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Public servants and need for synergy


Head of Service of the Federation, Winnie Oyo-Ita

Head of Service of the Federation, Winnie Oyo-Ita

While swearing in a former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP), former President Goodluck Jonathan noted that his predecessors – a former Chairman and Secretary of the task force – spent much of their tenure fighting each other.  This created an example of the proverbial house divided against itself. But this situation is by no means restricted to the PTFP of that era preceding the swearing in of the said Chairman. It is a pervasive phenomenon.

The trend is that no sooner are Nigerian public servants appointed to office than they identify some other public servant – usually as a “rival” or in a “rival” MDA – against whom they contend in the discharge of their duties, creating a conflict between themselves and the MDAs they control, which inevitably undermines the efficiency of their service and those of their MDAs to the nation.

This attitude would need to change if the public service must realise its full potential. And it is in this context that I consider the recent visit of the Acting Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Dr. Vincent Onome Akpotaire, to the Director-General the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mr. Aminu Diko, as a paradigm shift in the behaviour of our newly appointed public servants, and which deserves more than a passing interest, especially as he used the visit to solicit for closer ties between the two agencies of government in the service of our nation’s economy.

During the visit, which took place on March 1, 2016, the new BPE helmsman also stated that though both agencies have clearly defined roles, it was necessary for them to synergise and cooperate for the benefit of the infrastructure development programme and reforms of the federal government. And he went on to emphasise the need for both agencies to keep to the terms of their engagement in the interest of Nigerians. He also urged both agencies to collaborate in privatising all the enterprises listed in the BPE Act and called for every obstacle against the realisation of this goal to be dismantled.

What transpired between the heads of these two agencies was a public service equivalent of a diplomatic visit meant to foster improved working relations following the recent appointment of one of them. The overture implied here is particularly significant given than both agencies could have overlapping interests and responsibilities, as suggested even by their names, and so their heads might be inclined to consider themselves as rivals like typical heads of such agencies in similar situations. But these two do not, but have shown preference for working as partners in progress, with Mr. Diko recognising the BPE as the main driver of the federal government’s reforms and privatisation programme whose activities have produced many agencies including the ICRC. And as he hinted while pledging his agency’s cooperation with the BPE, such synergy is likely to change the destiny of Nigeria rather than individuals.

• Oke was a Technical Adviser (Media and Communication) in the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP)

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