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Relationship between higher civil servants and their political masters

PROF. Adamolekun surely needs no introduction to virtually all of us who are gathered here to rejoice with him, his family, the Iju Community and his friends and admirers all over the world, on the attainment of 70 years of age which mortals on earth can only reach through the benevolence of the Almighty God.

Bearing in mind that the life expectancy in Nigeria is less than 50 years of age, coupled with the several challenges confronting humanity generally leading to rising incidences of untimely death, it is evident that we should all be thankful to the Almighty God for this good gesture towards our amiable eminent scholar, a patriot of uncommon pedigree and a true friend and guardian of the Nigerian Public Service.


Prof Adamolekun

I believe that on reflecting on the long journey towards this day, Prof. Adamolekun  must have had a sense of satisfaction that he has lived a very fulfilled life and so deserves all the accolades that  have  been showered on him  on account of this glorious moment.

Rising from a humble background and receiving the unction from the divine not only to conquer the world with an uncommon knowledge but also imbued with the wisdom to competently manage his several successes in order to positively affect humanity resoundingly in various spheres, what else can one say but to celebrate a life of purpose, beauty, integrity and a life lived beyond self-adulation!

Pillars of Government: Government rests on two pillars made up of political and bureaucratic leaders. Political leaders are elected to provide leadership and direction to our nation whose supreme law is the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. Public Servants, whether functioning in civil capacities as Civil Servants or as members of the enlarged Public Service, are appointed into various career positions in the hierarchy of the Public Service.

Their role is to effectively complement the political masters in the administration of the State for the promotion of the well-being of the citizenry and, ultimately the fulfilment of the common purpose. ‘The common good is not only entrusted to the discernment of individuals, it emerges from the practice of civic virtues employed by the rulers   and the interaction between people and rulers.

As stated by Lorenzetti, whenever the sacred virtue of justice reigns, it calls for the unification of many souls and having united them it permits the signor to create a common good for all’ .

Through this partnership, it is expected that the principles of good governance, anchored on the promotion of the ‘common good which is  the moral and political condition of public life ‘, will be entrenched in the polity for guaranteeing orderly progress for nations,  without which there can be no sustainable development.

In Nigeria, like many other countries of the world, the Public Service is an integral part of the Executive Arm of Government led by the President at the Federal level, assisted by Ministers in the Executive Council of the Federation. The same process is replicated at the State level where the executive arm is led by Governors, assisted by Commissioners as members of State Executive Councils.

The National Assembly, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, constitutes the legislative arm of the Federation, with the State Assembly in each of the 36 States of the Federation also featuring as the legislative arm at the second tier of Government.

A similar structural arrangement exists at the Local Government level, the third tier of Government, for organising the communities for the attainment of the collective good.

Role of bureaucracy

The role of the bureaucracy or the public service in national development has been recognised over the years arising partly from the growing complexity of societies and the need to devise the appropriate   administrative machinery to competently manage them and preserve institutional memories.

In effect therefore, the public service serves as the engine of government and its chief agent for facilitating the process of national renewal and accelerated national development.

The Public Service is also both the apparatus and the machinery for the realisation of national visions; hence national capability is often a reflection of the capability of the bureaucracy. In other words, it is unthinkable for any nation to rise beyond the capacity of its public service.

Structure, systems and processes of government: Political actors and bureaucrats operate within established structures, processes and systems. Accordingly, the way they conduct their affairs not only affects them as individuals and groups but also the entire political space.

In order to ensure effective running of Government, systems and processes are developed not only to guide the operators of the system but also to ensure strict compliance with them.

Promoting integrity

This is one of the measures of ensuring   accountability in the system and for promoting its integrity through the consistency of the application of rules and regulations for the predictability of actions.  The system is configured for political leaders and bureaucrats to appreciate the import of this governance architecture for the promotion of good governance through proper understanding of their roles and their preparedness to carry them  out at all times.

Dichotomy of Politics and Administration

In order to maintain a sense of balance in the running of government affairs, public administration is kept separately from politics. In this regard, while political leaders are concerned with providing leadership and direction in policy making, in line with the set priorities of their party manifestoes, appointed public servants, such as civil servants and others in the enlarged public service, are forbidden from participating in party politics, at least in Nigeria.

This is in line with the doctrine of neutrality and anonymity which is one of the cardinal principles of the Weberain model of bureaucracy. It emphasises insulation of the bureaucrat as the subordinate expert advisor and policy executor from all forms of politicisation in order to enhance his/her professionalism, enable the provision of impartial advice and curtail the culture of impunity and arbitrariness in government.

However, it is increasingly being recognised that a neutral, non-partisan public service is  not a licence for a socially insensitive Service, hence the need for a new Service ethos cognisant of the need for the development of a sense of commitment and genuine empathy for worthy causes led by the political leaders  for national  development. This is the only way that the Public Service can fulfil its multiple roles which include:

(i)Guidance in policy making;

(ii)Assistance in policy planning;

(iii)Providing policy advice to Ministers and other functionaries of Government;

(iv)Building and communicating institutional memory to decision makers;

(v)Guiding and managing resources required to accomplish policy objectives;

(vi)Delivering quality public services ;

(vii)Establishing standards and enforcing norms;

(viii) Measuring, monitoring and evaluating the performance of public sector organisations and other non-government agencies rendering services on behalf of Government ; and

(ix)Raising and managing revenues.

New patterns of the relationship between politics and administration are however, emerging across the world, including the five ideal-typical modes of interaction identified by Guy Peters .

Weberian separation

These are the formal Weberian separation and hierarchy model or the classical dichotomy, in which political leaders are at one end of the spectrum and bureaucrats are at the other and   the administrative state model, in which technical expertise, bureaucratic activism and command of information gives more latitude to bureaucrats to dominate the policy development process.

Others are the intermediate categories of both the village life and the functional village life, involving convergence and more cooperative forms of interaction, and lastly adversarial politics, reflected in a highly politicised environment in which politicians and bureaucrats compete for control of public policy.

Being part of a speech delivered by Ms. Ama Pepple at the 70th birthday Celebration of Prof. Adamolekun recently.


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