On the 23rd of June 2021 in Abuja, NextierSPD held a hybrid conference tagged 'Getting big things done: Improving the effectiveness of cross-over professionals in government'. I was a stakeholder at the event. The parley began with the paper presentation: 'Public service reforms: Unlocking the gridlock' by Osita Chidoka (Former Minister, Aviation). Then came an overview of the findings as regards efficiency in the public service by Patrick Okigbo III, Founding Partner, NextierSPD.
There were two panels. Panel 1 was 'Understanding the Public Service' moderated by Dapo Oyewole (Senior Yale World Fellow & Special Adviser to Speaker, House of Representatives). The speakers were: Prof. Tunji Olaopa (Executive Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government & Public Policy); Nabila Aguele (Special Assistant to the Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning); Mrs. Bunmi Dipo-Salami (Executive Director BAOBAB) & Dr. Joe Abah (Executive Director, DAI, Nigeria). The gist of the conversation was that public service as it is needs to be properly understood before any meaningful 'reformist' agenda can be effective and efficient.
The panelists in the second session were: Dr. Shamsudeen Usman (Former Minister, National Planning), Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru (Former CEO FIRS), Engr. Umar Bindir (Agricultural Engineer & Former SSG, Adamawa state) & Bunmi Onabanjo-Kuku (Executive Director/Partner Advisory @ Ernst & Young). Dr. Usman said in spite of the fact that public officers and even Ministers detested the reforms he introduced, he stuck to his guns. This was possible because he had the support of his principal. Each Minister was made to sign a 'Performance Charter'. There was initial resistance, but they came around eventually.
Mrs. Ifueko Okaru, former boss of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), informed the audience that she spent the first six months 'studying the system'. She did not bring along any external 'Special Assistants'. She sourced the needed 'Assistants' from within the system after six months in office. This made for less resistance to her and by extension a more amicable work environment. Engr. Umar Bindir informed us that COPs should not come into government looking down on public officers. That would be a recipe for failure. Respect those you meet on ground, while not compromising your principles.
On the whole, it was clear from the discourse that the rookie COP needs to tread softly, understand the system, imbibe humility and learn from public officers with years of experience in the saddle. Caution: Whatever you do, never compromise your integrity...