One of the first things I learnt in Communication theory was that the channel is the message. How you react to a message, to an appreciable extent, depends on who is delivering the message.
A hated source will deliver a warped message, no matter the logic and persuasion of the message. Human be-ings usually find it difficult to differenti-ate between a message and the source of the message.
Very few public officers have managed to draw public antagonism to themselves in excess of what Lamido Sanusi, the Gov-ernor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, has done. The arrogance of his public speaking has pitched many people against him, in-cluding influential Nigerians in the public space. Go to the National Assembly and find out how popular Sanusi is among the lawmakers.
Even when the man is making sense, the arrogance of his delivery kills the sense in his presentation. And that arro-gance is not only in the words he chooses to use, but even his demeanour speaks ar-rogance. Some people will tell you that be-cause he comes from some royal family in Kano, his carriage has a monarchical touch to it than can easily be misinterpreted as ar-rogance.
I have no problem with his royal blood, but the man should realise that the ‘ranka dede’ that is the assumed due of roy-alty in the north is not native to other parts of Nigeria. If he cannot purge himself of the toga of royal arrogance, he should go seek a job as the Governor of the Central Bank of Arewa and leave us alone in our puritanical adherence to humility as a qual-ity of service. Kano is not all of Nigeria and if he truly seeks to serve Nigeria, he must learn a moderation of cultural attributes.
So Sanusi is brash, rash and abrasive. In that abrasive manner he drew the ire of the labour unions and many Nigerians when he suggested that some fundamental rethink-ing should take place in the country. Of all the things he said, the most controversial has been the recommended reduction of the federal workforce by half. It is this sack of civil servants that has dominated public discussions.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Fi-nance Minister, tried to lend support to Sanusi in his call for trimming the public service, but she beat a hasty retreat through her media aides who tried to explain that she was not calling for a sack of workers but explaining that those who were asking for a cut back in recurrent expenditure were invariably asking for a sack of workers. But for Lamido, no retreat no surrender; he stuck to his guns and has continued his campaign for drastic reforms to the Niger-ian arrangement, at home and abroad.
Sanusi’s position during the fuel subsidy removal crisis has tainted anything he has to say in uncomplimentary colours. No matter what he says, all that people remem-ber is that bad boy of fuel subsidy removal, the hater of the masses, the insensitive brat who lives on the Nigerian nation but will not allow others live. I am not a fan of Sanusi but this time around the man is talk-ing sense.
We cannot continue to run this country like this. The man is not a fool and therefore could not have intended that the federal government should one day just wake up and sack 50% of civil servants. His error is perhaps not outlying a recom-mended procedure for the disengagement of the public servants and the reduction in the apparatus of governance. He dismissed a matter that needed much treatise in a few sentences; backed by his own reputation as anti-people, he had a public relations disaster waiting for him.
But the real loser in this instance is not Sanusi but Nigeria. He has prejudiced the ar-gument for rethinking Nigeria with his own controversial circumstance and people are now up in arms against a measure that Nige-rians should really have sat down to think about properly. It is true that no serious country can afford to spend 70% of its rev-enue on running the civil service.
There are two ways of looking at this problem but Sanusi choose only one. Cut the percentage by cutting expenditure on civil servants by reducing their numbers or increase revenue and thereby reduce the percentage. How do you increase revenue? Many Nigerians will tell you that more than half of the revenue of the federal government is lost to waste and stealing. Corruption among civil servants themselves is said to be worse than among political office holders. Federal civil servants own most of the houses in Abuja; houses valued at hundreds of millions of Naira.
Be-yond Abuja, even in the states, you see af-fluence that cannot be explained by righteous remuneration, around civil ser-vants. An accountant of INEC died some years back and I am sure we all remember the hundreds of millions of Naira that was discovered in his accounts, when his wives started a vicious struggle for his ill gotten wealth. This story is replicated in the lives of many civil servants.
Public service has been turned into a mine of stealing. There cannot be a greater rev-enue booster to the federal government than a successful war against corruption among civil servants. Money that will accrue to government if it can plug the holes of waste and stealing will bring the percentage that Sanusi is so worried about down to less than 30%. Of course it takes time, courage, ini-tiative, sincerity and love of nation above self to successfully fight corruption in the public space. That is why governments and their public thinkers have always preferred the easy option of reducing revenue by re-ducing the workforce.
Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has just told us how 50 oil marketers fraudulently collected N232 billion as fuel subsidy. Public servants who facilitated this fraud must have collected a huge chunk of this money. If there is no cor-rupt public service there cannot be corrupt oil marketers collecting N232 billion for service not rendered; there cannot be ques-tions about close to four trillion naira not ac-counted for by MDAs; there cannot be corruption in any sphere of public life. Yet it is the responsibility of government to re-move corruption in the public space. That is economic security that every government worth that name must provide.
Because of this shadow chasing of reduc-ing or rationalising the workforce instead of facing the real challenge of corrupt civil ser-vants, Nigeria has had many unsuccessful efforts at reforming the civil service. We had the Adebo Commission in 1971, the Udoji Public Service Review Commission of 1974, the Dotun Phillips Civil Service Re-view Commission of 1988, the Alison Ayida Civil Service Reform of 1995 and the Steve Oronsaye Panel of 2012.
Yet the service is sick and Sanusi is calling for another review of the establishment. Who will have the courage to overhaul the processes and pro-cedures that leave room for corruption in the public service? Is it incompetence or unwill-ingness in government that has shored cor-ruption to this staggering level in the service? Last week the Speaker of the House of Representatives had to warn Heads of rev-enue generating agencies not to spend money they have collected outside of what was appropriated to them.
He said revenue collected belongs to government and not to them. How did we get to this point where revenue agencies spend money without ap-propriation, to warrant this kind of warning? There used to be something called the Civil Service Procedure and Rules; are the proce-dures of running agencies and departments not clearly spelt out? Or is it that nobody en-forces the rules and prosecutes offenders anymore?
You may become despondent and say, well if the civil service is that corrupt, then per-haps it should suffer the Sanusi treatment of cutting the workforce by half. I assure you that the situation will only get worse as those that will be removed will be the honest ones who cannot bribe anybody to stay on at work. We will succeed in eliminating the 30 or 40% that are honest and have a close to 100% corrupt civil service. What a gloomy picture.
Sanusi also raised issues of structures of governance. 774 local governments that are doing nothing but paying staff salaries and sharing money every month. Over 500 na-tional legislators who are not impacting on life in any meaningful sense. Watch the pro-ceedings of the House of Reps on television and see the empty seats that are on display.
The usual excuse is that they are in commit-tees or on oversight-function assignments; but the country does not get the real benefit of these assignments. One of the committees on Foreign Affairs is currently on tour of Nigerian Embassies around the world. At the end of the day nothing significant will be achieved beyond a ‘round the world in 80 days’ jamboree for the legislators. Imagine the money that will go to waste on this one exercise.
Looting is no longer disguised at the local government. No work is done in any local government that I know of to justify its ex-istence beyond political job for the boys. The road that passes in front of my house in Ibadan was built by a local government some years ago. Today, the rough edges of the Kilimanjaro Mountains are better this road.
Hardly does a day pass without an un-suspecting motorist losing his shock ab-sorbers or a spring to the two feet deep holes that are generously spread over this less than 400 metres stretch of road.
Totally neglected and abandoned, the Lagelu local govern-ment has obviously gone to sleep as evi-denced by this road that carries a traffic of not less than one thousand vehicles per day. This pathetic story I am sure is replicated all over the country. Of what use are the local governments then, beyond avenues of polit-ical patronage and embezzlement of funds?
We need to rethink this country. It is headed for a major crash unless urgent steps are taken to redirect the course. As Sanusi said, if ‘the government is spending 70% of its revenue on itself and 30% on the people’, we have an invitation to chaos in the near fu-ture. Government has failed to the extent that people provide their own water, their own electricity, mend their own roads, die at home because they cannot pay the exorbitant medical bills and watch their children idle away because they have no money to send them to school. Crime is rising and the queue of the jobless is increasing. One day, baboon will go to the market and will not return. That is what Lamido Sanusi is saying; no matter how badly he is saying it or how badly we are hearing him.
From my mailbox
This awesome God
A Christian young lady who had always wanted to go mountain climbing but was scared de-cided to pray about this fear and then go on this adventure. She went on the faithful day, took the rope and started the journey up the mountain. When she got to a ledge, she wanted to rest, but kept hold of the rope; however the person holding the rope at the top of the cliff mistakenly snapped the rope against the young lady's eyes and knocked out her contact lens.
She is now on the rock ledge, afraid and without clear vision; she barely knew where she was going, she looked around, as much as she could, but had to give up because the contact lens were nowhere to be found. She went ahead and got to the top of the mountain, hop-ing that one of the parties at the top would find her contact lens in the corner of her eye and that too proved to be un-successful. As the story went, the girl looked around all the mountains and prayed saying, 'The eyes of the Lord goes to and fro the earth; Lord, you can see every mountain, stone, ledge and you know exactly where my contact lens is; please help me locate it'.
When the time came for them to go down the mountain, she walked down the trail to the bottom of the mountain and as she arrived with her team, a member of the next party of climbers called out 'Has anyone lost a contact lens, as I can see one here'; well, they were amazed and walked across only to discover that an ant was carrying the contact lens, and it was so heavy for it, so it was moving slowly across the face of the rock and drew the attention of the other climber, who was able to identify what the ant was carrying! God needed to answer the prayers of the girl and chose to use an ant to locate and carry the answer to the place where the an-swer will be received. God is such a big God and can bring even the little things together to answer our prayers even when it looks impossible.