By EMMA ELEBEKE
Renown columnist Amb. Isaac Sagay has called for the return to the pursuit of excellence in public service, in particular and national life in general.
Speaking on his new books, which were launched in Abuja, Thursday, he said there was no alternative to a deliberate effort on the part of state and non-state actors to ensure that Nigeria takes her place of pride in the comity of nations through dint of hard and commitment to excellence.
According to him, he wrote the books, “Studies in English & Art of Official Correspondence in the Nigerian Civil/Public Service” and “The Sacred Flame” out of a passion for maintaining high standards in the quality of service delivery among civil and public servants in the country and in response to several invitations by Permanent Secretaries for him to conduct workshops for their staff on correspondence capacity.
His words, “to be candid, it all started with incessant requests by Permanent Secretaries that I should conduct workshops for senior staff of their ministries. Even the Head of Service at a time wanted me to do the same. It was then it occurred to me that I should write this book. If you conduct a workshop, people would listen with one ear and close the other ear but if you write a book, there is a reference point. So, in this book, you will find all the guidance to be a good and proficient civil servant.
“The bottom line is the pursuit of excellence and the central theme of the book is that as long as English remains our official lingua franca, we must speak and write English very well as the original authors left it for us. There is no room for what people call Nigerian English because we are now in a global village, and there is a global community of English speakers all over the world. So, once we belong to that community, we must speak English in a manner that they will understand us.
“Secondly, those who argue that English is not our mother-tongue and as such we should not seek perfection are wrong. The people of Cotonou speak impeccable French, even the illiterates and it does not stop them from speaking their native languages. There is no room for their own version of the French language. When they want to speak French, they speak it correctly, the same thing applies to English language. What we are saying is that, there is rule of grammar and syntax in English language.
“That lingua franca is spoken English and it is all the same. We must understand it the way the original owners do”.
On his target readers, Amb. Sagay said he was targeting both undergraduates and those already in the civil service but had no requisite capacity to generate memorandum for their superiors.
“This book is targeted at university undergraduates specifically, as they move to join us to equip them in such a way that at the point of entry, they will be well equipped to meet the demands of civil service because the civil service we have today is made of university graduates, who have not been properly tutored in English and when they come into the main stream of civil service, they do know what they are talking about.
“This book contains a set of examples that tells the reader, the various steps expected in a council memo, which is the highest memo a minister can present to the highest decision making body,” he said.
The author added that the book was at the heart of the agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to transform the federal civil service through capacity building at all levels.
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