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How Murtala/Obasanjo government engendered graft in civil service, by Olaopa


A retired Federal Permanent Secretary and professor of Public Administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, yesterday, said the morale of government officials declined and corruption became pronounced in the civil service shortly after the regime of Generals Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo sacked top government officials, leaving them with little or nothing to fall back on.

Olaopa stated this in his lecture at a symposium in honour of the former Secretary to the Oyo State Government and Head of Service, the late Chief Theophilus Akinyele, at the House of Chiefs, Agodi Secretariat, Ibadan.


The former Permanent Secretary, who spoke on the theme: “The 21st Century Public Administrator,” noted that the difference between the civil service of the time of the late Theophilus Akinyele and the current generation lies in the level of commitment.

He said that while the old generation schooled in the Victorian way and saw service as a calling, the new generation imbibed the ‘materialism’ syndrome.

The public intellectual said: “A reputable public administrator is differentiated by the good attributes that made the generation of pioneer civil servants distinct from those of today. They were brought up with the values of the Victorian era in England where a public servant believed in morality and selflessness. They were not striving after material things. They were looking for honour. The greatest thing a civil servant would have was to be invited and given OON (Order Of Niger).


“It was after 1975 when many first-generation civil servants were sacked by the Murtala/Obasanjo government that the civil servants started to think that it, not just service, you must also be there. You will recall the story of one of the best public administrators, Sam Manuel, who was the first Chief Physician in Nigeria. He was sacked and asked to move from his Ikoyi house with immediate effect. The only house he had was in Surulere and he had given it out. He had to move to the boys’ quarter of his children from a grand Ikoyi residence. He didn’t last for six months before he died. It was this that went to the heart of civil servants.

“That was where corruption started. Unfortunately, we did not implement the Udoji Reform. We should have moved up from administration to management.”

What we are saying, in essence, is that we need to bring back values. We need to route professionalism, skills, and talent together.


“You cannot make a decision on trust for people today without consulting them. There should be bottom-up planning, consultation, and a participatory approach must be employed. You need to have a service standard. People must know what they should expect; you should sign a charter with them.”

He said the 21st Century had ushered in new standards and skills, hence. “We cannot continue with the old order. We have to re-think and re-engineer our public service.”

Commending the labour unions for their roles in protecting the interest of workers, he, however, warned that there is a limit to what they do as, “you cannot protect the interest of dead woods.”


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