The twelve commandments for the 21st Century public office holder - By Newton Post

"C ongratulations my dear on your desire to aspire to become a public office holder.

The desire is noble but the journey to public office is stormy, rough and at times may lead to your death. As you embark on your journey, keep the twelve commandments to your heart and if all else fails these twelve commandments will guide you in public office and in your private lives.

Commandment One – We’ll all die, it is just a matter of time

 Write this on your wall and reflect on it every day: “You are not invincible. You were made from dust and to dust you shall return.”  Therefore, do good to the greatest number of the people under your authority as your impact (or non-impact) will be felt long after you have left public office.

Commandment Two – Public office does not equal leadership

The public office is a symbol of leadership, but the occupier of the office may not be a leader. Any human being can through luck, manipulation, intimidation, oratory and persuasion win an election into public office.  Do not vie for public office if you are bereft of these qualities – foresight, courage and love for the people (no matter the race, tribe, color or religion), sound judgment and a listening ear.  Otherwise, you will compound the problem of your constituency.

Commandment Three – The focus is on the people

The public office is not the centre of personal wealth creation or a pleasure-seeking arena. If your pleasure-seeking taste buds are uncontrollable then stay out of public office. Public office holders with such desires inflict more harm than COVID-19 pandemic. The public office is not designed for self-indulgence; The public office is designed for sacrifice and hard work. Your burning desire should focus on promoting the commonwealth of your constituency. The desire for wealth acquisition and pleasure-seeking appetites should therefore be left to citizens of your constituency.

Commandment Four – In the multitude of counsel, there is safety

Surround yourself with sound advisers armed with the burning desire to promote the commonwealth of the people. Tribalism, racism, bigotry, fanaticism and nepotism should be thrown of the window. Give audience to your critics and challenge them to provide practical solutions to issues facing your constituency. Be not afraid to seek advice from foreign countries as they may have faced similar issues in time past. A broken clock is only correct twice in a day. We are not perfect and therefore, your advisers do not have all the answers to the challenges facing your constituency. Your decisions must however advance the greater good. The greater good is not sending your constituency to heaven; The greater good is setting the obligations of democracy. Implement policies and programmes that trigger the engine of productivity and not policies that multiply the number of the poor begging at your doorstep.

Commandment Five – Wear the cloak of disguise and truth will come to your doorsteps

A political office holder should wear the cloak of disguise and seek firsthand information on the welfare, hopes and fears of the constituency. A political office holder should feel the pulse of the environment. Do this periodically as ultimately you will face reality when you leave public office.

Commandment Six – It is not a do-or die affair

The public office can make you a dictator and its entrapments will lure you into believing that you are a demi-god. Always remember the first commandment. Contenders for public office do not destroy lives or properties when they do not win an election – it is not a do-or -die affair.  A contender that sows the winds of chaos and violence is the number one enemy of the people.

Commandment Seven – Focus on the root cause and not symptoms

Your life span is short. Do not seek to achieve everything as a public office holder. The wheels of bureaucracy grinds slowly and litters the constituency with white elephant projects. To avoid ending your tenure with regrets, do the following:

–          seek and understand the underlying source of the problems facing the constituency. Problems are interconnected and inter-related;

–          identify the fundamental issue by surveying the needs of the people;

–          resist the knee jerk response of treating symptoms;

–          consult with the people are agree on two or at most three initiatives that can address the root cause of the problems.

–          create the awareness and drive implementation as if your life depends on it.

Stop the showmanship of treating societal symptoms and do not seek to be a disciple of all good initiatives and a specialist in achieving nothing.

Commandment Eight – The man of the people is a myth

Not everyone likes you; Not everyone will like you.  People will curse and vilify a public office holder and that is not an issue. But when the number of people that curses you are greater than the number of people that support you for a prolonged period then you have done more harm than good to your constituency.  

Commandment Nine – Action, action and more action

Idle talk in the corridors of power do not put food on the table of the citizens. A public office holder is action oriented; A public officer makes few promises and keeps them. Have a checklist of your initiatives and ensure it is done. This is your sacred duty – simplify the complex, promote individual enterprise, protect and advance the economic and social welfare of the people.

Commandment Ten – Remember the exit door

Resign honorably when you are losing your soul to the complexity of the office. It is not a curse or stigma if you do not complete your tenure. The public office may have permanent addresses, but it does not have a permanent public office holder.

Commandment Eleven – Stay close to the people; stay closer to your tax payers

Hold in high esteem taxpayers in your constituency. They are the burden bearers that provide funds in running your constituency. Listen to them. Give them a voice and acknowledge them as partners in progress. Treat them as customers and accelerate the provision of public services to them. Applying this approach will stoke envy in the minds of tax evaders and persuade other members of the constituency join the league of taxpayers. Use the venom of the law sparingly to coerce payment of taxes and it should be the last resort.

Commandment Twelve – An unblemished record

Use data.

Automate the bureaucracy.

Cut all wastages.

Provide production subsidies not consumption subsidies to trigger job creation

Defend the weak and needy.

Unleash the energies of the youth for economic productivity

Disclose all public financial records on a timely basis to the public

Benchmark your standards to the top 30 constituents

Open daily lines of communication to the people

Above all these three loyal masquerades are important in public office – Data, Technology and Transparency.

Final Note to the Public Office holder

Keep the twelve commandments diligently and remain steadfast with the principles as you climb the ladder of public office. The twelve commandments will preserve you in office and posterity will honor and remember your good works.

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2 thoughts on “The twelve commandments for the 21st Century public office holder”

  1. To elaborate on commandment 12, ‘use data’ this can not be over emphasized. Data can be used to predict, prevent, pacify or produce. Aspiring and current public holders need to recognize its importance.

    Definitely a good read.

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