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Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And The Nigerian Story Of Leadership Failure

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Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

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Toyin Falola

The interview with Dr. Mailafia during the Toyin Falola Interviews furnishes the audience with much information that helps to grasp the idea of failed leadership and state and problematize the concept of a failing state. The truth is laid bare for anyone confident enough to accept that the conversation around a failed state is a byproduct of the narrative of us versus them, civilized versus uncivilized, barbaric and modern, dated back to the 19th century as a prelude to the colonization of the less technologically advanced groups of people in Africa and other victims of colonialism. The binary prism generated around this characterization found the expansionist imperialists on the side of the coin where they are associated with modernity, civilization, and greatness, which, therefore, became the motivation for their expeditious colonialism embarkations on all of their colonies.

As it was then, the measures for civilizations and others did not have a universal appeal because it appeared that the moral and political requirements for being civilized represented a jaundiced view of the colonizers. Although this would help to drive an objective conversation when dealing with the mountainous challenges that have gripped the African, especially Nigerian, leadership by its jugular, it does not by any means undermine the importance of having common denominating factors with which it can be decisively concluded that a country is failing or has failed. In essence, one needs to address the issues of a failed state not exclusively by considering the factors erected by the Western world but by definitions given by the rational members of colonized societies who are impartial in their evaluation and examination of events.

One of the most compelling characteristics of a failing or failed state is a collapsed economy that is immediately trailed by widespread poverty. These two factors define the current topic of engagement because no civilization can claim modernization in its remote sense if its economy has collapsed. Therefore, it is challenging to avail Nigeria of this quagmire tagged “failed state” when one realizes that its economy has declined in recent years for reasons that are not unconnected to its excessive concentration on a single source of revenue. Such dependence, among other things, has killed the nation’s urge for creativity and diversification. And because the government has refused to be pluralistic in its economic approach, the political structure has been facing constant declination of values and worth.

It is difficult to compare the Nigeria of today and that of four or five decades ago. The declining economy has become the source of many existential challenges in which the country is currently circumscribed. Essentially, this has weakened its importance in the region of West Africa and Africa generally because not only has the country become the proverbial leaches of the international organizations that oversee the financial rescue of less economically viable countries and then serve donor countries that contribute to face-save them in time of crisis, the citizens have also been reduced to a diminished group of people who would retain no particular regard outside of their political and geographical outreach.

READ ALSO: Social Discourse And The Toyin Falola Interviews: Matters Arising

Various countries have emerged in recent years because they diversified their economies and concentrated intensely on ways to redeem their financial status in the comity of nations. However, Nigeria is stuck in the pit of economic debauchery because the government is too reliant on mono-economic sources of financial and economic income. This would not have been a problem if people’s economy does not affect their cultural and social systems. As Karl Marx argued in the past, when the economy, which is the basis for political engagement, collapses, there are usually devastating consequences that would be felt in other areas; hence the widespread poverty that Dr. Mailafia talked about in the Toyin Falola Interview Series.

Widespread poverty is one social problem that has faced Nigeria currently because its economy is in decline. The country’s economy is so weak that it cannot provide the necessary job security for the people, and the lack of employment opportunities has invariably increased the poverty level of Nigerians. Nigerians are embattled with the multiple problems of economic decline and poverty, which have inevitably increased the challenges they face day in and day out. Malnutrition and the inadequate health systems pervasive in the country are evidence that it has crossed the line and sunk into an abyss of terror. A few years ago, Nigeria was dubbed the world’s poverty capital because its citizens are said to live on a dollar per day. Such statistics are dumbfounding, not mainly because many people suffer from poverty, but also because Nigeria, which used to be the beacon of hope for the African continent, especially at the economic front, has now been labelled the poverty headquarters of the world in just four to five decades. This speaks to the lack of foresight in the political domain. The lack of visionary leaders at the echelon of power is a strong reason behind the accelerated increase in poverty and deprivation.

A failed state does not stop with these challenges. A famous proverb among the Yoruba people says that when big challenges overcome individuals, smaller ones would feast on them; the rising level of insecurity in the country is another signal of its serious condition. Nearly in all the corners of the country, there is no safe place for individuals to conduct their activities freely without nursing the fear that they may be rounded up by groups of criminals who believe in their guns as the decider of people’s fate. Insecurity is so widespread that people cannot be absolutely confident of their safety whenever they step outside their confines. Even in the comfort of their homes, there are growing instances of attacks on people. Insecurity in Nigeria is pervasive and deadly, and this is one of the reasons the country cannot escape the profiling it has experienced in recent times.

Undoubtedly, if the situation of a country mirrors that of Nigeria, its challenges would grow in leaps and bounds. For example, the security crisis has taken a comfortable seat in the country, which scares potential investors away for obvious reasons. Business investors worldwide are known to pick interest in places where they are confident of financial returns. When this is threatened, they will look elsewhere to invest. To this extent, insecurity is a disease that silently kills people and provides them with no actual possibility of an antidote that may give them the relief needed from time to time. Candidly, there are limitless opportunities in Nigeria so much that if they had been confronted with increased unemployment, there would be an opportunity to turn the situation into something desirable through investments in the economy. But when insecurity is added to the challenges facing the people, they have little chance of attracting the right business people who would elevate their status by investing in their moribund economy.

READ ALSO: Is Nigeria A Failing State?

One would think that Nigeria has demonstrated the highest of its shortcomings in its failure to function as a great country until one realizes that it is embroiled in many struggles. In essence, Nigerian problems are interwoven and interconnected. Apart from the fact that attracting the right people is problematic where the security challenges are pervasive, the realization that individuals are too psychologically weak to pursue any economic dream adds to the said problems. Sadly, the combination of these factors is grossly affecting Nigerian citizens in the contemporary world.

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More appalling is that the Nigerian state cannot deliver the essential public goods expected of a state. One of the public services expected of a functional government is protecting human rights; however, it is more benumbing that the Nigerian government has been unable to protect these fundamental human rights. Now the country seemed to have slipped into anarchy in some states, notably in Zamfara and Borno. The freedom of communication, on which mandate the government of the day rode to power, has been carefully and methodically infringed upon so much that the people exercise conscious restraint in discussing issues that affect them in public or social spaces. The gross disrespect for human rights and the abuse that comes from such attitudes give the impression that the protection of the citizens no longer takes a particular interest in the hearts of emerging political leaders.

Positions of power have been ambushed by individuals using power to enhance their selfish interests. The media houses responsible for the government’s victory are now feeling the heat of totalitarian policies targeted at their operations. For example, the ban placed on Twitter reflects only one thing–the absolute disregard for human rights. Including, but not limited to this, is the clampdown on the freedom of association that is getting to the heart of the political system. Free association with others has experienced similar treatment. One cannot associate with groups without feeling insecure because the ongoing security challenges that have engulfed the country continue to scare people from being involved with others on issues that affect their social networking. If these are part of the indices used to measure a failing state, Nigeria cannot be exempted from the list. The country has failed to protect its citizens, which is a major contribution to the pervasive insecurities in the land. While the government continues to increase the level of funding dedicated to the procurement of arms and ammunition, the results do not complement the monies spent. Budgetary allocation for security increases annually with little or no results to show for it. In other words, people have taken the insecurities pervasive in the country as an opportunity to perpetuate corruption on a larger scale. Meanwhile, the administration of justice has equally been complex.

At the interview session, Dr. Mailafia hinted that although everyone believes that peace can follow the absence of all violent activities and criminal engagements, the fact remains that when there is no justice, there can be no claim to peace, primarily as the current state of affair in the country does not support justice. For instance, it is readily impossible to have justice in situations where security operatives have constituted themselves as a parallel government where they carry out activities that naturally defy the ethics of their calling. On an occasion where the representatives at the political system are siphoning the public resources for their provincial gains, displaying an opulence got from the sweat of the public, it is difficult to ascribe any form of justice to such a political behaviour. Thus, there would be problems in collectively advancing the objectives and goals of such a country. In a recent exposition by the United States of America, the scandalous involvement of Nigeria’s Deputy Commissioner of Police with a popular cybercriminal, Hushpuppi, demonstrates how institutions in the country have been taken over by overzealous individuals who would pursue their ambition even at the expense of the state. This is corroborated by the actions of Nigerian politicians with unexplainable wealth, who gallivant the globe on the citizens’ wealth.

It gets exciting when we realize that Nigeria is a heterogeneous country with different people and varying cultural orientations who, upon the understanding that there is a perceived lopsided nationalist treatment, could consider seceding from the country to become independent. When Ms. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju asked Dr. Mailafia if the country truly deserves to remain a corporate entity or has the potential to remain one in the nearest future, we should understand more about the political possibilities of the country remaining indivisible. Dr. Mailafia considered the question a two-fold one, and he approached them differently yet educatively. He answered the first part of the question in the negative, not being preposterous in his prediction but by considering several trends that have become synonymous with the country. The first is the country’s demographic which doubles its numbers every thirty years. Coupled with the diminishing social and infrastructural services, pervasive insecurities, rising injustice, and widespread corruption, the possibility of the country surviving the next phase of its national identity is uncertain. Nearly all the countries that have dissolved their colonial identities have experienced what Nigeria is going through in the current time. The fact that they eventually broke up to form new states explains why a similar condition awaits Nigeria.

On the second question about if Dr. Mailafia would want the country to collapse so that different nations would emerge from its decay, he responded that it is not his wish to see the collapse of Nigeria. He argued that one of the reasons for his position is that apart from his nationalist spirit, he has grown so fond of the country and believes it can achieve an incredible potential if only the leaders take very decisive steps to salvage it. Whether the country deserves to survive or not is another thing entirely. Dr. Mailafia was unpretentious when he said he does not, in good conscience, think that the country deserves to survive, considering the numerous evils that have been perpetrated by the people in whose hands the country’s management is kept. This evil persisted beyond the corridors of power. The people who are nudged on by the leaders’ silence committed grave crimes and misgivings that are naturally irreconcilable and incompatible with progress. Civil strife in the 1960s and 1970s led people to kill others who were considered different from their ethnic identity. This civil war in the country between 1966 and 1970 was another offence against humanity. The fact that the blood of the innocent was used as the sacrifice to keep the country as one contradicts natural order, and for this reason, it is difficult to say if the country is deserving of remaining indivisible. Ethnic cleansing, religious killings, banditry, among others, characterize the Nigeria of the current time, making it difficult to say it deserves to remain one.

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Security challenges and the political theatre that prepared the stage for the proliferation of violence cannot be dissociated from the socioeconomic conditions that necessitated the horrible development in the first instance. Suppose by luck, a country is given a pass mark of credibility irrespective of the pervasive and constant violence and hostilities. In that case, there cannot be redemption for countries that have failed in their economic prosperity, for they would be vulnerable to all manner of threats that would potentially come their way. The Nigerian situation is exemplary of this condition strictly because the decline of its economy in recent years has reached an unprecedented scale.

To understand the relationship between a failing state and those whose financial oxygen has been infiltrated by particles and pebbles that are disastrous to the country’s health, a question was raised about the causes and effects of the continually reduced value of the country’s currency. By his age and experience, Dr. Mailafia qualifies as a historian on issues that border on Nigeria’s past events, especially from the 1960s onwards. His mind-opening input would enthuse us. According to him, the devaluation of the Nigerian currency is a product of many factors that need to be studied or appropriately contextualized for us to grab the knowledge of its status. For a currency that was far ahead of the American dollars in the 1960s and that was giving the British pounds a run for its money in the same period, one needs to address emerging situations that suddenly led to the surprising displacement of the values less than seven decades after.

However, the point of waterloo to the Nigerian Naira came in 1985 during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, under whom the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) sapped the values that the currency had managed to enjoy for a considerable number of years. As argued by a technocrat, the program was geared towards the de-industrialization of the country and the despoliation of their economic systems. The Nigerian currency began to drastically lose its values against the European and American currencies from that period. As if it was in a self-competition to outdo itself in the areas of value erosion, the Naira has been witnessing rapid declination from that period to the current time. This, according to Dr. Mailafia, is caused by several factors.

First, the high inflation rate in the country has predominantly affected the way the Naira presently stands, among other currencies. Also, the excessive dependence on importation accounts for the devaluation of the Nigerian currency. This particular variable resulted in a deficit in the country’s account balance and a trade deficit. Misguided economic and financial policies created by people unaware of how their government’s activities influence the Naira and thus act rashly also harm the country in this area. It is nauseous to be educated on the devaluation of the currency and then know the people who brought the calamity on their people. For example, the dollarization of the Nigerian economy, apart from the oil industry that was not covered by the sanction of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), also contributes to the devaluation of the nation’s currency. Coupled with the fact that some top politicians in the country have also been engrossed in the cultural tradition of using dollars above their currency, the devaluation of the country’s money does not always concern them. They have made a substantial amount of money through their deliberate act of disobedience to the standard regulations by the government. As such, they have more purchasing power when the Naira loses value.

All these factors combine to tell us that Nigeria is failing the test of being a solid state. To Dr. Mailafia, Nigeria lacks the power to control its profound contradictions and infractions. Where does Nigeria go from here?

(This is the first report on the interview with Dr. Obadiah Mailafia on August 15, 2021. Well attended, the number of a live audience was 1.3 million on six platforms. For part of the transcript, see Facebook https://fb.watch/7q9qf8tqEd/ Or YouTube:
https://youtu.be/vskrSktBGJY)

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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When Engineers Go Unethical

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  When Engineers Go  Unethical

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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