My induction as a Fellow Institute of Management Consultant (FIMC-Nigeria) underscores a double imperative. On the one hand, given my nuanced researches into the professions, professionalism and the concept of service as a calling, I do not take inductions and Fellowship with levity. They constitute a burden of responsibility to reassess what one (at an individual level) and the professional body (at institutional level) have done so far, and what more is required to push forward the frontiers of institutional reform and professional practice. On the other hand, being a Fellow also gives one the needed platform to further advocacy and reform agitation within a recognized body whose institutional template has a lot to do with the reform of the public service that I have dedicated more than twenty years of my career life pursuing.
Nigeria is in a huge quandary. And every one who retains some pride and patriotic attachment to this nation ought to feel some measure of alarm at the direction things are moving. Politically, economically and administratively, things are falling apart, and the centre has lost its stabilizing effect. I will situate my worry within the context of the failing mandate of the civil service in a failing state, because I have long held the staunch belief that the public service constitute a sine qua non for democratic governance in Nigeria. In fact, if we are to succeed as a nation, the public service must first succeed through an inviolate reform framework that will enable the civil service system deliver on its briefs. But between the present institutional predicament and the objective of optimal productivity that will give functional teeth to Nigeria’s experiment of democratic governance, we need to address and combat the breach in expertise and professionalism which has turned our institutions to mere generalist congregating point. In generational terms, the most critical of Nigeria’s problem is the protracted failure to harness her professional and expert knowledge, skills and competences required to transform her institutional worries. From one generation to the other, in our very eyes, we have laid the talents and potentials and endowments of our great nation to waste.
And this is where management consultancy, and the IMC-Nigeria, become a critical force in the (re)articulation of what is to be done. All across the globe, management consultancy has always been one of the core competence that supported innovations in high performing public services. Indeed, within the context of the Nigerian public service and public administration discourse, management consulting professionalism became the proxy by which modern management techniques, smart, good and best practices are imported, deployed and institutionalised in the public sector. Permit a brief historical excursus to ground the significance of management consultancy within the framework of the reform of the public service in Nigeria.
As a strategy of dealing with reform management which, right from independence, had always been on ad hoc basis, there was a concerted effort at establishing some permanent or quasi-permanent organs to strategize and manage reforms on an on-going basis. This led to the setting up of the Organization and Method (O&M) Unit in the Treasury shortly after independence. The setting up of the Public Service Review Unit (PSRU) in 1975, as a management structure, followed with the report of the Udoji Public Service Review Commission. The Udoji Commission recommended that the O&M Unit be rechristened the Public Service Reforms Unit (PSRU) which should then provide technical support to government in the implementation of the new public service management system conceptualized by the Udoji Commission and the Unified Grading System that the Commission recommended. It would be recalled that the PSRU’s establishment derived from the prevalence, in the 50s, of the organization and methods (O&M) framework in the public service. The PSRU eventually metamorphosed into the Management Services Department (MSD) and later into the Management Services Office (MSO). The PSRU’s core mandate was management consultancy support to install new systems for MDAs as well as introduce Job Standard Development and Grading. Some component of the latter responsibility of MSD was subsequently upgraded with the establishment of the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC). Yet, the PSRU and the MSD never really served as a proactive reform outfit in a holistic sense other than undertaking specific structural reviews as requested by MDAs or directed by government.
I have had the opportunity to write a lot about the mismanagement of the Udoji Commission Report. There is more to say about it because it constitutes, for me, a significant watershed in the attempt at transforming the public service in Nigeria through the installation of a performance management system that would have pushed the system towards optimality and productivity. It is however grossly unfortunate that even in the 21st century knowledge and technological age, the core of management consulting skills and strategic HRM is yet to be adopted widely in the Nigerian civil service through the professionalisation of human resource function and the adoption of known though dynamic professional skills for running government.
Apart from the many public education articles on the civil service that I have dedicated myself to on the reform of the civil service system, I have recently embarked on another “Key Drivers of Change” series that is meant to highlight those significant issues, dynamics and reform processes that are at the core of transforming Nigeria. One of such is productivity, and specifically, public service productivity. I have highlighted the severe absence of a core of competences and expertise required to shore up the gradually eroding professional template that is crucial for reinventing the civil service in Nigeria. To achieve this reinvention of professionalism, we require urgently a scheme of re-professionalisation that will not only stem the competence and skill flight to the private sector, but provide proper and solid incentives for such skills and talents to stay and restore the civil service professional status.
And this is where the IMCN and all its Fellows become strategically relevant as a key player and stakeholder in the mandate of advocacy to reinvent and ignite the critical structural shifts the civil service institution require to beef up policy intelligence and deliver efficient and effective service to Nigerians. The array of mission and objectives advertised on the IMCN website play right into the critical need for a paradigm shifts that must happen if the public service will become strategic partner in the development process and overall national transformation. And IMCN provides a community of professional partnership that could be deployed to backstop the imperative of making Nigeria work. For instance, the Institute could initiate a strong relationship with a reconstituted National Association for Public Administration and Management (NAPAM) and in concert with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) and other relevant professional bodies, to further widen the community of expertise and professionalism that could be deployed to deepen advocacy and reform activism to rejuvenate the public service in Nigeria. There is a lot that these professional organisations can do to redefine professionalism and the responsibility of rethinking the intellectual foundation of knowledge, skills and practices in the running of the business of government as the critical inner dynamics to reinvent the public service and its operating system.
While once again appreciating this unique institution for this landmark honour, I want to take the liberty of pledging, on behalf of all the honorees, our unreserved commitment to the codes of service of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria. This is indeed an organisation whose wide range of expertise should play a significant role in re-professionalizing the public administration system in Nigeria.