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Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

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Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

By

 Toyin Falola

I spent over 20 years of my working life abroad as a university teacher, banker and international civil servant with an unblemished record. I have no criminal record — not even a parking ticket. Sadly, it is in my own fatherland that I’m being subjected to criminal investigation and such extreme political persecution. Please, pray for me. I have reasons to believe that my life is in danger and that some powerful political forces want to silence me forever for speaking the truth. For speaking on behalf of the Holy Martyrs — of thousands of innocent children, women, elderly and youths that have been killed in our beloved country.

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, 2021.

'How Doctors Shabbily Treated Mailafia While Dying'

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia

Today, I have not come to bid farewell to a compatriot whose resolution to strengthen the political system of his homeland through revolutionizing the minds of the people continues to flog the political merchandisers in their weakest point. Instead, I have come to combine my lamentations with the grief of others who have accepted the deceased as the shining light in the darkness of leadership quagmire that Nigeria fits its description. Justifiably so, I do have reasons to lament because the agitations of a critical voice represented by Dr. Obadiah Mailafia are a reminder that the country called Nigeria might have increased in age, but it remains a dwarf in the practices of federalism and democracy. Any country that cannot protect its minority members is a failure.

Apart from the insinuation that the sudden death of the deceased cannot be excused from the see-no-evil political elite of the country, as implicitly contained in his declaration quoted above, that sudden exit from the face of the earth is an affirmation that dysfunctional systems are not usually ineffective as the general impression against them has indicated. These systems are effective in frustrating and then losing their best brains to different causes—death, migrations, desertion, among other things. Nigerian systems are not especially effective positively, not because they lack the requisite ability and materials to do so, but because they are paralyzed by leaders who lack the needed goodwill to drive the people forward.

For all it is worth, Mailafia’s death was avoidable; however, its (un)avoidability is proportional to the leaders’ intentions who control the country’s power. The power controllers of dysfunctional systems are usually impugning on the autonomous right of institutions so that they could get results that align with their myopic vision. Such is the danger of having hind-sighted dummies in the theatre of power of a country, more so, of a country that is supposed to be the most populous Black nation. But when these self-serving individuals at the corridor of power pursue their selfish agenda in their bid to shut every critical voice, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic comment makes it apparent that what they are doing is called a defence mechanism. The relationship between the systematic silencing of a vibrant voice and dysfunctional system is that instead of facing the bulk of responsibilities staring the country’s leaders in the face, they scare genius minds away from the corridor of representation and force them into accepting silence as the preferred mode of political participation. Leaders who are faced with ideas deficit pay more prominent attention to voices that raise contradictory opinions because their ignorance is usually drowned in the ocean of truth, which these voices speak all the time.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

Please make no mistake. I have not alleged that the death of Mailafia came from any particular interest group as far as Nigeria is concerned, but it is difficult to absolve the government of such indictment when it has successfully registered into the minds of individuals who are supposed to discharge their statutory duties without intimidation, that the government is particularly interested in how it handles its clients, be it from bank to its customers, police to the citizens, court to the people, and even hospitals to their patients. This conclusion is inevitable given the agonizing declaration of Obadiah Mailafia on a dying bed in one of the country’s most respected medical services arenas.

For the honourable man, the deceased, to have declared that “I have reasons to believe that my life is in danger and that some powerful political forces want to silence me forever for speaking the truth” suggests that institutions cannot function effectively in a political geography where the government is averse to opposition and perspectives that put them on their toes. Ironically, in a truthfully democratic setting, no government would function effectively without having a persistent voice calling it to order and charging it to undertake its statutory responsibilities.

Today, as I write, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, with whom I shared a communicative space some few weeks ago about raging issues and emerging concerns around Nigeria, exists no more—a victim of institutional decadence that follows nearly all postcolonial African countries. At the departure of the West in the Nigerian political landscape, we thought it would be the immediate euthanizing of invirile leadership, bad governance, and insecure political elites whose sense of safety is ensured only when they victimize the defenceless masses. However, experiences in recent times have not only told us we were too ambitious with our dreams; they have also revealed to us that we were hallucinating, in 1960, about a utopian future.

READ ALSO: ‘How Doctors Shabbily Treated Mailafia While Dying’

What does it matter if the picture of the person who occupies the highest political seat in the country is different when the safety of revolutionaries cannot be guaranteed immediately they decide to speak for the masses? Has colonialism not eroded the sense of postcolonial Nigerian leaders knowing that critical voices against their administration, even when they have ulterior motives, help drive them to a direction where it would be easier to achieve greatness? Who would tell the Nigerian government, and maybe every society that is averse to truth-telling, that intellectual voices like Mailafia need to be preserved for they serve as eyes to their people and the country’s future? Who?

If the statement attributed to the dead is factual, at what point would we collectively, as a people, understand that while you can silence the body that houses the voice of reason, no one can silence the voice itself, for it speaks using different body containers? From the inception of human society, there have been people who would offer alternative perspectives to everything. In fact, these people are usually understood based on the age of collective wisdom that their society has acquired. They consider them good or evil according to what they define as good or bad, which has something to do with their evolutionary progress.

During his time in Rome, Aristotle saw differently from what the ancient Romans had seen and dared the system to improve their vision by considering, as fundamental principles of life, those things they had frozen. Ironically, he was tried before by the law for which he was trying to challenge. It was evident that Aristotle was against a war he would not materially win. He lost his life in the process, but his vision would eventually fire Rome to an enviable position in many aspects of life. Galileo, during his period, saw the world differently as an astrologer and a philosopher. The leaders were paranoid, and they crushed his life because they could not fathom his thoughts. Dr. Mailafia, with whom I communicated last month, became sore in the throat of a particular political class, who derived benefits from the compromised values of a medical system to “silence his voice forever.”

Beyond the deep sore dug in the throat of your loved ones, Mailafia, because of your sudden and unforeseen demise, the memories you left behind are a scent of courage and hope because you showed that a geometric rise of people is possible regardless of their economic and political background. Your life was a lesson that one can be generally successful without having to take the wrong routes. You rose from grass and definitely to grace. From zero, you became a hero just because your determination to defy the gravity of poverty outweighed your zeal for all unnecessary distractions. Because you lived a life of purpose, you were an inspiration to a generation of Nigerians who never imagined arriving at the pinnacle of their career due to the impression that the system is rigged to eternally frustrate and discourage them. This means that while you acknowledged the dysfunctionality of the system in which you found yourself, you never relented or showed a sign of defeat to nature. You made use of the materials available in your surroundings and transformed the life you were given. Today, your fans, starting from your immediate family members (children, wife, and even parents) to the admirers of the legacy you left behind, are proud to have associated with you in your lifetime.

READ ALSO: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And The Nigerian Story Of Leadership Failure

But then you have left a wound in our hearts, those of us who have enjoyed the fecundity of your wisdom from a close distance. You have gone suddenly away from our midst, making us feel sharp and robust pains that leave untold emotional wreck in our minds. It was not easy for you to die, apparently, but trust me when I say that your pain was temporary and your agony was very brief compared to what we, whom you left behind, would feel anytime we remember the shining Soul that you were and the beautiful mind that you represented. Mailafia, the path  we have chosen to tread as public intellectuals is becoming lonelier, compounded by the cloudy future we face in this trajectory where voices of freedom and reason are aggressively challenged because they speak a truth that is too deafening for tyrants all over the world to accommodate.

But would we now bow to their pressure and submit the future of innocent generations to their hand, Obadiah? Would we now lose focus and be distracted by those who window-dressed their cowardice and choose to lick the boot of political merchandizer as a way to augment their living and pretend everything is good, Mailafia? Would we now accede to the pressure of selfish leaders who wanted to run a government that does not entertain alternative perspectives, dear erudite?

I ask all these rhetorical questions because of the prescience of your predictions about the country in recent years, and because I was struck by the unusualness of your exit from the face of the earth. In my last conversation with you, you expressed your concerns and mentioned how the welfare of the people in the country has been technically silenced by the emergence of curable security problems. I remember you saying that the future is in the gloom as long as the political machinations in the country continue with such a level of questionable determination. You expressed your feelings about the country’s economy that has witnessed unprecedented deterioration in recent times because of poor policies and an unwillingness to ask for help where and when it is needed. You decried the apparent political misdemeanour that has encouraged this predatory economic geography and explained to the international audience that surviving the current economic hardship that has bedevilled the country is like surfing an ocean without the necessary equipment and with no dependable knowledge of swimming. You never really imagined the courage you enhanced in the hearts of many who share from your optimism, provided the country’s boat is rightly paddled. Together, we recently discussed the expanding dangerous legacies that neocolonial African leaders make from the inheritance they get from their erstwhile imperialists and how it seems they are married to the ideas imposed on them for life.

About Nigeria, Dr. Mailafia dialogued with me on the possibility of internal colonization, which people at the helm of power seem to exploit continuously. The fact that people’s psychology has been complicated by various experiences of disappointment, discriminatory regulations, and marginalization has further emboldened them to take a similar trajectory when they have opportunities to serve in any position of power. I remember vividly when Dr. Mailafia concluded that the rot has permeated nearly all institutions in the country, as it has moved confidently away from being domiciled by the government at the central level to every level where administration of power is demonstrated. Everyone becomes a potential despot, seeking any available opportunity to unleash their mayhem on the innocent people of the country. In essence, seeking power has been considered a great desire to provide some immunity to the individual away from the regulations naturally meant for the majority.

How could you have died, Obadiah, when you came up with lofty ideas about how the country can face head-on the challenges of mismanagement and insecurity that have bedevilled it? Were you not the one who said that fundamental changes will happen to the country the moment the citizens elect politicians of good political will? When I asked you how this is possible and ameliorative to the challenges we identified in the country, you told me categorically that good political will pave ways for other transformational engagements of every country. I remember with keen interest how you demonstrably linked the political goodwill of a leader to their interests in taking active attention to areas that deserve urgent leadership involvement. You said that through this, all institutions landlocked in the geography of dysfunctionality would have the concentration that could immediately propel them into what naturally obtains in a democratic society. You mentioned that to strengthen the country’s government, the quest for equality, which can be promised by the installation of a decentralized system, would be possible only when there is the political will by the commander-in-chief. You concluded, albeit hilariously, by getting a reinforcement of your position by quoting Psalm 11 vs 3 of the Holy Bible: “If the foundations are destroyed – what do the righteous do?”

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

Our belief that the country’s bureaucrats are firmly behind this disruption because they have vested economic interests that they seek to protect at all cost was strengthened by your educative insight when you explained the connection between them and the government policy statements. We both lamented that whenever the country seemed to have made any modest progress in putting their challenging democratic experiences behind, they are usually overtaken by leaders who have no business in the corridor of power in the first place. Temptingly, this is where we almost shelved the blame of irresponsible leadership that has beleaguered the country to the West. While they are entirely absolved of this indictment because of the different interventionist engagements that sometimes have negative consequences on the people, there can be no excuse for the leaders who have made themselves the willing tool for the facilitation of exploitation by the West. Nigerian leaders are vain. They are eternally married to selfish ambition as long as they have financial and economic privileges, notwithstanding the conditions of those underneath them.

Listening to the announcement of your demise came with a rude shock, the magnitude of which I struggled to contain with a powerful price. For a man of your zeal and bravado, of course, you cannot evade death, just as nobody will, but then, death happening to you at that age and stage is something of a generational loss to the country, even in their ignorance. Beyond what could be imagined, you placed the Middle Belt of the country within the proper frame of relevance, where national concentration on them became inevitable, and their travails and challenges have become an international discourse. It was because you strive to arrive at excellence that you won the opportunity to serve at the apex of your career, in which such has been systematically drawn away from your people for a protracted period. You have produced ideas and philosophies, made informed decisions at the national level, and have contributed significantly to the promotion of excellence in the country while you had the opportunity to do so. Even when you left the public office, you continued to offer vital support to enhance the country’s progress.

Within the period of your existence, haven’t you challenged the stereotype by defying all the pressure from offensive camps? Unlike many revolutionaries, you never saw yourself lacking power, even when it was apparent you had no political one. You believed that your voice was strong enough to carve out the voltage of energy needed to electrify the world that appears very committed to selfish ambition and purposeless aggrandizement of wealth. You would not bow out for pressure, and because you were committed to the course of freedom and egalitarian society, you have won for yourself a place that would continue to exist beyond your anticipation and which already is outliving you. Without minding whose ox is gored, you were brilliantly critical of political moves that flagrantly undermined the economic and security safety of people. Your voice was not shaky whenever you educated the world on the importance of alternative perspectives. When others speak with their tongues in their cheeks, you came boldly to face the power brokers who have no single trace of passion for the country they lead.

Saying adieu to you now that you have departed is in the correct order. Wishing that you face a joyous experience in your spiritual journey is the least that we can do. You have gone to a place where we believe you would face less pressure, yet it is a place we are not in a hurry to go. We would be more content to have your presence amidst us so that we can continue to absorb the pressure of the unyielding African political leaders together. We would have loved more that we engage them in the intellectual world where we arm the defenceless people with the power of the pen to stand up for themselves and their exploitative leaders that are causing them all manner of pains. Undoubtedly, the fight started by generations before us, which obviously cannot disappear in our generation, would continue to have our contributions because nobody is free until everyone is free. Your voice has become immortal:

https://06475114472589781935.googlegroups.com/attach/7c9165d670ae2fe7/VIDEO-2021-09-20-13-57 28.mp4?part=0.1&pending=1&view=1&vt=ANaJVrFwYatGvPfSV2iyH98u9TFz8gQrwijhhjl_YRkIAXja1fEYfkzcCc8yYkEmHM6eHxFwwx_qghrunWxybUsNFn3O6J9ms-9EzK16Fi1FADzgvOMq46s

May the Almighty God give your family the strength to bear the irreparable loss and fortify them to move on in the right manner. Your disappearance has caused them some grief, certainly. But then, may they be consoled by the understanding that you led a fulfilled life while you were here.

Adieu, dear Obed!

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

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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