Politics of secret recruitment in Nigeria

A comment by Adedayo Osho

The greatest fear of the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is that they would be overthrown in the 2019 general election. To be removed from power would mean that the administration would lose its influence on the process of ‘secret recruitment’ into what Nigerians describe as ‘juicy government institutions’.

Are those who have promised to correct the shortcomings of the former administration living up their commitments in post-election manifesto? This column will explore this question, and the contradictory dynamics underlying the current “secret job” debate.

Cronyism, favoritism, nepotism, and what Harvard professor of History and Political Science, Roderick MacFaquhar, called ‘patronage clientelism’ has been overwhelmingly prevalent when obtaining documents or securing political and official appointment in Nigeria since flag independence, because politicians possess unchecked power to manipulate the system. Their relatives and offspring are the sole beneficiaries of jobs working in offices where attractive incentives reside, leaving the not-connected citizens with the proverbial outcome of “every man should bear his father’s name”. It is regrettable that public benefits and private wealth are extremely unevenly distributed in Nigeria.

With the vast majority of the prominent or elite’s family members recently recruited by the country’s Central Bank, the not-so new revelation that 349 children of prominent politicians were hired bythe¬† Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) without public advertisement of the jobs, and the current allegation that around 500 cops were newly recruited by the Nigerian Prisons Service, it is unclear how the government intends to gain more supporters for its insincere policies.

China, for instance, could not have attained its high-level of enviable success with the courtesy of nations world-wide if it didn’t place a premium on place of merit in its political system. It is pertinent to note that the overwhelming majority of people lifted out of poverty in the few last decades are situated in China. While the unemployment rate ballooned and the main consequence of that was an increase in crime, Nigerian governments find it difficult to provide sustainable empowerment.

One Federal civil servant at the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, whom I spoke with sometime around April 2015, bluntly told me that no employment letter is issued without a reference letter from a notable politician. She would later be proven correct when the shortlisted applicants for Nigeria Police recruitment in 2016 were all impressive politically-connected citizens. It currently  happens that not-so-connected youths will be compensated through the N-Power initiative, a scheme which intends to pay 23,000 Naira, not up to USD 80 monthly as stipend.

Since there has been a boom in the way elites inoculate themselves and their family members against future poisonous contagion by fixing relatives in lucrative offices, the ripple effects of secret recruitment and undue influence will be a decline in government support among educated citizens; total transparency of qualifications and proof of merit before any consideration for appointment should be compulsory and standard. The emergence of covetous individuals in partisan politics and a ‘self-aggrandizement’ political orientation will be inherited by generations to come.

The ability of any government to earn popular support is premised on running a transparent and open system; heads of government institutions and their allies can re-brand the image of the Buhari presidency should they choose to make correct decisions.

Inaction can cause greater calamity than action.

Adedayo Osho

Adedayo Osho is a political scientist and journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. Twitter: @Jahpolitical