The story of Nigeria’s several predicaments as well as current battle against corruption will at every point of the tale borders on the ‘whims and caprices’ of civil servants and politicians who have always been a part and parcel of the British, Military and Civilian rule right from the pre –independence era till date.
A civil servant in the most basic term must be a career bureaucrat employed on merit and whose institutional tenure should survive different regimes of State or Federal government leadership, whether Colonial, Military or Civilian. Rationally therefore, a civil servant is expected to impartially implement policies and laws of government to ensure transparency and integrity in taking decisions that affect the everyday lives of citizens in areas of education, housing, health, transportation and so on.
On the other hand are politicians who have been variously described as individuals and persons who are professionally involved in politics, be it a candidate for elective office or holder of an office – legislator, senator, statesman etc. Chief Executives of public service agencies who are nominated by political parties through the influence of their ‘party bigwigs or godfathers’ to head government agencies also fall into the category of politicians.
A search on Google also gives the US definition of ‘politician’ as a person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organization. Consequently, a civil servant could adopt the character traits of the US definition of a politician for personal and selfish aspirations within an organisation and to the detriment of his associates and employees.
The foregoing definition vis-à-vis the revelations trailing the current wind of change blowing across the landscape of Nigeria makes it necessary to examine the actual role the civil service might have played in making the one time acclaimed giant of Africa bend so low to the extent that it gasps for breath to stand up and firm again in the face of corruption that continues to confront every aspect of our daily lives.
The present administration has made and is still making conscious efforts at ‘killing’ corruption in our land but has seemingly not taken enough strides in restoring hope to the civil service. The delay by government might be a reason why the war against the pestilence of corruption has not acquired enough energy to ‘stampede’ and ‘kill’ the locusts that possibly had existed in our land before the military finally quit the stage for politicians to commence apportioning the commonwealth of Nigeria to themselves, their families and their stooges.
Arguably, the civil service has some of the brightest brains that can accelerate change – positive or negative – in Nigeria but the economic misery in Nigeria today makes it almost impossible to discern any significant change in the verve of civil service employees. They seemingly live each day as it comes without any predictable future for either themselves or their children. In our clime, the obedient and forthright civil servant does not have the capacity to pay his or her own bills, let alone those of his children who attend public educational institutions. House rents, school fees, transport fares and even the unavoidable costs of feeding for survival have eroded hard earned incomes that have remained stagnant despite pleas, consultations and threats of industrial actions.
Some civil servants and other ‘straight’ citizens brought up in the old school fashion of integrity, honesty, dedication, commitment, service and contentment have resorted to prayers. They now fill the various churches that have sprung up in every nook and cranny of the land.
Consequently, religious centers have become a source of temporary succor for the ‘old school’ as daily living gets tougher in the Giant of Africa’ enclave. They often supplement the needs of the not-so-rich, the poor and the lowly by coordinating the collection and distribution of foodstuff, clothing and other items to ensure life got easier and better for their members. The House of God has continuously provided support and comfort while the government battles the plague.
Then suddenly, the House of God became infiltrated by non-faithful who also seek the better life. Churches blossomed, Pastors multiplied, Alfas doubled, Religious doctrines got updated despite the fact that the Holy Books remained the same. Another dimension to the resolving the same crisis created by corruption surfaced. The Church seemed to have become too crowded to accommodate the needs of all and sundry.
Creativity set in across the land! The poor and lowly, the civil servant, the ‘straight’ and ‘slightly un-straight’ identified another avenue to make life worth living while the wind of change gradually finds a way to clean the debris dumped in the land by corruption.
Politics suddenly became a lucrative avenue for those who could no longer bear the pangs of hunger pending the completion of the surgery of Change. Politics and Politicians became the toast of the Rich, the Poor and the Hopeless. The Profession of Politics in the land has become a place for every class of citizen of Nigeria – from Civilian to Law Enforcer to the Civil Servant.
Unfortunately, so many Nigerians seem to ‘deliberately’ take no notice of the fact that the large scale and brazen depletion of the commonwealth of this great Nation might have been checkmated if the civil servants had hope for their future and those of their off-springs; if they were sure of a certain tomorrow for their lineage; if they earned a wage that could make them ‘take a risk’ of not creating ways of earning income that would ensure their house rents are rarely unpaid; if they had conviction that the pensions they accrue in the course of their work will see them through a few years in retirement.
The war against corruption will certainly succeed, only if there is conviction for a civil servant that ‘joy cometh in the morning’ if he resists a pilferer or political office holder who seeks an unjust take-away of a chunk of our commonwealth.
Until there comes a time when hope is restored to the civil service and its ‘servants’ have assurance of a fairly predictable economic future for themselves and their families, the fight against corruption will continue to face resistance despite the number of policies being put in place by those who work night and day to make Nigeria great again.
Olumide, a retired civil servant, wrote from Palmgroove, Lagos