President Muhammadu Buhari may have taken his governance a notch further in consonance with the next level mantra by ordering Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to disregard any purported request from government officials aimed at conferring undue advantage on anyone seeking jobs or other favours. The president’s directive is long overdue in ending the inglorious era of godfatherism and connection which sacrifices merit for mediocrity consequently, stifling the nation’s development for several decades.
The president’s warning was contained in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. The statement was signed by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media) Office of the Minister of Information and Culture. The minister said that the president’s directive was sequel to persistent reports of fraudsters using the business cards and purported referral letters from presidential aides and other government officials to solicit employment, contract and other favours.
Mohammed said that the president equally warned political appointees and other government officials against using their positions to bestow undue advantage on anyone seeking government jobs and other favours. The president, according to the minister, emphasised that such an act “is antithetical to the character of the administration”. The administration has put in place a systematic and disciplined approach to ensure that the government runs smoothly for all Nigerians, whether in the area of employment or contract procurement. This system should be allowed to work for all Nigerians without interference,” he said.
It is instructive that President Buhari's order came on the heels of the war of words between members of the National Assembly joint committee on labour and the Minister of state for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr Festus Keyamo, on Tuesday over modalities for recruitment of the 774, 000 Nigerians into the special public works in the rural areas. The war of words, which lasted for about 30 minutes, culminated in the committee members walking the minister out of the interactive session for refusing to tender an apology as demanded, and the minister accusing them of conniving to hijack the programme.
Trouble started between members of the joint committee led by Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC, Nasarawa North) and the minister, when after making presentations on modalities of recruitments for the programme, excluded the federal lawmakers from it. The minister had in his submissions before the committee on modalities for recruitment of 1,000 youths per each of the 744 local government councils in Nigeria, listed Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), market women association, traditional rulers , youth organisations and civil society organisations as pressure groups to be used as channels of recruitment at the grassroots, exclusion of which angered the federal lawmakers.
The minister said since the programme will take off in October this year, all the channels of recruitment to be decided upon by a 20- man committee per state, would serve as a mechanism for the performance indicators. But the chairman of the committee, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, picked holes in the submission of the minister and that of Director General of National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasir Ladan Argungun. He said while the minister mentioned 20 groups to be used as channels for the recruitment, the NDE DG said he was only aware of eight, "meaning that your ministry is hijacking the N52billion programme from NDE, originally saddled with it, going by appropriation made in the 2020 budget".
Speaking to journalists after his unceremonious exit, Keyamo said, “The background to this was that a couple of days ago they started mounting pressure on me that I must bring the list of those to select the 1,000 persons from all the local governments for them to direct me as to what to do from state to state. The chairman insisted I must come to them privately for them to hand over to me certain instructions as to how this programme will be across the country. I said no that would be sharing the powers of the president and that I can only be answerable for what I have done by virtue of the provisions of the constitution. They can only investigate the programme, they cannot direct it.”
It is an open secret that the so-called Nigerian factor is a major criterion for job seekers and contractors to succeed in their quest for employment or to secure the award of contracts in public organisations which include MDAs across all tiers of government, namely, federal, state and local governments. The godfather or connection syndrome has, no doubt, been largely responsible for the falling standard of education in the country and by extension its underdevelopment given the fact that the system sacrifices merit on the altar of mediocrity-all one needs to be successful in any enterprise is a godfather. It is on the backdrop of this sordid reality that we commend President Buhari’s initiative at ending the retrogressive phenomenon of godfatherism in the public sector. We urge the president to go beyond mere issuance of the order to ensure its implementation to the letter.