Mrs Susan Modupe Oluwole, penultimate week was named the 10th Head of Service (HoS) in Kwara State by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. Until her appointment, Oluwole, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama and a Masters degree in English Language from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was the Permanent Secretary in charge of Service Welfare in the office of the HoS.
In this interview with selected journalists at the weekend, the second female HoS in the state talks about her vision and efforts being put in place to curb indiscipline and redundancy in the service, among other sundry issues. NATIONAL PILOT NEWS EDITOR, ADEBAYO OLODAN was there. Excerpts;
What are the roles of Kwara civil service in translating the agenda and policies of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed?
You know the usual saying is that civil service is the engine room of the government. What that connotes is that if you have an engine room, the idea is that you put in a lot of input and it comes out productive. That is what the civil servants does, we have policies and directions from the political leaders, they put it into the engine room (civil service) and it comes out in concrete terms for all to see. This forms the structures we can all see like training and retraining of workers and other social responsibilities of the government. That’s when you start seeing results of such policies like government constructing roads, filling potholes, health for the citizenry, the roll back malaria and others.
What are the efforts being put in place to eradicate redundancy and to boost productivity in the state civil service?
With the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, a lot is being done in the area of training and retraining of workers because it is only when people are well trained that they can give better output. You cannot give something if you don’t understand the burden on you. If you don’t understand the trust or responsibility expected of you from government, it will be difficult for you to be productive. Training and retraining helps civil servants have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Training defines your role and who you are in the civil service. When you are loaded, there is no way you’ll be redundant. When you have it, you want to give it, so training and retraining of workers help you to roll. There is no room for redundancy anymore in Kwara civil service.
Given your relatively young age and the fact that you are surrounded by men, are you not likely to be intimidated in your new role as the numero une of Kwara civil service?
There is something in the service that we call espirit d’corps, it levels gender, it levels age. There is something about service that you want to help and that you will be your brother’s keeper, so there is no possibility of threat here because you don’t see the next person as a threat. You all work towards a common goal and you strive for it, so there is no possibility of intimidation here, there is a spirit that binds the service.
When you are being sworn-in, the governor asked you to come up with innovations to move the service forward, how do you intend to go about this?
When you have a workforce that is highly motivated, there is a drive inside you. You want to do a lot. You know I have been around for some time, so I am not really saying there is something I want to start now but I’ll rather build on from what we have already.
If you know the general trend now, people no longer see things the way they use to see things. Whatever it is, this is our state and we must contribute our quota to its development.
I want to build a workforce whereby we are not asking now what the government can do for you but what you can offer your state regardless of what is happening around.
Having the right leadership is what makes you believe in yourself and that will make you want to give more so that you can achieve the objective of the organisation. So what we are trying to do now is building people up to believe in our state, believe in the service and what we can give to our state for the betterment of everybody, including our children because we are not going to be here forever. We are going to leave the stage for people who are coming after us, so we need to make the service something everyone will be proud of, so it is about building up confidence in people.
Your predecessor, Hajia Zahra Omar, was seen as a no-nonsense woman in terms of punctuality and environmental sanitation, what is your own agenda?
I wish to follow her footsteps and even build on it. You know if you don’t have a dignifying service there will be no productivity. If you say you want to do something and you are doing it lackadaisically, the next person that will look at you will do it the same way you are doing it. So if you want a service that is dignifying, that can give the kind of efforts we are talking about now, you must also be able to give such efforts.
Under my leadership, there is no room for late coming and redundancy. There is no room for any kind of misconduct in the service. We are going to help ourselves, no one can help the other person, we all will help one another and when we help ourselves, we mean to work when we are supposed to work; we’ll reprimand ourselves when we ought to. We will felicitate with one another when we are supposed to felicitate. When we are supposed to rebuke ourselves, we will also rebuke ourselves. So we intend to make the platform very open to everyone. I want people who will work because they believe in the work they want to do. I want people to believe in this service, to believe in what the government expect from us. They should believe in Nigeria, believe in Kwara State and to believe in the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, so that we can all have the feeling that it is indeed good here.
What programme is the present administration putting in place to improve on the welfare of the workforce in the state?
I want to thank Governor Ahmed tremendously for giving priority to workers’ welfare which is uncommon in other parts of the country. For him, it is workers first, salaries first and it has always been like that since his first day in administration even before this present one. In his first term, workers salaries come first. All things being equal and if everything goes well from the federal allocation, we receive our salaries 25th of every month, that is unprecedented. If the governor does not have the interest of workers at heart, we will not be paid that early and regularly too. You know for workers there are two things; your salary and promotion and if you get that, you have motivation to give your best and I can tell you, since Governor Ahmed’s first day in office, he made that promise and he has never failed.
Our promotions are as at when due and as I am talking to you, he has approved the promotions of those that are due to be promoted to the next level for 2017. By the time we are paying the next salaries, everybody that is due for promotion will get their pay.
And despite limited resources of the state, we still ensure we train and retrain the workforce regularly. We give financial assistance to people who applied for Masters degree and Ph.D programmes yet the government still pays their salaries.
Then you will also believe what I believe when you see what is going one at the new secretariat. You know when the idea of the new secretariat was being mooted, the governor had it all bad with people, they were saying a lot of things like in this hard time with all of these problems everywhere, why are you so particular about civil service that you want to sink so much money into construction of a new secretariat at this time? Right now accommodation problem is very acute within the civil service and the governor believes in us, he wants us to have a conducive working environment, so he went on to ensure the new secretariat becomes a reality. We all witnessed the foundation laying ceremony sometimes ago and Governor Ahmed has promised to see it to completion. Whatever he promised, we have it on record, he has always fulfilled it.
How will you rate the relationship between your office and the labour unions in the state?
Very cordial because there can only be struggles and agitations when the aspirations of workers are not being met. When we compare notes, we are doing great because civil service is one and the same all over the federation. We have the same style, same laws and we attend meetings and compare notes.
One of the major challenges faced by your predecessor is the issue of ghost workers and top officials in the civil service drawing multiple salaries, how do you intend to tackle this menace?
You know when you call something ghost, you can’t see it, so when they say ghost workers, I say one thing; that there are no ghost workers. You know why? Because you cannot see a ghost, when you say a ghost, it means it does not have a body so anyone receiving salary but you cannot see must have flesh and must be somebody somewhere, they are not ghost but human beings and the measure that has been put in place is the biometrics system. There was no way we could tackle the issue of ‘ghost workers’ with the kind of payroll we were operating in the past.
Now everyone must thumbprint and God has done it in a way that thumbprints cannot be the same for two individuals, so it is only those on biometrics records that can be paid. That means there cannot be ghost workers.
Are there plans to increase the workforce in the state soon?
In the civil service, there is something we call Needs Assessment, we cannot just employ for employment sake, there must be rules and needs. If you want an awesome service, it must be filled and that is the only time we can have a good service. When something is lacking, you cannot function well, so when there are needs, the government will do the needful but we don’t want an over bloated service. But for the needs, we will always fill them, that is certain.
How do you intend to juggle between your office as the HoS and your home as a wife and mother?
I have always told people given the wisdom of God, that there are different platforms by which you manage life. You don’t juggle one with another and you don’t allow one to suffer for the other. I have a passion for the service and my passion helps me to do what I need to do without any fatigue or stress. When in the office, I’m first of all an admin officer like I always say, when I go home, I am first a wife and a mother. Those are two different roles and thank God, I have a very supportive husband. He gives me the support to do what I need to do as a civil servant and an administrator. He helps me to get my roles right and God has given everybody potentials except you don’t want to tap into it.
When I get to the office and even at home, when I think about the civil service, I think about it with passion but that does not stop me from being a good wife and mother.
At the end of your tenure, what would you love to be remembered for?
At the end of my tenure, I want people to see me as someone who is very passionate about the welfare of the civil servants. I want to see people with a bright and not long faces. The service is a dignified service and there is something about it that gives you peace and fulfilment. I want to see a set of workers that believed in what they are doing and are happy doing it. I also want to see a service that is highly disciplined, punctual to work and contributing our best to make sure that it is indeed good here in Kwara State.
There seemed to be a huge trust in the women folk in Kwara compared to other North Central states, what do you make of this?
I want to use this opportunity to most sincerely thank His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed who has been magnanimous enough to believe in the women folk and for appointing me as the HoS in the state at this time. I also want to appreciate the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki for his efforts and support for Kwara civil service.
Also, I want to thank everybody for making civil service what it is today, including all the past HoS and Secretaries to the State Government.
Any advice for civil servants in the state?
To all civil servants, believe in what you have, be happy with what you are given as you are the singular factor that can makes yourself happy. This is the place we spend the chunk of our time, let us be happy here, let us be happy with our work and let us move Kwara State forward, so that at the end of our time here, we’ll look back and be satisfied that we contributed our quota to the state.