RESTORING EKITI VALUES : Prospects in the Public Service
The invitation from the Head of Service to deliver this lecture left me flustered in many ways as it reminded me of the English aphorism regarding carrying coal to Newcastle. After all, it is barely 20 years that I, at the instance of the government of the day, became encumbered with the task of editing a book extolling the virtues of Ekiti people. The book, Ekiti : The Story of a Determined People, attempted to encapsulate the origins, accomplishments and tribulations of Ekiti People represents something like a landmark in our people’s narrative. It, therefore, would seem that the wheel had turned full circle as I have once again been called upon to remind our people of their quintessential yeoman values that seem to have helped characterize their lives and times somewhat within the Nigerian firmament.
In view of the foregoing, it is of prime necessity to interrogate the Ekiti ethos especially now when our idiosyncracies and primordial values seem to be fleeting and perishing phenomena in order to fill the void in our existence and leave something behind for succeeding generations. This is particularly so especially in the recent past when a proud and dignified people has had to endure the opprobrium of rule by moral apostates and pretenders lacking in any sense of shame or respect for the heritage of the people that had the misfortune to be subject to their callous misrule and inhumane arbitrariness.
It is against this backdrop that we are being called upon to interrogate the ethos and cultural essence of Ekiti people toward recovery and re-entrenchment with a view to determining the benchmarks of today’s generation. A people who had chafed under unspeakable chicanery and abuse of their heritage have their task cut out for them in their efforts to achieve a re-birth and renaissance. However, before charting the path of re-igniting the primordial nature and moral sensibility of the people, it seems appurtenant to begin by considering the critical role of the public service in the making of a people’s character and attitudes in the scheme of things.
The Public Service as the Repository of Modern-Day Mandarins
The public service or, plainly speaking, the bureaucracy was conceived by the Chinese under the Ch’in dynasty as a state organ comprising the best and brightest in the land to steer the Empire toward development and modernity. Among the consequences of the mandarin system was centralization and rise in efficiency of governance and consolidation of power and authority in the hands of the Emperor and his officials. Since recruitment was by way of competitive examinations conducted throughout the Empire, high quality of knowledge and performance was ensured such that the national interest of the country was scrupulously maintained.
The administrative exploits of the Chinese made considerable impact on the rest of the world whether or not that fact was recognized or celebrated. The acumen demonstrated by the Chinese in the management of men, money and materials is, quite frankly, an incalculable contribution to human civilization.Accordingly, in the modern world, bureaucracies have had one thing or another to borrow from the Chinese.
In Nigeria, the civil service, as we know it, was bequeathed by British colonialism as an overlay on the administrative system of the traditional rulers. The paucity of staff had compelled the British to develop indirect rule under which the alien colonial apparatus existed pari passu with the traditional system they hadmet on ground upon their arrival in these parts. However, it should be remembered that the co-existence of the imported colonial system and the traditional system resulted in the erosion of the latter such that the deleterious impact of cultural imperialism are still being felt even to this day.
The bureaucracy or public service of every country bears the imprint of that country’s history. While the French prefecture system has impacted of the administrative system of francophone Africa just as the Conseil d’ Etat has influenced their judicial system. In similar vein, Nigeria has had to borrow considerably from British civil service practices and norms.Accordingly, this has to be borne in mind whenever the nuances of the civil service in Nigeria are being considered.
It is on account of this that it is apposite to examine Ekiti core values and determine the extent of their corrosion and prospects for their recovery and possible re-entrenchment. We must pose the question whether indeed there are salient traits that characterize us as Ekiti people in comparison with the multiplicity of ethnic nationalities and groups which populate this country. More important, we need to interrogate the intrinsic values of Ekiti people within the Nigerian firmament and explore the extent to which they have permeated the civil service or hampered its role as a repository of socio-ethical values.
Core Values of the Ekiti People
The base of the Ekiti socio-economic formation being thepredominantly agrarian productive forces coupled with resultant agrarian production relations both of which gave rise to a corresponding superstructure of values, there is no gainsaying the fact that the inter-relationship of the people reflected yeoman attitudes of affinity, diligence, adherence to principles, honestyand exuding social solidarity encapsulated in Yoruba culture, especially the concept of omoluabi which actuates each and every Yoruba person.
As part and parcel of the Yoruba ethnic nationality, the Ekiti people have inculcated and imbibed these values in their inter-personal relations and general world-view. Accordingly, it is not only the hilly terrain of their homestead which helped to solidify their oneness but also the farmsteads which surrounded various Ekiti settlements as well as their predilection for pounded yam and palm wine became something of badges of identity within the aggregation of inhabitants of this vast country. The Ekiti values of communal living, resilience, love for fellow man as well as an attitude of one for all and all for one shaped the perception of the people and strengthened their endeavour to stamp their imprint on the nation’s landscape.
Admittedly, Ekiti shares a lot of characteristics such as cuisine, dressing, proverbs, music and other cultural forms with other Yoruba people but their homogeneity reflected in their dialect and Ekiti suffix to the names of their towns and villages underscore the commonality of values and sense of common destiny among the people and their sense of belonging, not forgetting their having been welded together as a result of wars fought together in the past to protect their autonomy and collective well-being. Forging the requisite espirit des corpsamong the people became a prerequisite for Ekiti growth and development.
However, one cannot extol the Ekiti heritage without mentioning the exploits of Ekiti’s premier secondary school, Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti whose alumni helped catapult Ekiti to the pinnacle of educational attainment in the country. Suffice it to mention names of distinguished men such as Professors D.F.Ojo, J.F. Ade-Ajayi, Benjamin Osuntokun, Banji Akintoye, Arc. Fola Alade, pa Deji Fasuan and S.B. Falegan who have etched their names on the walls of the nation’s Hall of Fame as distinguished academics and inimitable administrators. These stars constitute a beacon of hope and enviable role models to succeeding generations intent on keeping the flag flying.
Nevertheless, it would seem that our beloved state and people have since fallen from grace to grass as philistines, pretenders, vermin and self-proclaimed heroes invaded the homestead in a rabid desecration and debauchery of our cherished values. Until very recently, a people held in high esteem throughout the country as a people of honour and dignity became butts of jokes and disdain so much so that many self-respecting and decent men and women were reluctant to acknowledge their Ekiti origin. Indeed non-Ekiti friends and sympathizers were wondering aloud how and why Ekiti people had to suffer such a sordid degradation and, in fact, the subversion or collapse of values.
A situation in which reduction in school enrolment occurred as a result of introduction of school fees and other discouraging policies at a time when salaries of workers were not paidregularly in a largely civil servants’ state which used to pride itself in educational attainments was an indication of how bad things had degenerated. When to all this is added general disillusionment and feelings of despondency among Ekiti people, it was clear as daylight that the time had come for a recovery plan and programmes such that our lost values canonce again be re-invented in order to entrench the values that we cherish. The fall in practically all the indices of growth and development in the recent past became a wake-up call to the people to change the Ekiti narrative so that our people can once again bestride the country with their heads held high. While to many, this requires a massive, collective effort, it seems that the civil service as the engine room of social transformation should play a key role in the noble task.
Restoring Ekiti Values: Role of the Public Service
The pivotal role of the civil and public service plays in the scheme of things would, it seems, guaranteed by the quality of men and women recruited into its ranks, the extent to which the cadre had imbibed Ekiti values and compliance with set rules and guidelines in the day-to-day activities of the state apparatchiks. Thus, maintenance of discipline grounded in the ethos of Ekiti people becomes the elixir for the entrenchment of the Ekiti character in the way and manner in which they carry on.
Since the service is structured along hierarchical lines, the success of all effort to make Ekiti values a touchstone of the administrative apparatus of Ekiti state hinges on the ability of the leadership of the service to imbibe these values and,subsequently, inculcate same in the subordinate cadres and succeeding generations.
Just as fish begins to get rotten from the head, the obverse is true as far as ethical orientation goes. As far as the leadership of social organizations is concerned, once the leading lights buy into a scheme, percolation of new thinking into the thought processes of the rank and file becomes much easy to accomplish, hence the priority given to the leadership of the public service in the endeavour to recover and re-entrench socio-ethical idiosyncratic Ekiti values in the population.
However, the difficulty in isolating Ekiti from the rest of the country cannot be discounted. To the extent that Ekiti is an integral part of Yorubaland as well as Nigeria, it would be most difficult, if not actually impossible to distil or synthesize the peculiarities of Ekiti people. Yet, it would seem that the pristine values of the Ekiti are clearly distinguishable from today’s distorted values and it is arguable if attempting to force the genie back into the bottle would not, in the final analysis, become an exercise in futility.
As earlier stated, Ekiti core values are distilled from behavioral patterns such as diligence, honesty, integrity, respect for elders, a sense of shame and social solidarity which, inter alia , have crystallized into the notion of Ekiti as a land of dignity and honour, inhabited and imbibed by well brought-up Ekiti people must inform the thought processes of those occupying leadership positions as are to be found among the top echelons of the public service.
As those who formulate and implement government policy, public servants have their leadership roles carved out for them, especially in relation to re-discovering traditional Ekiti values and re-entrenching same. Failure to achieve this lofty objective can, quite rightly, be thrown to court of the public service.
Within the conundrum which Nigeria is currently traversing, it would seem that Ekiti pristine values can assist as a possibleelixir or panacea in navigating our way out of the quagmire. We should cease and desist from just bemoaning our fate and explore our past with a view to discovering ways and means of transcending our present circumstances. As the world’s largest concentration of black people, we need to lay the foundation for self-actualization, especially among our teeming youths so that we can hand over a banner without stain to succeeding generations.
The distortion of our age-long societal values among the present generation must be a matter of serious concern to everyone that wishes the nation well. It is simply untenable for the people tocontinue to wallow in ignorance, self-doubt and carelessness about the values that undergird their existence and social well-being. If our respective states and communities can unearth basic values ordering the lives of the people and give full reign to their application in contemporary society, Nigeria would be a lot better for it.
While Ekiti people had endured a diminution of their values in the recent past, it is fit and proper that there is a felt need to resuscitate our cherished behavioral patterns anchored on tested impulses and ethos which over the ages had constituted bastions of our people’s survival and progress.
Pursuant to this, it is self-evident that the public service has a critical role to play. As the organ of government with the largest number of employees in the state, it has a pivotal role to play in the re-discovery and re-entrenchment of the traditional values which hitherto had done a lot to sustain and support the growth and development of Ekiti people.