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Envoy Job: Presidency Should Consider Seniority

The recent ambassadorial appointments by President Goodluck Jonathan are causing a growing atmosphere of unease and resentment in the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs where deserving career staff members were passed over in favour of the less experienced ones.

In particular, the new appointments not only ignored seniority, experience and competence but also breached the principle of Federal Character.

In fact, another disturbing dimension to the appointments is the fact that the South-South people dominate the ambassadorial promotions. With the April elections three months away, President Jonathan should realise the political implications of lop-sided public appointments. If he truly wants to be the president of the Nigeria, he should not allow ethnic chauvinists around him to influence his public appointments. Although the president has the power to make any appointments, such power should be used justly and with the highest respect for the feelings of other Nigerians who deserve equal treatment from him.

When former President Olusegun Obasanjo disregarded Federal Character in ambassadorial appointments and gave Ogun State a bigger advantage than other states, he ran into conflict with the National Assembly. When the late President Yar’Adua succeeded Obasanjo, he introduced his philosophy of the rule of law. Confronted by the problems Obasanjo created over discriminatory ambassadorial appointments, the late Yar’Adua said all future appointments must follow due process in line with his rule of law principle.

To command the respect and trust of all Nigerians, President Jonathan should avoid repeating former President Obasanjo’s reckless approach to public appointments. A well-connected lady is currently at the centre of the storm over the recent diplomatic appointments in the ministry of foreign affairs. It is alleged that she used her connections rather than proven record of competence or experience, to be promoted over the others  who are by far more professionally competent than she. Her seniors are seething with anger and frustratingly asking why she was favoured above them.

No nation can afford to sacrifice professional competence for the sake of political expediency. Giving unfair advantage to people of weaker experience and competence is largely part of the reasons the civil service continues to be lethargic and corrupt. While this lady may be silently celebrating her connection to get to the top at the expense of others, she may not realise the consequences of her promotion on morality and discipline in the foreign affairs ministry.

The unhealthy practice of using connections rather than proper qualifications, experience and competence has been the root of rot in our civil service. How can civil servants be committed when they know that hardwork, honesty, professional competence and experience are sacrificed on the altar of political expediency? In fact, the success of the government’s democratic agenda also depends on a professionally-competent and committed civil service. But then we cannot achieve that objective by elevating mediocrity above professional competence.

The recent ambassadorial appointments in the ministry of foreign affairs have created bitterness not because of any perceived envy but because of valid complaints of favouratism. When you relegate performance or competence to the background, there is the constant risk of undermining the civil service itself.

One of the interesting things about military life is discipline. Indeed, discipline is the soul of any organisation. Unfortunately, political actions can impinge on discipline in any organisation. At a time Nigeria is aspiring to be among the 20 fastest growing economies of in world by 2020, it is inconceivable to expect to achieve that goal when we sacrifice  in public appointments. Staff of the foreign affairs ministry who feel unfairly treated because they have no connection or political godfathers to rise to the top may be haunted by a sense of humiliation. Consequently, their ability to give their best to the service may be weakened even further.

With election three months away, President Jonathan surely needs an enormous store of goodwill. He cannot achieve that, however, if he allows hasty and discriminatory public appointments to erode that goodwill. As a democrat, he must be seen to behave as the president of all Nigerians. In fact, even the late President Yar’Adua ran into trouble when his public appointments were criticised because Katsina people dominated such appointments. A wise leader should learn from the mistakes of others. President Jonathan should, therefore, distance himself from provincialism in public appointments. He should, therefore, urgently look into the complaints of those who felt unfairly treated by the recent ambassadorial appointments in the ministry of foreign affairs.

•Hagher lives on Block 106, General Jerry Useni Road, Nyanya, Abuja


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Posted by on Jan 27 2011. Filed under General Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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