By Nnedinso Ogaziechi
One of the beauties of global development is the contributions of human ideas to improving lives and developing the needed infrastructure to carry things through. The race to manufacture the most effective vaccines for the global pandemic has occupied the global society since 2020 that the pandemic broke out in Whuhan, China.
Progress is being made and slowly but steadily the vaccines are making progress as more people are getting the vaccines in Europe, Asia and Africa. For Africa, it is still a long road to access to vaccines in a world that has been forced to embrace the nationalistic spirit of their charity starting at home. The effort is to first take care of their own people before sending to Africa and other third world countries lacking in both the manufacturing facilities and storage too.
What this must reiterate in the developing countries must be the spirit to invest in the human capital as well as the visible and functional infrastructure that aid development. In Nigeria for instance there must be the willingness to look beyond gender in the leadership at all levels so as to achieve a holistic development powered by the best brains and the most willing to serve.
The Round Table Conversation sat with Ajibola Ponnle, a skilled Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Practitioner who rose from a successful career in the corporate world to become the Lagos State Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions. Her more than two decades work experience capped with becoming the CEO of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management before joining government equips her to well for her present position.
To her, she sees her opportunity to serve as her own way of impacting the human capital sector that is indeed the pillar of any development efforts in any society. The infrastructural developments are good but the people are like the primary log that lights the fire of development and must therefore be well educated, trained and refocused for the development we seek to be effective and sustainable.
To her, education, training and capacity building must be availed the workforce especially in the public service for them to be optimally productive. To her leadership at any level must be based on competence and capacity to be focused and serve at any level. There is no scientific proof that any gender is incapable of being optimally productive when empowered on an equal basis with the right education, training and motivation.
The commitment to excel and achieve your goals to her has been her driving force and she believes her present position is an opportunity to give what she has practiced in a career spanning almost three decades. She believes each worker must find a greater purpose for waking up every day and going to work. Productivity that drives economies must come from the human workforce, whether in the private or public sector, that must realize the value of commitment and hard work.
She is determined to support the state civil servants realize their potentials and understand their contribution to the prosperity or otherwise of Nigeria. She feels that a well-structured Public service is key to prosperity because that is what has developed other nations especially the Asian tigers. There is to her an urgent need to continue reforms in the civil service for optimal productivity and service delivery to citizens so that they can indeed enjoy the gains of democracy fully.
She feels that what has happened over the years is a focus on infrastructural development, roads, hospitals and schools and not enough attention on the Public servants, structures and processes that deliver these outcomes that should produce sustainable impact for development.
We must address the root cause of production and service delivery inadequacies. Luckily, the Governor in Lagos is truly people-centric and continues to support the necessary initiatives required in the area of capacity development such as the investing in a Learning Management System and partnering with LinkedIn Learning which provides access to the best in class content library and has successfully trained 33,000 Public servants. This is encouraging as it is energizing the Service and the benefits will be far-reaching.
We want to do what is sustainable in the long run and which can grow the system. The focus should be the people delivering the service and that means that focus must be on merit and competence and a structure that enables efficiency and productivity. Knowledge is key and we must ensure we get the best into our public service and give them the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and thrive. The commitment to excellence must be the driving force for the civil service and the template must be set by the governments at all levels across the nation for national impact.
Being a part of this Administration has been challenging because of the quantum of work and expectations from public life but it has been very fulfilling. It’s an opportunity to truly serve and there has been a lot to learn from the system. Humility and passion are key to thriving in the Public Service for any individual irrespective of gender and also being laser -focused on what one is trying to achieve.
The RoundTable Conversation believes that our country will begin to make progress when the import of the civil service in the country is truly understood in a way that supports their services as the heart of the nation. They literarily pump blood to all sectors of any country’s economy.
There must be a determination to get the best heads into our civil service. At the moment there seems to be an ageing population in the civil service because younger generation of Nigerians have the wrong assumption about the civil service. The sector ought to be the engine room of development and as such the best and most qualified must be recruited, trained and motivated like in other countries. In most developed countries, the graduates of Ivy league Universities are recruited into the civil service because they come with the best ideas and brains for innovation and excellent service delivery.
Governments in Nigeria must begin to invest in the training and re-training of civil servants in a country where it seems the only consciousness about civil service amongst the people seems to be strike actions and protests over fuel hikes. Like the Commissioner said, there must be a conscious investment in the civil servants in the area of capacity building and other forms of motivation.
The neglect of the civil service seems to have crept into the national consciousness during the military era with the command and control style of governance that clashed with the merit and hierarchical order that ought to power the civil service.
Most politicians in the developed world always boast of years of excellent public service. In the same way, those in the civil service in post independent Nigeria used to be reference points for excellence too but with time, even the politicians seem to have towed the lines of the military by diminishing the relevance of civil servants through the treatment they get during and after service. The prolonged cases of pension disputes and cases of deaths and agony of pensioners is a clear evidence of a nation that seems to have lost the value for public service.
That the highest paid group of Nigerians are not in the civil service says something about our values as a nation and why development continues to elude us. In countries that value the civil service, civil servants are normally very valued that they drive governments in a non-partisan manner for the good of all. That is why they are often referred to as public servants because they serve the public even though they are paid and employed by governments.
The federal and all state governments must go back to reinstating the dignity and respect of the civil servants in ways that their input in the public service can develop the country. There must be a huge investment in their training and welfare so that the position of the civil service as the engine room of government can be restored and development guaranteed..
Ajibola equally believes that the idea of emphasizing quality and rewarding merit is a good step to begin with as that would encourage the best and make the sector more attractive and fulfilling for the people as they work to put in their best and grow the economy.
Coming with her very vast experience in the private sector her depth of analysis about the value of a better structured and reformed civil service is no doubt an asset to the Lagos state government with an economy that is the biggest in the country and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
For a government that is obviously focused on engaging the best irrespective of gender, her contributions in the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions would in no small way impact on the public service in the nation’s economic and commercial capital.
She obviously comes to serve with the vintage female commitment and one cannot rule out the nurturing attribute of women in the policy direction that she has been pushing for the civil service in the state.
The Roundtable believes that an evaluation of her perception about the value of the people in any economy is a valid professional advice to all governments in the country if the nation must move up the development ladder. Her efforts in the Ministry is a clear display of one with sustained development in mind and coming purely from the corporate world, her track record obviously spoke for her and she seems bent on being the change she seeks.
We believe that the Nigerian economy cannot have the quantum leap we all want and the seamless functionality we all value in other countries if our governments do not invest in the complete restructure of the civil service and the welfare and training of the human capital that power development. Governments must begin to deeply invest in our human capital. It will help us create wealth and improve lives.
The dialogue continues…
Also note that this post does not reflect the views of Nairalovers.