BY DAN ALKALI
Since his inauguration and subsequent assumption of office as fourth executive governor of Nasarawa state in May 2019, Engr Abdullahi Alhaji Sule symbolizes two things to people. To some Engr Sule is an epitome of humility and due diligence while to others he is no less than a man who struggled for power and after grabbing the power he becomes lost as to what to do with it. From all the assessments, discerning minds will have no trouble in arriving at the fact that Engr Sule represents both. Yes, Engr Sule has humble background and he tries as much as possible to remain one despite his exposure to all sorts of life both home and abroad. Engr Sule remains consistent with all that is honest. He cherishes telling the truth regardless of its bitterness, this is besides being an apostle of prudence and due process.
But on the other hand, Engr Sule is someone who lacks basic experience and knowledge of governance especially knowledge and experience in civil service. His absolute deficient experience in civil service renders him vulnerable to all kinds of manipulations by those he feels have sufficient civil service experience. Indeed, Engr Sule’s trust on this caliber of people is so ingrained that whenever an issue is brought to his knowledge requiring his approval or disapproval as executive governor he quickly refers the issue to these people who constituted themselves into cabal of sorts. And ironically both the head of the ‘cabal’ and others in the train lacked civil service insights. The only experience which the head of the cabal has in civil service was his short sojourn as commissioner in the last dispensation in the state.
Many would wonder why the government of Engr Sule is always resorting to setting up committees as means of arriving at governance solutions in the state. The impression one may deduce from this, is that the government is trying to be an inclusive government, one that always embraces all shades of opinion before arriving at solutions. But on the contrary and in actual fact, frequent surging up of committees on any issue as is being done by Engr Sule’s so called ‘civil service cabal’ is just to cover their own deficiency in civil service experience.
In the last one and half years, Engr Abdullahi Sule’s government has set up more than 30 different committees and is still counting, all in an attempt to get at solutions to the problems confronting the state but at the end, the committees only deepen the problems. Examples abound here, Engr Sule, in his inaugural speech promised to address workers welfare in the state including payments of salary arrears and backlog of promotions and he immediately constituted committee to work out modalities, but more than one and half years after the committee was inaugurated, workers in Nasarawa state have not seen anything to that effect thereby worsening government, labour relationship in the state with accusations and counter accusations from both side of the divide.
There are other examples to further show how committees set up by Engr Sule’s government to address issues ended up complicating the issues; the most recent example is the government’s intention to appoint new permanent secretaries in the state civil service.
No sooner had Engr Sule administration constituted a committee to screen applicants for the post of permanent secretaries in the state civil service then serious acrimony ensued ranging from the composition of the committee’s membership to its terms of reference. Its membership is skewed in favour of one religion while the terms of reference included many oppressive requirements. Already the committee has been compromised as there are allegations flying around to the effect that some members have started reaching out to their favourite candidates. To put it more explicitly, the terms of reference were designed to favour certain religion and certain group of people in the state.
One serious infraction made by the government was that the committee was constituted without recourse to the state Civil Service Commission. This blatant abandonment of Civil Service Commission in the scheme of things by the office of Head of Civil Service is not only an affront to the members of the commission but total disobedience to the statutory functions of the body which is constitutionally charged with the responsibilities of all matters affecting workers in the state civil service.
For long the office of the Head of Civil Service has been treating the Civil Service Commission with uttermost disdain. On several occasions the Head of Civil Service was found not only flouting simple directives of the commission but also challenging the powers and authority of the commission over certain decisions. It should be noted that once the commission has taken a decision on any matter nobody has the power to reverse such a decision; it is only the commission that can reverse its decision. The issue of conversion of some officers which the commission carried through a diligent process but rejected by the head of service was a classic case in point.
However Engr Sule should bear all the blame for these unpleasant developments in his administration because he places much trust on certain cliques of people who from onset were/are not on the same page with him. These set of people did not and are still not sharing his vision and mission on how to move the state to the next level. Since appointment of permanent secretaries is political, thus, exclusive preserve of the governor, there is indeed no any justifications whatever for setting up of any committee on the matter.
The governor has the power to pick anybody within the system not beyond the position of assistant director and appoint him/her permanent secretary without recourse to anybody. In Nasarawa state history is full of instances where because of political exigencies, some people were brought in from outside state’s service and appointed as permanent secretaries. There are also instances where officers on level 12/13 got appointed as permanent secretaries just as there are also instances where officers from local government councils were appointed as permanent secretaries in the state civil service.
The whole process of selecting these permanent secretaries is fraught with dangers as it would create serious bad blood that would have a devastating effect on the entire polity in the state.
Appointment of permanent secretaries is a non-issue as far as governance of Nasarawa state is concerned but regrettably, the present administration has made it an issue today. Appointment of permanent secretaries is something that a governor can, in a comfort of his parlour, appoint those that he feels deserves to be appointed, period.