Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Are Political Appointees & Civil Servants Birds of the Same Feather?

Are the bureaucrats without any clout and can used willy-nilly by the political class to facilitate their kleptomaniac tendencies?

Is there a symbiotic relationship in place between the two entities that encourages mismanagement and facilitates the abuse of office as witnessed in many regions of Africa?

The bureaucrats or civil servants as they are often called, have chosen a career in public service. As policy wonks- formulators and implementers of policies- they are primarily the brain-box and the workhorse of the government. They are there to make your life and mine more pleasant and meaningful.

Going by the sleuth of documentations (written and oral) on events and issues relating to governance (in Africa and particularly in Nigeria) in the mainstream media and on the blogosphere; the politicians and their political appointees (generally referred to as “politicians” in this post) have had more than their fair share of criticism. The bureaucrats, on the other hand, are usually insulated and not very much in the limelight, yet they may be equally as corrupt as their cousins- the politicians.

Politicians are always in transit, and are time-limited creatures in the scheme of governance, while the bureaucrats are somewhat omnipresent, and in my opinion are the “custodian of government”. Regardless of the disposition- civil or military government- the civil servants have always had the same purpose, served the same need, and have often remained keyed to their primary loci in the civil service.

The high-ranking bureaucrats, often experts in their fields, are the real brain behind any government. They exist to guide and nurture the politicians. The politicians have to learn from them, and literally feed off their hands to understand the workings of their portfolio. What happens then when the top echelon of the agency is slack, corrupt, and lack energy? The events unfolding in the Nigerian aviation agency and the call for removal of the Aviation Minister (who has spent about 6 months in agency) is an example. Could the Minister have prevented the plane crashes and effect visible changes within 6 months?

One can only wonder why the myriad of policies upon policies implemented has failed, and the course of governance is laced with obstacles and difficulties? Have the bureaucrats been feeding the politicians the wrong meal? Have the civil service bosses (Permanent Secretaries, Director-Generals, and Directors) been feeding the politicians with the wrong diet? Why is our national growth stunted? What are the reasons for the general malaise in governance?

Whatever the scenario, I am convinced that the majority in the civil service are equally as corrupt (if not more) as their cousins in the political class; a thorough appraisal of the bureaucracy is urgently needed to move the nation out of the woods.

The question is: Who will facilitate this process, their cousins the politicians?