Opinion

Hope Uzodinma

Imo: The politics of  the handover note

In the corporate world, it is traditional to write handover note and hand same over to your successor in office. This practice is more prominent in government circles. The preceding government has a duty to officially hand over the reins of government to its successor. The handover note is like a book of stock-taking. Those who own shops understand the import of taking stock. At the end of a trading session, the shop owner takes stock of what he has in his shop. Notes are compared vis-a-vis- items purchased, those sold and those still on the shelves. This practice helps the shop owner to know whether there is loss or gain. Traders cannot determine whether they are making profit or loss without first taking stock.

 While the handover note does not turn the Governor into a robot, it serves as a guide to him. It tells the new Governor what has been done and what more needs to be done. It helps the new government to identify its assets and liabilities. The theory of government being a continuum is better illustrated by culture of the handover note. It is like one athlete handing over the baton to another athlete in a relay race. The handover note is unarguably one of the strongest forms of documenting government’s actions and processes and also sustaining government’s institutional memory.

 What does the absence of a handover note portend for a new government? According to Onike Rahaman, a Writer, Public Affairs Analyst and Educationist, in a paper titled: HANDING OVER NOTES IN THE SERVICE: “Vacuum should not be created by either transfer, secondment or resignation of any officer in both civil and public service. There should be effective handing over process between the outgoing and the incoming officer to ensure continuity in the public service delivery.” Mr. Rahaman warned that “When politics is allowed to take precedence over the establishment’s rules in matters of bureaucracy, it becomes practically impossible to have proper handing over process. So, politicization of the handing over process is a bane to efficient management and continuity in administration.”

Also speaking on the importance of the handover note, former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, while delivering a key note address at a workshop organized by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) on Ministerial Handover Briefings for Directors in MDAs in 2015, emphasized the need for the handover note. He cautioned on the dangers of not presenting the handover note, describing it as unethical and unnecessary. He said: “New Ministers need to have key information that they require about their roles, the ministries that they will superintend, the issues that they need to focus on and the key stakeholders that they would need to engage with. The information that they receive should be complete, particularly with regards to key issues, such as current status of key initiatives in the ministry and the management resources, both human and capital”.

 At the moment, there is no law in the country criminalizing the failure of a predecessor to provide the handover note. But there is a moral burden on such a predecessor. It may put the predecessor in bad light before the public. It could be considered abdication of duty. The public might suspect that the predecessor is hiding some skeleton in his cupboard, and this is capable of eroding his integrity. The public might also consider the predecessor as a bitter loser. It is more worrisome if the predecessor had laid claim to running a government anchored on Due Process and the Rule of Law.

In the absence of a handover note, the new government goes on with its activities. No governor is elected to make excuses. After all, before aspiring to run for the office of the governor, the aspirant has his own vision for the state. Without the handover note, therefore, the governor would rely on civil servants who are also part of the institutional memory of the government for critical information. Though this information hunting may be successful, it is not the same as the required handover note, and it might take a considerable amount of time.

 While the new government struggles to get its acts correct, the impatient public might accuse it of being slow. This is why the revelation from Governor Hope Uzodinma that his predecessor is yet to provide him with the handover note should be of serious concern to the people. During a statewide broadcast on his 100 days in office on Monday, April 27, 2020, the Governor said: “The situation [in the state] is not helped by the sorry state of affairs I inherited. There was no handover note from the previous government to mine. This left me with no definite starting point. In addition, I inherited an empty treasury and a disillusioned, disoriented and dispirited civil service.”

 Interestingly, Governor Hope Uzodinma has demonstrated that he cannot be slowed down or distracted by the absence of a handover note. In his 100 days in office, instead of making excuses the Governor told sweet stories of his impressive performance. Within three months, the Governor has posted both tangible and intangible results. He has renovated the once abandoned Governor’s Office. The state secretariat is wearing a new look. The government is rejuvenating the civil service and addressing the “salary regime [that] is fraught with corrupt manipulations”, with only 17,000 out of the 56,000 workers in the state captured in the Income Tax. The Uzodinma led administration saves about N2bn monthly from the internal cleansing. This sum, according to the Governor, would be “ploughed back to infrastructural development.”  With the long abandoned Adapalm now producing oil, the government is poised to diversifying the state economy. The Governor has also recorded impressive performance in the area of road construction. Apart from continuing with the 25 road contracts he inherited from the previous administration, the Governor is getting to the “root cause of the perennial flooding in the State Capital.” In this effort, he posts the following roads on his 100 days in office scoreboard: Oparanozie Street, Chukwuma Nwaoha/Relief Market Road, Assumpta World Bank Road, Assumpta Roundabout to Concorde Junction, Dick Tiger- Egbu Junction Road, Dick Tiger/Aladinma/Lake Nwaebere Road, the 4 kilometers Umuaka internal Road in Njaba L.G.A, Mgbidi-Omuma Road and the 14 kilometers Amaigbo-Njaba Road.

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