An open paper by Oliver O. Mbamara
“While many Nigerians would tend to agree that re-branding maybe a good idea, it would be an exercise in futility, bound to fail if Nigerians would not find the confidence and encouragement to look up to their leaders for good examples.”
It is with reluctant-hopefulness that I write this piece. Hopefulness because as a Nigerian who continues to hope for the best for the Nigerian people, I feel elated anytime someone in a leadership position in Nigeria makes a daring, selfless, intelligent, and fearless move to address the corruption and leadership mismanagement that has plagued Nigeria for so long. Reluctant because I have almost given up on writing public commentaries and editorials about Nigeria’s leadership problems since every time a seeming leadership “hopeful” emerges in Nigeria, the “powers that be” would somehow manage to stifle such leader. At other times just when one begins to have confidence in a particular leader, Nigerians would wake up one day to some revelation that such leader was indeed never different from the rest of the pack. Yet as a Nigerian, one is bound to applaud any light in the tunnel until the true “political messiah” emerges, if ever.
Many Nigerians applaud the move by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido to sack five managing directors of banks over financial misdemeanor that have resulted in unpaid debts running into several billions of naira. Yet, the concern is, will the CBN Governor follow through with this move and see that all culprits are brought to book while future managers and directors of Nigeria’s financial institutions are more responsible and held more accountable? Will he be steadfast in this drive or will his drive falter, change, or fade away along the line? If he is sincerely determined, will he succeed or will he be stopped?
We have heard about the effort of Nigeria’s current Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili to re-brand Nigeria. Although there is high regard and respect for the Minister going by her past impressive record in Nigeria, the grudge has been that any move to re-brand Nigeria without first re-branding (or re-orientating) the Nigerian leadership sort of amounts to an insult to the integrity of Nigerians. One does not need to be told that we need massive re-orientation and sweeping self-character reassessment in all sectors of Nigeria’s leadership. The rule should be to lead by good example. While many Nigerians would tend to agree that re-branding maybe a good idea, it would be an exercise in futility, bound to fail if Nigerians would not find the confidence and encouragement to look up to their leaders for good examples.
Not quite long ago, there was a sort of rush to buy stocks and invest in shares of many Nigerian companies as the returns seemed to be humongous. Many Nigerians including yours sincerely, received advances to invest in stock in Nigeria, but many of us remained skeptical that there were barely any genuine logical basis for such rise in stock values. There was barley appropriate transparency in the dealings of these companies and banks. To make matters worse, ownership and management in many of the banks were linked to past and present political leaders whose true characters many Nigerians would not trust. It was only a question of time before the revelations of the true workings behind these banks and the sharp rise in stock values would be revealed. First was the revelation that some known wealthy Nigerians were influencing stock values. What happened to these wealthy ones? Have they been brought to book? Now the new revelation is that banks were lending out billions of naira without collateral. One of the sacked bank CEOs is said to be the President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and a Vice President of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Shouldn’t we be talking about re-branding (or re-orientating) the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission?
Incidentally this type of irresponsibility and lack of accountability evident in Nigeria’s financial sector cuts across other sectors of the country’s leadership and management. While commending the efforts of the CBN Governor to cleanse the Nigerian financial system, it has to be pointed out that where such an effort is isolated, little if any success would be made to get the country out of the pit of leadership mismanagement and the consequential socio-economic impasse. Every other sector of leadership and management in Nigeria has to be addressed. That is the kind of re-branding we need.
Incidentally the type of irresponsibility and lack of accountability evident in Nigeria’s financial sector cuts across other sectors of the country’s leadership and management. It has to be pointed out that an isolated effort to cleanse it will only bring about little if any success to get the country out of the pit of leadership mismanagement and the consequential socio-economic impasse. Every other sector of leadership in Nigeria has to be addressed.
In March 2002, I wrote an article titled, “Investing in Nigeria (and Africa): The security question,” in which I said the following:
“It is only upon a solid foundation of peace and security of life and property that economic and political stability can be built to last. I look forward to the day our leaders would make safety and security their utmost priority for their country (not just around the leaders themselves). Employ more policemen, arm and train them better, but above all pay them well to attract more recruits and discourage bribery – there are many young men and women wasting away, yet willing and able to grab a police job anytime. It is said, ‘the idle mind is the devils workshop.’ When the youths have no jobs after their education, they easily accept an offer of a token fee to carry out violence and mayhem. It baffles me that our leaders have continued to ignore this obvious equation.
A comfortable state of security (not necessarily a perfect state, for that cannot be obtained on earth) will encourage the millions of Africans abroad to find the confidence to come home and to invest in the African economy. If we Africans can get to such level on our own, a lot of improvement will follow. Other investors will find the confidence to invest in Africa. That will provide more jobs, good roads, infrastructures, and sustenance. And once again, the continent that once led civilization will be on its feet.”
Just two months after the above article was published, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) set up what was then called the “Ghost Squad.” I then followed with another article titled “Ghost Squad,” How realistic? In the same article, I said the following:
“The idea of a “Ghost Squad” has all the elements of a realistic approach in the treatment of the malaise of corruption and irresponsibility that has plagued the Nigerian society. It addresses one of the main roots of the problem – lack of exemplary discipline and accountability within the rank and file of government and law enforcement (or peace maintenance) arms. To that end, this article calls on other arms such as the Army, Customs, SSS, etc. to also instill a new internal cleansing mechanism. For a crusade to be successful, it must start from within, and then reach out. For a new secure Nigerian society, all hands must be on deck, not just the Police Force.”
“However, the IGP and his men need some time. It would take perhaps a couple of weeks or months for one to practically score the success or failure of both the “Ghost Squad” and “Operation fire for fire.” Things will not get better overnight and the IGP must not relent in his zeal. As we approach the 2003 elections, the real test for the ‘new’ Nigerian Police Force is yet to come.”
Of course, the test came and sorry to say, the result? Failure! The IGP was later exposed to have been involved in repeated bribery and to have diverted Police money to his pocket while crime rates spiraled and Police officers remained unpaid and unequipped. Was the IGP brought to book to face consequence of his actions that led to many more people dying for crimes that could have been avoided or for making the nation suffer the negative effects of crime waves and an insecure society that turned away investors? After about six months in prison, the IGP came out to proudly proclaim that he “will be back.”
Lest we forget, about the time, Chief Bola Ige who was the Attorney General of the federation was shot and killed in his home and till today, the culprits have not been brought to book, just as many otherwise solvable murders remain unsolved. Shouldn’t we be talking about a re-branding (or re-orientating) of the Nigerian Police (prosecution) and justice systems?
We need not forget the role of the legislature in allowing some of these atrocities to go on while the average Nigerian continues to suffer in poverty, insecurity, poor health, and without basic amenities and infrastructures despite belonging to Africa’s largest oil-producing country. Shouldn’t we be talking about a re-branding (or re-orientating) of the Nigerian legislature?
In the end, re-branding maybe good for Nigeria, but it has to start from the top. Why must the average Nigerian and those suffering at the bottom be the ones to suffer the consequence of a mismanaged nation and yet be the ones called upon first to make any sacrifice?
©August 2009 Oliver O. Mbamara
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver O. Mbamara is an attorney & admin judge. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, writer, actor, and poet. For more on Oliver Mbamara, visit www.OliverMbamara.com