The Public Service and the Transformation Agenda: Redefining the rules of engagement

Chief Philip C. Asiodu, CON, opened his lecture on public service , the challenges ahead, the need for a vision, the type of public sector required and the after-effects of  the overthrow of the the Gowon administration in 1975.

Today ….

“The President and national Leadership should find ways of continuously communicating to the general public their commitment and enthusiasm for the Transformation Agenda”.  With this, Chief Asiodu , in this second part of the serial, gives his recipe on the Transformation Agenda .

The Gowon overthrow (1975)

The suffering, including the pre-mature death of scores of officials affected by the purge fuelled the resort to “make hay while the sun shines” an obvious euphemism for corruption which now threatens the future of the country.

3. The new Administration abandoned the implementation of the 1975 – 80 Plan with its great promise of creating the basis for economic diversification and industrialization. Some very significant new projects were embarked upon while some properly costed Plan projects were aborted or not started. More destructively the discipline of planning was abandoned.

Chief Philip Asiodu, CON: The coup makers failed to capture power.

This set the stage for the economic stagnation and the degradation of infrastructure, educational, health and other sectors over the next two and a half decades despite ‘the fairly high level of oil revenues compared with the Pre-Civil War situation.

The statistical data clearly illustrate this. Indeed the growth rate in the decade up to 1999 averaged only 2% per annum, while the population was growing at 3% per annum.

tedUnder it the ministers, transient as they often were, could hire and fire civil servants; the functions of the Independent Public Service Commission were transferred to the ministries; the Minister replaced the Permanent Secretary, now re-styled

Director-General, as the Accounting Officer of the Ministry. Although repealed in 1995 the great damage done to the Public Service under the decree still afflicts the Service.

Vision 20: 2020 And The Jonathan Transformation Agenda

After the death of Gen. Abacha in 1998, democratic rule was hastily restored with the election and installation of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President in May 1999. Towards the end of his second term Goldman Sachs published a Report which listed Nigeria amongst 10 other countries, and which suggested that if Nigeria pursued all the right policies and achieved international competitiveness she could become one of the 20 largest economies in the World by 2025. The other countries are Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan and Turkey. We should note that even in this list we are No.7. In adopting the target of the Report, the Nigerian Authorities brought the date nearer by 5 years to 2020!

As I indicated earlier, the Government had prepared and launched the 15t Implementation Plan 2010 – 2013, otherwise called the 5th National Development Plan. This is now superseded by the Jonathan Transformation Agenda 2011 –

Transformation implies a complete change in form or character. I have described at great length the present situation in Nigeria and how we arrived there in order for us to appreciate the enormity of the tasks before us in undertaking the revolutionary changes required to achieve the desired transformation. The Jonathan Administration emphasizes “The need for a holistic transformation of the Nigerian State” and the imperatives of “continuity, consistency and commitment”. In launching the Transformation Agenda the Government states that “The Transformation Agenda which is based and draws inspiration from the NV. 20 :

2020 and the 151 National Implementation Plan (NIP) aims to deepen the effects and provide a sense of direction for the current administration over the next four years. The Agenda is based on a set of priority policies and programmes which when implemented will transform the Nigerian Economy to meet the future needs of the Nigerian people”.

The Transformation Agenda as you all probably know envisages total investment of N40.75 Trillion in the period 2011 to 2015 broken down as follows: Public Sector 60% (N24.45 Trillion); Private Sector 40%  (N16.30 Trillion) .

Within the Public Sector, Federal Government is expected to invest N12.86 Trillion while the States and LGAs will invest N11.5 Trillion. The bulk of the funding required must come from abroad. Such funding will flow in only when Nigeria has successfully addressed all the issues which will make her internationally competitive and these are mainly issues of good governance.

The Agenda has set out very good programmes and projects for human capital development, health sector, labour and productivity, the main growth sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, oil and gas, power, transportation, housing, ICT, FCT, Niger Delta, etc.

However, the Government quite rightly states: “Nigeria’s inability to decisively tackle most development challenges such as poverty, unemployment, security, and deplorable state of infrastructure has been largely attributed to bad governance in all its ramifications. These include political governance, economic governance, corporate governance and effectiveness.

During 2011 – 2015, the policies and programmes directed at addressing governance challenges will focus on the public service, security, law and order; the legislature; anti-corruption measures and institutions; the judiciary; economic coordination; and support for private investment”. I am quoting from a publication of the National Planning Commission.

I am sorry to observe that the vast majority of Nigerians are not aware of the Transformation Agenda – its contents and what it means for them now and future. I am also not so sure how well the civil servants and the public service in general and even our legislators know the details of the Transformation Agenda. It is very necessary for the Government to give effective and sustained publicity to elicit the ‘buy-in’ of the general citizenry.

The Transformation Agenda and the subsequent Implementation Plans for Vision 20 : 2020 should be publicized and canvassed continuously in many fora all over the country – in schools, universities, work places, barracks, professional societies, civil service clubs, social clubs, until the goals, objectives, targets, strategies, the sustained hard work and consistency required become accepted by the generality of our people. Vision 20: 2020 can and should be made the nation’s rallying anchor for years to come, transcending conflicting partisan interests just as the promise of Independence was a uniting anchor despite the partisan clashes before 1st October, 1960. Indeed such a general commitment and buy-in by various stakeholders will put added pressure on the Public Service and other Agencies to deliver.

What the President, leaders must do

The President and national Leadership should find ways of continuously communicating to the general public their commitment and enthusiasm for the Transformation Agenda. I shall repeat some of the suggestions I made at another forum recently. Vigorous and disciplined implementation of the Jonathan Transformation Agenda, as well as leading the PDP and the nation to embrace all the aspects of good governance will launch Nigeria irreversibly on the path to unity and greatness. However, there are immediate difficult things which must be accomplished:

The present post – 1998 political parties formed even more hastily than those in 1979 have no roots in past political parties and usages. They have not yet articulated long-term party visions for Nigerian Society or the Federal Country which they seek to administer. Most of our new politicians are not aware of the self-sacrifice, the patriotism, the idealism, the promise  and commitment of the pre-independence politicians to improving the welfare of the broad masses after Independence nor do they know about the discipline and self-restraint required in managing the lean resources of pre-­oil Nigerian. I mean no offence. No fault of theirs. Most of the comments on the past in our media since 1966 have been self-denigrating and abusive of the national psyche.

Let us remind ourselves that throughout British Colonial Rule the annual revenue of the Government never exceeded £40 million. It was under

Balewa after Independence that it reached £50 million, and it rose to £100 million in the 2nd year of Gowon’s Administration and by then we were already engulfed in the Civil War. You can then try to imagine how frugally public funds were managed when you consider that the ports of Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, and Calabar, the 4000 miles of railways, the telegraph lines which crisscrossed the country from North to South and East to West the good schools which mine and earlier generations attended and from which we went direct to the best British, American and other universities

· The political parties and the party system have to be re-invented and re­engineered to become patriotic responsive vehicles for promoting the general welfare of all citizens and national greatness. They must adopt and believe in clear manifestos and programmes to promote national progress.

Indeed, it will be desirable for all of them to base their programmes on Vision 2020 and let partisan competition and differences be on how best to achieve Vision 2020 and loftier goals beyond. Indeed, achieving the targets contained in Vision 20;2020 may take us beyond 2025. What is important is to embark earnestly on its implementation. The political pm1ies must become effective organs for selecting and disciplining candidates for positions in the executive and legislature all of them subscribing to the same policies and programmes for moving the nation forward. Only such re­engineered political parties can help the President and his successors in achieving Vision 20;2020 and good governance.

· The current epidemic of competitive corruption, and excessive greed amongst the political class and our elites in appropriating national resources to themselves must be stopped immediately.

· The President should lead the nation to adopt and live with more realistic national remuneration scales for all those paid from the public purse. Nigeria’s per capita income is only N300,000 per annum would suggest the following maximum figures for aggregate remuneration (basic salary + allowances) per annum- President N30 million. Governors N25 million. Head of National Assembly, Judiciary, and Federal Ministers N24 million.

· Proportionate reasonable adjustment of these figures down the various hierarchies.

· Enhancement of present relative positions of certain groups like teachers.

· Cost effective, transparent public procurement. Over 200% inflation of costs have been reported in some instances these days.

· Return to the old values of patient, disciplined life-time career progression as opposed to the current craze to achieve billionaire status, if possible, before the age of 35.

Above all, a far-reaching rationalization of the Ministries and Agencies of Governments taking into account the Oronsanye Report. There must be a drastic reduction in the cost of governance at Federal, State and Local Government levels. Let us remind ourselves that the Federal Government of USA is run through 12 Departments (our equivalent of ministries) and no American State has more than 6 persons of the status of our state Commissioners. Here some states have more than 24 Commissioners and scores of Special Advisers and Special Assistants.

If above suggestions are strictly implemented, we would be aiming for target resource allocation of at least Recurrent to Capital ratio of 45 Recurrent, 55 capital, compared with the ratio of 74 Recurrent, 26 Capital in the Federal Budget of 2012.

Considerable resources will then be freed to be invested in Education, Power, Transportation, Health and other priority sectors in pursuance of the Transformation Agenda

We must recall the example of Balewa, the Regional Premiers, and all the Ministers, who in 1962 at the launching of the 1962 – 68 National Plan took 10% cut in their salaries to signal the need for national savings to help finance the Plan. That measure brought the salary of a Federal Minister below that of a Federal Permanent Secretary!

I should add that in the First Republic, the salaries of a Professor, Federal Permanent Secretary and Federal Minister were about equal. A Federal Legislator who was part time then earned about 1/3 of the Minister’s figure. Compare the position today!

The Private Sector in Nigeria also needs to improve corporate governance and to rein in excessive Executive Greed. Some of the charges in court against some bank managers, for example, made me extremely sad.

Comments are moderated. Please keep them clean and brief.

Read More:
The Public Service and the Transformation Agenda: Redefining the rules of engagement