By Chris Onuoha
Hon. Arinze Chilo-Offiah worked as a Special Adviser to the Government of Enugu State under His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development and Director General, Enugu SME Center. The youthful political office holder in this chat spoke about challenges of being in government service.
Chilo-Offiah believes that being able to hold a political office, either through election or by appointment, is a concept that appeals to a number of Nigerians. According to him, it can be incredibly difficult to get a headstart into this somewhat hallowed institution, besides the structural disadvantage many Nigerians face.
He explained that there is also the overwhelmingly low rate of political education. “Ask a 25-year-old what it would take to run for a local government office and you might find them unable to provide an answer. Ask them again what they suppose the government could do to rectify a harmful policy or a decaying infrastructure, and they might have a few things to share,” remarked Chilo-Offiah.
He further explained that it is because those problems directly affect them. “Inasmuch as they don’t know or have the guidance they need to be on the path where solutions to those problems can be structurally implemented through policies and executions, it doesn’t mean that they don’t know what to do.”
Below, Hon. Arinze Chilo-Offiah, a young Nigerian working in public service and who has worked alongside with the Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to effect a radical change in Enugu state’s SME sector shares five lessons he has picked up since being in government.
In the first place, Chilo-Offiah noted that public service is not always what it seems; “From the outside looking in, being a public servant in Nigeria is more complex machinery to be a part of. And so it would be a lot of good if young Nigerians looking to get into governance are aware that the political land space is a complex institution where hard work and dedication are vital for any sort of advancement.”
Secondly, he stated that to bring structural change, the civil service needs a revamp; “In my experience, I have come to realise that although the executive arm of government plays a huge role in policy formulation and presiding over the state in general when it boils down to transferring state resources to the masses, and ensuring that that bad road is fixed, or that hospital is maintained, some of that responsibility rests with the civil service, and we need to come up with ways to make that institution even more effective than it already is.”
Thirdly, Chilo-Offiah explained that there’s still work to be done in how young Nigerians perceive governance; “In my work since 2014, I have come across young Nigerians who express interest in either running for government or getting appointed into one position or another, and in all frankness, much of the motivation behind this is financial.
But that just won’t cut it. For the overwhelming body of work, we as a nation still need to do, we need young Nigerians with political aspirations that are set on small-scale actions and making a direct and sustainable impact in their immediate communities.
And what this means is that their focus wouldn’t always be on dubiously acquiring wealth, but instead, on making resources including money, jobs, healthcare, and infrastructure, a communally beneficial project. Starting with their immediate communities.”
He also noted furthermore that the Public Service institution needs to adopt a culture of radical collaboration; “Because the problems all factions of public service tackle on a daily basis are intertwined, it is necessary that the current culture of apathy towards collaboration and communal support be revamped.
It is often difficult to get different factions to provide expertise and support to each other as it would greatly improve how much the public service institution can provide to the people they have been appointed or elected to serve.
The SME development program, for example, should be able to work closely with other industrial sectors like transportation, agriculture, travel, all sectors that still tie into the overall goal of improving the nation’s economy.”
And lastly, Chilo-Offiah emphasized need to have a structural pipeline that can get more fresh graduates into the Civil and Public Service; “To pump new ideas and revitalise the civil and public service, we need to create a pipeline for graduates to make an easy transfer into the different pockets of the political institution.
As someone who came into public service with the determination to effect actual change using my primary area of expertise, I know the incredible hurdles I had to face, as well as the nonexistent structures in place to aid my entry and it can be discouraging for many.
Developing strong and reliable structures will go a long way to change the human capacity present within government and a seamless confluence of ideas between the older generation of public servants and the new generation. A generation armed with fresh ideas strong enough to improve our sense of national identity.”