ABC of the Nigerian Civil Servant

April 20, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images



Prince Charles Dickson

The blind person who shuts his eyes and says he is asleep; when he was not asleep, whom did he see?

As a people, we at most, talk, write and discuss the Nigerian myth with a sense of fatalism. If everyone thought as much as I did about justice and fairness, life would be better. I am a critic, but I am also the critics’ critic, the unrepentant believer that the best way to keep the government on its toes is to keep harping on their flaws so they can improve. Often I say I believe the things I write on are important for our nation as they are for other nations, but when it appears to me that Nigerians, especially those in authority, do not react to these issues as people in other lands do, I repeat them in new essays to remind old readers and recruit new ones to participate in the continuing dialogue.

Some five years ago I wrote a small treaty titled “Abdul-Chukwudi Balogun–Just Another Nigerian Civil Servant”, today I am repeating the treaty again because at no time does that particular treaty resonate than a time like this. In Nigeria today we are in a changed mood, but really, below is the truth.

My name is Abdul-Balogun Chukwudi, I work with the Federal Civil Service, I am on level something-onething, I cannot honestly remember anyone, as promotions do not come in any systematic format and are based on any merit. I am more concerned about my salaries than the job itself.

I cannot tell you that this is exactly my contribution to nation building, and I dare say, it is not just me, but several thousands of us who really are uncivil civil servants.

With over a decade in the service, let me tell you my short story.

By my standard I work hard; I do not know what the general standards are because they vary depending on situations, persons, time and other factors.

I have colleagues whose name exists only on the payroll, I have never seen them, but they are paid–You call them ghost workers. There are others, no longer colleagues, having put in over 30 years, they die in queues as they wait for peanuts called gratuity.

You call them pensioners; I see them as the reason I might need to steal sooner than later. So that does not occur to me, I plan for my retirement by all and any means.

But this story is not about them, it’s about me. I have a wife, three children, aged between 5-15 years; my wife does petty business to augment our income. Mind you I have not added my girlfriends or concubines, after all our big men, especially the politicians indulge themselves…

I am sure you are wondering how this concerns you or the essence of my story. Just bare with me…You will find out soon.

I live in the outskirts of Abuja, precisely Mararaba and, depending on the type of vehicle, pay between N200-500 everyday to get to the office, navigate an average of three hours in traffic, getting to the office as EARLY as 9.00am. There are days I get to the office by 12.00noon, on days like that I just peep in and out. And on rare occasions I make it very early, that’s by 9.00am.

I cannot live in Abuja where I work “where monkey see tree climb”. A self-contained room varies from N500,000-600,000 per annum and landlords and their agents demand 2 years.

My three kids attend private schools, the ‘I pass my neighbour’ type. I am sure you are wondering which type that is. We have different types of private schools these days.

The Private-Private like America International, Turkish International, British International and many other Internationals. We have the private, just private and then we have the ‘I pass my neighbour’; kind of public-private or private-public arrangement, there is something public about it.

For three terms I pay between N16, 21 and 32, 000 for the three kids respectively. This excludes books, transport, many plus, multiplications, no minus.

Did I tell you I am the first child, several responsibilities, brothers, sisters, aged-parents and the usual faulty family support system? I am a mini-government to them!

I have regularly told my family of four the implications of staying healthy not because of any special reasons but because hospitals are one, luxuries and secondly, the affordable ones are morgues, so we manage Emeka’s local chemist shop to help when the need arises.

In my suburb in Mararaba, our room and parlour is at the rate of N150,000 per annum. Very cheap in these times…

I have spared you the details, PHCN bills, water rates, other utilities, of course some I pay for, others I do not, some that I pay for; I get services, others I never get any form of service. In addition to the fact that my salary never comes when due, because either we are on strike, or there is electronic payment wahala, these days, it is TSA on compere.

I have left out cooking gas, firewood, kerosene, all bought at different market prices depending on the prevailing subsidy and scarcity level.

Plus all the entitlements, and extras I get something close to N1M per annum, all these miracles happen, one expects productivity, I still keep a smile, and I keep mute when governors are granted bail for a mere N500million, after stealing billions, I watch House of Rep members take almost N1M every month.

I go through the hardship-they take the allowance. They speak English, I take the heat, I bleed and money disappears into their pockets.

Some of my mates that are slightly smarter outplay the system, they have two-three cars, they circumvent everything, they are able to afford three bedroom apartments at almost a million naira plus per annum and pay over 500,000 for their three kids in highbrow schools and yet we earn the same salary.

I go on strike, it means little to them because the truth is I rarely contribute to the system other than aiding and abetting. I expect gratification, a cash-backed thank you or else I lazy around for the few hours I spend at work.

I treat my work with levity, it’s only a means of survival, I cheat the system, after all it’s government.

All sorts of reforms, promises and clichés, but sadly no result because the system itself is premised on a faulty foundation. Whether you bring in academics, politicians, or the so-called career civil servant, the result is still largely the same, more crooks are bred.

I end this story by asking really what is the value of N18,000 in present day Nigeria, where utilities do not work, is it about N18,000 or about creating a national reawakening, redefining ethics, building new bridges and mending lost trust.

Well it remains to be seem, my story is similar everywhere, very little difference, from Zamfara state where a five months old baby is on a local government payroll to Abia state that classified Imo state citizens as non-indigenes …Like the blind man that closed his eyes to sleep, when he was awake what did he see.

Whether it is the people deceiving the leaders or leaders engaged in deceit, are we really ready for change? Only time will tell.









Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.


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