By OKAY OSUJI
The 401-page book, “Public Administration in Nigeria: A Practical Approach” authored by Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu and published by Africana First Publishers Plc is a compendium of a scholarly and practical approach to public administration, especially as it pertains to Nigeria.
To get readers abreast with the nitty-gritty of Public Administration, the author engaged many sources to define Public Administration as the process and procedures employed by public servants in the execution of government programmes and policies – the critical instrument employed by government and organizations to implement their programmes and policies.
The administration is the oil that lubricates the bureaucratic machine of any complex organization, whether a church, the police, the army, tertiary institution or industrial business concern or purely social organization. While mentioning different scholars and policy analysts, the author quoted R.K Sapru, whose definitions of Public Administration tallies with the following: The executive branch of government; Formulation, Implementation and Evaluation of public policies; A linkage between citizens (Consumers) and the government; The politics-administration relationship; Public-private dichotomy; The promotion of public interest and production of public goods and services; The involvement in a range of problems concerning human behaviour and cooperative human effort; A field that is rooted in the law and its operation.
The nexus between policy and administration, the author wrote, has been aptly dealt with by scholars of public administration. One of these scholars, Augustus Adebayo, said that policy is concerned with the decision as to what to do. It is the laying down of the broad objectives of what is to be done.
Some other scholars have posited that public administration is a composite of separate but interrelated disciplines. It includes major elements of political science, law, managerial sciences, economics, business administration, sociology, psychology, history and anthropology.
He described Public Administration as an activity serving the public and public servants to carry out policies derived from others. It is concerned with procedures, with translating policies into action and with office management. It is therefore anchored on principles and procedures.
The author led readers through the norm and nuances of Public and Private Administration, Public interest, Employee Motivation and Performance Benchmark, Legal and Managerial Constraints, the difference (if any)between Public Administration and Business Administration, Ambiguity, Pluralistic Decision Making, Politics and Administration, Bureaucracy, Democracy and Administration etc.
Going on, the author took readers to the history of the Civil Service which he calls “an inevitable sub-structure on which the superstructure of government rests. “Of course, it is pertinent to know how the Civil Service evolved. Quoting an adroit Public Administrator, Augustus Adebayo, the author revealed that in 462 BC, Pericles, a renowned leader in ancient Greece introduced a scheme for compensation of officials, thus facilitating the continued participation in which public administration by citizens who had to work daily for a living. He revealed that around 202BC, China recognized the need to have a permanent body of officials to implement government decisions.
Most important is the fact that around 120 BC, the Chinese Prime-Minister, Kung-sun Hung, in a memorandum to the king, observed that edicts and laws which were written in elegant classical style were often not understood by the officers whose duty it was to explain and interpret them to the people.
It is interesting to note that one of his recommendations was to hold an examination for the selection of men and those who had shown the best knowledge should have the first preference in appointments to an office requiring the use of the written language.
History attests that the recommendation marked the beginning of what is known today as Civil Service examination. According to the author, the role of the Civil Service is to implement the policies and programmes of government. Moreover, the Civil Service serves as a medium for ensuring peace, stability and the enhancement of the welfare of the people through the implementation of government programmes.
As ubiquitous and far-reaching as the Civil Service is, the author lamented that there is the tendency for many state chief executives to disregard the place and role of civil servants in the effective administration of their respective states. He revealed that there is a penchant among some state governors and their political appointees to virtually take over the duties and functions of civil servants. He laments that the situation is such that no cadre in the Civil Service is spared.
More painful is the fact that after depriving the civil servants of their legitimate statutory duties, the same political masters turn around to label them redundant, lethargic, lazy, rude and undisciplined.
Definitely, the author rehashed the well-known mantra of the Civil Service which is political neutrality. This implies that the Civil Service and civil servants should not engage in partisan politics. Going further, he wrote that political neutrality entails the three maxims of impartiality, neutrality and anonymity. He noted that as an expert adviser to his boss, the civil servant must be on tap and not on top.
Of course, like every other institution, the Civil Service has ahead. Delving back into history, the author let his readers know that during the military era, the offices of the Head of Service and the Secretary to Government were merged into one. But with the dawn of the present democratic dispensation, the two offices were demerged with definitive functions. He let it known that one of the dysfunctional effects of the Civil Service Reforms under the Gen. Babangida regime was what he called the “decapitation” of the Civil Service.
In discussing the Civil Service, the author quoted never failed to mention the erudite Professor of Political Science, Peter Ekeh, who posited that politics starts from the bedroom. Invariably, what this deposes is that politics is an inevitable concomitant of human interactions, more in every bureaucracy, church, the civil service, public service, tertiary institutions, in the army, the police and in even in the village setting.
In this book spanning 13 Chapters, the author identified Civil Service politics as the activities of civil servants within the Civil Service politics to gain undue advantage over their colleagues. Without mincing words, he identified such to include; Labour politics, politics of blackmail, politics of promotion, politics of posting, politics of transfer, appointment, and politics of even simple procedural staff matters.
Interestingly, the author informed us that the appointment of Permanent Secretary heralds what he called a “high wire” politics in the Civil Service, knowing full well that the ultimate aim of every civil servant is to be appointed Permanent Secretary.
In discussing Civil Service Reforms, the author took readers’ attention to the various Civil Service reforms, ranging from Harragin Commission (1946), The Hugh Foot Commission(1948), Phillipson-Adebo Commission(1952), the Gorsuch Commission(1959), Post-independence Reforms, Udoji Commission(1972), the 1988 Civil Service Reform, Allison Ayida Reform of 1995 and Obasanjo Civil Service Reforms.
It would be interesting to note that the Obasanjo administration raised the national minimum wages from N2, 500 per month to N5, 000 per month with effect from May 1, 2000. This was further raised to N7, 500 per month. Also, in 2004, the Federal Government set up the Wages, Salaries and Emolument Relativity Panel headed by Prof. Emmanuel Edozien.
Findings revealed the existence of multiple salary structures within the public sector, the prevalence of un-monetised fringe benefits, unwieldy allowances, de-linking of productivity and performance and implementation of unapproved allowances by many public sector agencies.
In the other chapters, the author harped on the ethics governing the Public Service. As usual, he informed us that ethics involved Discipline, Loyalty, Tact, Honesty, Courage, Modesty, Courtesy, Co-operation, Sense of judgement, Kindness, Industry, Foresight, Ability to Delegate, Sympathy and Consideration, Flexibility and Decision Making, Attitude to Public Funds, Social Justice, Use of Authority and Cost-Consciousness in Spending Public Funds.
Without equivocation, this enriching book which covers all gamuts of Civil Service rules and guidelines stands out as one of the most detailed compendiums that have ever been written on the subject. It contains a rich trove of information for any scholar or student seeking knowledge and information on Public Administration in Nigeria.
It is recommended for tertiary institutions and libraries not only to enrich them, butalso to help academic dissertations of those wishing to pursue higher degrees in the Social Sciences and Humanities.