Quest For A 21st Century Reformed Federal And Civil Service In The Context Of Thirty Six States Of Nigeria

by Benjamin Ogbebulu

The 21st century modern Government is a vast business whose activities directly or indirectly impinge on the lives of every Nigerian citizen in the country. It is often the largest employer of labour and dispose of a large portion of the national product. Its decisions directly affect the rate of growth of the national economy. Against this background, it is essential that it should function effectively as its executive arm is the civil service. The members of the civil service are often the only concrete manifestation of government for the citizens, whether in the urban centres, or in the remote rural areas be in the North, South, East or West. Collectively, therefore, the civil service is a crucial factor for stability and for the direction and speed of economic and social progress.

This writer urge our president and all the thirty six state governors that the orientation and quality of the civil service both [states and Federal ] as to how it is recruited, trained and deployed ; its awareness, or the lack of it, of the larger political and social purposes for which it should exist , its identification with the proper aspirations of the Nigerian people as a whole, are the therefore the things we must enquire into as a nation in assessing the prospect ahead for the country, in order to achieve the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan for a modern and developed nation.


It is widely acknowledged by historians that in the 2nd half of the twentieth century , the government remain the dominant if not, the sole instrument of change and progress in a developing countries like Nigeria and to a large extent, could be said of today .The aspirations of the ordinary people in the developing country like Nigeria for a better life ,that is , a situation in which his/her security is assured, their standard of living improves and wider opportunities are developed for his/her children ,demand the creation and maintenance of the necessary conditions for political stability and sustained economic development which only the government both at the state and federal levels can do with the abundant human and natural resources which the government can organise , and its power of compulsion and coercion .These are some of the germane issues Nigerian people expects their government to holistically ,politically and economically address and these are issues president Goodluck [PDP] is assiduously addressing to bring about a united and a prosperous nation in the 21st century domestic and global politics.

Economic powers should be in the hands of both foreign and national investors and government should create the enabling environment to allow investors to invest in the country to improve the nation’s economic growth. Nigeria has the capability both in human and natural sense to be a developed nation if only, the government can tame corruption, curb waste, come up with a comprehensive national economic blue print as obtained in developed countries like United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, United States and India to mention a few. Today, the role of government has vastly expanded and is no means confined to developing countries like Nigeria. Foulton Report on British Civil Service, Vol 1, 1968, a royal commission Report in Britain states that “The role of government has greatly changed. Its traditional regulatory functions have multiplied in size and greatly broadened in scope. It is expected to achieve such general economic aims as full employment, a satisfactory rate of growth, stable prices and healthy balance of payments—-. It has responsibilities for the location of industry and for towns and country planning ——.It provides comprehensive social services and is now expected to promote the fullest possible development of the individual human potential:” It is obvious that for every government to succeed its civil service must be efficient and result oriented. One could then ask: What is the role of Civil service in the formulation and implementation of Government policy in Nigeria?

The task of government today be it state or Federal in developing country like Nigeria are even more immense ,unique and must be performed efficiently and progressively. The effectiveness of any government is to a very great extent, determined by the efficiency and competence of the civil service. The higher civil service [Federal] indeed plays crucial roles in that it participates fully in the formulation of policy and at the same time responsible for the execution of agreed policy. Writers and academicians study of the future political and economic development of Nigeria should rightly pay attention to the type, motivation, orientation, structure and effectiveness of the civil service machinery. In Nigeria today, the formulation of government policy depend mainly on the politicians and Ministers , their party organizations[ manifestoes] , the civil service and other public services which includes the military, external pressure groups of businesses ,professional bodies, civil society organizations and academic leaders.

The marshalling of data leading to the formulation of policy suggestions suitable for adoption by government, or indeed any large organization, is a laborious process involving large numbers of highly trained and specialised people. The intuition of a brilliant leader may spark off a grand idea but the spark would die, if there is no effective group to develop it, present it attractively, and get the organisation to adopt it as a programme for action. It is of the nature of developing countries like Nigeria that trained manpower is scarce and outside the civil service, there are not yet sufficient concentrations of the requisite manpower to do policy development work on a sustained basis. The Nigerian political parties before now, had no sufficient funds and time and , in some cases leadership of the right calibre and understanding to organise research bureaux and well equipped party secretariats like that of the central office of the British Conservative Party secretariat headed by David Cameron , the prime Minister, The Labour party secretariat, Headed by Ed Milliband , the opposition Leader and The Liberal Democrat secretariat, Headed by Nick Clegg, whose party joined the conservative to formed the present Coalition government presently running the UK as a country. Same could be said of American political parties like the Democratic party ,headed by President Barack Obama , The Republican party and The Tea party secretariats .

What are the consequences of regionalised civil services if any?

According to historians and writers like Pc Asiodu, there is clear correlation between the fears of members of the separate civil services and the rise of regionalism and ethnicity in the period of 1954 and 1966 which should serve as great lessons for the future. While patriotic progressives Nigerians do not wish what happened in the past between these periods repeating itself again in our country, it should be noted that the Nigeria Civil service, according to historians, was divided up in 1954 after the review of the “Macpherson Constitution in order to give Nigeria, according to a slogan popular with politicians of that time, the structure of a “true federation”. It was considered necessary then that the regions should each have their own civil service, self sufficient and separate from the federal civil service. The regional and the Federal governments were supposed to be sovereign in their own respective spheres, and it was of the essence of the matter that each government must have a civil service absolutely loyal to it and taking instructions from no other authority . There were of course, other more positive reasons for desiring an independent regional civil service. It was expected to be more dedicated to the progress of these regions, more understanding of and more responsive to its needs.

How far have the thirty states regions fetched

in the development of Nigeria?

Writing about entry into the administrative class, The late revered Sardauna of Sokoto, premier of the Northern region in the late 50s said “As things were here, it was a matter of life and death to us. For we were not only educationally backward but we stood at that time far behind the others in material development. If the British Administration had failed to give us the even development that we deserved and for which we craved so much for – and they were on the whole a fair administration – what had we to hope from an African administration, probably in the hands of a hostile party. The answer to our minds was quite simple, just nothing beyond a little window dressing “. [Henry .L.Bretton in power and stability in Nigeria and The Sardauna of Sokoto in my life”. Nearly fifty years when these submission was made by the revered Sarduana, the question is still very much with us today, why the slow pace of development in the country? Considering the huge monthly allocations regions received from the central government for capital and recurrent projects to develop the country.

The solution to solving issue of regional under-development lies on taming corruption, visionary leadership and patriotism on the part of our leaders and the led. The development of our nation is possible in a national context in which objectives and priorities of development are clearly ordered with this goal of general and more even development in orientation, where human and natural resources are organised and used effectively and progressively for advancement of the country. Yes, separate civil service may, however, have been inevitable then, given the political acrimony of the moment but other different models of civil service organisation were not considered.

The political circumstances then and the fact that regional self-government was to come first, in the case of East and West three years before independence, and one year before independence in the case of the North, meant that the regional services were able, with higher pay and more rapid advancement to higher posts, to entice a larger number of senior indigenous staff from the chief secretary’s office and the departmental Headquarters then in Lagos. Such “ senior “ civil servants in the regions ,could not forget their seniority a few years later when, with independence and the exodus of expatriates from the federal service, those whom they had left behind assumed the new responsibility . The experience in running the affairs of a self –governing regions might not be adequate for federal responsibilities in a “ sovereign “ country in an international setting was never given due consideration. This attitude of suspicion, antagonism, and resentment still prevail today, despite the experienced of crisis and civil war in the country. The past crisis and civil war in Nigeria according to historians and writers, have clearly demonstrated that no one region or state can go it alone and survive, let alone attain a higher degree of viability than as part of the larger federation.

The future orientation of the civil service in all the states of the country will therefore, be crucial to political stability and integrative processes of moulding Nigeria under president Goodluck Jonathan transformation agenda. It seems generally accepted by Progressive Nigerians without being sentimental that the new “NIGERIA in the 21st century should remain one. One nation ,multicultural society with one destiny of a united and progressive country. If the elite and the government are to achieve reasonable stability and get the confidence of vast majority of ordinary Nigerians, they must deliver the goods of giving Nigerians quality dividends of democracy as obtained in developed countries, considering the fact that some of our leaders have studied and even sent their children to study abroad and saw the way the leaders of these developed countries put their countries first [national interest] above parochial and personal interests. Progress must be seen to be made in breaking the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance and suffering permeating the fabric of our society.

To move Nigeria forward, it is imperative to have in the country only one sovereign power able to regulate, gather, organise and allocate the country’s resources with flexibility of regional development as a great end in view. Notwithstanding, the final allocation of functions between federal and states governments, the important expanding financial resources must be collected and allocated fairly, responsibly and progressively by the federal government. Therefore, the civil service must be organised ,focus, effective and directed in such a way as to make them understand and embrace this philosophy to becoming a very important instruments for stability and unity and more importantly, a tool for national development. States civil service are expected to perform their tasks as civil servants efficiently and with loyalty to the states they serve but by the very nature of the arrangement as obtained in the constitution of the country, they cannot be used to subvert the central government or disparage the ideal of national unity. Their orientation should be decidedly national and progressive but not divisive and anarchist in nature and orientation. Nigeria of 21st century under president Goodluck Jonathan PDP government must as a matter of both public expectation and posterity develop the nation.

God bless Nigeria and Nigerian people, long live federal Republic of Nigeria.

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