The civil service (what scholars, including Max Weber, call bureaucracy) in world history begun in ancient times, with the invention of writing, about 3500 BC, when it enabled a crop of specially assigned government employees (civil servants) to facilitate governance in societies like ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire.
My observation is that no government, whether autocratic with a singular despot, colonial or military, is able to operate without a techno-bureaucratic structure to guide its social and economic development actions. The bureaucracy is even more relevant in a civil democracy like ours today. The civil service is the repository of trust. And of development plans, past and present and future. It guides elected politicians in fulfilling their campaign promises.
The civil service has certain attributes and features peculiar to it. Offices are not hereditary. Appointment and promotion are based on merit. Such attributes date back to ancient times, especially, Ancient China, where individual appointments and promotions were based on examinations.
One fascinating attribute, especially in post-colonial Nigeria, is that though an administrative engine subservient to rulers of the moment, the civil service is the most crucial guard of due process in governance. Having assassinated the Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu assembled all Permanent Secretaries of Northern Nigeria at the Army officers Mess in Kaduna in the afternoon of January 15, 1966. His vituperations and threats about Ali Akilu, the region’s Secretary to Government who was yet to appear on the scene, were actively rebuffed by Mallam Ahmed Talib, the most senior civil servant next to Akilu. Nzeogwu had impulsively and verbally fired Ali Akilu, accusing him of conniving with politicians. He, there and then, announced the appointment of Talib as Secretary to Government. Promptly, Talib rose and declined the offer. The civil service, he told Nzeogwu, was strictly predicated on due process in all its ethics and ethos, including promotion. When Akilu walked into the meeting on the promise of safe conduct from Nzeogwu, the entire civil servants there rose up to honour him.
On assuming duty early in 1966, Major Hassan Usman Katsina, was denied a government housing loan even as Military Governor. Civil servants told him to follow due process, to seek such loan from the Army, where his service was domiciled.
This insistence on due process and merit lent the civil service its millennial shelf-life. It also enabled it to retain its sanity and creativity in times of crises. Civil servants adroitly advised new Head of State Yakubu Gowon to re-divide Nigeria into 12 more States in 1967. Thjs pre-empted Lt. Col. Ojukwu’s design for a Biafra that included ethnic minorities in the East, who now felt better in their own states within a greater Nigeria.
In newly-created Kano State in 1967, military Governor Audu Bako relied on civil servants for information about pre-existing development plans. Readily, they furnished him with details about the late Sardauna’s agricultural plans for Kano. The results were the Tiga and Bagauda dams, the Kadawa Pilot irrigation and Hadejia-Jama’are schemes. And today, Kano State harbours one of the best irrigation projects in the world.
These anecdotes are a lucid recall of years past to be sure, yet, a defining precursor to the events of today.
They help contextualise why, in Yobe, the civil service has been a custodian of progress since the state was founded over two decades ago. Governor Ibrahim Geidam has maintained a liberal attitude to the civil service, insisting on merit and due process. Above all, he has allowed the service to thrive as an objective guide in prosecuting his current massive development strides in Health, Education, Works, Urban and Rural developments as well as security.
The civil service might seem amorphous to most people, perhaps, esoteric even. But seen in detailed miniature, it is only a collectivity of people from among us. A typical example is the person whose retirement we are marking today: Alhaji Dauda Yahaya, mni. He was born at Daya, Fika Local Government of Yobe State, on April 10, 1957. His education began at Daya Primary School in 1964, culminating in his acquisition of a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications/Political Science at Kano’s Bayero University in the year 1981.
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness”, says the spectacular bard, William Shakespeare. “(A)nd some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” Alhaji Dauda is a melange of all three. He was born into leadership. The son of the Ciroma of Daya, Dauda was raised witnessing leadership at close-quarters. He achieved greatness via his untiring pursuit of knowledge, going from one school, near and far, to another what the Arabs call, “ar-rihla ila d’alibul ilm,” (“endless travels in search of knowledge”). And, ultimately, he sought and found knowledge in as far away as Australia and the United States.
His historic voyage into leadership was never a pre-meditation of frenzied power-drive. He never chased power; power chased him. On the strength of his conduct, state authorities kept thrusting leadership upon him. Assuming responsibility as an Assistant Secretary in the Governor’s Office in 1982, he subsequently rose to become a Director-General, with successive postings to various ministries. It was little surprising, Governor Ibrahim Geidam found him worthy and appointed him Head of Service in the year 2009, a position he held, until his retirement in April this year.
Pulled into power by the vortex of destiny, he was entrusted with sensitive and strategic posts in government both because of his reassuring aptitude, percipient and precious intellect and, because his astoundingly irresistible charm as a team leader made him a man in mass-demand within the coterie of various departments.
Alhaji Dauda’s friendly disposition never left him, throughout his sojourn in power. Likably jovial, yet, firm at work, he led with awe. In his welcoming face, work colleagues saw a shoulder on which to lean. Charisma is intrinsic, instantaneous. It cannot be summoned, but comes of its own, often at critical moments. It is inevitably found in a man so quintessentially tepid, warm, unassuming with a perennial, re-assuring disarming smile. It is the triumph of modesty.
As Head of Service, Alhaji Dauda’s epic management of the Yobe Civil Service recalls C. Wright Mills’ archetype of wonderful men in service: “now they are news, later they will be History.” But before civil servants are consigned to History, however gloriously, I have an advice to government at all levels.
The socio-economic station of all civil servants after retirement must be safeguarded and assured. Let their deducted pensions while they serve, be invested in debentures or other shares in their behalf in big firms. Their shares in such firms must be insured against all possible market vicissitudes. On retirement they each have a means of livelihood. This post-retirement fail-safe will strengthen the civil service and imbue staff with more dedication. Future generations might say such solicitude could hardly be trumped by any other.
Being text of a public lecture delivered Dr. Ali Adamu at a reception in honour of the retiring Yobe State Head of Service, Alhaji Dauda Yahaya, mni, in Damaturu,