The logic and reason behind the Peoples Democratic Party’s criticism of the policies of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State are often disturbingly shallow and many times, absolutely ridiculous. This is especially so because this same political party ruled over this country and indeed Edo State for nearly two decades and literarily left the nation and all the states where they held sway in ruins. You only need to look at the pages of the newspapers on any day and you are certain to see revelations of the mindless looting which was supervised by the now degenerating political entity.
Under the guidance of the PDP, an estimated N400 billion, or the equivalent of $4.6 billion, in purchasing power parity, representing 39 per cent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016, was paid out as bribes to public officials in Nigeria annually. A new report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed this last week.
The National Corruption Report, which covered the period between June 2015 and May 2016, also showed that almost a third of Nigerian adults (32.3 per cent) who had contact with public officials between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay or were requested to pay a bribe to such public officials.
This was the sort of culture which the PDP promoted both in Edo State and in other parts of the country, invariably resulting in a failed system where people had to resort to corruption to get ahead.
So terrible was the situation that adults in the public and private sectors, young people and children in Universities, secondary and primary Schools, were introduced to a new “normal”, where success, wealth and victory did not come to you based on your competence, but based on how much bribe you are willing and able to pay or how many people you knew on the corridors of power. Essentially, meritocracy was sacrificed on the altar of malpractices and corruption, leading civil servants, teachers, businessmen, students, pupils among others to abandon their quest for knowledge and capacity enhancement for the simple reason that promotion or increase was no longer secured on the basis of how good you were or how much you knew.
Such was the state of Edo State when the APC wrestled it from the PDP. Unfortunately, as they say, old habits die hard, and so the new ruling party in the state has been riding tirelessly against the tide of the culture of corruption enthroned by the PDP, trying to get the people to see that merit as the only currency for success and promotion has been restored.
This same problem surfaced recently when Governor Godwin Obaseki introduced capacity enhancement testing for civil servants to identify the areas where government workers have skills gap to be able to fashion out appropriate training programmes for them. The same PDP leaders who damaged the system which the APC is now making efforts to fix began to scream and misinform government workers that the testing being done by the current government was designed to select workers for victimization and sack.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Governor Obaseki has since dismissed the fear looming in some quarters that the ongoing assessment of senior civil servants in the state was designed to fish out incompetent workers for sack, assuring that such fears are baseless. Obaseki who was at Imaguero College, Benin City, venue of the assessment, last Wednesday, said the exercise was in good faith and not a competency test as being rumoured.
He explained that Edo State civil servants are competent and do not require any further competency test. He said: “Before they were employed, their competency was tested, and that is why they are working in the Civil Service. But before promotions are made in the Civil Service, senior civil servants go through assessments to fill vacant positions in the directorate cadre.”He added that the exercise was part of the strategy to strengthen the Civil Service for effective service delivery and assured that no employee writing the examination would be sacked.
The governor disclosed that the recent examination conducted for staff members on levels 16 and 17 in the state was an eye opener as some civil servants were discovered to be very good and were appointed Permanent Secretaries.
Obaseki added: “We are not sacking anybody, but want to strengthen the service so that it can deliver quality services to the state. The assessment is not compulsory but necessary for promotion as those who need to be promoted would have to be assessed. If you refuse, then there may be no basis for your promotion.”
For teachers who kicked against the assessment, the governor said it was unfortunate as his administration did not intend to exclude teachers from the resulting promotion exercise and added that the two teachers that performed very well in the last exercise were appointed Permanent Secretaries. “We want to give everyone the opportunity to participate, but if teachers say they don’t want to be part of the process, no one will force them, we would, however, have no basis to promote their senior colleagues,” he added.
This explanation of the issue by the governor has been completely sidestepped by mischief makers who are bent on constantly stirring a storm in a teacup, with the intention of smearing the good reputation of Governor Obaseki.
Suffice to say however that this propaganda is an effort in futility.
The Edo State people who chose Obaseki as their governor did so with deep discernment and this ability to assess peoples’ character very much resides with them. They know without doubt that Obaseki in all his actions is fighting for their best interest.
. Osagie is the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy.