Dodoiyi Deinbo William-West
“Our government will embark on civil service reforms that will ensure a well-trained, well-resourced, well equipped and motivated civil service that will champion the efficient implementation of government policies.”
– Gov. Emeka Ihedioha.
That promise, during his inauguration, is part of the first of a 15-point ‘Contract with People of Imo State’ by the current Governor of Imo State, Chief Emeka Ihedioha. With his extensive and enviable private and public sector experience, he recognises the dire circumstances Imo State was in when he assumed office and how unkindly history will judge him if he does not deliver his well-articulated campaign promises. That promise also indicates that he realises the imperative of pursuing his worthy goals as governor with a purpose-led, diligent, motivated and transparent civil service; one that runs with total buy-in of his ‘Contract with people of Imo State’.Amidst it all, it should be clear to the governor, the electorate of Imo State and other stakeholders that making worthy promises must be tied to taking equally pragmatic steps and sustaining connections to achieve his pre-determined goals.
To begin with, it is of utmost importance for the implementing vehicle of the executive arm of the state government – the civil service – to be on the same page with the leader of the executive arm – the governor of the state – in order to ensure that the latter’s mission is fully achieved.Without deliberate fusion of purpose and efforts, ‘the governor’s mission’ is dead on arrival! In setting the tone for optimism in the state, Ihedioha also stated in his inaugural address: “We must tell ourselves the ‘frank truth’ about the state of our State. We cannot play the ostrich, pretending that all is well when, indeed, we are in a deep hole. Imo is broken and the climb out of the depths of despair will be steep, arduous and tortuous… But let no one underestimate our resolve to do what is right for the good of our people.”Employing a mix of techniques,the Imo State Government should work assiduously to entrench a disposition that drives optimism in the state, particularly among civil servants.
Again, Governor Ihedioha needs the undivided support and commitment of civil servants in the state. The need for their buy-in cannot be over-emphasizedor taken for granted. Such buy-in will lead to full appreciation of the mission and goals of the administration as well as the specific roles civil servants are to play to ensure pre-determined outcomes.There is no aspect of the governor’s ‘Contract’that can be fully accomplished without integral input, diligence and commitment ofcivil servants.
Pursuant to this, it is necessary for civil servants in Imo State to aspire to and actually attain ‘knowledge leadership’ capacity. In his study, “Organisational Knowledge Leadership andEmployee Productivity: A Study of Imo State, Nigeria Civil Service”, BBJ Iheriohanma stated:“Knowledge leadership occupies a very sensitive position in any knowledge-driven modern organization…” By this, he refers to “workers endowed with high ability and whose values and contributions need to be harnessed and improved upon for high productivity. (Knowledge leadership) challenges leadership in organization(s) to fully utilize them for high productivity and national economic development.”
On the part of the governor, his declaration that his administration will “ensure a well-trained, well-resourced, well equipped and motivated civil service that will champion the efficient implementation of government policies” shows that he fully appreciates the importance of ‘knowledge leadership’. Perhaps, what we should be considering are:What percentage ofImo State’s civil servantsappreciate this dire need for knowledge leadership? How many of them are adequately employing knowledge leadershipalready? Furthermore, how many of those lacking this capacity are willing to subject themselves to the rigour necessary to upgrade their capacity? For, as Iheriohanma discovered during his study, the malaise of low productivity in the Imo State Civil Service and, indeed, other parts of Nigeria is due to “the absence of organizational knowledge leadership and efficient management styles especially in this era of knowledge-driven production economy, for motivating organization’s workforce…”
Another concern with respect to civil servants is political encroachment in the operations of the civil service. By this,one meansdeliberate creation of loopholes by the executive arm of government (the governor in this context) and his agents which civil servants take undue advantage of, resulting in all manners of defects and deficiency in the affairs of government. Being the case in many states of the country since 1999, will this also be the situation during the tenure of Ihedioha?It is expedient that the governor appreciates that for the civil service, it is ‘politicians come, politicians go but civil servants remain’. It will be untidy if he or his agents insist on, manipulate or coerce the civil service to take on ‘the colours and contours’ of his political partywith the consequent debilitating‘political hang-over’ at the end of his possible two-terms as governor of Imo State.
Information management is equally an important issue the Ihedioha administration must engage in pragmatic and innovative fashion. Besides providing grounds for the administration to be understood, pragmatic management of information will aid situation analysis for formulation of policies, policy planning, policy implementation and policy evaluation. It will also add impetus to inter-ministerial work and achievements.
In 2011, Anyanwu, Zander and Oparaku embarked on a study that focused on the Imo State Civil Service. In their report, the trio stated:“For policy making to be effective, there must be accurate planning. Planning begins with the gathering of relevant data and information on the proposed project. The information/data available determines whether the decision taken will be feasible or not. Information is therefore very important for proper planning.”
They identified the following information needs to be met if the Imo State Civil Service truly intends to match government and electorate’s expectations: Statistical information; Government information; Directory information; Administrative information; Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Information; Finance and Supplies information; Technical information; Research information; and, Marketing and Distribution information. One could add the following:Population and related information; Information on State and Federal Government fiscal policies and earningsof Imo State Government; Information of cultural and social influences on social behaviour from other parts of Nigeria and abroad; Information on consumption pattern – including likely changes to this; Local investment patterns; Information on unfolding investment opportunities in the state; Information on crime rate and pattern of crimes, social unrest and similar issues.
A glance at the above reveals unavoidable need to adequately gather and employ information for short to long-term impact diligently. Also important is the need to give women and youth equal opportunities in employment, promotion and rewards,training and study grants in the Imo State Civil Service as well as empowerment for entrepreneurship by the state government. Ihedioha’s resolve to drive civil service reforms that will raise well-trained, well-resourced, well equipped and motivated civil servants will be enviable if women and youth feel that they are truly important participantsin the civil service’s key operations (based on their qualifications and experience).
Finally, the state government must emphasise and pursue training and retraining of civil servants. In this respect, training and retraining of civil servants must go beyond Owerri and prominent towns in the state. Training and retraining form a sure way of ensuring that his mission is understood and embraced with the passion, optimism and support it requires.
William-West writes from Lagos