By Dr. Ghali Muhammed
Empirically, civil service is the live wire of any government. It is the nucleus of planning and implementing government policies. Former Vice-Chancellor of Germany Otto Von Bismark says “With bad laws and good civil servants, it is still possible to govern. But with bad civil servants even the best laws can not help.”
Looking back into the history of Nigeria, one major proud enduring institution which saved Nigeria from collapse particularly during the Civil War in the early ’70s was the civil service. Testifying to this was no less a person than the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.
Speaking at a public lecture in honour of late Professor Adebayo Adedeji, a distinguished diplomat and international civil servant, General Gowon recalled proudly that it was in full appreciation of the detribalised, selfless and patriotic services rendered by the civil servants to stabilise the Nation and ensure oneness of purpose that the Udoji award was introduced in the ’70s.
Be it yesterday, today or tomorrow, the civil service remains the most critical institution and system that guarantees effective service delivery and implementation of government policies and programmes for the overall wellbeing of the entire citizenry.
In place of the critical institutional role of the civil service, it is worth our time to recall how frustrated, disoriented and un- dignified the civil service was before Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq took over the mantle of leadership in Kwara State. In doing so, it is instructive to note that any civil servant denied up to 3 months’ salaries becomes as wretched, ridiculed and outcast as a destitute! How short and failing are human memories? No. We won’t forget this history.
How could we have forgotten that civil servants in the State were owed salaries for years at a time the Federation Account Allocation (FAAC) was not only steady but robust as the crude oil was selling at $100 per barrel? It was also the time when the Kwara State Government received several bailouts in billions. At the time the same government mortgaged the future of Kwara children with un-justified loans running into billions. At the local government, it was even more scaringly disorienting with un-printable stories on the pitiable lives of local government workers, teachers and headmistresses. Not even at the level of Colleges of Education was life better as virtually all the 3 Colleges of Education were owed over 15 months’ salaries with all their workers on strike, taking a plunge into riskier ventures such as selling their property to become Okada riders and petty traders. At the parastatal or Corporation level such as Radio Kwara, the workers there were at the precipice of losing their jobs and joining the (unknown) labour market as they were already off the air with no hope! How short and failing are human memories?
Many establishments died and some were merely on dialysis due to lack of funding. Even the MDAs had no running cost. It was in the old Kwara we saw best how not to have a visionless Governor. Before the state was run aground, the civil service had to give way. Due to this biting insensitivity, some fathers became employed beggars; mothers recalcitrant; children impoverished; homes restless; streets dry and rough; and society could have cracked the more on that dangerous lane if hope had not come. No society survives on such banality.
The foregoing was the disorienting circumstances faced by the overwhelming majority of the civil servants in Kwara State before Governor AbdulRazaq came in on a rescue mission to restore dignity into the lives of the civil servants putting smiles back on to their then grim faces and their loved ones.
In one full release, the Governor approved and released over N700,000,000.00 to pay all the outstanding salaries of all teaching and non-teaching staff of all the 3 Colleges of Education; Ilorin; Oro; and Lafiagi! Since his inauguration in May 2019, no civil servant at both State and Local government levels failed to receive his or her monthly salary every month as and when due! As of today, no civil servant in both State and Local government levels earns less than the N30,000.00 minimum wage!
In addition, the State Civil Service Commission in 2020 conducted and effected promotion for over 1000 civil servants in the State. Working environment for civil servants has improved across the board including restoration of monthly running costs for all MDAs. Permanent Secretaries as accounting officers of their ministries bear full responsibility for the implementation of their budgets. Indeed, in view of the demonstration of commitment to transparency, accountability and good governance, Governor AbdulRazaq’s Administration has been identified and lauded by relevant national and international budget monitoring NGOs as one of the States with the best record of budget implementation .
It is an established fact that at all levels of government in Nigeria today, recurrent: focusing largely on payment of salaries, pension and gratuity account for close to 80% of government total income and resources; Kwara is not an exception. This is despite the negative but concomitant consequences of Covid 19 such as drastic reduction in FAAC, IGR, economic recession etc. Notwithstanding, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq never wavered in his avowed commitment to ensure that civil servants in Kwara State at both State and local government levels received their monthly salaries not only in full but as and when due. What more, pensioners who cut sorry sight in the days of the immediate past Administration now smile to banks and homes with monthly regular payment of their pension and gratuity. Within just 2 years of his Administration, it is a public secret that Governor AbdulRazaq has paid close to #20 billion naira as pension and gratuity to retired civil servants in the State. How short and failing are human memories?
Upon the outbreak of COVID-19 and the critical lockdown to curtail transmission, the civil servants both at the State and the local government stayed home for over 6 months, yet Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq did not falter in ensuring that they still got their full salaries as and when due. Since the World woke up to the pandemic, many states even with far richer FAAC allocation and IGR have cut salaries of both their political public office holders and civil servants to half to date, yet Governor AbdulRazaq ensured a dime is not removed from the full payment of the salaries of all the civil servants. It is mostly in the time of adversity outstanding leaders show they are miles and word apart from the pretenders. He has shown this with the management of COVID-19, EndSARS, and the hijab crisis. We had no such monumental circumstance and instances abound where teachers became the laughing stock of the public with a few stealing foods at Oja Tuntun Market, yet the public, instead of lynching such poor lots became sympathetic in view of their pitiable status they had acquired under the immediate past governnent and traders would start giving little offers to such hopeless guys of the inglorious past era.
While the civil service in some states is still grappling with instability under the overbearing weight of less magnanimous leaders, AbdulRazaq is using the lean State resources to please Kwara State civil servants and the people of the state. A recent example is the case of over 70 Staff phased out of Kwara Express who instead of being retrenched were retrained, reorientated and reabsorbed into the Kwara State Transport Agency and proudly doing great in ensuring effective traffic management on our major streets.
Conscious of the urgent need to deflate the labour market, restore hope of the unemployed youths, he moved extraordinarily to employ close to 5000 teachers in SUBEB and TESCOM. The recruitment exercise has been acknowledged by all patriots and stakeholders home and abroad as the most transparent, non-discriminatory, non – partisan and detribalised in the history of Kwara State! In addition, the civil service is currently concluding arrangements for recruitment of additional 1000 civil servants the same way. Medical practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, community health officers and other health officers have also been employed to boost health services in the State.
On 18 November, 2019, AbdulRazaq presented 27 new operational vehicles to the state civil service, including the State Fire Service, saying the gesture was to strengthen efficient service delivery and conducive working atmosphere. On that day, he said these historic words and he has continued to live by them: “We present these to them to make their job easier. Civil servants are entering taxi and okada to perform their duties. That is not good enough. This will boost their performance capability. We saw that there is a need to mobilise them and make them more functional.” Do you not feel the vision and passion?
As the State marks the 2nd year anniversary of Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq exemplary leadership, there is a high expectation among the overwhelming majority of the populace for civil servants at both the State and local government levels to reciprocate the kind gesture of the Governor through prompt payment of salaries, pension and gratuity, taking close to 80% of available resources to the State by rededicating themselves to selfless, patriotic and exemplary service delivery and focused implementation of government policies and programmes to the overall advantages of the poor masses. Doing so is the only best way the civil servants can join hands with Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in his avowed commitment to make Kwara State one of the 3 best governed States in Nigeria.