­tired with­out re­place­ments.

Then out of the blues 300 of those manag­ing the di­rec­torates of min­istries and agen­cies were asked to pre­pare for the ex­ams. It must have been a giddy time for most of them. Many of them that have never read a book in the last many years were spot­ted with tons of heav­ily-bounded books with the in­evitable civil ser­vice rules and the fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions book­lets mak­ing glar­ing pres­ence. They would form dis­cus­sion groups and would be seen af­ter of­fice hours hud­dled in one of their of­fices dis­cussing past ques­tion pa­pers with as much se­ri­ous­ness as if they were once more WAEC can­di­dates. I should know be­cause I was once a par­tic­i­pant.

To be fair to the present gov­ern­ment they were not the first to flip-flop on the ap­point­ment and ten­ure of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries. Flip-flop­ping on ten­ure and ap­point­ment of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries has been the norm by Nige­rian Gov­ern­ments. Nige­rian gov­ern­ments have never lost sight of the im­por­tant role the civil ser­vice plays as the en­gine room of gov­ern­ment ac­tiv­i­ties and have al­ways made it a pri­or­ity to se­cure con­trol over it. It had al­ways been rec­og­nized that ap­point­ments and tenures of civil ser­vants would be strictly gov­erned by cod­i­fied rules and reg­u­la­tions as a means of sta­bil­is­ing the polity and al­low­ing con­ti­nu­ity when­ever there is a change of gov­ern­ment. Yet po­lit­i­cal lead­ers -mil­i­tary and civil­ian­had al­ways made at­tempts to tam­per with this time-hon­oured con­ven­tion. Re­al­iz­ing that the civil ser­vice is a highly hi­er­ar­chi­cal set-up with the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary play­ing the role of the leader, the of­fice al­ways was the first tar­get for in­ter­fer­ence.

The Mur­tala/Obasanjo regime was the first to in­ter­fere with the ten­ure of civil ser­vants when they seized power in 1975. They started by sack­ing the Chief Jus­tice of the Fed­er­a­tion, as well as the Chair­man Fed­eral Civil Ser­vice Com­mis­sion. They then down the line to mas­sively re­move civil ser­vants across all cadres with­out re­course to the niceties of the es­tab­lished pro­ce­dures. It was prob­a­bly the first time Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries were sacked in such an abrupt man­ner. In his book, Not My Will, Gen­eral Obasanjo, who be­came Head of State af­ter Mur­tala was as­sas­si­nated, al­luded to those un­savoury hap­pen­ings where he said, ‘our shake-up of the civil ser­vice was de­signed to set in mo­tion a new ori­en­ta­tion and a new aware­ness in the pub­lic ser­vice. In ef­fect we had to put the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries on re­tire­ment es­sen­tially be­cause their mode of op­er­a­tion would just not ac­cord with the new dis­pen­sa­tions. It was in­deed a shock therapy that had to be ad­min­is­tered’.

How­ever that sin­gu­lar act left in its wake a desta­bi­lized civil ser­vice and a plenty of bit­ter­ness which still ran­kles years af­ter. Many Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries that were shown the way out were some of the best and the bright­est the sys­tem had at the time. They were also fairly youth­ful and they went to greater heights there­after. Phillip Asiodu was one of those af­fected who went on to be­come a Spe­cial Ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Sha­gari and Obasanjo and a Min­is­ter in the Shonekan’s In­terim Gov­ern­ment. He had never spared the Mur­tala/Obasanjo regime for tam­per­ing with the Civil Ser­vice and even be­lieved that, that in­fa­mous act stopped Nige­ria’s march to great­ness.

In a pa­per Asioudu pre­sented at the 14th Daily Trust Di­a­logue on 19th Jan­uary 2017, he said, ‘the trau­matic mas­sive purge of about 10,000 of­fi­cials coun­try­wide over a pe­riod of four months had de­stroyed the com­pe­tent, pro­fes­sional, bold, non-par­ti­san, fear­less, pres­ti­gious, merit-driven civil ser­vice in­her­ited from the Bri­tish Colo­nial Ad­min­is­tra­tion which might have in­flu­enced the new ad­min­is­tra­tion - - the stage was then set for the eco­nomic stag­na­tion and the degra­da­tion of in­fras­truc­ture, ed­u­ca­tional, health, and other sec­tors over the next three decades de­spite the fairly high level of oil rev­enue - -‘.

Obasanjo was un­ruf­fled by the crit­i­cisms and un­de­terred be­cause when he re­turned as Pres­i­dent in 1999 one of his first acts was to gather all the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries he in­her­ited from his pre­de­ces­sor and sub­ject them to days of gru­elling work­shop su­per­vised by ea­gle-eyed con­sul­tants at the end of which he se­lected those he wanted and handed over let­ters of re­tire­ment to the rem­nants.

Per­haps one of the bold­est at­tempts at in­ter­fer­ence in the ten­ure and ap­point­ments of the top of the civil ser­vice was ini­ti­ated by Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida when he pro­mul­gated the Civil Ser­vice (Re-or­gan­i­sa­tion) De­cree 43 of 1988 which among other far-reach­ing changes re­placed the des­ig­na­tion of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary with Direc­torGen­eral whose ten­ure ter­mi­nated with the gov­ern­ment that ap­pointed them. The de­cree also gave un­lim­ited pow­ers to the Pres­i­dent (for the Fed­eral Civil Ser­vice) and Gov­er­nors (for State Civil Ser­vices) to ap­point Direc­tor-Gen­er­als at will and from any­where. The in­ten­tions of the de­cree were laud­able be­cause if prop­erly used, it would have al­lowed the Pres­i­dents and Gov­er­nors more el­bow room and a wider choice from where to se­lect Chief Ex­ec­u­tives of min­istries and de­part­ments.

How­ever those in­ten­tions were thor­oughly abused both at the fed­eral and state lev­els, al­low­ing for patently whim­si­cal ap­point­ments and dis­missals. In one in­fa­mous case the in­com­ing civil­ian gov­ern­ment of Borno State in the early 1990s sacked over 95% of the Di­rec­tors-Gen­eral, while in the same pe­riod, just across the bor­der, in Yobe State, hardly any of the Di­rec­tors-Gen­eral was touched. Things were so bad, morale of civil ser­vants was so low, the out­cries were so loud and un­re­lent­ing that some years down the line Gen­eral Sani Abacha, then Head of State, had to set up a panel led by a veteran civil ser­vant and former Sec­re­tary to the Fed­eral and Head of Ser­vice, Al­li­son Ayida. The panel which in­cluded other tested veteran civil ser­vants such as Li­man Ciroma, Au­gus­tus Ade­bayo, Abubakar Umar, Ibrahim Dam­cida, among others, was man­dated to crit­i­cally re-ex­am­ine the prob­lems of the Civil Ser­vice Re­forms as con­tained in De­cree 43. By the time the panel had fin­ished its as­sign­ment in De­cem­ber 1994 it had got­ten rid of the con­tro­ver­sial De­cree and re­stored the sta­tus quo ante.

How­ever the call for a re­view of the sta­tus quo con­tin­ued un­abated par­tic­u­larly by the new po­lit­i­cal class hold­ing the levers of power in the mil­len­nium years. They viewed with con­cern and deep sus­pi­cion a top of the civil ser­vice whose ap­point­ments and ten­ure were reg­u­lated by a body with hardly any in­put from them as an anath­ema. A ready an­swer was found in Steve Oren­saye who was ap­pointed Head of Ser­vice of the Fed­er­a­tion in 2009 by Pres­i­dent Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The new Head of Ser­vice who came to the of­fice af­ter dis­tin­guish­ing him­self in many other high of­fices Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary to the Pres­i­dent, Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, State House and later Min­istry of Fi­nance - im­me­di­ately ini­ti­ated a re­form pro­gramme that en­throned ten­ure and ex­ams as part of the re­quire­ments gov­ern­ing the ap­point­ments of Di­rec­tors and Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries in the Fed­eral Civil Ser­vice. The re­forms took off but failed to sur­vive. We shall ex­am­ine the rea­son why the Oren­saye re­forms failed when we meet on this page next week.

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