Chaos over appointee’s rejection, others need quick fix, Akande tells Tinubu

By Gideon Maxwell

Former presidential spokesperson, Laolu Akande, has called on President Bola Tinubu to as a matter of urgency rein in the blocking of his appointee, among other issues by empowering either the Chief-of-Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila; or Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), George Akume; to immediately arrest the chaotic situations affecting the smooth running of government.

He also said when the Federal Executive Council (FEC) decides to meet should not be an issue, only that it must not be a rubber stamp of the President though constituted to play an advisory role, instead, it should be all engaging as the National Economic Council (NEC), which is also an advisory body of the government.

Akande who condemned the recent developments in the Ministry of Works seeing to a shouting match between the Minister and staff members, likewise at the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), when the sacked Postmaster General announced his reinstatement against the presidential order, said, such chaotic approach to public administration must be frontally addressed and quickly fixed by the President.

The renowned journalist and social commentator gave his views while featuring on Channels TV’s news documentary programme, “State of the Polity” on Tuesday morning, October 16, 2023, contending that as much as a discipline should be infused into the system, the government should also look at the areas of job security and welfare of the civil servants.

Speaking on FEC, and its recent decision to meet irregularly on Mondays, Akande said, “The FEC is the President’s cult and if you look at the constitution, it is essentially an advisory body. It says there has to be a regular meeting, but it doesn’t say it has to be weekly, it didn’t dictate the frequency. There is no specific stipulation that it has to be weekly, Monday or Wednesday. The President has chosen to do it on Mondays and he may not be interested in doing it weekly.

“FEC is different from NEC, if you sit in both meetings, you will know that in the the NEC, you see a bit of crossfire, governors who have the executive powers in their states coming together to meet with the representatives of the Federal Government, the Vice President, the CBN Governor, Finance Minister and they are always free to say what they have to say because they are also executives in their own right. In the FEC, you have people who work for the President and oftentimes such meetings are very dull. Very few people even dare to disagree with their colleagues not to talk of the President.

“To the extent that it is advisory, from my experience, I’ve not seen a lot of spark in FEC compared to NEC especially when you have a President that is almost larger than life and everybody is just happy to say well done, sir. Though I have seen ministers who have shown courage and some seriousness, by and large, FEC is just a place where everybody comes to say well done, sir,” Akande said, answering a question if FEC should be the President’s rubber stamp.

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But while speaking against the condemnable work ethics in civil service, he said, “What I find interesting is the latitude that people get in public service which you will never talk about in the private sector. It doesn’t even matter that you have 24 hours to prepare a memo, you just go out and do it. This idea that you say you need two days, four days, look, the work of public service is serious sacrifice and only people who are willing to commit seriously should be there.

“Whether it is Monday or Friday or you get whatever notice if you are there you are supposed to serve. When you are in government, you serve. It is not a situation that you say I need all the time. We have dire challenges in this country and that is why we keep on saying that it is important to keep the government on its toes.

Calling on the President to infuse the firepower to the civil service, Akande said, “There is quite a bit of chaos going on and the president has to come in and rein in on this in a very firm way. This just has to stop,” as he wondered on whose authority the sacked Postmaster General, went back to work at the weekend after a presidential statement had announced his removal, while a successor was named, “to get NIPOST handle to say he has been reinstated and he got a crowd welcoming him after a presidential statement has gone out.”

“But thankfully there was a report that the president has waded in and the person announced by the presidential statement has resumed. But there are quite a few chaotic kinds of stuff we have spoken about and I think the president has to give authority to perhaps the Chief-of-Staff or the Secretary to the Government (SGF), somebody needs to be able to rein in very strongly against this chaos,” Akande said.

The former presidential spokesperson who noted that the “President has enough constitutional powers to take action as the executive head of government on executive matters,” said he need not go for consultation with civil servants on who to appoint, as he made a case for the civil service reform, commenting on the drama that ensued at the Ministry of Works when the minister, a former governor, Dave Umahi, locked those who came late work behind the gate.

“Look at the case of the Registrar General of CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission), who was removed and there was this kind of obituary that went viral that the man is gone. There is this kind of excitement and the civil servants are almost overreaching… it is up to the people that have the authority to ensure that things are done orderly, and there is also like in the case of former Governor Umahi who even apologized and there were some who said the rules have been set but that they were not informed. But everybody knows the time they have to resume.

“I think this has to be part of the civil service reform that has to be done. We have to consider all the sides. While we are seeing all the lapses in terms of indiscipline, we also have to look at the area of their welfare. The raw fact is that we do have a very important need to reform the civil service and several factors explain that. What kind of structure and reward system do you want to put in place? Look at the UK, there, the best students from Cambridge, Oxford and others end up in the civil service and are well-paid. We need to look at the reward system too,” Akande said.

According to him, “The power of the President to appoint to executive offices under the constitution should never be limited or hindered by anybody. The President has been elected and he has taken an oath to the office, he has the authority to appoint. The President does not have to go and consult the workers at their workplaces that this is the type of person I want to bring in, it is something that is out of the ordinary for people to say that they don’t want the person the President has chosen, it is a bit of a stretch.”

“There is also a need for the authority to have some kind of training or brushing the people up. For instance, a minister said yesterday she was going to sue the United Nations (UN). First of all, the UN has immunity against local jurisdictions, it can’t be sued. And if you have a grudge as much as you expressed, why don’t you go to the Foreign Affairs Minister or the Budget and Planning Minister or those ministries that deal with international agencies? Then you have a situation of the former NIPOST Postmaster General coming back after a presidential statement that said that there is a new guy and you came back and made NIPOST to say that you have been reinstated. These are the chaotic situations that the president has to fix,” Akande said.