The only people actually trained to run Government are the Civil Servants. They are also the only category of people with experience in doing Government work. Nobody else comes into Government with experience. Neither president nor governor nor Chairman of local government.
No one comes into office as President or Governor or even Local Government Chairman with the working knowledge of the institutions and processes for running Government. Everyone starts learning on the job. And it is a major problem of the Presidential democratic system that without the civil service acting as a bridge, every regime would come into Government starting anew to develop institutions and processes to run Government.
The legislature has developed its own system of solving problems arising from the lacuna created by transiting from an old regime to a new one. The legislature has a ranking system which precludes new entrants from holding commanding positions or heading crucial committees. It is why there are ‘backbenchers” in the British parliamentary system. You have to be a ranking member i.e. a long time parliamentary member with experience, tested and your performance reviewed by your peers, to qualify for positions of responsibility.
The United States has a tradition which encourages young politicians to go through tutelage by engagement in community services. This process of nurturing serves the purpose of creating understanding and helping to internalize politics as community service. Obama went through such community service even as a Harvard trained lawyer.
Nigeria does not have any of these politically enriching traditions. There is a member of the House of Representatives from Delta State who never worked in a job and was just a street vagrant before contesting and winning election to the House of Assembly in 1999.
The Civil Servant on the other hand goes through tests before recruitment. His qualifications are known and is public record and in the course of his career, goes through many trainings and enriching work experiences. His work and career are evaluated at every stage to prepare for exigent challenges in his office.
Because Civil Servants are the ones who combine training and work experience in Government, the rules say that they are the ones qualified to be entrusted with signing the cheques of government accounts and managing the funds of government. This is enormous responsibility except that the same rules give overriding power of approval to the politician in the executive branch. This is the kernel and source of corruption in government. The one who keeps the money has no power to approve it’s use and the one who approves the use has no power to dispense the funds. When the politician can’t get his way, he calls them “evil servants”.
The question then arises, why are civil servants precluded from contesting for political offices after all the training and work experience? Is it the fear of concentrating too much power in the hands of the trained operators of Government?
Two decades of continuous political activity since 1999 has revealed Nigerian politics as having no undergirding depth, no guiding principles and certainly no organized thinking for growing systems and institutions and thereby developing ennobling traditions.
Politicians come into Government like crazed maniacs, with no sense of restraint, covered in debt and with the singular purpose of becoming public charges.
Most come into office without the training and experience of work in an organized environment. And without the restraining discipline of training or work experience, they plunge into government with a determination for chaos and disorder, disorganizing every restraining tradition and disrupting well structured systems and organizations. They know corruption thrives in disorder.
Without the mediating restraint of the civil service therefore, our governments would be no better than Amazonian jungles, where Brutish and termagant forces contest violently for control of watering holes and territories.
The British Government give more plaudits and medals of honour to Civil Servants than to career politicians for a reason. They do more and better work for the good of the people and the government.
The British prepare civil servants for a later career in politics by the simple practice of training them in the management of public institutions and policies. They rise through disciplined work environments and thus find it easy to submit to caution.
Civil Servants are managers of institutional memory. They are repositories of government knowledge and by that fact become better managers of government institutions and more successful implementers of policies that serve the public wellbeing.
We can do the same for the Civil Service here.
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