Columns

December 6, 2022

Undeserved assault on the bureaucracy (3)

By Eric Teniola

From last week, the piece continues narrative of the gale of premature retirement that swept away many civil servants and judges, with particular reference to Justice  Ebenezer  Ayoola.

ONE of the judges retired, and Justice Adewale Thompson became the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General of Oyo State in 1979. On September 18, 1975, the Secretary to the National Electric Power Authority, Alhaji Adamu Atta (October 18, 1927–May 1, 2014), was retired along with 58 others.

Four years later, Alhaji Adamu Atta was elected the governor of Kwara State. On August 19, 1975, the then Chief Justice of the federation, Dr. Taslim Olawale Elias (November 11, 1914–August 14, 1991), retired, and a non-Nigerian, Sir Justice Darnley Alexander (June 28, 1920–February 10, 1989), born in Saint Lucia in the West Indies, was appointed as Chief Justice of the Federation. 

The same Justice Elias was elected as the President of the World Court at The Hague in the Netherlands in 1982. On September 12, 1975, five Federal Permanent Secretaries were retired. They were Chief Phillip Chikwuedu Asiodu (88), Alhaji Tatari Alli, Alhaji Ibrahim Damcida (1933–2012), Chief J.A. Adeyeye, and Mr. F.M.C. Obi. 

On August 2, 1997, the same federal military government defroze the bank accounts of Chief Asiodu and Alhaji Damcida. Four years later, the same Alhaji Abubakar Tatari Ali (1929–May 28, 1993) was elected governor of Bauchi state. 

On September 22, 1975, the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Clement Isong (April 20, 1920–May 29, 2000), retired and was replaced with Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (November 20, 1934–July 5, 2018). Four years later in 1979, the same Dr. Isong was elected governor of Cross River State. In January 1993, the same Chief Phillip Asiodu was appointed the Minister of Petroleum Resources by Chief Earnest Shonekan, and in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Chief Phillip Asiodu as the Chief Economic Adviser.

One could see that the retirement exercise was not carried out in good faith. The exercise of 1975 institutionalised corruption in the system. Civil servants became jittery at that time about their future. They started looking inward to see how they and their families could survive. Suddenly, they realised that their jobs could no longer be permanent.

Since then, we have not left that stage. Whereas if the procedure had been followed and the Federal Civil Service Commission had been involved, the guilty employees could have been penalised without disrupting the total system of government. Take a cue from our colonial masters: The British and even India, China and Australia, none of them has tampered with the civil service system.

There is a common saying that “soldiers go, soldiers come, barracks remain.” In the developed countries of the world, politicians come and go, but the civil service remains. The purge of 1975 destroyed the careers of many public servants. It even affected their families. Some recovered, while others died with the scars of retirement.There was hardly any home in this country that was not affected. As often mentioned, let me refer to one example. 

According to Wikipaedia, Sir Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa, CMG, OBE, M.D. (1903–1976) was a pioneering Nigerian surgeon, Inspector General of Medical Services, and former Chief Medical Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian to pass the FRCS, and he obtained the postgraduate Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1934.

In 1966, he was elected president of the World Federation for Mental Health. As Inspector General of Medical Services, he contributed immensely to the establishment of the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, the first medical school in Nigeria. He later became pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing council at the University of Ibadan. 

Throughout his career, he sought and worked for the improvement of basic health services in the rural areas of Nigeria. He returned to Nigeria in 1927 after finishing his studies on tropical medicine and joined the colonial medical services as a medical officer.

He subsequently became a surgeon specialist and senior specialist in the service, where he gained acclaim as a skilled surgeon. Though he received various offers for administrative positions early on, he continued his surgical work for more than 18 years. While practising as a surgeon, he invented an excision knife to treat tropical ulcers. 

In 1948, he lifted his embargo on administrative positions when he became the deputy director of medical services. In 1951, he was made the first Nigerian director of medical services and subsequently the Inspector General of Medical Services.

In 1954, he became fully involved with the Nigerian public service when he was appointed the Chief Medical Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria. He later went on to become a member of the Privy Council of the Federation of Nigeria, President of the Association of Surgeons and Physicians in West Africa, and the first Nigerian Commissioner of the Federal Public Service Commission. 

To be concluded…