“My oga at the top”, is now the all-new catch phrase in Nigeria since it was uttered by Mr Obafaiye Shem, the commandant Civil Defence Corps as he then was, during a blundering interview with Channels TV. Whenever he was asked a tricky question by the Channels anchorperson, he resorted to this dodgy phrase so familiar to anyone who has done business with the Nigerian public service. It is not so clear why the Mr Obafaiye’s blunder suddenly went viral on the internet when there are hundreds of blundering interviews like it or even worse. Some say the journalistic taste of the Channels anchorpersons was reprehensible, badgering Mr Obafaiye with questions he had no wish to answer and that this stimulated the sympathetic viewing on the internet and elsewhere. Others say the hilarious cat- mouse game played by Mr Obafaiye and the anchor people tickled them. What ever be the case, I think that this video confirms our long held suspicion that the public service in this country is filled with mediocrity . People working there are apathetic and lazy.
Take for instance, Mr. Obafaiye woeful command of English. Throughout the interview, his grammatical errors jarred at my nerves. Worse still, as a senor officer in the NCDC, he was unable to give the web address of his place of work. I think the whole interview also exposed a deep disunity in aims and objective within the ranks of the NCDC– typical in all arms of public service in Nigeria.
Yes, I say in all arms of public services in this country because of my recent encounter with another public service. This time it was the Enugu State Water Corporation. A water pipe burst spilling water near my house and no one did anything about it. If you have lived in Enugu, you will know that water is the most expensive commodity. In short, water scarcity is so severe that people fetch drinking water from gutters and sewers. Yet here was a burst pipe spilling water—it was a painful site. After waiting for four days and nothing was done to stop the leakage, I decided to do something about it myself. I searched online for the corporation’s website so that I could make a complaint. On their website, I saw this number 08033420992, which I called. To my shock, the person that picked the call told me that he was no longer working for the corporation. When I asked him to give me the number of someone who could help me, he said that I should go to the office of the corporation and cut the phone. Not relenting, I sent a mail to the corporation. I am still waiting for a reply. Frankly, I don’t think anyone will reply me. It is shocking that Enugu state water corporation website still has the phone number of an ex-worker which should have been expunged within a week of his leaving the company, but it is still there.
Again, on the website of my local government, Nwangele local government area in Imo State, the picture of Ohakim the immediate past governor is still there as the governor of Imo state while the picture of Rochas the current governor is no where to be found. This is a shocking, utterly irresponsible and the highest act of incompetence.
This incompetence has many adverse effects which I may say, discourages the ordinary people from playing their own part in the development of our country. If a banker or a medical doctor cannot, from the comfort of his car, room or office call or email a public agency to make a contribution or complaint for the betterment of the state without going to the office directly then we are in trouble. It means that public servants have successfully alienated the people they should serve.
Furthermore, we complain that there are no jobs, but numerous opportunities to create more jobs are not developed. In Europe or America, or even coming closer, in Ghana, our next door neighbour, many people are employed to manage websites including public corporations websites. Thus they function 24-7; in some countries, if you send an inquiry or suggestion to a public agency, you will receive a reply in minutes. But, here in Nigeria, never! I have written to many agencies but none have replied including NCC.
I challenge the public services in this country to realise the opportunities in technology and exploit it to create efficient service delivery. This will enable the ordinary people, most especially the tech savvy youths to participate in changing and helping Nigeria.