It is a common truth that a democratic government has three arms for efficient and effective service delivery. Frankly-speaking, no arm of government could be argued to be more important than the other.
This is due to the inter-dependent reality that revolves around them. Knowing that the three arms are;
(1) The Legislature
(2) The Executive, and,
(3) The Judiciary
It has to be appreciated that each of the arms of government performs a complementary role in the actualization of the essence of democratic governance.
If, for instance, there is absence of a legislature in government, like Nigeria witnessed during her dark periods of military dictatorship, that government automatically ceases to be a democracy.
Each arm of government has a tailor-made functionality to drive.
As the caption of this essay implies, the focus of my attention is on the Executive arm of government, with specific interest in the role of a serving or prospective Commissioner. It may be pertinent to ask, who is a Commissioner within the frame-work of the executive arm of government?
A Commissioner is an individual who is believed to be knowledgeable, articulate, visionary, disciplined, patriotic and transparent enough as to attract the confidence of the governor of his state or those the governor might have authorized to scout for such a person on his behalf, for engagement to man a ministry or discharge the responsibilities associated with a given executive portfolio.
The Executive arm of government has a plurality of ministries, departments and agencies, also referred to as MDAs. Each ministry has some one at its top echelon. That person is the Honourable Commissioner.
He is in charge of policy formulation for his ministry. He is the representative and eye of the governor in his ministry. Should anything go wrong in his ministry, the first official the governor would call to question is he.
Within the Executive, there are other political appointees that are also called Commissioners but they do not attend the meetings of the State Executive Council of the state.
These Commissioners are found in such bureaucracies as the State Civil Service Commission, the Unified Local Government Service Commission, State Oil Producing Area Development Commission and State Universal Basic Education Board.
Once more, let me say that the emphasis here is on the Honourable Commissioner that sits with the governor in council. It is common knowledge that the state Executive Council, otherwise known as Exco, is the highest decision-making body in any state of the federation.
The quality of contribution of members of the Exco goes a long way to determine the welfare of the people and progress of the state.
If the majority of the Commissioners within an executive council are dander-heads and dizzy personalities, it would be wasteful having high expectations of performance from such an Exco.
It must, however, be made clear here that a governor whose main objective in government is to amass wealth and not to deliver dividends of democracy to the electorate could frustrate the determined zeal of a genuine Commissioner who is passionately committed to deliver optimally.
Be it as it may, The Honourable Commissioner is expected to have many attributes that should make him tick.
If he is a Commissioner that is in charge of a ministry, the first step he has to take is to establish confidence and respect among the management and staff of his ministry. Lest I am misunderstood, the pronoun ‘he’ in this context is freely used irrespective of gender.
In this wise, he begins by having a meeting with the top management of his ministry. It is during this meeting that he outlines his policy direction which would be the basis of the ministry’s engagements and activities all through his tenure.
If he emphasizes transparency, for instance, during the meeting, he should make sure that he remains guided by the tenets of transparency all through and, of course, nothing attracts respectability to an individual, particularly an Honourable Commissioner, more than adherence to transparency.
After this first meeting, he should proceed to meeting with the management and staff of the ministry. In this meeting, he repeats or emphasizes the obvious; dedication, punctuality, regularity, diligence, transparency and obedience.
He tells them that each staff would be judged on the basis of the above criteria and also subjects himself to the same standard or principle for judgement.
The Honourable Commissioner should be a descent gentle man. He should not be vulgar in speech, indecent in dressing, irresponsible in conduct or vulnerable to materialism. Civil servants are very intelligent and experienced.
They can easily assess one and once they find you unworthy of that appellation ‘Honourable’, you remain dishonourable in their perception all through and this could affect the Commissioner’s overall performance in the ministry.
Another thing that would help the Commissioner secure the confidence of the management and staff of his ministry is the quality of the minutes he writes on mails sent to him. This is where being knowledgeable is of essence.
If the civil servants realize that their Commissioner is not versatile or knowledgeable, their evaluation for him would become very low and this could lead to loss of respect and confidence. The Commissioner should, therefore, manifest knowledge in writing his minutes.
In addition, the Honourable Commissioner should not be careless in his use of grammar. There should be accuracy and cohesion in his use of time and tenses.
Otherwise and unknown to him, he could become an object of caricature as they could exclaim, “look at the quality of Commissioner we are given!”
True to my earlier expose, the Governor appoints a Commissioner to help him generate ideas that would efficiently and successfully drive the machinery of government.
Unfortunately, many Nigerians when offered such appointment misconstrue it to mean opportunity to become rich. As long as I am concerned, being appointed a Commissioner in one’s state is a privileged chance for one to serve one’s fatherland.
If you serve diligently and transparently, you would not be burdened with invitations by anti-graft agencies after your tenure. After all, a commissioner is expected to be paid well and on time during his tenure.
In line with the above, a Commissioner should make meaningful contributions during state Executive council meetings.
Today that oil prices have gone down sharply and many state governments are finding it very difficult to break even, a Commissioner should wear his thinking cap and come out with ideas on how his ministry or even any other ministry could raise the internally generated revenue of the state.
This could be done through verbal contributions in the state executive council meetings, Exco Memos, Exco Brief or Exco Notes.
As a Commissioner, when I discovered that Exco memos entailed a very tortuous bureaucratic process, I resorted to making use of Exco Brief which I could present to the Exco through the Secretary to the State Government, and it would be given accelerated hearing.
Regrettably, many Commissioners are mere bench warmers in the State Executive Council. Many of them do not make any contribution, even if it is not meaningful, either verbally or by written documentation(s).
Such Commissioners should ask themselves: what is the justification for our appointment?
I have learnt over the years that experience is the best teacher. The black man, unlike his white counterpart, hordes and hides his experience, knowledge or skill and that is why African science has failed to grow.
As an experienced former Commissioner I do not think I have anything to lose by giving this free tutorial. Like one of my highly-respected Senators; Senator Ben Murray Bruce, would say, I just want to make a common sense.
Scripted by Sir Don Ubani