How Retired Bureaucrats Can Restore Civil Service’s Glory – Tunji Olaopa



The Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Prof. Tunji Olaopa, has stressed the role of retired bureaucrats in restoring the glory of the nation’s civil service.

The seasoned bureaucrat spoke during the commencement of his courtesy calls on establishment gurus such as Chief F. O. Williams, retired Federal permanent secretary and Mr. Paul Ebegbuna, retired Director of Establishment and Pensions on Sunday, 12th of May, 2024 in Abuja.

Olaopa described the visit as targeted at what he called “inter-generational conversation with iconic bureaucrats”.

Stressing the objective of the visit, Olaopa said: “It is basically to revive the old mission that I set for myself as an expert-reformer to honour our old bosses and expert practitioners who held the forte at critical defining periods in our career growth as a bureaucrat in the Federal civil service. During my years in retirement and as part of the mission of my platform the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), I kept faith with this mission taking advantage of social events. I recall visiting the late Oloye Moibi Shitu, retired permanent secretary. I also scheduled a visit to the late Alhaji Sule Katagum, my legendary predecessor Chairman of the old Federal Public Service Commission in the 60s up unto the 70s. This was facilitated by my old boss, the late Alhaji Muhammad Lele Muhtar, and which was to entail my traveling to Azare in Bauchi State. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the trip before he passed on. These corps of icons belonged to the critical mass of bosses who struggled to preserve the elements of the old bureaucratic system and traditions which were the strengths of the civil service administrative system in its glorious days in the 1960s and the 70s, many of which have collapsed and which current generation of public servants have little knowledge of as institutional memory.”


According to Olaopa, when he commenced his public service institutional research in the late 1980s and much more concretely as an insider in the early ‘90s, he visited Chief Simeon Adebo, Mr. Allison Ayida, HRM Olu Falae, Chief Theophilus Akinyele, and others while he had the opportunity to understudy dozens of others including Alhaji Adamu Fika, Oloye Alhaji Moibi Shitu, Chief A. O. Okafor, all of blessed memories.

He disclosed that with the opportunity afforded him by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his Renewed Hope National Development Agenda and his office as Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, he had led a diagnostic assessment of the civil service commission in Nigeria as a leverage point to harnessing his numerous researches into the civil service administrative system as touching the central governance mandate of the Commission.

He said:”We have thereupon developed a reform plan and the reform of the civil service reforms programme already endorsed by the President. This visit indeed, is an integral part of the change management strategy for the implementation of the Federal Civil Service Commission reform plan and programme.

“⁠So with this visit, I am basically appreciating these iconic bureaucrats for their contributions to building our profession, for all represent as mentors and former bosses, and as part of the imperative need to begin instituting a culture of intergenerational conversation for sharing and learning in the dynamics of institutional rediscovery. It is another way of saying that civil service reform, in spite of the current and past spirited and commendable efforts, gains and achievements, is still work in progress. It is also a task that should not be left to the current administrative leadership in the saddle alone. It requires intergenerational passion and collaboration both at ideational level and at the level of praxis”

“And thank God that the Council of Retired Federal permanent secretaries (CORFEPS) exists at the Federal level, while the Associations of Retired Heads of Service and permanent secretaries exist in many states of our dear federation as veritable institutional networks to leverage to begin conversations to rebuild the community of public administration practice and service in Nigeria with the demise of the National Association for Public Administration and Management (NAPAM), our professional body. For me, it is time we work to revitalize the NAPAM in the bid to strengthen the gatekeeping institutions for public administration in Nigeria.”

Olaopa noted specifically that a critical finding in the diagnostic findings in the institutional assessment of the Commission and the Federal Civil Service Commission reform plan is that it a number of past administrative efforts have been attempting to rebuild the service through reforms to install 21st century sophisticated edifices in the bid to modernize the civil service bureaucratic system and to catch up with many institutional deficits that Nigeria needs to make up for. Where this is done without recognizing the imperative fact that unless the old institutional frameworks of systems, structures, protocols, processes and procedures that were the basic fundamentals of the administrative system, that have virtually collapsed and/or have gone into disrepair are restored as part of the whole process of getting the basics right, building new systems would amount to constructing “Rolls Royce sophisticated skyscrapers systems that amount, in a manner of speaking, to building something on nothing. And as it is said in the holy book, if the foundation be destroyed, what can a master-builder do? These are ideas that are now available from research findings and in the rich corpus of public administration literature that we cannot afford to ignore”

While acknowledging that these icons might be too old to engage in deep professional and technical conversation, Olaopa however disclosed that they have a legion of successors most of whom are in their 70s.

” I mean the likes of Baba Ijo O. O. O. Ogunkua, Mr. Olu O. Ilesanmi, Mr. Sonny Osuagwu, Mrs. J. O. Ogunleye, Mrs. Ronke Onayemi, Chief Teju Alabi, Mr. Basil Oshienebo, Dr. Tunji Daodu, Mr. J. K. Opadiran, Mr. Gilbert Ugbebor, Rev. Mrs. Olaleye, Mr. Frank Ogbuah, Mrs. Lola Oyedepo, and the younger folks like Mr. Kehinde Adeyemi, Mr. Chike Ogbechie, including dozens of my old colleagues service’s internal management consultants in the Management Services Office in the good old days, to name just a few,” he said.

Disclosing how the experiences of these retired bureaucrats could be harnessed for a virile civil service, Olaopa said: “The plan, going forward, is to get these ones into some technical conversations and study teams, as part of a process of institutional rediscovery. They, of course, will be matched with new age management experts in the cutting edge of new thinking and the dynamics of the new world of work as is being shaped by technology, information and knowledge as well as the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions’ multiple and complex change drivers.”

Olaopa said that the visit to Chief Williams and Mr. Ebegbuna was to pay homage to them as he takes on the baton again to revive some of the legacies of their professional efforts.

“We appreciate your life, all you stood for and of course, and thank God for the grace of old age. We value you and we like to receive your blessing as we embark on the next level of administrative reform of the Federal civil service where you served meritoriously and retired from”,he said.

During the visit, Chief Williams said that the civil service is the engine room of the government.

He said: “Indeed, a well-structured training programme can equip civil servants with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively carry out their duties. Without proper induction and training, civil servants may struggle to understand their roles and responsibilities, leading to inefficiencies and compromises in their work. With the comprehensive handbook and resources already available, it can be a valuable tool in ensuring that civil servants have access to the information they need to excel in their roles.”

He concluded by thanking Olaopa for his courage and foresight for the future of the Civil Service.

Responding to Prof Olaopa, Pa Paul Egbebuna said: “It’s inspiring to see your passion for selfless service to the nation. Indeed, focusing on what we can give rather than what we can get is essential for progress. Learning from exemplary figures like the Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, Olaopa, can offer valuable insights through his books, into the importance of prioritizing the nation’s well-being above personal gain. Relocating may seem like an easy way out, but true change comes from dedication and hard work within our own communities.”

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