-BY HARRISON AKAMULE:
The transformation experienced by the Delta State Civil Service under the present Head of Service, Mr Reginald Bayoko—a 7-year period so far, did not happen by chance. It was the function of a divine meeting of like minds, orientation and synergy between the Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and Bayoko, the forward looking number one Civil Servant of Delta State.
A background is germane to the success story. Okowa, who had years of experience as Secretary to Local Government, Chairman of Local Government Council, State Commissioner in many Ministries and Secretary to State Government (SSG), knew the critical role of the Civil Service in policy implementation. With his robust SMART agenda in 2015, Okowa knew the number one Civil Servant had to be smart for him to succeed. Bayoko, who fit perfectly, with his vision soon appeared on the horizon and Okowa did not wallow in indecision to appoint him on June 2016 as Head of Service. Like Okowa, the Head of the Civil Service in Delta State had a meteoric rise in career owing to mix of great competence and divine intervention which seemed to have dotted his life trajectory.
At Bayoko’s inauguration as Head of Service, Okowa formalised his agenda: “The sole test of a civil servant’s conduct should be his ability to perform the tasks which are entrusted to him. Anything else is entirely immaterial. Therefore, the fundamental virtues of a civil servant are punctuality, unfailing courtesy, pleasant disposition, modesty and willingness to serve the public at all times. It must be said of the civil servant: he is so efficient and hard-working and yet so humble”. The Governor admonished Reginald Bayoko to live up to expectation by causing positive transformation in the service in the performance of his duties with the highest integrity that would bring true satisfaction to the people.
Apart from revealing his personage, Bayoko’s post-inauguration response inspired hope: “We need an adjustment to our attitude; we have to adopt a new positive mind-set, coupled with a shift in our paradigm of thinking. And this involves internalising the core values of civil service and with special focus on productivity, quality, innovativeness, discipline and integration, to create a forward-looking flexible market-driven public service motivated to meet the challenges of rapid development. I am an optimist, who is full of hope about the future of the service, despite apprehensions and scepticisms”.
With this rapport and synergy, they hit the ground running! The massive development projects in all sectors of the Okowa-Otuaro administration in Delta State is a testament to the success of the Civil Service—the engine room of governance—under Bayoko’s watch. But this piece is about how the Okowa-Bayoko synergy empowered and uplifted the civil servants towards efficient service delivery.
Prompt payment of salaries may not have been a challenge of the Delta State Government before the Bayoko years but its sustenance under the financially excruciating years that began Okowa’s stint as governor, and especially in 2016 when oil revenue was at an all-time low, speaks volumes about the Bayoko Okowa synergy. The goals-oriented Governor was not daunted by the financial crunch in approving conversions, promotions and training/re-orientation programmes in the civil service which naturally upped the expenditure of government. The synergy ensured that during the COVID 19 era in 2020, the Governor ensured that workers engaged in the period got financial boost.
The Delta workforce was also motivated with car and housing loans while Governor Okowa built a massive and befitting Secretariat—Prof Chike Edozien Secretariat—which stands today as pride of the Delta Civil Servant! The secretariat is complete with a reliable Independent Power Project light supply and internet connectivity that has made the working environment and conditions conducive, thanks majorly to Bayoko’s piece of advice to a listening and responsive Governor. The Head of Service inculcated discipline by introducing a clock-in-and-out system to redirect civil servants in the state to dedicate to the task to implementing the SMART and Stronger Delta agenda of the Okowa administration.
The Bayoko years also saw a meeting point between the former top brass of the Civil Service, especially former Heads of Service—for cross fertilisation of ideas for improved service delivery in the state.
A lot of people may not note that the Head of Service, Bayoko, was at the centre of the successful industrial harmony in the state where strike issues for teachers and other types of workers, were quickly aborted or addressed. The consummate administrator that he is, Bayoko brought all his years of expertise to bear on his commitment to serve Delta State in keeping with his inaugural commitment. He had said: “Under the direction of His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and in line with the goal of revamping the service, the areas I intend to tackle include offering some useful suggestions on the recruitment and appointment process, capacity-building, performance management, promotion, including conduct, integrity and discipline. I have the responsibility to dedicate myself to maintaining the political neutrality of our service, safeguarding our legitimate interest and ensuring that we have a clean, efficient, committed and professional service that gives full and loyal support to the government in its policy execution and provide quality services to the citizenry. I will dedicate all my energy towards uplifting the service and together, we should share in this collective resolve”.
Looking back, today, at 7 years of Bayoko synergy with the Okowa-Otuaro administration, conditions of the Civil Service may not be at the Eldorado but have indeed improved—several notches up the development ladder!