Why public officers should not hide their numbers

Coat of Arms

Someone once told me that communication is everything. I have also read that there is no relationship without communication. Communication it is said is the lifeblood of any relationship. It does not matter what kind of relationship personal, business or international relationship etc communication is key. The need for communication is underscored by the fact that is studied compulsorily as a key course in higher studies no matter the discipline.
Today we have people in governance who care less about communicating with the people they are supposed to be ministering to their needs. It is this absence of communication that creates a gap in the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. In the absence of communications which is supposed to state the position of things as they are assumptions are made or rather the rumour mills go to work to manufacture what it deems right. Do you blame them? There is no vacuum in life we are told.
A common practice among public officers is that as soon as they assume office they make themselves unreachable. When they gunned for the positions especially politicians they made themselves available and sought people’s support but like it is said sooner than later they kick away the ladder with which they climbed to their position.
When you go to some government establishment and sometimes even in the private sector to meet some of the commissioners, permanent secretaries, heads of departments and agencies for instance and ask for their numbers from their secretaries or media aides to speak with them, the request is turned down. The usual refrain is that “we can’t give you his number” and where they manage to give you they will request you not to disclose the source.
My worry about public servants who hoard their numbers is that they may end up digging their graves because they will shut themselves out from knowing the true position of how things stand in their establishments except as conveyed by their aides who may not give the correct picture. A lot of things go wrong in their units which members of the public would want to engage their attention for prompt resolution but they are not available.
In many cases, where you have the numbers available you can call and it rings for as many times as you call but they will not respond. Some developed the habit of not picking calls because they do not know the number. Funnily the contradiction here is that some of the people who refuse to pick are the same people that will put out their numbers and ask you to reach them in case of need. Perhaps they may be up to some game.
Many of the aides have defended their principal on account that they have numerous things to contend with including meetings and their private lives which would not need any disturbance. They would query you “do you know the number of calls the man receives every day? If that is truly the situation public officers must find a way to go around this. There must be a way they should use to interface with the public and their clients so as to track information and get the necessary feedback they require to elicit satisfactory performance.
If they are quite occupied to take calls it is better they detail an aide to do so on their behalf. The implication of not having access to public officials is that they could be perceived as having something to hide. It can also mean that they are shying away from their responsibilities or possibly avoiding public scrutiny.
If public officers make themselves reachable it leaves room to get them accountable to the people who may want to know how they have fared in governance. It helps to clear the air on any misgivings held against them. The feedback from the public puts them in good stead to make amends wherever they may have come short.
Any government that is seriously accountable to the people should get them to make their numbers available to the public. People who have vouched to serve the people creditably should not be seen to shy away from the same people. It is sad to remark that most of the politicians who climb to power shield themselves from public view until another election period when they come to ask for votes again.
As media men most often it takes some difficulties to reach some people to volunteer information or confirm certain actions or wrongdoings in their establishment. If you did not go through the Chief Press Secretary or the Commissioner of Information you may not get anything. This is sad.
We must not fail to commend those who are in the opposite direction of what I am pointing at. There are some public officers who are very much alive to their duties. They take your calls one time if they are disposed of. Worthy of mention is Rev. Fr Wence Madu when he held sway as the Rector of Imo Polytechnic, Umuagwo. He takes calls most of the times even when on an overseas trip. He returns your call as well. As far as telephone communication is concerned he was a good public officer worthy of mention and emulation. There are a few others like him.
If people have chosen to serve the public they should understand that they are now in public domain or space and should remain so until their tenure runs out. They should understand that they owe a duty of service to the people and there can be no service if there is no communication. If you are not ready to be available then decline or don’t struggle to hold any public office.


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