Values – Evoking a new culture of being.

Last week, I had cause to visit my Alma mater to request a documentation needed in pursuance of further graduate studies. Getting there, i was overwhelmingly impressed by the positive changes that now characterize the institution – potholes free road network, new faculty buildings, ultra-modern school of communication and the university-owned radio station, renovated lecture theatres, ongoing construction works……..the infrastructural development going on there is simply amazing – pretty much impressive than i left it over half decade ago – and that can be attributed to the proactive and visionary leadership of the new Vice Chancellor. Judging from what i saw, in my mind I was hoping that this positive force of leadership would affect the internal administrative processes of the institution and improve its service delivery mandate.
After making all the required payments, i proceeded to submit my application to the office in charge. At the office, the woman who doubles as the administrative officer and receptionist to the “oga at the top” scrutinized my application and the supporting documents trying vainly to point out flaws to no avail. At some point, she requested extra copies of supporting documents beyond what was required; since I’m pretty familiar with the administrative paper-driven environment, i had armed myself with extra copies and she was quite surprised when i handed her the copies she requested. When that episode was over, her countenance became informal and she was asking about my family, work etc after which she now launched into compliments and body language that all boils down to me gratifying[bribing] her. She was not direct in her request but i understood fully well the import of her narratives. Tactfully, i turned her down and beamed her my best smiles wishing her a lovely weekend[it was a Friday] – i could see the grin of disappointment on her face as i stepped out of the office without doing “happy weekend ma”.
Now, all was needed by that office to do was just to acknowledge the receipt of my application and pass it on to the department/unit that would action my request.
A week later, I called my contact at the main department to inquire if my application has gotten to them to which he replied in the negative. So here is my theory – my application is lying hopelessly on that woman’s desk and she has refused to pass on to her oga[boss] because i did not gratify[bribe]her.
This is the scenario that plays out in every public-facing MDAs[ministries, departments, agencies] and parastatals charged with a service delivery mandate. Infamous in the act is the immigration office, vehicle licencing office and driving licencing office. At these public institutions, most of the officials have ‘agents’ stationed outside the office premises who scout for customers who (most of the time) wants “express” service. Express service means higher/(double) cost of procurement, boycott of needless administrative paper-pushing and faster turnaround time which sometimes may be same day or at most one week. On the flip side is the regular or normal service which goes by the official rate and will take [several]months to process before service is finally delivered or at times never delivered.
Now here are my surmisals/hypotheses/thought-provoking questions:
* Why do public officials demand gratification[bribe] before doing or carrying out duties and functions which they are employed and paid to do?
* Why do citizens offer bribes to get services they pay the public officials to deliver through their tax payments?
* Why do citizens offer bribes to public officials to get services the government levies tax on them for? {Double taxation at its best}
* Why is express service almost instant and normal service is over delayed?
* Why are all services/procurement not treated and handled with dispatch like the “express” services?
* Is a bribe-free public service a phantasm or a practicable reality?
* Can visionary leadership improve and sustain corrupt-free service delivery?
* Can we imagine where we would be as a country and our level of national prosperity if every public official carries out his/her duties without expecting a gratification or bribe?
* Can the spirit of true patriotism be engendered for acculturation?
* Is it strong public institutions that the country sorely needs or committed/patriotic workforce?
To objectively answer these questions, I would be making a case for Values and our collective value system as a country. What informs our values as a people? What norms does our social networks espouse? What is our Identity as a people? Do we have shared identities as a country? What narratives have we imbibed that has impacted our values as a people?
I hope to answer these questions in succeeding series.
P.S- Pls feel free to include your hypotheses and submissions to the aforelisted and kindly drop comments, insights and analysis that would make for interesting and change-provoking conversations.

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