A plan to harness talented youths from different parts of the country as managers of the public service in line with the President Bola Tinubu’s agenda to build a government of national competence was stressed on Tuesday by the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) Prof Tunji Olaopa.
The former permanent secretary, and professor of public administration, spoke when the Minister of Youths and Development Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim visited him in his office.
He noted the place of inter-generational conversation, mentoring and education to build a new generation of leaders and public managers.
According to Olaopa, the evolving plan to reform the public service finds expression in two ways. One is that the rate of social progress that Nigeria would ever achieve depends on the degree to which political power and vision are matched with intelligence – policy, strategy and managerial acumen.
“Consequently, professionalism in the civil service must start with the greater weight given to authority of knowledge and expertise over and above the known conventional considerations.And this will depend on how far we go to restore competency-based HRM practices. And this is consistent with His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu aspiration to institute a government of national competence. In so doing, we are determined to align all our national values such as the Federal character policy, and other core elements of our diversity namely, nationality, gender, age, disability, etc. with the merit system in creative ways” , he said.
“The overarching goal is to build a new generation of leaders and public managers within framework of a value-based civil service that is people-focused, professional, technology-enabled, entrepreneurial and accountable to deliver quality service to the Nigerian people as a social compact”, he added.
To Olaopa , another pillar in the change management strategy of the FCSC under his auspices is intergenerational conversation, mentorship and intentional grooming of future public servants from the homes to school, college , and NYSC camps and mainstreaming of cohorts of role models into the envisioned future public service workforce.
He said: “In this regard, we see the FCSC and the Federal Ministry of Youth Development as strategic partners. And what are we looking out as methodology for this social engineering transformational process?
“First, we plan to work with the National Orientation Agency, the Federal Ministry of Education, National University Commission and some agencies under your ministry namely, NYSC, Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre among others, to develop an inter-agency public service orientation mentoring program as part of building upcoming youth as new generation public managers.
“it is evident that what has been missing, among a few other factors in the Nigerian leadership equation, is effective mentoring, especially in preparation for public service and its roles. Effective mentorship affects and influences the processes and outcomes in leadership, including talent management, public service values and orientation, bureaucratic corruption, succession planning and performance management. Mentoring produces leaders that ensure continuity and maintain the culture and values of the institution because such leaders have not only been taught but also groomed and nurtured. They climb on the shoulders of giants and therefore are far more effective and visionary in administration. Mentorship role is ‘earned’ by reputation and integrity of purpose not just by age and status in society.”
He added: “The Nigerian youth are caught in-between the crisis of leadership development and the failure of mentorship. A system without mentors; the engine that the younger generation looks up to for inspiration and boost, will struggle with growth, efficiency and development. There seems to be a general crisis of the poverty of spirits among the older generation in the country. It is a formidable challenge. There is a dearth of men and women of integrity in the country, making it difficult to have mentors who will be looked upon as role models and agents that will motivate, energise and mobilise the younger generation as the needed change and ethical revolution in the country.
“The mentoring programme that we envision will not be necessarily hierarchical or time-consuming. Senior leaders and officers have invaluable knowledge that demands to be shared, but so do the youth. Every generation has something to learn and something to teach, which is where ‘reverse mentoring’ comes in. In reverse mentoring, younger people mentor older ones. This trend has a double-sided benefit: The older generation stay on the pulse of trends important to young people, while the younger ones feel more connected and invested, because they are contributing to the improvement of the society at the different levels.
“As part of the process for reinstituting the merit system as the core of public service professionalism, we want to include in the recruitment entry assessment guideline a component where the top 3 to 5 performers that are transparently selected in each of the 109 Senatorial districts in Nigeria are injected into the Federal service annually.
” We are also going to profile the core defining attributes of the successor generations to our’s – the Baby Boomer generation – namely, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, to create a framework for reverse mentoring, sharing and learning, as an intentional but scientific approach in the social engineering methodology we will adopt to build the envisioned new generation of public managers.”
Responding to Olaopa, the minister said the vision of the Chairman aligns with that of her ministry where there is intentional programme to catch the young ones early where their leadership qualities are identified. She said the programme does not have a bias for social background, noting that leaders are born but environment can be created to groom and nurture others into an effective leadership.
According to her, the country has not placed a premium on young people and that any country that desires development must invest in young people. She linked the youth restiveness in the country to neglect in this aspect which it could have been averted if adequate attention was paid in this regard.
According to her also, there is a need for youth corps members on national service to be matched with their careers so as not veer off of their ambitions to avoid mismatch.
She disclosed that the Enterprise Development Programme in NYSC would be strengthened , saying only 10 percent of 400,000 youth corps members get actual jobs while the rest wande about.
She emphasized that skills sets of the youths need to be upgraded, She stated that some aspects of NYSC programme need to work in collaboration with the private sector which includes the NYSC Farms.
She promised to work with the chairman of the FCSC to actualize his agenda in order to give the youths the head-start they need in life.