Mr. Bunmi Famosaya, a former Head of Service in Ekiti State, in this interview with PETER DADA, spoke about his career in the public service among other issues

How was your growing up like?

I was born on November 10, 1956 and my parents basically were teachers and because of the nature of their job, they were moving from one place to the other. In quick succession, I attended as many as four primary schools. I think because they were teachers, they started taking me to school at the age of two and before you knew it, by the time I was 10 years old, I was already in secondary school. I attended Acquinas College in Akure in those days, precisely in 1967. I left the school in 1972 and I went to Christ School in Ado Ekiti and the school changed a lot of things in my life. I left Christ School in 1975 but the school discovered in me sporting talents because before I left the school, I had been representing the school in athletics and volley ball. In athletics, I did triple jump and long jump and in 1973 and 1975, we won the Principal Cup in the entire Western States and I was a member of that victorious team. Interestingly, I started getting national call ups from the school. I think one Kola Akanbi from Ibadan represented the Western States in triple jump and in volley ball too, we represented the Western States. As a matter of fact, I represented Western States between 1973 and 1975. After that, I gained direct entry into the University of Ife ( now Obafemi Awolowo University). I was admitted to read English and later, I changed to history due to some funny things that happened between me and my friends. I did my NYSC in Borno State; then Borno was very peaceful with fantastic people. We had a good time and we had good friends there, some of whom we still keep in touch till today. Some of them are Femi Famakin, Olusola Ariyo and Alhaji Yakubu Sani and interestingly the three of us ended up taking up appointment with the Ondo State government. After my NYSC, I came home to start work. I had done some federal interviews then but my parents wanted me to be in Ondo State because they were here then. So I later decided to take up a teaching appointment. It was so easy to get teaching appointment then. I was posted to Ayede Grammar School in Oye Local Government Area of the then Ondo State. I was there for about six months before I crossed to the Ondo State Health Management Board where I was appointed as an Administrative Officer. I was there from 1980 to 1985 when a new policy of government came out. I was posted to the governor’s office. After five years there, I went back to the University of Ife for my master’s degree in Business Administration and when I finished, I was posted to the Ondo State Ministry of Health when Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was the commissioner. Dr. Mimiko and I have been friends since the university days, so it was easy for us to work together.

When I was in Ife, I was involved in campus politics and I was Students Director of Sports in 1976. While I was a member of the students executive council, Dr. Mimiko was a member of the students representative council. In that executive that I served, we had Segun Adesegun who later became the deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and some others like that.

As you are speaking, it seems you like sports?

Yes, I was a sports man. At Ife, I did sports, I had lots of gold medals, we always won gold. We almost won the West African University Game.

Since you love sports, why didn’t you take career in sports?

Let me say this, after the Ghana/Nigeria Festival in 1973, we came back to Ibadan and we were all brought to the sports council but we were given the option whether to stay or leave. So when I got home, I discussed with my dad and he said why don’t you go to school first and after school, you can choose anything you want for your life. Again after leaving the school, I started to raise family at a very young age. So that took me away completely from sports.

How did the profession of your parents influence your life?

Well, there were two things; apart from being teachers, they were very strong catholic and you know anything that has catholicism embedded in it must have discipline pronounced. So I grew up in a strict environment, as  a son of a teacher and a son of strong catholic. It meant a lot, even when I wanted to go to secondary school , I remember my father wanted me to go to the catholic school. He obtained five forms for me from different catholic schools. And that’s what happened to my siblings too. He wanted all of us to go to catholic school. With that as my background, the discipline was there, there was no way you could do wrong things. So I will say, to a large extent, my being teachers influenced my life a lot. Also, my father counselled us a lot. For instance,  after my secondary school, my father advised me to go to the university but  I was not pleased with that advice because in Ado Ekiti, I had a friend who was  already working after secondary school.  I saw how he was enjoying life then, he was living a free life in a one room apartment. I was so excited and fascinated by that way of life. So I already had it in mind that when I too finished secondary school, I would be working like my friend and enjoy life like him. But my father said since I had passed my HSC ( Higher School Certificate), I should go back to school and spend three years and have a degree. But I still wanted to work, even if it was just for one year. So my father said no problem that I could do that and that since I wanted to work, I  should save enough money for my education to enable him train my siblings. That was when I realised that it might be difficult for me to combine schooling and working.

How active were you in the university?

As I said, I participated in campus politics, I participated in the Ali Must Go campaign when I was in my final year. Some people called themselves the council of elders, I was to be one of them because I was a final year student but I didn’t believe in the course of their action because I felt there was no reason for us to have factions. So I was one of the people that addressed a congress at the sports centre that we would not look back. I played very active role in that struggle.

Did you ever study abroad ?

I went for some courses abroad in the course of my public service career. I went to the Royal Institute of Public Administration in England, I was in Crown Agent International Training Institute, Worthing East, Sussex, UK, I went to Harvard School of Management, I was in the African Development Bank Training Institute Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

How did the experience in these training institutes affect your career?

That is what I wanted to say, for instance, when I went to ADB institute, I first did courses in procurement management, I later did courses in project management, I did courses in fund disbursement and also did financial management courses. This later played a very good role in my career when I became a permanent secretary in the public service of Ekiti State. I was the permanent secretary in Government House and Protocol, I was a permanent secretary in the general administration department, ministry of works and ministry of finance and it was from the ministry of finance that I was appointed as a Head of Service of Ekiti State.

It seems you have spent most of your life in Ondo and Ekiti states, did you ever think of moving to a bigger city, like Lagos and Ibadan?

I have not been restricted to Ondo and Ekiti really, it is just my career that was restricted to Ondo/Ekiti and I had to make a career in the public service in the old Ondo State. I was in the old Ondo State for about 15 years until Ekiti State was created and when it was created, naturally I had to move to Ekiti because I came from that part of the country, that was what took me to Ekiti.

How would you compare public service when you started your career and what we are having now?

Well, in the administrative cardre that I belong to, we have a lot of traditions that we tend to keep. Certain things may have changed but the change is not too much. But in general when you look at it,  civil service is not as it used to be any longer because in our days in the old Ondo State, you never lobbied for posting, there was nothing like oga please, I want to be posted here or there. We never cringed under politicians, the service was very intact and people were very bold to speak out their minds then. I recalled when Chief Olu Falae was the Secretary to the Federal Military Government, he wrote to us asking for a financial assistance of the state government for the National Committee Against Apartheid but the then governor felt we didn’t have enough money to do that, so he said we should say we had no fund. When the memo was sent to me to write the letter, I wrote the letter quite alright but I told my boss in a letter that it was necessary for us to give something out for a reason that the SGF was from Ondo State, that we should be able to support him. Secondly, apartheid system was an obnoxious system, the governor was very happy and eventually approved N25,000 then. I did that as a level-13 officer. Those are the things we should be doing. But now, the governor would give a directive but some junior level officers will be disobeying the directive; that is indiscipline. Also we have a lot of politicisation in the system nowadays which has affected our public service and of course, it has affected performance. People don’t speak up again, they don’t tell the truth any longer. It’s appalling the way pensioners are treated; somebody that has served for 35years, no gratuity after three or four years. As I am now, I have not got my own gratuity since I retired in 2014. Even the pension is not regular, not only in Ekiti State alone, it is what is happening all over the country in general and when you see things like this happening, the generation coming behind are getting smarter. They will not want to live a wretched life after retirement. That’s why we have a lot of people involved in corruption in high places in the public service.

What are your experiences as a number one civil servant in Ekiti State?

I had a fantastic experience, I worked with Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the former governor of Ekiti State. He came with a very good intention for Ekiti but unfortunately, the perception of certain people was not too good about his intention. I think people are getting to realise that now;  he came as a young man who was too much in a hurry to take the state out of poverty. I worked with him directly and I was able to benefit a lot from his knowledge, you know he is a very widely travelled person and I benefited a lot in the area of social welfarism and this was basically what he wanted to impact to the people of Ekiti. For instance, he changed the budgeting system. Hitherto the traditional budgeting process of getting some civil society organisations, people from financial institutions, market women, farmers and so on together in what was called a stakeholders meeting to deliberate on what the plan should be for the coming year, when Dr. Fayemi came, he believed he needed to do what we call village meetings. So he travelled to all the villages to meet with the people on what they wanted the government to do for them, and that formed the basis of the budget which was outright people-centred. I really benefited from it and you could see that he ensured that no town or village was left out. That was one of the things I found very interesting as the then Head of Service. He came too with what was called Civil Service Transformation Service and as a head of the civil service, that was the area I really cherished. It was about confidence, professionalism, ethics, merit in the civil service. The system brought merit in appointments and promotions. For the first time in Ekiti, the Head of Service wrote an exam and after the exam, I went for an interview with some others. That was what we then passed on to the permanent secretaries. When we now wanted to pass this on to teachers, they were not so receptive. Along the line, an exam was conducted for the school principals by the state government through the ministry of education and some of the principals, those who did not do well in the exam, were demoted to the rank of vice principals. So the teachers were apprehensive that the competency exam that the government wanted to introduce was to retrench them. So many of them refused to sit for the exam and it became a very major problem for the administration. Although we eventually mended fence, it did not really go down well with the teachers. We planned to do the same thing for the local governments but we were stopped in some areas and that didn’t go too well too with the local government officers but by and large, we made sure we did all promotions from 2008 to 2013. We had even done the promotion exams in 2014 before the change of government. So I will say we did our best, we paid salaries as and when due.

In your 35 years of public service, did you have any unpleasant experience in the service?

Honestly, in the course of the job, I will say no, I was lucky throughout, I will say I was a jolly good fellow but the horrible experience I will say I had in my life was in 1983 during the election crisis in Ondo State. I could recall that  we could not go back home from work that day, it was so bad seeing a lot of people shot dead on the streets. Soldiers and mobile policemen carrying gun, protesters who were not happy with  the result of the election were killing people, it was very sad. Some junior officers used the opportunity to vent their anger on many of the top civil servants then. Some people went to their homes and burnt their properties. Then among the civil servants, there were divisions; those from Ondo side were attacking those from Ekiti side because Omoboriowo who was Ajasin’s opponent was from Ekiti.

How did you survive that since you were from Ekiti ?    

Incidentally, majority of my friends were from Ondo; don’t forget, I grew up in Ondo and I was so familiar with them. In fact, many people did not know that I am from Ekiti because I have lived most of my life in Akure here. Even many of my friends from Ondo did not like what was happening. It caused what I called crisis of confidence among friends and brothers from both sides. That was one of the most nasty experiences I had during my career.

In the course of your career, were you at any point tempted to leave the public sector for the private sector ?

Yes, I tried to do that; that was in 1992, when I finished my MBA. In fact, I really need to thank my wife for a lot of things, I got a job offer from a finance house then in Lagos and I felt the pay was so good. I felt that I could take a risk and go but my wife said no, you can’t take any risk. She said since I had spent 12 years in the civil service, what would I say I had achieved to waste 12 years of gratuity and 15 years of pension. She said, ‘Do you want to waste the 12 years like that?’ She said apart from that, there is stability in the public service. She counselled me a lot. She also said she would not follow me to Lagos and I didn’t want to leave her and my children here in Akure. So those are the considerations I had.

You said you started family life very young, at what age did you start?

I started family life very early as I said. I got married when I was 24 and stopped having children at 32 or thereabout.

How did you meet your wife?

Both of us are from the same zone in Ekiti State. My wife is a twin; her twin brother is now a pastor and he  is my very good friend. My wife is Kehinde, she was very close to her twin brother and anybody that is her twin brother’s friend will definitely be her friend. That was how we became very close friends.

So, it was your closeness that automatically led to the wedding, no special wooing or proposal?

No special thing was done, my wooing was to tell her that I wanted to marry her, that was all I said. She is from Ikole Ekiti but she stayed in Lagos. So she came home for Christmas holiday and we too went home for the same holiday. I came from Ife varsity then. I just called her one day and I said, ‘Kehinde, don’t you think we can get married? She said why not, if you are serious about it, we can. That was just it. It was just a smooth relationship because we had been friends for a long time.

How did you manage the home front, especially when you were raising your children?

I have to be sincere with you, it was very tough, especially when what you were earning was very little but then, the standard and cost of living were not very high. So I was able to manage the little I was earning to raise my family. It was good enough that my children went to public primary and secondary schools. Only one of my children went to a private primary school and later public secondary school. The school fees were not much then. Even at that, we were still struggling to make both ends meet. The kind of education they had was great up to the university level.

Can you compare your relationship with your father as a kid with your relationship  with your own children?

Now all my children are married and they are on their own, but up till now, I have a compact family. It will interest you to know that my first two children don’t call me daddy, they call me Famo (…laughs). It is very interesting. So my relationship with them is very different from my relationship with my dad when I was like them. I told you that my father was a teacher, so the kind of father-son relationship we had was a typical African set up. But my own family, we are like friends and brothers. Anytime they are around, they sleep on my bed, we chat and gist.

How was your experience serving under two administrations?

Like I said, I served under Dr. Fayemi and briefly I served under Governor Fayose.  I had nice experience under Fayemi administration but as I said, I only served for one month and a few weeks under the current administration of Governor Fayose.  So, I don’t have much experience with Fayose because I didn’t serve him for long.

Many civil servants join politics after retirement, are you planning to do so?

As a leader in my own community, there is no way you will not be brought into these things that have politics in nature. Some people may be fighting on the issue of this or that, that may be related to politics or they will need your advice on certain issues, so at that level too, you will play politics indirectly. The only thing I’m doing in that regards was to guide my people.

Are you scared of the dirty nature of politics?

You know a lot of untruths go underneath in partisan politics, people tell lies a lot; they tell lies about you, what you know nothing about, they will say you do it in order to pull you down. For instance, when I was a permanent secretary in the ministry of finance, Engr. Segun Oni was the governor in Ekiti then. He is my friend, we were together in the University of Ife and when we left school, we continued our relationship. By the time Oni was the governor, they told him I was an ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) man, that I was a politician, that I was hobnobbing with the ACN people. Of course, I had a lot of friends in ACN too, Dr. Fayemi is like my brother, he did not even meet me in Christ School, Ado Ekiti. I had left before he gained admission. He has been my brother for many years. Will I see him and I will not greet him? When my mother died, both Fayemi and Oni came for the burial. When they saw them, people started saying,  Oh, I must be an ACN man. Segun Oni told them to leave me alone. Immediately Fayemi came, they told him I was a PDP man to the core. That is our people for you. Because people want to get positions, they have to run other people down. If all these are happening in the civil service, you can imagine what will be happening in the mainstream politics. So that is why I don’t want to get involved in any partisan politics.  Immediately after I retired, Governor Fayose offered me an appointment, I took the appointment but honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. He was not the cause, to be honest, but there are a lot of people within the party that did not want me there. They I said I did not work for them, that I wanted to reap from where I did not sow.  Some said I was an APC person. I can’t deny Fayemi, he is someone I respect so much, he is a good brother to me and we have worked together. Up till now, I do represent him at functions if he is not around. In all fairness to Governor Fayose, he would say I should not mind the people. So when I could no longer cope with the situation, I resigned from the administration in 2015.

How is life after retirement?

I have been enjoying my retirement in quietness at home. I have been involved in private business in Ondo State. Every morning, I and my wife go to the gym. We relax at home. If we have anywhere to go in town, I go. On weekends, I go to parties with my friends or relations. I meet my old friends.

Is your wife retired too?

Yes, we retired the same day.

Are you a party person?

Yes I am , I have a lot of friends, I don’t lose my  friends, most of the time I meet my friends at parties. I enjoy going to parties but  I am not a strict alcohol  person.   I used to drink in those days but you know age is not on one’s side again , so one has to take things easy now at this age.

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