By Michael Olugbode
A former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, has said the need to ensure that the rule concerning federal character and quota system is enforced in employment and promotion in civil and public service should not be elevated over merit.
Chidoka, also a former Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Commission, speaking on the topic: “Getting Big Things Done- Improving the Effectiveness of Cross-Over Professionals in Government”, a public discussion organised by Nextier and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) in Abuja on Wednesday, said quota system or the need to ensure federal character in employment and promotion should not make someone walks into a position that he never merited.
He lamented that this remains the greatest corruption in the country, where people that do not merit a position are given job over people better qualified than them.
He said: “It is an aberration that we have introduced in Nigeria. Someone that scored 15 per cent is entering into a place where people are scoring 95 per cent. It is the worst of all crime; it is the biggest corruption that is in Nigeria and what can destroy the Nigeria public service.”
Chidoka lamented that it has been difficult to reform the Nigerian Civil Service because “civil servants live in eternity,” they have the patience to wait for the tenure of politicians to expire and get back to doing whatever they want and throw out whatever reform.
He said the civil servants will always outlive a politician who may not have more than eight years to spend whereas a civil servant has 35 years.
The former minister said one of the greatest disservice to the nation is that ministers do not have power over civil servants in their ministries and may have to work with people who do not share their ideas, dreams and visions.
He said that how can somebody move along with a strange bed fellow “who you cannot even determine if he/she stays on your team or leave”.
He said something needed to be done in this regard to allow for progress in the nation’s civil service structure and subsequently make Nigeria to work.
In her goodwill message, the Programme Coordinator, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Catherine Angai, lamented that: “The bureaucracy in Nigeria presents one of the problems that a senior colleague always references as wicked problems. It is a systems problem. The system is not working as effectively or efficiently as it should, the system is failing. This has a direct impact on one of the fundamental obligations of government – the delivery of public goods. What again is the benefit of democracy if there is no good governance?”
She said according to the OSIWA strategy document, the biggest challenge facing the West African region is poor governance, noting that: “Poor governance is exacerbated by rapid urbanization and population explosion. These factors are not waiting for the system to catch up. Poor governance, according to our context analysis, is the root cause of extractive and abusive political, social and economic systems which in turn frustrates key areas OSIWA is particularly interested in — justice sector reforms, inclusive economic growth, citizens access to basic public services, such as health and education. Indeed, poor governance compromises democratic institutions and creates the conditions that are conducive for insecurity and fragility.”
In his contribution, the Founding Partner of Nextier, Patrick Okigbo, said that
Nigeria’s public service has a myriad of challenges.
He said something needed to be urgently done, insisting that the government should create an enabling environment while the private sector drives economic growth and development.
He said: “The Government of Nigeria goes fishing in non-public sector waters for talents to drive such results. Many Nigerians who ‘cross over’ from civil society and private sector organizations to work in government have challenges adjusting to public service realities and demands. Although hitherto successful in their former roles, they contend with the different rules, incentives and motivations governing the service.”
By Michael Olugbode