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Restoring the Pride of the Public Service in Nigeria – Part 2


Public Service in Nigeria

In this sense, therefore, it becomes imperative for the public service to then differentiate between its core and non-core functions. This distinction becomes necessary because the public service cannot afford to be saddled with things which could ordinarily be outsourced. The core functions of the MDAs are those that ought to be the focus of operations. This is essentially one of the mechanisms that facilitate efficient service delivery. The core competency thesis insists that an MDA becomes a high performing organization if it concentrates on its core functions and outsources its non-cores—HRM or ICT, for instance—to others.

All these back-end transformations need to be complemented by some positive institutional reforms that put the public service itself in operational light. First, a flexible, knowledge-based and technology-enabled public service can only function when it is manned by those who are themselves knowledge-administrators. The bureaucrats of the Weberian traditional administration would be at a loss how to handle the new managerial system. The new generation of public manager who have the capacity to manage the new administrative dynamics of the twenty first century must be adaptable, charismatic, emotionally and spiritually intelligent, entrepreneurial, possess the capacity to develop talents, have effective communication skills, must be competent, and so on. Unfortunately, within Nigeria’s diversity management system, informed by the practice of the quota system and the federal character principle, the managerial requirements for fishing out such competent public managers is seriously jeopardized.

I must insert this as an urgent skills imperative and as a compelling new set of competences that public servants aspiring to leadership positions must have. Within the framework of rethinking the intellectual bases of skills for running the business of government is the need to create a balance in operational delivery and policy experience of public officers. At the core of the operational experience of top public servants should be commercial experience through line responsibility for generating revenue in a complex market; for managing expectation of delivery against commitment with commercial stakeholders; experience with management of the negotiation of large scale commercial contracts from bidding and their operational delivery against contracted standards; including experience in loan financing; productivity and the financial costs of deliveries in the interface of PPPs and in core ventures, and many more, all with a view to deepening strategic communication between public managers and the private sector in the development process.


The public service must also have the capacity to determine the influx of those who will eventually be depended upon to achieve the performance and productivity on which the status of the public service depends. The pride of the public service therefore relies essentially on a human resources management process that sieve between those who have been called to serve and those merely looking for a means of livelihood. The system therefore needs a new induction and initiation framework that will facilitate recruitment, training, competence and retention of the public servants based on the best practices determining conditions of service—job evaluation and pay and compensation structure—that is comparable with the reward and performance structure in the other sectors of the economy; and that has the capacity to boost the prestige of the public managers and turn them into patriots ready to serve their country.

Part of the human resources policy that turns raw recruits into competent public managers also include a framework of administrative leadership and mentoring that allows the leadership to reflect the true ethical requirement and values of the public service. It is in this sense that the entire public service becomes a veritable framework of mentoring from which those incoming into the service immediately begins to learn the ethical rope of service by merely gazing at the exemplary leadership attitude and character of those in authority. The leaders become the ethical compass that direct the operational essence of the public service in ways that yield productivity. What this suggests is that the public service must be able to put in place a learning infrastructure that ensures that apart from inducting new public servants, there will always be opportunities for relearning and reskilling that keeps the re-professionalization objectives always in tune with global administrative best practices, as well as systemic reforms that enables environmental scanning, benchmarking, self-introspection, and sustainable system improvements.

The future of the Nigerian public service cannot be divorced from its professional status as the institutional guarantee for good governance. This is the reason why all the operational and technocratic objectives of the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR) must be fore-grounded within the imperative of restoring the pride of a system on whose shoulder rests the governance framework that Nigerians require to make sense of their lives as Nigerians.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary and Professor of Public Administration


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