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Am I Really The Dad?: Paternity Matters

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Stop This Absurdity, Let Kids  Enjoy Their Innocence

 By

Grace Ego Omoni

If an individual does not know his or her root, then such a one has no idea what the future holds for him or her in the traditional African society especially  where the patrilineal  family system is practised. Among several ethnic groups in Nigeria,  the Yorubas and the Ukwuanis in the South West and the Niger Delta respectively, the identity of the individual is held in high esteem. The nomenclature or heritage of the family is known and preserved through their cognomen known as “Orikri” in Yoruba and “Efa otutu imusu” in Ukwuani. The cognomen of the family talks about the attributes of the family stock.

According to Akinwowo, the cognomen refers to the praise, chants, recitations and poetic lyrics of achievements of a group’s ancestry which are intended to provide a great amount of historical or biological information of that person’s identity. The purpose is to preserve a record of  the valued past of the family the person  comes from and to spur  him or her to greater achievements in emulation of their ancestors. In fact, it fosters hope for the individual. Often when a child wakes up early in the morning  to greet, the parents  burst  into praises and chants about the family’s exploits in the past  that made them outstanding in their ancestral vicinity either in terms of bravery or the profession in which they are noted for.

A child who fails to  exhibit such characteristics or ancestral attributes embedded in the cognomen of the family is often suspected as a bastard leading to paternity questions by the father or other family members secretly or outright !  Fathers of such children accuse their wives of infidelity and traditionally find ways to discover the truth. The above history is given to help the reader understand that in our African society, identity is of utmost  importance for an individual’s social and cultural  survival. Anything that will cause  the individual to have issues concerning his  or her identity as a member of the family  is often greeted with pains, shame and sorrow.

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Today, the issue of paternity fraud has become so rampant that many families have been disrupted. It  has led to controversies, unknown illnesses and even  deaths. The reader will agree with the writer that cases of promiscuity, adultery, infidelity and all sorts of sexual misdemeanor have become the order of the day among the young and the  old, the single, the  unmarried as well as the married, the highly respected and low, the have and the have not. In time past,  married women rarely engage in extramarital sex or else, she would have to face the wrath of the gods.

Nature has a way of exposing this evil and the woman is  made to confess. For instance, the child or the woman in question may fall sick and defy all manner of treatment and may  even die if she failed  to confess. The man who also knows that the wife committed such a crime and failed to tell his family members might also be afflicted with inexplicable occurrences until solutions are sought traditionally.

Paternity fraud as noted earlier is very much in our midst. Sometime past, there was this young man who could not get his wife pregnant. The twin sister to the wife who also was married had had her own children. Their mother was worried and sought   trado-medical help. There and then, they were told that the husband was answering the  name of one who was not the father.  The young man forced his own mother to say the truth and  to take him to his biological father. There was a legal tussle! The  other man  sued for  damages and asked for  millions of naira as compensation for the investment in the child. It was after this that the young man  started having his own children.

The mother was thrown out of her marriage and the new father could not marry her because he had  his own legal wife.  The woman became the greatest loser! A recent one was that of a young woman who had  two sex  partners,  got pregnant and  was forced into marrying the richer of the two by her parents. Nature proved them wrong for she eventually had the child, it was an albino! Everyone  in the village  knew the paternity of the baby. The mother of the girl’s  other sex partner happened to be an albino! That was how she was sent packing to  settle with the biological father of the child. There are so many other instances. A friend told me how  a 63-year-old man was brought to her family even after the death of their father. The sibling  could not deny his paternity because they all saw the perfect resemblance between their late father and the man.

In this article, the following sub- topics  will  be briefly  discussed: Parent and Parenthood; Paternity Fraud; Causes of Paternity Fraud; Consequences and  Counselling Strategies.

Parent and Parenthood:

During marriage ceremonies, one of  the prayers people hold in high esteem is that of the new family being blessed with children, hence the alligator pepper is used  for the blessings because   of the belief that it symbolises fertility. Being a father or a mother is greeted with pomp and circumstances. Thus,  a parent is a person’s biological mother or father. A parent is one from whom a child is descended. The term generally refers to the natural biological or natural father and mother of a person whether  they  are married or not. At times the parent could be a  surrogate, adoptive, foster or guardian but in this write-up, the parent  here is limited to the natural or biological person(s). Parenthood is the state of being a parent. Specifically,  it is the function of being a parent.

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Parenthood is the function the father and mother assume when a child is born. They have the responsibility to give spiritual, emotional, educational, financial and social  care to the child. Married couples anxiously wait for them to become parents but when the waiting is prolonged,  there the trouble starts. Some engage in extramarital affairs that lead to paternity matters. Sexual pervasion  prevalent in the society has led to  serious pathetic paternity issues and these have made men to become aggressively agitated against female culprits  and most often  seek to be convinced whether they are actually the father of the children born to them and in whom they are investing . Again, many of these children exhibit characters not found in the ancestral history of their families as indicated in the cognomen. This has heightened the doubts in the men whether these children possess their genes; hence, the question, “Am I the  real Dad?: Paternity Matters.”

Paternity Fraud:

This may be a new term but its occurrence in the society is as old as man. Paternity fraud occurs when a man is incorrectly identified as the father of a child. The underlying assumption of paternity fraud is that the mother of the said child deliberately misidentifies  the biological father. Of cause, in our society an old aphorism  asserts that it is only the mother that knows the father of her child. In other words, while maternity is a matter of fact, paternity is a matter of opinion! When a mother deliberately gives false information to the husband as being the father of a child at birth after being pregnant for some other man, it is referred to as paternity fraud. It can also be called misattributed paternity, paternal discrepancy or paternal unknowingbility.

About a year ago, the media carried the news of a bank managing director who  was actually the biological father of  the children of his female subordinate in the organization. The revelation led to the eventual  premature death of the legal husband of the woman.  The society was mad at the story and demanded  justice. Many children today are in the dilemma of searching for their real biological fathers and men/ husbands are also secretly nursing the fear whether they are the actual fathers of the kids they are raising and investing in. Paternity issue therefore arises when  a man is claiming to be the biological father of the child while the mother is denying or when the mother is claiming that the man is the father and the man is denying the paternity or when a child demands to know his or her actual biological father.

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Causes of Paternity Fraud:

Some of the factors precipitating this phenomenon in Nigeria and worldwide include:

a) Promiscuity: This is the practice of multiple sex partners without discretion. Men and women are involved. Sexual weakness is prevalent among adolescents, the young, the adults as well as the married and the unmarried who engage in indiscriminate sex habits. Many are into multiple sex relationships with no regard to societal values and norms. The entertainment industry is part of this problem of promiscuity with films presented to viewers who fail to differentiate between make belief and reality. When viewers put into practise these negative presentations in films, the result is unwanted pregnancies which they deliberately  give to their husbands for those who are married or to any man of their choice if unmarried. This is indeed paternity fraud in action!

b) Infidelity and Adultery: The terms refer to  sexual acts by men and women who are married outside their marriage. It is also called extramarital affair. Infidelity refers to any violation or betrayal of the mutually agreed rules  and boundaries of an intimate relationship. When it occurs, it is typically viewed as marital betrayal. Some women go into it as a retaliation or a revenge mission against their cheating husband. Other causes of adultery or infidelity are poor communication, low self-esteem, delayed pregnancy and infertility problem between husband and wife. It is the act of the man or woman having sexual intercourse with a partner other than his or her spouse.

In fact, any sexual liaison other  than ones’ husband or wife is  infidelity. It means that the person has committed adultery and a breach of mutual contract in Christian and civil marriage. In traditional or Muslim setting, it may not be tenable for the man for they practise polgamy. Again in our African society, the gravity of infidelity or adultery is of a more serious offence on the part of the woman. Infidelity or adultery can lead to paternity fraud when pregnancy is involved. The woman has the tendency  of fraudulently or deliberately presenting the child as the husband’s own to avoid shame.

However, if the man is suspicious, he is likely to contest the paternity. Again many have given reasons for such acts. Some say that it might be that the husband cannot father a child and since society frowns on infertility, the woman goes out to get one to save the face of the husband. However, if it is a unilateral decision by the woman alone,  there is bound to be paternity matter. Either that the real father of the child will come back to claim the paternity  of the child or the real husband will totally reject and goes to the court or to the traditional council to prove  that he is not the father with evidence  and  medical backup. It should be noted that women who cheat on their husbands lose respect in the society and it might cause them their marriage especially when it pertains to paternity issues.

c) Poor Orientation: Many people have poor orientation about the sanctity of marriage and why it  is necessary to exercise decorum in practising extra-marital sex outside marriage. They also have poor knowledge of what it does to the nuclear and extended  family. Inadequate training on marital issues by parents, religious institutions and counselling centres are part of the problems of paternity matters.  From the religious point of view, sex outside your marriage is sin and there are  consequences before God and man.  Added to the above are  girls being forced to marry men they do not love. Greed for wealth is another probable reason especially if the spouse is poor and she finds another man enticing her with money. Again some women are of easy character and may not be satisfied with staying with only one man.

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Consequences of Paternity Fraud

a) It leads to distrust between husband and wife.

b) It disrupts marriages and leads to divorce which will eventually affect the upbringing of the children.

c)It leads to health hazards and premature  deaths. Out of frustration, the man or the woman might decide to commit suicide.

d)The extended family may decide to ostracize both the child and the mother and even their own son if he refused to let mother and child go.

e) The child of controversy may become permanently and emotionally devastated leading to deviant behaviour or even suicide. Such a child loses his integrity in the society. Some people will deliberately mock and rebuff such a child in order to have the opportunity to make him know that he has no identity in the society.

f)The woman loses integrity in the society and becomes  the object of ridicule.

g) It leads to conflicts and disunity in both the family and the society.

h) The socio-economic status of the family may change for the worse.

Counselling Strategies:

i) Couples should attend marriage counselling sessions before tying the knots.

ii) Parents should teach their children the rudiments of marriage and sanctity of fidelity. The girls must be counselled to shield the pride of womanhood by being decent.

iii) Couples should go for fertility screening before  plunging into marriage.

iv) Seminar on sexuality education is mandatory before and after marriage.

v) Churches, schools, health care givers and religious bodies should from time to time give frank talks on marital matters such as husband-wife relationship, coping with delayed pregnancy, fertility issues as well as consequences of cheating, infidelity and promiscuity.

vi) Doubting couples should go for DNA tests.

vii)Go to paternity courts instead of taking laws into their hands which might result in more scandal or murder cases.

viii) Couples should be taught strategies for  coping with stress and emotional incapacitation due to paternity matters.

ix) Couples should learn to be patient and wait on God as well as seek medical help from gynecologists when there is delay in getting pregnant by the husbands.

x) Parents should desist from coercing their daughters into marrying men they do not love.

xi) The content of the school curriculum should include marital counselling as a subject and just embedded in home economics.

xii) The government, voluntary organisations and private individuals should establish counselling centres where issues pertaining to marriage are addressed.

xiii) People should learn to stop this madness of promiscuity ravaging the society. Women especially need to exhibit self-control. Sexual intercourse is not food!

xiv) The entertainment industry should be selective in the films produced and presented to viewers.  Those promoting indiscriminate sex practices should be scrapped and government needs to  monitor the producers’ activities and place bans on illicit films from the market.

xv) Intending couples should  compulsorily  visit the hospital to know their genotype and Rhesus factor. These will help  them  to determine whether they are compatible in terms of child bearing or not. Please Christians take note. God will not give you sorrow. Every good gift comes from God. So if your Rhesus factor is not compatible with your would-be spouse  think twice before you continue with  the relationship. Parting at this early stage is better than infidelity and engaging in paternity fraud inside marriage.

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Paternity fraud is fast taking over our valued cherished family system.  The rate of paternity fraud in the world today is alarming. Women shamelessly talk about their extra-marital affairs in court when being questioned. In fact, women have lost the pride of womanhood in our society especially in the western world and Nigerians are copying them forgetting their ancestral root! There should be a  rethink. Many  fathers are no longer sure whether the kids are their real biological offspring .

Most traditional families are fast losing the attributes of their ancestral achievements found in the children born into the families. Premature deaths and disillusionment are now rampant in Nigeria. There is the  need for society to go back to the roots. Women, you are being challenged to please show respect for womanhood.  Be role models to the younger generation. Desist from adulterous acts and be content with your marriage. God expects you to procreate following the rules thereof and do not create the atmosphere for the men to ask: “Am I the real Dad?”

The price paid for a happy marriage is sacrifice. Be ready to stick out your neck to make sacrifice to keep the relationship. If you refuse to, the relationship will die and the consequence is a breakdown of law and order in the society, thus carving out a bleak future for the innocent children you brought into the world.

 

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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.

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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

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.

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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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