By Dr. Akintola, Benson Oke, Honourable Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training And Pensions.
It was the popular author and human resources executive, Albert Low, who said, “Instead of suppressing conflicts, specific channels should be created to make these conflicts explicit, and specific methods should be set up by which the conflict is resolved.”
This quote succinctly describes the raison d’etre of the Joint Negotiating council (JNC). The existence of the JNC and the modalities for its functioning constitute a unique model for attaining and maintaining industrial peace and harmony in Lagos State.
The harmonious relationship between the administration of His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Executive Governor of Lagos State and the various trade unions in the Lagos State Public Service is an eloquent testimony to the relevance, importance, competence and strategic indispensability of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC).
It is on this note that I hold in high esteem, the State’s Bi-Annual Lagos State Public Service Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) meeting with the first meeting held yesterday. As a matter of fact, this meeting is complementary of another similar meeting where, by the initiative of His Excellency, the Governor, the representatives of the JNC meets with the representatives of the government on a quarterly basis to identify and discuss issues of utmost importance to the most valuable resource of the Lagos State Civil Service, that is, the exceptionally capable officers of the Lagos State Public Service.
There is the need for all stakeholders in the Human Resource and Industrial Relations arm of the Lagos State Public Service not to rest on their oars. In order to sustain the existing atmosphere of industrial harmony in Lagos State and in order to transform such harmony into even greater productivity, there are certain values that we must continue to live by.
One of these values is the value of being proactive. This calls for all stakeholders to be dedicated to preparing for, intervening in, or controlling an expected occurrence or situation, especially a negative or difficult one. The JNC must continue to exhibit this value by identifying and bringing to the attention of the appropriate bodies, all matters that may degenerate or fester into unmanageable crisis.
Another value is the value of committing to a perpetual regimen of training and re-training of skills. In today’s world in particular, high premium is placed on the possession of soft skills. These are the skills that are not taught in formal schools but are essential to real life success and productivity. For a long time, it was considered impossible to learn soft skills. Now, the good news is that, like any skill, soft skills can be learned. And there is better news. The better news is that boosting soft skills not only gives officers a leg up on a new job or a promotion, but these skills also have obvious applications in all areas of a person’s life, both professional and personal and ultimately contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of organisations which we are currently enjoying under the able leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos State.
The JNC should also commit to the promotion of the indispensable value of team work in labour and government relations. The Public Service will become more effective and efficient if we all rededicate ourselves to the value of team work and collaboration. Success in the world today necessarily calls for people who play well with others and can effectively work as part of a team. According to Lyne Sarikas, the MBA Career Center Director at Northeastern University, “That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with others across the organization to achieve a common goal.” Let us always remember that the government and the JNC are ultimately on the same team.
The JNC should also continue to cherish the value of encouraging the making and documentation of critical observations. Because the world is fast changing and issues are becoming more complex, the people in charge of important organizations must be able to observe and critically assess the impact and consequence of developments as they arise and, sometimes, even before they arise. Larry Buhl pointed out that it is not enough to be able to collect data and manipulate it; one must also be able to analyze and interpret it. What story does the data tell? What questions are raised? Are there different ways to interpret the data? Thus, instead of making demands simpliciter, today’s realities call for parties to jointly consider the implications of, and modalities for implementing, the demands.
We must also bear in mind that the delivery of value to citizens is the fundamental objective of any democratically-elected government. In today’s world, however, the delivered value must be delivered per excellence. This is chiefly because citizens have become sophisticated and exposed to the standards of governance in other climes such that their expectations have been conditioned to demand and insist on compliance with global best practices at all levels of governance. Meeting these expectations is the central challenge for governments in the developing world.
Thankfully in Lagos State, we have a government that has boldly embraced this challenge and is, in fact, executing a reasoned-out plan to transform governance and its processes in such a way that the ever-changing and complex expectations of citizens can be admirably met. Led by His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the present administration in Lagos State is poised to examine those areas, processes and institutions and practices that need to be overhauled or remodeled in order to achieve this end. The Public Service must, therefore, commit to aligning with global best practices.
With firm focus on delivering value to the people of our dear Lagos State, His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has since recognised that one of the most effective ways to ensure that officers of the Lagos State Public Service are positioned to deliver value is to invest in improving their skills and knowledge. To this end, a number of trainings have been approved and delivered to ensure that officers of the Lagos State Public Service are positioned to favourably compete with officers from other states and able to meet the challenges of today’s world across the globe.
Most of these trainings have focused on the development of work ethics, soft skills and leadership essentials that will improve productivity. Soft skills have everything to do with one’s attitude. Attitude is so important that most other coveted attributes flow from it. Shawn Ashmore says your “style is a reflection of your attitude and your personality.” Hans Selye opined that “adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” Maya Angelou, the famous poet wrote that, “if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Similarly, Lou Holtz observed that, ‘virtually nothing is impossible in this world if you just put your mind to it and maintain a positive attitude.” Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States of America (USA) said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal and nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
Since my assumption of office on Monday, October 19, 2015 as the Honourable Commissioner for the Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions (MET&P), I have regarded it as my core mission to pursue the conduct of trainings and workshops aimed at increasing the competencies and productivity of individual officers with a view to contributing to the overall productivity and effectiveness of the Lagos State Public Service.
As is well known, this core mission is in full consonance with the wider objectives of the government of Lagos State led by His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. His Excellency, the Governor fully recognizes the enormous value that knowledge and skills training bring to bear on the attainment of the strategic objectives of the government and the public service of Lagos State. Furthermore, he has always been in the vanguard of advocating for the institutionalisation of essential training programmes that benefit the most strategically-placed officers in the Lagos State Public Service.
I therefore call on the JNC to encourage participating officers to regard these trainings as avenues not only to improve themselves, but also to contribute to the exponential growth of the Public Service and Lagos State. Of course, the administration of His Excellency, the Governor has focused on much more than capacity development in the bid to improve the lot of officers in the Lagos State Public Service. In the midst of biting financial and economic constraints in the country, Lagos State Government continues to pay salaries and pensions as and when due. In the context of present economic realities in Nigeria, this is a commendable position especially as revenues have significantly fallen while the cost of providing essential services has risen astronomically.
The administration of His Excellency, the Governor has also embarked on projects that have both tangential and direct benefits on all officers of the Lagos State Public Service and the State at large. These include: The maintenance and opening up of new roads in the State; The implementation of the ‘Light Up Lagos’ Project; Continuing implementation of the ‘Housing for All’ programme in the rent-to-own project; The acceleration of the ‘Eko Atlantic City’ project; The building and rehabilitation of pedestrian bridges at Berger Bus stop, Ojota and at many other locations; The expansion of Bus Stops and provision of additional buses for the Bus Rapid Transport initiative and; The qualification for recognition as one of the 100 resilient cities in the world. This award was earned as a result of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s innovative leadership, investments in infrastructural development and widening influence.
I also wish to use the opportunity of this address to invite you all to join the government and the people of Lagos State in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of our dear Lagos State. I am sure you all will agree with me that in the fifty years of the existence of Lagos State, and most especially, in the last eighteen years, giant strides have been made and worthy accomplishments attained. We have every reason to roll out the drums and celebrate the exemplary leadership that Lagos State has offered to other states in Nigeria and other cities in Africa.
The occasion of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the state is also an opportunity to celebrate the sterling contributions of all our leaders. We must be challenged and encouraged by the sacrifices and accomplishments of those who have shepherded the affairs of this State as political leaders and those who have served as public servants.
It is in this spirit of the celebration of a huge milestone for our state and in the spirit of the appreciation of the contributions of past leaders that I now call on you all to appreciate the dynamic, innovative and ingenious leadership of His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. In the face of all odds, the Governor has been committed to the advancement of the cause of the welfare of all stakeholders in Lagos State and in the Public Service in particular.
Finally, I charge all civil servants to re-dedicate themselves to the advancement of the status and the expansion of the capacity of the Lagos State Public Service. This is the best Public Service in Nigeria and should now strive to be the most dynamic, most efficient and most productive Public Service in all of Africa and the world as a whole.