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The Lies About NYSC

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Unsafe Schools Mean Failed State

By
Emmanuel Onwubiko

“Lies run sprint, but the truth runs marathons.”-Michael Jackson

No doubt, we are in moments of anxiety and national outrage, no thanks to the unprecedented anarchy, chaos and doom caused by insecurity.  In these moments of uncertainty even institutions that symbolise sublime goals of making Nigeria great are challenged by cocktails of externally generated speculative tails of fear, anxiety and apprehension.  The National Youth Service Corps Scheme is not an exception. The institution is battling cocktails of lies, half truths and speculations and these are sowing seeds of doubts and anxiety in the minds and hearts of Nigerians.  The good news is that the NYSC is under the tested and trusted leadership of Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim who holds a doctorate in education. Before putting pen to paper, I read few books to understudy the different ramifications of anxiety and these were my findings and summaries in the following citations.

“There’s no getting over the fact that high anxiety can be brutal, which is why our natural reaction is to fight against it. This is how we become quickly disillusioned; because it’s a battle we’ll never win. More importantly, it’s a pointless battle we shouldn’t be fighting in the first place. Anxiety is not your enemy. It’s your life companion. It’s essential to your survival, and if you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t be here today. By learning to live comfortably with it, and accepting it as part of your life, you will win – every time.

I’m continually shocked by the number of individuals who claim to be experts offering a ‘cure’ and ‘elimination’ for anxiety. It’s difficult to understand how anybody with a true understanding of anxiety could make such false promises.

READ ALSO: Tokyo Olympics: Rethinking Sports Administration in Nigeria

“It’s no coincidence that I spent so many years looking for answers, and why people suffering from high anxiety are constantly seeking a ‘cure’. It’s because it doesn’t exist! Anxiety doesn’t have a switch that you can permanently turn off. It’s well and truly implanted in us and forms part of who we are, just like any other emotion. When we feel sad or angry, our natural reaction isn’t to completely eliminate the emotions of sadness and anger – we accept them as part of our lives. We accept that it’s healthy to get angry and upset. If we agree that it’s healthy to get angry and sad, why are we led to believe that we should ‘eliminate’ anxiety, when it’s just as healthy to be anxious? All of these emotions might come with unwanted and uncomfortable feelings, but that’s part of the human experience. We would live in a very strange world if we felt happy every time we got dumped or fired, for example.

” Anxiety is what gets you out of bed in the morning. It keeps you safe when you cross the road. It provides the motivation to find a loving partner and friends. It keeps your children fed and healthy. It makes your life possible. Save yourself a lot of grief and stop fighting it. Put your arm around it, and thank it for being a loyal companion.

“I now accept that anxiety will always be present in my life, and by changing its meaning, I completely change the way I deal with it. I understand that overcoming high anxiety is a life’s journey, not a quick fix, and it’s not something I can turn off, cure or eliminate.

“Accepting anxiety as part of your life doesn’t mean being ruled by it. The concept of rebalance means that once you’ve achieved normal anxiety levels you can live your life without having to make decisions based around it. You will regain control, and be free to live a happy, active and fulfilling life, doing what you want, when you want”. (Anxiety Rebalance: All The Answers You Need To Overcome Anxiety & Depression By Carl Vernon).”

READ ALSO: The Power Of Positive Difference: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And His Nigeria

Another author says as follows: “Leaders show their mettle in many ways – setting strategy and motivating people, just to mention two – but above all else leaders are made or broken by the quality of their decisions. That’s a given, right? If you answered yes, then you would probably be surprised by how many executives approach decision making in a way that neither puts enough options on the table nor permits sufficient evaluation to ensure that they can make the best choice. Indeed, our research over the past several years strongly suggests that, simply put, most leaders get decision making all wrong.”

The author stated also that: “The reason: Most businesspeople treat decision making as an event-a discrete choice that takes place at a single point in time, whether they’re sitting at a desk, moderating a meeting, or staring at a spreadsheet. This classic view of decision making has a pronouncement popping out of a leader’s head, based on experience, gut, research, or all three. Say the matter at hand is whether to pull a product with weak sales off the market. An ‘event’ leader would mull in solitude, ask for advice, read reports, mull some more, then say yea or nay and send the organization off to make it happen. But to look at decision making that way is to overlook larger social and organizational contexts, which ultimately determine the success of any decision.

The fact is, decision making is not an event. It’s a process, one that unfolds over weeks, months, or even years; one that’s fraught with power plays and politics and is replete with personal nuances and institutional history; one that’s rife with discussion and debate; and one that requires support at all levels of the organization when it comes time for execution. Our research shows that the difference between leaders who make good decisions and those who make bad ones is striking. The former recognize that all decisions are processes, and they explicitly design and manage them as such. The latter persevere in the fantasy that decisions are events they alone control.

“In … decision-making process – an approach we call inquiry-and outline a set of criteria for assessing the quality of the decision-making process.” (On Making Smart Decisions By Daniel Kahneman, Dan Lovallo, and Olivier Sibony).
Another illustrious author wrote thus: “We all have a backstory. It explains why we behave as we do. OK, it doesn’t always justify it, but at least it’s a reason for our behaviour. Of course, no one else ever knows all the details and complexities of your backstory like you do, but lots of people get the gist.

” There’ll be a reason why certain things make you feel more anxious, stressed, excited, cynical, depressed, relaxed, angry confident than other people do. It might be genetic, it might be because of bad past experiences, or according to Freud it might all be down to your parents. Friends might say that you shouldn’t stress so much about this, or be so suspicious about that, or be too laid back, or shout so much. But they don’t understand – if they’d been to the same school as you, or lived through the poverty you have, or had siblings like yours, or worked for your last boss, they’d realise why you behave that way.

“Listen, this is true of everyone. There’s no one on the planet who isn’t shaped by their personal experiences. So, when your colleague snaps at you, or your friend lets you down, or your partner forgets your birthday, just remember there’s always a reason. It might be a rubbish reason, but there’s a reason.

“And I’m telling you this because if you can understand the reason, it makes it easier to deal with other people’s negative behaviour.
Even if you can’t change the way they act, you’ll find it slightly easier to take if you get the reasons behind it. And often simply because you are prepared to understand, they can let go of being defensive and decide to change their behaviour.”  (The Rule of People by Richard Templar).

READ ALSO: NYSC Not Death But Skills’ Sentence

We took a lot of time to cite authoritative submissions on anxiety because of the salient fact that due to the spread of fake news and rumors about one of the most successful public institutions, the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC), a lot of people may have developed anxiety and some are already believing these lies deliberately told to muddy the facts.

The truth is that: “Rumors. Gossip. Fake news. We’ve all heard these terms. While most consider them harmless, they can affect your health. Learning to tell the difference between fact and fiction can be a real boost — both mentally and physically. What happens when rumors aren’t harmless? What if they damage someone’s reputation, livelihood, or personal life? If you’re on the receiving end of untrue gossip, what do you do?”

On Rumors vs. Gossip vs. ‘Fake News’, the writer says: “Rumors are defined as widely spread talk with no reliable source to back it up. They aren’t always bad. Some rumors can even seem positive, like promotions, engagements, or awards. But until proven otherwise, they are just that — rumors. Gossip is when you take rumors — those unconfirmed pieces of information — and pass them along, spreading what may be ‘fake news.’ What may be surprising is how difficult it can be to tell rumor and gossip from truth. Even people who are Internet-savvy can have trouble telling what’s real and what’s not. It can also be tough to tell the difference between news and advertisement. As a result, people sometimes give more weight to what they see in their social media feed than what they get from more credible news sources.”

The author then posed the question to know what’s the harm in rumours and responded thus: “When it comes to ‘ fake news,’ the effects can be both immediate and long-lasting. In most cases, a ‘fake news’ story can rile up your emotions and change your mood. Depending on the strength of your feelings, the story, and the reaction it gave you, can stick in your head, even after you find out it’s false. You may even remember those feelings if you see another story about the same subject. On their own, rumors and gossip seem harmless; almost a fun pastime. But there’s a point where they can become harmful to your health. There’s a great deal of information out there about bullying among teenagers and younger children. What’s sometimes overlooked is that adults can be bullied, too. It can come in the form of untrue rumors or gossip about them or a loved one. It can also come through reactions to words or an image that’s been posted. Physical appearance, politics, and financial issues can all become the subject of online bullying, too.”

The author asked to know what you can do. And then responds thus: “Rumors, gossip, and fake news can make you feel helpless, angry, and very anxious. There are steps you can take to regain your power and your health. To avoid fake news, you can:
Watch out for sites that end in “.com.co.” Often, these are bootleg versions of traditional news services.Try to find other articles on the same topic from other sites, especially if the first article you read makes you upset. It’s possible that the anger-inducing story was created in a way to rile you up.

“Check another source if an article you read uses all caps, either in headlines or in the article itself. Click the “About Us” tab for more information about the source.

“Poke around a little to see if other, more-known sites are reporting the story. If it’s legitimate, at least one other site would cover it. Be careful about blogs, even if they’re tied to well-known sites. In many cases, blogs aren’t held to the same editorial standard as regular news pieces.”

“When you come across a piece of gossip, a juicy rumor, or an unflattering photo that clearly is aimed at hurting the subject, don’t share it, don’t comment, and don’t engage. You might be able to help someone who doesn’t know how to combat the problem by simply reporting it for them. If you’re the subject of a rumor, gossip, or bullying, it’s important to remember that not every bit of teasing is bullying. But when it escalates to that point, don’t respond. Cut them off — block the calls and texts, and block them on social media. Get in touch with your Internet service provider if the abuse is coming through a website or your smartphone. Chances are the bully is violating their terms of service. If so, the offensive posts will disappear. You can also contact the police. There are laws against harassment, stalking, and threatening behavior. Don’t engage with them. Don’t forward the messages to friends.

READ ALSO: Why Govt Shouldn’t Scrap NYSC – HURIWA

Most of all, don’t believe whatever is being said about you”( www.webmd.com).  Here are some of the rumors so far spread about the NYSC. Luckily, the proactive managers of the NYSC have also ably provided the responses to these rumours and as someone writing from the background of an independent observer, I can confirm that what the management of NYSC have adduced as their responses are accurate.

Around July 31st 2021, the  National Youth Service Corps, asserted that the reported story that 544 corps members were killed in the Northeast and Northwest in 2021 was nothing but junk journalism and blackmail by a section of the media.

In the report, the NYSC was also accused of risking the lives of 9,100 corps members deployed to the seven states in the North-West region; where at least, 189 persons have been killed and 376 persons were abducted in Zamfara and Kaduna states alone.

Reacting to two reports by a national daily, the scheme said the medium was losing grip on “balanced reportage, which is the hallmark of good journalism.”

A statement signed by the NYSC Director, Press and Public Relations, Adenike Adeyemi (Mrs), alleged that the unsubstantiated reports were published to create apprehension in the minds of parents, guardians and other stakeholders.

The statement reads in part, “No corps member deployed to the North-East and North-West geopolitical zones of the country was killed, neither was any abducted by bandits in July 2021, as reported.

“Management would have ignored these stories, but had to issue this rebuttal for the sake of undiscerning minds who may swallow the fake news, hook, line and sinker. Nonetheless, discerning minds know that they are a figment of the writer’s imagination, as nothing of such happened.

“However, it is imperative to restate that balanced reportage is the hallmark of good journalism. The integrity of information pushed into the public domain should never be in doubt.

“Management hereby passionately appeals to both the mainstream and new media, as opinion moulders and critical stakeholders in the polity to always place national interest above every other consideration in their reportage, as anything contrary has the propensity to create apprehension in the minds of parents, guardians and other stakeholders.

“The scheme is always open to enquiries, in order to guard against feeding the public with inaccurate, or completely false information.

“NYSC shall continue to prioritise the security and welfare of corps members which is the cardinal policy thrust of the scheme.

READ ALSO: NYSC To Add New Features On Certificate

“The scheme hereby reassures the general public that it will continue to work in concert with security agencies in order to ensure the safety of corps members across the nation.”

Around August 5th 2021, the National Youth Service Corps described as untrue claims of COVID-19 positive corps members.
The organisation said there were no COVID-19 positive corps members in any of the 37 NYSC orientation camps nationwide.
The NYSC Director, Press and Public Relations, Adenike Adeyemi, made the clarification in a statement in Abuja.

She said, “Please note that before any prospective corps member is admitted into the 37 camps, they must undergo COVID-19 test. Only those that test negative are admitted; the same rule applies to camp officials.

“Those that test positive are handed over to the NCDC for treatment and management. It is pertinent to state
that there is a gulf of difference between a corps member and a prospective corps member.

“One becomes a corps member after admittance to the camp, registration and administration of the oath of national allegiance.

“Anyone mobilised for service that has not gone through the aforesaid process is not a corps member.

“In view of the foregoing explanation, there is no red alert in NYSC orientation camps, as all corps members, as well as camp officials admitted in the camps are COVID-19 negative.”

In not too distant past, there was also a certain sinister effort to spread some toxic rumours that the DG of NYSC was against Christian worships within the NYSC camps. But ironically, the director general though a sound and good Moslem incidentally is married to a Roman Catholic Christian adherent and so cannot possibly be categorized as a hater of Christians.

I do think that this regime of rumours targeted at the NYSC which are meant to sow a sort of anxiety in the minds and hearts of Nigerians are really not strange. This is because of the recent move by a member of the Federal House of Representative to get the National Assembly to abolish the NYSC due to the unprecedented rate of insecurity in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Governor Wants NYSC Extended To Two Years

The bill on the discontinuation of the National Youth Service Corps has reached the second reading in the House of Representatives.
Sponsored by the lawmaker representing Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State Awaji-Inombek Abiante, in the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, the bill listed various reasons why the NYSC should be scrapped. It said the NYSC had led to the “incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence; incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country.

“Public and private agencies/departments are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths, thus relying heavily on the availability of corps members who are not being well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year without any hope of being gainfully employed.

“Due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promoting national unity and integration.”

The bill is seeking the alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alteration Bill, 2020.

The youth service, which started on May 22, 1973, was established during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon under Decree No. 24 of 1973. The whole truth is that the NYSC was established to reconcile and reintegrate Nigerians after the Nigerian civil war; traditions and customs of their host communities; providing the forum for corps members to experiment with ideas and translate them into concrete achievements thereby relying less on foreign technology and encouraging the use of local raw materials in the execution of projects; harnessing the enormous energy, talents and skills of corps members into an effective machinery or change in our rural communities; providing on-the job-training, skill sets and experience for corps members; providing complementary service in our national development activities, by ensuring that our underprivileged population learn basic techniques for self-help through the appropriate technology concept being promoted by NYSC; to instill in corps members the tradition of dignity of labour and productivity; to complement the activities of government at all levels in the stride towards national development.
So, do not believe the lies about NYSC!

Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

 

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When Engineers Go Unethical

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  When Engineers Go  Unethical

By

Sam Akpe

A few years ago, Effiong Bob walked into the hallowed chamber of the Senate clutching about half a dozen bills. That was unprecedented in the history of Nigerian legislature. All the bills were listed in the Order Paper for First Reading, and were taken; the same day. When passed into law, one of them granted full operational autonomy to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

When Engineers Go Unethical

Senator Effiong Bob

As a senator, Bob’s voice on the floor of the Senate was not so loud. But at the Committee level — which is the engine room of legislative business — he was a master of the game. Those who should know, know that the Senate in plenary is a Senate on exhibition, the Senate in Committee Room is the Senate in its workshop. It is at the Committee level that the worth of individual senators is  measured and graded.

As Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, and later, Chairman, Senate Services Committee, Bob noiselessly discharged his functions with amazing speed and accuracy. He pursued each task with messianic commitment. So, when he was invited by the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers some weeks back to present a keynote address at their annual event, he took the ball straight into their court.

Speaking on “Impact of Legislation on Engineering Practice: The Mechanical Engineers Experience”, Bob said the theme of the presentation, aligned completely with the dominant issues of the season; especially in a country where impunity seems to run riot almost everywhere and in everything.

Without any doubt, he said the relevance of engineering and engineers to our everyday existence cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Despite their failings and excuses, we cannot forget to applaud their little successes.

READ ALSO: Civil Service Commission As Catalyst In Repositioning Nigerian Public Service

He was right. A close look at the environment will always reveal that the major infrastructural creations around us — things that contribute to make life worth living — are products of engineering ingenuity. Some engineers create, others maintain. I can only imagine how boring and drab life would be without engineers.

Bob stated that the formal regulation of engineering is crucial because it is the law that separates the practice of engineering from other natural sciences. The law provides guidance, spells out controls and gives impetus to the practice. The legal frameworks ensure public safety.

He defined legislation in engineering as the process of enacting and applying laws to ensure qualification, safety and quality compliance, application and use of engineering outcomes. It also means the protocols of how ethics and legal frameworks are used to ensure quality delivery and public safety in the profession.

The former senator told the attentive audience that legislation in engineering practice is meant to prevent certain problems and behaviours observed in the application of science in the public interest, in a bid to protect life and welfare of the people; because it would be against the run of play for a practising engineer to endanger public safety.

By implication, the law places a high responsibility on the engineer to uphold sound ethical standards in his operation, as system failure would most likely attract legal action, particularly if such failure creates liabilities by causing harm to the public or incurring other unintended costs, as a result of unprofessional or ethical breach.

Bob stated: “It is one of the reasons a practitioner must be registered for proper identification, regulation, monitoring, training and discipline. He is expected to practise professionally and within the ambits of the regulations governing the practice. Legislation confers both moral and legal authorities on practitioners of the profession. It also comes with expectations and punitive measures.

“Let it be made clear that any person who calls himself a professional in any aspect of human endeavour, if what he practises is not governed or regulated by law or is not known to any existing law, that person must be engaging in an act that is inimical to the interest and safety of society. The reason is because he cannot be justifiably held accountable if anything goes wrong because where there is no law, you can’t talk about breaking the law.”

What he meant here was that an unregulated space is likely to be governed by impunity. Regulation generates sanctions. Every human endeavour requires the knowledge of the laws governing the discharge of that responsibility and the rights of others within the environment of practice.

Truly, since an engineer deals with a wide range of activities that involve lives and the environment, he must be guided, and in fact, arrested by the law, if misguided. The law is there to control and give impetus to the practice. Bob went ahead to cite specific existing laws that are intended to guide engineering practice in Nigeria.

He observed that without legislation, engineering practice would be subject to infiltration and severe abuse by unqualified persons. Of course, even with legislation, the practice is richly infiltrated by various grades of persons who have not received the requisite training that qualifies them to practise.

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Referring to Sections 6 and 7 of the Engineers (Registration, Etc) Act, 1992, he said it clearly specifies who should be registered as an engineer as well as titles to be used. Section 7 stipulates that a registered engineer shall use the abbreviation “Engr;” an engineering technologist shall use “Engr Tech;” and a technician shall use “Tech;” while a registered engineering craftsman shall use his full title with his trade in bracket under his name.

Declared Bob: “But there are lots of people who go about with the prefix Engr, yet have not received professional training from relevant institutions and definitely not certified by the appropriate body to practise as prescribed in Section 6 of the Act.”

He said these persons go about executing projects and, in most cases, create image problems for the profession through ethical and criminal failures. But again, even some certified practitioners also flout the codes and bring the profession into disrepute.

This is where the relevance of legislation comes in, to preserve the profession from quacks. But though the relevant statutes are there, it is the duty of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to ensure that they are enforced for the sake of the profession and the safety of the society.

It was revealed that different aspects of engineering legislation deal with different activity areas. Without tort, for instance, impunity would have a field day especially in our clime where the propensity for substandard deliveries is high. The law assigns blame and penalties.

In addition, contract law defines the rules of engagement between engineers, business partners and clients. Product liability law talks about quality. There is also the intellectual property protection law; and the safety legislation codes and regulations.

If legislation provides checks and balances, Bob wondered why “We have had several cases of collapsed structures in our society including buildings, roads and bridges; and these are structures that a number of professional engineers must have or are supposed to have been involved in building.

“Let’s look inward. Can COREN honestly absolve itself from blame or complicity in the collapse of these structures since its members were involved or are supposed to have been involved in the building of such structures?

“How come that in spite of the uproar that greets each incident with accompanying casualties, it still happens again and again? Does it mean that the regulatory authorities are not doing much to whip members into line or deal with quacks to act as  a deterrent?

“This is an area that should be focused on. The body has a responsibility to save the profession from this embarrassing situation which in some cases has claimed lives. There is an urgent need therefore, for the strict enforcement of legislations governing the practice of engineering if professional integrity is to be maintained.”

COREN, don’t pretend you did not hear, please.

Akpe, a journalist, lives in Abuja.

 

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Civil Service Commission As Catalyst In Repositioning Nigerian Public Service

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Civil Service Commission As Catalyst In Repositioning Nigerian Public Service

By

Tunji Olaopa

Let me begin this piece with some form of syllogistic administrative argument. It has become axiomatic in the diagnosis of Nigeria’s post-independence predicament to point at the leadership lacuna in governance and policymaking. The need for a visionary and strategic leadership that will drive the whole development process cannot be overemphasized. In the whole of Nigeria, the example of Lagos State stands out firmly as the most exemplary in terms of the leadership succession that has impacted the culture of good governance. From Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to Babatunde Fashola. And from Akinwunmi Ambode to the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagosians have been blessed with a leadership trajectory that has kept building good policies on good policies in a continuity loop that has kept Lagos State on top of the democratic governance game, and has made the state the best example of good governance so far.

However, leadership needs a strong institutional and structural basis around which its vision could become concretized. It is around these structures and institutions that the weight of governance and service delivery is laid. This is where we arrive at the crucial point that leadership is bare without an accompanying complement of structural and institutional frameworks around which the vision and strategy of leadership can be articulated in concrete terms. With this point, we critically undermine the agency-structure argument in the social sciences. We also undermine the strong man/strong institution dichotomy. This is because there is no point to that dichotomy. One is incomplete without the other. The further point of the institutional argument is that the public service is the institution par excellence that carries the weight of democratic performance and productivity. Indeed, the public service is the necessary complement to a democratic government. In the literature on developmental states, there is a strong axiomatic consensus that we cannot even begin to think of such a state outside of the administrative coherence provided by the structural framework of the public service and its capability readiness to deliver on intelligent policymaking made possible by the state and its functionaries and politicians.

READ ALSO: Prof. A. D. Yahaya In The Annals Of Public Administration Scholarship In Nigeria

And the strength of the public service must derive from a measure of public-spiritedness and professionalism of the public servants that the state has recruited and had committed to working with. Public service is a vocation that is more of a calling than a mere profession. A proper understanding of the spirituality involved in the public service is derived from likening it to the Levitical Order of the Jewish priesthood. A public servant is called to a deep and spiritual service of the public to which she is expected to dedicate all her capabilities and focus to the exclusion of every contrary emotion and desire that might undermine that commitment. As an administrative virtue, public-spiritedness places the responsibility of the professional within the context of a personal and public accountability that motivates the professional to personally hold him/herself responsible for the discharge of his/her duties to the public. It is this public spirit or civil virtue that instigates the public servants to an efficient, effective and equitable management of the civil service system.

  And of course, the quality of any public service at all, cannot be divorced from the professionalism and resilience of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Given the spiritual significance of the professionalism and public-spiritedness of the public service, it becomes dangerous to leave the gateway into the profession unmanned. The danger of an over-bloated workforce is not only the lowering of the performance and productivity profile but much more the compromising of the professional remit of the public servants. The experience of Nigeria is telling. With independence, there was a dilemma with regard to the basis of recruitment into the public service. Representativeness was chosen over meritocracy due to Nigeria’s delicate multi-ethnic status. By the Second Republic, the public service was already so over-bloated as to be unable to achieve the capacity readiness to carry the weight of Nigeria’s development planning. In 1975, the hammer of brutal downsizing fell on the public service, and it crushed the system not just to size but with the professional confidence and esprit de corps which made it tick also lost.

  Thus, the locus of the modernizing imperative and professionalism of the public service has remained the CSC. This is crucial because the CSC is the interface that mediates between the government and the public service system itself in ways that facilitate a synergy of performance and productivity the state can work with for democratic governance that positively affects citizens. In this sense, the CSC needs to keep reforming its gatekeeping dynamics to be able to also properly gatekeep the professional requirement for repositioning the public service as a profession. In 1954, the Nigerian Public Service Commission was established, and the 1979 Constitution enshrined and changed the name as the Federal Civil Service Commission. The FCSC has the vision to “To build a core of highly focused, disciplined, committed and patriotic Civil Service totally dedicated to supporting the Government in the development of a strong, united and virile Nigeria.”

  Its objective is four-fold: (a) To appoint qualified candidates to man the different Ministries/Extra-Ministerial Departments in the Federal Civil Service; (b) To ensure that such appointments maintain/represent the federal character of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; (c) To make recommendations to the Federal Government on personnel policies aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Civil Service; and (d) To ensure that personnel decisions are taken objectively, promptly and competently in accordance with the policies and interest of the Federal Government. However, about six decades after its creation, we can legitimately worry whether the FCSC has put in place the necessary institutional mechanism to attract, retain and effectively utilize administrative skills and competencies on behalf of the Nigerian civil service. To what extent has the FCSC been able to protect the principle of merit in recruitment without buckling under political pressure, especially for representativeness? This is a good question to ask for one fundamental reason. There is a massive skill and competency flight away from the public service to the private sector or to other countries. The flight of Nigerian doctors to Saudi Arabia is a most recent and public instance.

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  Every CSC is confronted with the necessity of modernizing its structural, institutional, procedural and ethical frameworks. Reforming the civil service itself entails the reform of the CSC and its managerial dynamics and regulations. This derives from strategizing its own performance management system in ways that allow it to perform better at its gatekeeping responsibility. This is one of the imperatives of the managerial revolution that requires not only a technology-based public service, but also an efficient and effective workforce that is able to achieve a performance trajectory that services good governance. To grasp the importance of professionalism that undergirds the gatekeeping responsibility of the CSC, there is a need to situate that professionalism within the larger context of workforce dynamics and HR function in the twenty-first century.

  Such a reform at a general level entails the following critical issues. First, there is policy advice and analysis. New technologies demand that the CSC must be on the lookout for global best practices on the relationship between these technologies and policy analysis and intelligence, and their relationship in informing policy research. The second issue is service delivery and citizen engagement. The CSC needs to monitor what new skills and competence are demanded in transiting the civil service into the period of open government that leads to the co-creating of better services and engagements with citizens as customers. The third issue has to do with commissioning and contracting. The CSC must also be on top of the contracting of non-core functions of the public service, and the commissioning of third parties who have the requisite competences that complement the core functions and efficiency of the public services. The fourth issue concerns managing networks. The CSC must be aware of the urgent needs for collaborative need that brings the public service into communication and strategic relationship with governmental and nongovernmental organisations in ways that generate trust and commitment that leads to efficiency. It is therefore the responsibility of the CSC to regulate skills that lead to mutual understanding.

The fifth critical issue is workforce and HR. The advancement in artificial intelligence and robotics speaks to the necessity of reconstructing our understanding of what work entails. Most fundamentally, the fourth industrial revolution makes it imperative that work would be attended by the urgency of changing skills and competences that have to keep pace with the changing dynamics of work itself and the administrative context within which work must take place. Once technological innovations have taken over the workplace work dynamics, then employers and employees have to come to terms with how the existing skills and competence framework address the new challenges that technology introduces. The last significant issue to address is the urgency of a change management strategy and model. This is required by the mandate and challenges of professionalization and re-professionalization. The first issue here is for the FCSC to reflect on what change management model to adopt that will enable it to adequately engage with the urgency of re-professionalizing the civil service system. This is not an easy issue as the commission must adopt and adapt a model that best suits the peculiar administrative environment and dynamics of the administrative context. Indeed, a best option, rather than reaching out to some pre-existing models, is for the FCSC to generate its own model that best suits its administrative realities.

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  At the specific levels, the FCSC of the future cannot overemphasize the significance of performance management in the determination of the staff appraisal and professional development of the public servants through the proactive activation of those dormant components of the APER, by deploying training- and activity-based assessment metrics. This would be determined around not just the idea of a performance-induced interviews like assessment center, but also the initiation of a performance-based contracting system backstopped by a commensurate pay and compensation incentive system that will ensure the attraction and retention of the brightest and the best into the public service. This will force the FCSC to begin to creatively juggle with some out-the-box leadership pipelining and talent management frameworks with strict guidelines that, first, enable the identification of star-performers within the system who, second, can be rewarded through special promotion that signals the system’s willingness to streamline creativity and innovation that push the public service into the dynamics of a state already moving into the technological and administrative frameworks of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is important as a way of undermining the naturally occurring urge for institutional inbreeding.

  The FCSC, finally, must also not foreclose the possibility of staff exchange with industries and even the diaspora. This also involves the possibility of staff sabbatical leave that allows staff to strengthen their professional horizons through sharing and learning from other professional spaces. A proper recruitment framework must enable the effective involvement of the MDA line and personnel managers so as to be able to achieve a fit between skill and competency gaps and recruitment into the public service. This is one irreducible imperative of the Decree No. 43 of 1988 which failed in its professionalization remit, but provided a significantly understanding of a decentralized understanding of HR function for efficiency. Within the Nigerian public service system, these skills are mostly missing in the constitution of the senior executive service. This means that the office of the head of service would be required to revise the skills domains required to constituting the SES, while also collaborating with management development institutes (MDIs) and government training/tertiary institutions to mounting courses and designing curricula that speak to this skill sets. In all of this, CSCs will never be able to make significant impact unless the chairmen and commissioners are professionals and knowledge workers who could deploy the strategic advantage of the multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary to harness the strength of a professionalized high-end specialists’ strategic HR expertise of service commissions’ secretariat to change-manage the public service into a capability-enabled track, towards desired world-class status.

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Excerpt from a lecture delivered by Prof. Tunji Olaopa, retired Federal Permanent Secretary and Professor of public administration/Directing Staff, NIPSS, Kuru, Plateau State (tolaopa2003@gmail.com) as Guest Speaker at the Lagos State Civil Service Commission 2021 Annual Retreat on the theme ‘Changing the Narrative: The Civil Service Commission’s Role in Repositioning the Public Service’ held on 15-16 October, 2021 in Ikeja. Lagos State.

 

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Opinion

Dealing With Mental Illness In The Family

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Dealing With Mental Illness In The Family

By

 Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

One of the most difficult health challenges to deal with when it strikes in the family, or a group is mental illness. In one of our webinars, a specialist spoke on ‘Dealing with unseen illnesses’ because some mental illnesses are not seen! Can you see a mind that is troubled as we see the symptoms of malaria? Mental illness is when a person’s thinking, feeling, behaviour or mood becomes affected negatively by clinical depression, anxiety disorder, psychotic disorders, impulse control, or substance abuse. Sometimes the effect is visible. A mentally ill patient could simply go naked and run amok. In other cases, it is hidden for years, managed by the victim because they do not understand what is happening. Do you live permanently in fear, expecting the worst to happen anytime? Are your thoughts always negative? Are you paranoid about how your parents died and how you may die as they did? Do you think of death all the time like an obsession? Are you permanently sad, unable to laugh and enjoy the common things that people do? Are you in permanent grief over the loss of a loved one? Have you been unable to move on since your last breakup which took place years before? Are you having nightmares from a traumatic experience? You may need the help of a therapist.

In some cases, especially in old age, there is dementia whereby a person forgets who they are and cannot recognize family members. Sadly, mental illness is widely misunderstood, mystified, treated with suspicion and superstition and stigmatisation. Indeed, once you tell most family members or friends that you think they ought to see a clinical psychologist, they put up a big wall of defence. Am I mad, is the question they ask? Madness for them is the only reason that someone should see a psychiatrist. This is not correct.

Yet, mental illness is highly present in all societies. It comes in different forms. It can affect anybody, no matter the class, background, religion, or race. In the last three odd years since we started work as an interventionist NGO (Mind and Soul Helpers’ Initiative- MASHI) on mental health, using professionals to counsel and refer people, we have come to see how widespread, how misunderstood, how poorly appreciated it is in society. Today, I write not as a professional on mental health. I write as an advocate for the full recognition of and provision for mental health services in the country. I write to educate the public on why they should not hesitate to consult a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist when a person has a mental illness, that is, when a person breaks down mentally. The professionals are not allowed to advertise their work.

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Often, there are warnings, yet we ignore them. Do you have a son or daughter or cousin who lock themselves up in the room, avoid the rest of the family and remain moody throughout the day or week or month? That young man who returns from school a different person? That lady who suddenly said that school is not for her, that she would rather be a preacher. That young man who becomes violent in the hostel or in the house, screaming all manner of things. That young man or woman who is troubled by thoughts of suicide, thoughts of ending it all whether by jumping in front of a moving vehicle or taking the notorious sniper insecticide.

In the last three years, we have encountered too many persons who are down today because of trauma from the past. Why do some fathers or uncles like abusing daughters sexually from a tender age? What is attractive in a five-year-old child to a father, a full-grown man? Why should a father or a brother sexually abuse a child of five years old till she gets to fifteen? Why do some mothers keep silent even after catching their husbands molesting a girl child? Many years after the experience, some ladies start feeling the effect of the trauma and go through mental illness for the rest of their lives. Some of the ladies are scarred or destroyed for life. Do you want to destroy that beautiful daughter of yours for life because of your sexual peccadilloes? Think twice daddy, think twice.

Sexual abuse is one among many. There is verbal abuse. There is physical abuse. Some parents like berating their kids, calling them all kinds of names. What such parents do not know is the indelible pain or sore such an experience leaves on the child. ‘You, ugly fool! That child grows up believing the insult of the mother or father or uncle. Some do not realise that even a baby can be traumatised. This could affect them forever.

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The truth is that any behaviour which we do not understand should be brought to the attention of health authorities. First line of course is the general hospital from where a doctor could refer the person concerned to a specialist. Some people are just scared or reluctant about taking their family members to a psychiatrist. What will people say? they always ask. They will say there is madness in our family. It is not what people say that matters. It is the health of the person that is crucial.

When a person in a family has mental health illness, family members need to show understanding. Some of the complaints, like sudden fear of doom, h ot flushes in the body, seeing a dead mother daily, creeping sensations, fear that they could fall, vibrations and sensations in some parts of the body, are real to the sick person. It is not enough to say ‘snap out of it’. They need help. We have encountered families who treat dementia patients with scorn and derision. One family accused the elderly woman of witchcraft. We must remember that the person concerned is not in control of his mind. True, it is difficult even trying to handle a family member who keeps returning to hard drugs or alcohol after being treated. It is double jeopardy to accuse a victim of panic attacks of stupidity or foolishness. It is double jeopardy to accuse a clinically depressed person of wickedness or deliberately disturbing the family.

Mental illness is like any other ailment. If one has a bone problem they go to an orthopaedic surgeon. If it is pregnancy, they go to a gynaecologist. Indeed, there is a type of mental illness which comes just after a woman gives birth. She should see a specialist. If it is the mind that has a problem, they should see a mind doctor- a psychiatrist. There should be no stigma attached to going to a psychiatrist hospital. A mentally ill person should not be taken to a pastor or a babalawo to cast out spirits. Mental illness is not caused by spirits. There are prescribed medications for treating the mentally ill. Sometimes, it is a long haul, lasting a lifetime. It could also clear within a year or two, depending on the severity of the nature of mental illness.

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Finally, let us spread the awareness. Mental illness is not infectious nor is it something to be ashamed of. It is just like any other disease. As the slogan goes, there is no health without mental health. There is not enough information about mental illnesses in the country. There is also too much superstition about mental illness, even among some highly educated people. This therefore is a clarion call to everyone to take their mental health seriously. Traumatic videos and pictures should be avoided. Government should take mental health seriously. At the individual level, seek help if you hear voices.

 

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