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As Buhari plans his cabinet (3)

This is the concluding part of this article. The second part was published in the penultimate Wednesday’s edition of Vanguard

By Obi Nwakanma

THERE is Dr. Alvan Azinna Ikoku III, who studied Medicine, and is an MD from the Harvard Medical School and also has a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Columbia. He is currently Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford; Chinedu Echeruo, after Kings College, Lagos, studied Finance and Accounting at Syracuse, where his father, the famous scholar and poet, Professor MJC Echeruo had been a Professor.

He later earned the MBA from Harvard. Chinedu is a young entrepreneur whose Apps was reportedly bought for $1 billion dollars by Apple. These are the future of Nigeria. There are such young men and women from across Nigeria and the Nigerian diaspora. President Buhari has an abundance of such young and driven men and women – who would bring a new spirit; a new face of innovation to public service. The president’s search committee must get creative.

But it is also possible to appoint the right men and women, and still deliver duds at the end of his administration on account of a decayed and corrupt civil service. Corruption of the civil service is the fundamental cause of the massive corruption in the land, because without the collusion of the civil bureaucracy, there would not be massive looting of the resources of the nation. The systems of control that disciplined punished and rewarded civil servants was strategically dismantled under the military administrations. The accounting and classification systems that provided the internal regulatory capacity of the service was fundamentally weakened. The internal reviews capacity of the service did not develop. The system of competitive remuneration and bonding that made it possible for the old service to recruit the best candidates coming out of our school systems was destroyed.

Indeed, the problem of the civil service is quite simply linked to problems: first, the quota system that destroyed merit and seniority, and the experiments, starting from the middle of the 1980s, with Nigeria’s sudden emphasis on the private sector and the strategic diminution of the public sector. With the decline in public sector growth, came the decline of public systems administration.

The private sector recruited the best and left the dregs for the public system, which for a time also made such recruitments not based on the highest standards following what used to be the Civil Service Examinations. Effectively from 1984/85 employment into the public service was embargoed, and any recruitment that took place was by a system of nepotism.

For Nigeria to survive and thrive it must have a highly nationalist, properly oriented, merit-based civil service. There are two institutions which nations, even the most insane protect even in their madness, and do not ever degrade: the civil service, and the universities. In Nigeria we did.

The current service is a great national disgrace. It is badly trained; it is badly equipped; and it is poorly oriented. Its intellectual base is weak. Recruitment to the service over the last three decades opened the service to the lowest ethical standards of all time, from the junior service to the administrative cadres.

The president’s most important task must be to reorganize and re-orient the Nigerian Civil service. He must clear the deck; reconstitute the Federal Civil Service Commission with only six commissioners, and restore the place of the Ministry of Labour & Establishment in the Cabinet.

Ministerial positions

I have argued that Nigeria must cut down the number of Ministries, and from all indications, the president agrees on this need: I propose the following Ministerial positions: Education (to include culture, youth, and sports); the Attorney-General & Justice, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Health & Human Services, Trade & Industry (to include Technology); Labour & Establishment; Energy & Petroleum; Finance & The Treasury; Information & Research; Agriculture & Natural Resources (to include the Environment and Water Resources); Home Affairs, and Aviation & Space Development (to include Communications).

Because we have Permanent secretaries, there should be no ministers of state – it is a needless duplication of function. These are redundant positions in the presidential system of government. Rather, the President must create a presidential advisorate, in the place of junior ministerial positions, in the office of the president.

What the president needs is a tight, effective team, and therefore, he must have a highly capable Directing and Advisory staff in the Office of the President under a very effective Cabinet Secretary and Chief of Staff, preferably a highly experienced civil servant from the pool of his Permanent Under Secretaries.

The president must avoid duplication of functions and offices, which often leads to duplicity.

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