Recently, after he visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to Nigerians to be tolerant of one another and embrace peace.
It would be recalled that between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Most of the dead were Tutsis and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.
Even for a country with such a turbulent history as Rwanda, the scale and speed of the slaughter left its people reeling. The genocide was sparked by the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on April 6, 1994.
Whoever was responsible, within hours, a campaign of violence spread from the capital throughout the country and lasted for about three months.
President Buhari toured the permanent exhibitions at the Memorial and laid a wreath at the mass graves where victims of the genocide were buried, paid tribute to the memory of the victims and prayed for healing for survivors.
Writing in the visitors’ book, the President said: “Remembering the victims of this dark history of the Rwandan genocide, we pray that humanity will never experience this kind of hatred, wickedness and violence to others because of their ethnic background, religion and beliefs. Nigeria is strongly committed to the prevention of mass atrocity anywhere in the world and believes that perpetrators of such crimes and their enablers, anywhere in the world, must be held accountable.’’
Aptly, after the historic visit, the President said that part of the lessons from the Rwanda experience include the need for Nigerians to continue to be tolerant of one another and for the nation to preserve its historical antecedents from Nigeria Civil War from 1967 to 1970.
‘‘I went through all the experiences from 15 January 1966 to date. I was a governor, minister, and head of state and went through detention,” he said. “I returned to partisan politics and will finish my two terms as constitutionally allowed. We fought a 30-month bitter civil war and we killed about a million of each other. Nigeria went through this kind of terrible development process.”
The President was apt because, from Rwanda, we can learn of the dangers of what happens when we allow divisiveness and demonising of the “other” to creep into our thinking and rhetoric and what that leads to. Most of all, we can learn that no matter how horrible the situation or crime, forgiveness and redemption are possible.
Indeed, for Africa to experience real positive change and to make desirable progress, much needs to be learnt from Rwanda and more from elsewhere. These lessons, and how they are learnt and utilised, will determine, to a very great extent, the kind of progress and the extent of it that can be witnessed in Nigeria and elsewhere.
But much depends on the leadership in each country, the desired political system and the economy being spawned by the political leaders. For post-war Rwanda, the role of the head of government in moving the somewhat fragile nation in the direction of growth, expansion, resilience and continental leadership cannot be ignored.
This is a reminder of the laudable role of Lee Kuan Yew, the charismatic and focused leader who moved Singapore from a third-world nation to a first-world nation. And that is what the President is doing in Nigeria!
But there are questions about means to an end. In today’s world, a lot is being expected by people in the form of participatory government, in the form of what is currently described and understood as democracy. No doubt, there are questions as to whether or not democracy is compatible with African political and cultural settings, especially considering the enduring aversion of most African national leaders to a democratic system of government.
There are things to worry about concerning African political leaders, heads of national governments and the systems of government they operate which go a long way in shaping the lives of their people, their national economies and social stability.
Some people rode to power on popular acclaim, promising one form of reform or the other. But, with time, they soon forgot the very promise that endeared them to the populace and began to pursue self-serving projects and programmes to perpetuate self in office and detriment of citizens.
As necessary and important as democracy and good governance are, they do not require good leaders to stay in office in perpetuity. Agreed that democratic experiments can be very costly in many ways, but they seem to have some advantages.
On the flip side, democratic government could be very expensive, depending on what system of government is chosen. The implementation of the presidential system of government in Nigeria presently puts the nation in a quandary as the cost of governance and the time taken for governance don’t seem to bring commensurate dividends to the populace.
How refreshing it would have been if leaders, especially in Africa, have lived up to their promises. Africa, today, would have become an economic haven and a land of prosperity. We have a cause to worry, therefore, about Africa’s future, despite all the good tidings coming from Rwanda and a few other countries now.
In much the same way as it applies to other parts of the world, the African leaders in power, who don’t selflessly define limits to their stay in office and style of governance, Africa may inadvertently imperil itself in the future, except its leaders act early to open their political space and allow citizens determine who rule them.
On the decline and reform of civil service under Buhari…
President Muhammadu Buhari said, this week, that the nation’s dwindling fortunes are at the core of his administration’s interest to reform the civil service.
The President said this at the inauguration of the Cultural Change Video and Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan (FCSSIP) 25 Documents and Award Ceremony in Abuja.
The event was organised by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF) as part of activities marking the 2022 Civil Service Week with the theme: Performance Management System (PMS): Impact on Productivity.
“I have had a rare privilege of working with the Nigerian civil service, at the closest and innermost quarters for the large part of my sojourn in public service,” he said, “and has witnessed a formidable and strong public service, which we began to see gradually, lose its relevance in the country.”
The Nigerian civil service consists of a workforce of employees under the Nigerian government agencies and ministries except for the military and police. Nigeria is one of the largest countries in Africa by land and population with a huge civil service task force.
Of course, it is expected that alongside this wide task force, there will be maximum use of human resources needed for the development of the nation but this is not the case in Nigeria. One of the biggest problems with the country is the poor state of civil service.
The Nigerian civil service has long had a testimony of being disorganized, with the development leading to a lack of effective management. For example, records, documents, files and other sources of information are not well arranged or kept. Many unnecessary positions and jobs in the civil service came into being through the creation of ministries and departments with similar functions, leading to a waste of funds and manpower resources.
The civil service workforce is filled with workers who do not have specific roles to play and end up being unproductive, with the developments calling on the government to review offices and positions in the civil service and eradicate duplicated offices and positions.
But, crucially, the civil servants are criticised for their inability to exercise individual judgement and responsibility on the policies referred to their departments. They are accused of depending on existing regulations and usually fail to adopt new means of addressing problems/issues.
Crucially, too, the anticipated quick and smooth operation of the civil service is often handicapped by bribery and corruption in Nigeria. Many civil servants demand monetary and other gratifications before carrying out their duties to the citizens.
No wonder, known for his aversion to corruption, the President, represented at the event by the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Mohammed Musa Bello, said that the gradual decline of the civil service propelled him to provide support to the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to undertake innovative and far-reaching reforms that are gradually showing signs of bearing the desired fruits.
He said the federal government would be delighted to have a civil service desirous of improving its ability to drive national development through the recommendation of appropriate policies that would enhance the implementation of government programmes.
However, the administration needs the support of all to succeed in the task of reforming the civil service for optimum performance.