By FIDELIS EGUGBO
SEVERAL things define a man and great men are, most times, known for their wisdom. In fact, the lives of great men are studied to know what made them great and severally, such men were unpredictable.
Few days ago, precisely, last Wednesday, yours sincerely tried to figure out how the Governor of Delta State, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa seems to be abreast with developments in every sector of the economy. Understandably, he is a Governor, but, it is also a fact that most political office holders are known to be inactive.
The fact that he has been very active in the political scene for decades, for the greater part of his life was not enough reason for one to associate him with the knowledge he has at his finger tips. Yes! He is a medical doctor, but, his wealth of knowledge can hold one in awe.
Most times, the word “was” was used for great men, but, on that Wednesday, one could not help but say, ‘Governor Okowa is a great man.’ On that day, he met with what one can also, comfortably call the grandfathers of the civil service – members of Association of Retired Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries (ASORHOPS) led by Mr Okey Ofili.
At that meeting, the governor’s passion for a civil service that will be effective in service-delivery was obvious as he spoke passionately about the importance of the civil service to the state and the nation. He did not mince words when he stated that he has asked all political appointees to ensure that there is hitch-free relationship between them and the civil servants for the effective running of government.
To him, there must be seamless operation between the civil servants and the political office holders, noting that the echelon of the civil service should live exemplary life for their subordinates to emulate. He did not also, end at that; he urged members of the ASORHOPS to engage in mentorship of the civil servants so that the ideals of the service would be upheld for a long time to come.
“No one leaves a place and watches it collapse. There are a lot of roles for you (ASORHOPS) to play to ensure that the civil service you left behind can still be very effective in the delivery of services,” is a quotable quote derived from the comments of the governor during that visit. Even the world’s acclaimed greatest playwright, William Shakespeare once said in one of his renowned politically-laced play, Julius Caesar that, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”
The words of Shakespeare re-echoed as we listened to the discussion between the governor and the retired Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries. Obviously, some of them were been referred to by those who they left behind in the service as philanthropic, disciplinarians, wicked or men and women who offered nothing while in office. And the question about what one will be remembered for when he leaves the position he or she is currently occupying came to mind again.
There is no doubt that the civil service in relation to political office could be succinctly captured in the saying that, “Soldier go, Soldier come, Barrack remains.” This is a truism because, since we joined the civil service more than two decades ago, we have seen the Military in power, and also, witnessed three successive democratic governments in Delta State. Some of them came with genuine programs, some relied on the civil servants for direction and others believed that they knew it all. Of course, the civil service has survived, but, most importantly, how did the civil service fare viz-a-viz protecting the interest of the generality of the people?
That the civil service is important is an understatement. It is the civil servants that will either make government policies and programmes to succeed or fail; it is the civil servants that will most often, guide the political office holder on how to achieve his mission in meeting with the yearnings of the people and bearing in mind that the civil service was before the coming of the political office holder and will remain after the tenure of the political office holder, one can therefore, tow the line of Governor Okowa in saying that the civil service should not be toyed with.
At every point in time, it is the vehicle with which the political office holder will deliver the goods. So, ensuring a vibrant, proactive, industrious, well enlightened and motivated civil service is very important.
Certainly, members of ASORHOPS, who are enjoying life after service, are in good position to mentor civil servants; they can reflect on where they got it wrong and areas they achieved successes and guide the civil servants for a better, more efficient service-delivery to be achieved.
“If these classes of people (retired Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries) are involved in the training and mentorship of civil servants, we will have a better system. It is my prayer that this partnership that has been started will continue to grow,” the governor said.
As someone who is in the know, the governor desires an effective civil service that will complement the activities of political office holders for the best to be achieved for the generality of the people. He sees the civil servants as partners in progress, not tools for work. To him, ensuring a disciplined civil service should be exemplary noting that there was no reason for the political office holder not to be in the office by 8 am which will spur the civil servants to ensure that they are also, in the office, possibly before 8 am.
“As an individual, I wake up daily by 5 am. Why should I be sleeping when there is work to be done? There are still some civil servants that are making us proud and the upcoming ones should emulate them because, there is something good in working hard,” the governor stated.
(As published on page 10 of The Pointer Newspaper of Sunday, September 8, 2019.)