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How Public Leaders Can Foster Good Governance – Olaopa

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Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and Prof. Tunji Olaopa during the lecture in Benin on Wednesday.

The Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Prof. Tunji Olaopa, has outlined different strategies public leaders can adopt to foster good governance and development.

The professor of public administration spoke at the South-South States’ BRACED Commission Strategy Retreat on the theme ‘Leadership in the Public Sector: Strengthening Public Institutions through Capacity Building’ held in Benin City on Wednesday , July 3, 2024.

Olaopa whose lecture was entitled “Strategic Leadership in Civil/Public Service: Challenges, Opportunities and Future Prospect” said that his core of audience was made up of colleague-bureaucrats and policy managers in government.

Prof. Tunji Olaopa delivering the lecture.

Thus for him, his interest in the lecture was to highlight public service leaders’
“role in conceptualising and shaping the idea of who the public servant-bureaucrat is and should be during our time, and the image the civil service should have in our generation.”

Olaopa offered some ideas on the critical skills public service leaders need to successfully manage “unfolding public sector frontiers and transitions.”

According to him, public administration and the management of the public service as the engine room for good governance have come a long way.

But to him, “each administrative epoch and generation determines the concept of who the public/civil servant of that era is and should be, and which image of the public administrator would best serve the generational purpose it has committed the profession to as a generational construct.

“This is because image and purpose undergirding the sense of service that the public administrator connects with is determined by the administrative responsibility that leadership vision and mission, as ideological constructs, demand, given the context in which the civil servant is called to serve.”

Thus to him, in reimagining who a civil servant is and should be, there is the need to go back to the Nigerian civil service in its glorious era of the 1960s to the mid-70s, “a time when we had a globally celebrated service that was constructed on an elite and prestige model with two component parts namely, material and intangible parts.”

At the material level, according to him, civil servants enjoyed security of tenure, competitive wage level, reinforced with social guarantees and benefits, social insurance, and a robust retirement package.

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and another participant during the lecture.

But he lamented that “as with everything Nigerian, as the country grew in size and as the governance space expanded unsustainably, we grew up to play politics with every index that was critical to our emerging future.

“We lost the scientific orientation of future thinking and strategic planning and started to reward mediocrity in a national culture of ‘anything goes’ that displaced the culture of deferred gratification with an unreflective ‘something for nothing’ orientation. We lost the capacity and capability to manage our growing profile when we started to sacrifice merit, quality, disciplined execution, in a measure that made us to start benchmarking failure as the compass for understanding past perpetual transitions that never add up to ignite significant transformation as our much desired leap into greatness. ”

Olaopa said that at the level of the intangibles, the civil servants, in those glorious years, had a mix of a deep of sense of honour “which comes with being servants of the state noblesse oblige, on the one hand and a deep sense of values ingrained in the culture of deferred gratification and integrity that earned bureaucrats unsurpassed level of respect, status, prestige, trust, and authority which the entire Nigerian society held as sacrosanct.”

Regretting the loss of that cultural orientation which the founding fathers inherited from the British, Olaopa said that the first demand that the profession of administrative leaders in Nigeria puts on them is to lead by example, and to be change agents committed to the reform of the public service through its reinvention as a value-based institution.

“This will require the implementation of a cultural adjustment programme that connects public service values with the hearts and minds of officers through the insertion of a new administrative mentality circumscribed by the ideal of public spiritedness, excellence in service, and total submission to the rule of law and constitutional order as the basis for personal and public accountability.

“Therefore, the concept and understanding of who the public manager is, and her compelling managerial responsibilities and imperatives keep getting transformed by political, cultural, administrative and professional circumstances and the realities shaping the state of being of the generality of citizens whose interest she administers, and the level of political leadership thereto” , he said.

Olaopa who traced the development of
public administration through the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs administrative establishment , the Roman Empire and the post-French Revolution era, said that
in the 21st century and the emerging 4th and 5th Industrial Revolutions, public administration “has had to contend with what Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus have called the VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – environment that conditions the performance, stagnancy or outright failure of any public sector organisation and its institutional elements.”

He said that the multidimensional and entangled nature of the global problems associated with the VUCA policy environment is now referred to as a polycrisis.

Explaining this, Olaopa defined a polycrisis as speaking “to how many of the world problems, from Covid-19 and climate change to cybersecurity, terrorism to armed conflicts and populist-leaderless ENDSars cum Arabs Springs nationalism, that are all connected and crisscrossing in manners that affect how we think about human progress and flourishing.”

Thus for him, these crises require that
” political and administrative leadership corps are expected to play critical and determining roles in mediating these many and varied complex challenges.”

“Many of these developments demand that public administrators continually interrogate the way and manner the business of government is conducted, in order to subject bureaucratic practices and protocols to required changes so they are able to fit in and thrive in the new age”, he said.

For Olaopa, if good governance then becomes the trigger, and policy intelligence, institutional capability readiness and service delivery revolution have become the compelling game changer, then the traditional ‘I am directed’ Weberian administrative orientation will obviously be even more inadequate.

The key to the transformation of the public service, to him, therefore, will be the emergence of a new generation of public managers who are self-motivated, competent, committed and imbued with intellectual courage to push for paradigm shifting changes required to install systems, structures and work culture with a structured leadership acumen that supports the workforce to move from current states to desirable states .

Thus as change leaders, public administrators are to get the best out of the workforce by targeting staff morale to create incentives for peak performance by instilling discipline into implementation processes that are essentially focused on the right kind of targets, performance indicators and data and feedback.

“They are to transform the internal processes of MDAs by utilising cultural change approaches that affect mental models, reprofile strategic communication, remodel decision making systems, and reprofile inter-departmental cum sectors relations for a whole of government system thinking praxis.

“Instigate institutional and operational innovations in rethinking the role of government so that MDAs will concentrate on areas of their core competences while exploring alternative delivering models to deliver on their ‘non-core’ functions as window to unleash service delivery revolution”, Olaopa said.

He urged that public administrators need to build such change management skills and competences as networking skills, partnership development around open government date, framing issues results and outcomes, smarter citizens engagement practices that leverage social and multimedia, crowdsourcing, branding and user data analytics .

“PPPs are as yet fully optimised to enable public private sectors economies of scale and therefore require that we build commercial skills that enables civil servants to understand the working of the markets and how to create, manage and support businesses in co-creation dynamics”, he said.

He listed the Awolowo-Adebo model as one classic example that he has studied of how politics and administration can both be distinct and efficient in facilitating good governance.

“The two leaders provided the change space of a transformational kind. Chief Adebo provided an administrative context that took the civil service profession seriously as a calling and a workplace grounded on a sense of value and meaning.

“The CSC took his gatekeeping responsibility almost like a religion., by safeguarding public service values and holding merit as sacrosanct.

“Town-Gown synergy strengthened policy, strategic intelligence and bureaucratic and skills with the infusion of ideas and innovative reflections from the academia and industry in a systematic and institutionalised pattern.

“Staff development and welfare was well planned to achieve work-life balance and labour productivity, while industrial relation was democratic, collaborative and developmental.

“This was the managerial orientation subsisting up until the Gowon super-permanent secretaries’ era that enabled the prosecution of the civil war leaving the country stronger as ever”, Olaopa said.

He said that public service change leaders would need to transcend the known traditional bureaucratic skills and acumen by demonstrating the capacity to juggle distinct managerial competences to keep the public sector fit to navigate the many VUCA dynamics embedded in the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolutions through capability readiness to manoeuvre through the following roles:

According to him, they need to be experts advising government on policy decisions; regulators over-sighting outsourced and externalised non-core functions of government; engagers by shaping the larger issue of public good and how it affects the delivery of public value and public good; and reticulists identifying new skills and expertise and bringing them together to achieve good results .

“Besides, you will be required to facilitate change leadership within a change space model characterised by a leadership that is more about groups than individuals. Here multilevel leaders will be identified based on their functional contributions rather than their position in the hierarchy.

“This was the institutional capability enabled in Japan in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Economic Development Board in Singapore where both bureaucratic structures facilitated the accelerated outlier change and development achievements that positioned them for global competitiveness in perpetuity”, Olaopa added.

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Tinubu Approves N70,000 Minimum Wage

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BREAKING: Dogara, Babachir Lead Northern Christians Against Tinubu's Muslim-Muslim Ticket

By John Michael Ojo

The Federal Government on Thursday, pegged the new national minimum wage at N70,000.

This was made known by Mr Bayo Onanuga, a Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“President Bola Tinubu has approved N70,000 minimum wage for Nigerian workers with promise to review the national minimum wage law every three years.

“President Tinubu also promised to find ways to assist the private sector and the sub-nationals to pay the minimum wage.

“President Tinubu announced the decisions at the meeting held with leaders of TUC and NLC on Thursday in Abuja, the second time the parties met in 7 days,” the statement read.

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Olaopa Urges Youths To Shun Japa Syndrome, Prepare For Leadership

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Prof. Tunji Olaopa flanked by Hon Abike Dabiri (left )and Prof. Oladapo Afolabi , former Head of Service of the Federation ( right) at the event on Thursday.

The Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, has urged youths to prepare for leadership positions early in life instead of travelling overseas to seek opportunities, a development that is popularly known as the Japa syndrome.

The seasoned bureaucrat and former federal permanent secretary said that opportunities abound for youths but that they could only access them when they begin early .

According to Olaopa who spoke on Thursday during the 2023/2024 graduation of KIA Lakeside Academy in Abuja, these opportunities will elude the youths if they opt to go and wander on the streets of foreign countries. He said : ” In the civil service I am very familiar with, people grow old and retire every day. We need youths to fill such vacancies that the old people leave behind . If all the youths go abroad to be doing menial jobs, do we go to Ghana and other neighbouring countries to employ their youths?

Prof. Tunji Olaopa and Prof. Oladapo Afolabi, former Head of Service of the Federation at the event.

He said that under his leadership of the Federal Civil Service, there is so  much hope for youths to access federal jobs. He said he had decided to maintain a policy of transparency and equity in making jobs in the civil service available for all eligible Nigerian youths through open advertisement.

He said in the area of political leadership, the older generation could not keep on dominating the sector. He said that the youths would be need to replace the old political leaders as they quit the scene.

According to him, the ability to prepare early for leadership goes hand in hand with a clear vision. He said nobody could prepare for anything if there is no clear vision of where they are going or what they want.

He said people who reach great heights in life always have a clear vision of where they are going early in life and they work towards it. He gave the example of former United States President Bill Clinton who as a youth had a clear vision of being his nation’s leader.

According to Olaopa, past and current leaders in Nigeria have had early in their youths clear visions of what they want in life. He said it was this clear visions early in life that made them trailblazers in different areas of life. In politics he cited Chief Obafemi Awolowo , Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and others. He said that these were trailblazers in their youth. He said in business, young people have become trailblazers.

He said that because of the opportunities the current world offers, youths do not need to become old people before reaching great heights in life. According to him, youths have become trailblazers in technology . He mentioned the examples of Zuckerberg of Facebook, Elon Musk and a younger Bill Gates.

Talking about breaking the glass ceiling, Olaopa said that no gender barrier should stop anyone from reaching the summit of life. He said many women in the past and the present have been trailblazers. He mentioned Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Dora Akunyili,l and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. He said unlike in the past , many bank CEOs in Nigeria are currently women.

However, Olaopa said that nobody could be a trailblazer without preparation. He said this preparation comes in the form of education. He quoted Nelson Mandela who once observed that “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” He said if in the past people we regard as great today could get education despite the huge barriers they were faced with, youths of today have no excuse. He said Awolowo was faced with a huge educational disadvantage which he overcame by studying at home . He said Azikiwe had to find his way overseas where he suffered to educate himself. According to him, one of the greatest lawyers today in Nigeria is Chief Afe Babalola. He said Babalola overcame his challenges by studying at home and that today he owns one of the best universities in the country.

According to him, youths who lack the opportunity of going to formal university classrooms can avail themselves of the opportunities offered by the open university system that the Federal Government supports .

He said that in fact President Bola Tinubu has demonstrated his interest in the education of the less-privileged through his government’s Student loan scheme. He said that youths who desire to acquire university education but have no sponsors can use that scheme.

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Tinubu Appoints Walson-Jack Head Of Service As Yemi-Esan Retires

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Walson-Jack

As the current Head of Service Folasade Yemi-Esan, CFR, is due to retire on August 13, 2024, President Bola Tinubu has approved her replacement. She is Mrs. Didi Esther Walson-Jack.

Mrs. Walson-Jack was appointed as Federal Permanent Secretary in 2017 and has served in several Ministries.

While thanking Yemi-Esan  for her stewardship, President Tinubu tasked the incoming Head of Service to discharge her duties with innovative flair, integrity, and stringent adherence to the extant rules and regulations of the Civil Service of the Federation.

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