My Bible says: “All the Law is fulfilled in one word even this, love thy neighbour as thyself” The Koran says, “Requite evil with good and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend”. The Talmud says, “That man is a hero who can make a friend out of a foe” In the Dhammapada, the Buddhist says, “Never does hatred by hatred cease, but by love alone”. Easy to say; hard to do. ”But we live in a world without walls and we cannot own the future of that world unless we share it’’ – Bill Clinton
We are indeed in a developing society in several respects. These are momentous times when the global community is disturbed about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fate of Africa in the next few years is unknown. The Federal Republic of Germany officially entered a recession yesterday. And Germany is the strongest economy in Europe. What happens to Africa will be a collective responsibility of Africans. Like Barack Obama said during his state visit to Ghana, ‘’nobody will come to develop Africa for Africans. That is our own responsibility.
I consider the discourse on the issue under reference an academic one elicited by practical hands-on experiences acquired in my walk in the corridor of power. I am here concerned with good governance and governance procedures. I read commentaries in the media on the Fafowora/Gambari fiasco while hugely involved in monitoring and reporting on a global scale, the management of the Coronavirus pandemic as a matter of national and global importance. Having been thrown into the court of public opinion, I consider it important for me to assume the role of a peacemaker in this debacle and plead for peace. The two personalities involved are global figures and brilliant minds. I know both of them. They are like my ‘’big brothers’’
Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora, a highly cerebral personality knew me as a young child in the 1950s. Our paths never crossed again until 1989 when I visited him in his office where he worked as the Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. We last met and spoke in 2001, when he was Special Adviser to Governor Bisi Akande on Economic Matters. He appeared to me an extremely intelligent personality, and one of the few aides who could tell the governor the truth. I also met Prof. Ibrahim Gambari a few years ago through my former prized boss, Chief Theophilus Oladapo Bamigboye, with whom he relates as a brother. Prof. Gambari impressed me with his prompt acceptance of my request for him to write the Preface to one of my books: AFRICA: The Game Changers & Dynamics of Power’. He never hesitated to do this obligation and told me that ‘’anything from Bamigboye is done’’ And that was on phone. I perceived him as a warm personality who encourages younger ones to excel.
I felt I was in a tight corner, while monitoring and writing daily reports on the pandemic, liaising constantly with the World Health Organization in Geneva. We regard that as part of our social responsibility and, therefore, made efforts to concentrate attention on issues that are for the common good. I sincerely believe that this contribution might be helpful to people who create the time to read. Therefore, I will characteristically refuse to apportion blames or speak ill-advisedly about any personality or contributor to the debate; but attempt to embark on an academic exercise for the common good. Several opinions have been aired in accordance with the constitutional provisions on Freedom of Speech that, however, have boundaries, as checks and balances.
DEFINITION Who is the Chief of Staff? A school of thought argues that a Chief of Staff is an employee who tells his/her boss, what he/she doesn’t like to hear. That translates into speaking truth to power but within the confines of a defined area where other aides would ideally not listen or hear. That indicates the level of closeness of the official and the principal. Chiefs of Staff, according to Paul Cohen, a United States University professor, and mathematician ‘’must be comfortable operating with contradictory traits of a broad thinker who can handle the details; assertive and confident, while being open–minded and humble; proactive but comfortable reacting to fires’’ Elsewhere, Wikipedia states that: ‘’In general, a chief of staff provides a buffer between a chief executive and that executive’s direct-reporting team. ‘’The chief of staff generally works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes, and deal with issues before they are brought to the chief executive. Often chiefs of staff act as a confidant and adviser to the chief executive, acting as a sounding board for ideas. Ultimately, the actual duties depend on the position and the people involved’’
POSSIBLE REASON FOR HEAT GENERATED: Ideally, the appointment of a Chief of Staff to the President should not have provoked the type of attention it received in the conventional and social media. Apart from politics, people attribute undue power to the occupant of the office because of the high visibility of the operative after the exit of retd Major-Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed, who served in that capacity from 1999-2008. He was a self-effacing personality most probably because of his training as a spy. He headed the Nigerian Security Organization from 1976-1979. He had a firm grip on the activities in the Presidential Villa but never played to the gallery. I have written every so often that it is possible for a Clerical Officer in an organization to be more powerful than a Permanent Secretary as a result of the schedule of duties, inherent capabilities, and the trust reposed in that official by the boss, following ability to deliver results.
After Gen. Muhammed’s exit, one started seeing in newspapers, photographs of Chiefs of Staff in various postures perched near Mr. President who customarily had photographs with visitors to the Villa. I wondered where they got the time for this activity when files are there to be treated. The tendency is for the populace to attribute undue importance to anyone who stands beside Mr. President; even if that official has no influence. The position of Chief of Staff is not recognized by the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and has never been so recognized since the advent of this political dispensation. Mr. President has the exclusive right to appoint anybody he wants. He can even pick his driver or cook. Let us define the constituency of the Chief of Staff. In a democracy, the CoS assumes the constituency of Mr. President (the ideal) that is the whole country as the Chief Administrative and Accounting Officer of the State House. In the private sector too, the chief of staff’s role is a powerfully personal one. The holder is like an executive assistant and a Chief Executive Officer.
POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT/GOVERNORS: The ideal and the legal framework is espoused by a foremost constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN in a publication in Guardian Newspaper, in which he stated emphatically that the presidential system gives wide powers to the President and Governors who are solely responsible for the running of governments: “The real essence of the Presidential system established by the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions is that the EXERCISE of the Executive Office of the Federation is given to the President and to him ALONE, not to him jointly, or in common with the Vice-President and Ministers. Those of States are given to Governors alone. Those who drafted the Constitution apparently inserted this clause to ensure that the buck stops on the table of the big boss who is to be held accountable for all actions and inactions.
Nwabueze continued: ‘’The President/Governor is the SOLE repository or owner of executive power as regards both the vesting of the title to it and to its exercise, subject to some minor limitations in favour of other persons or authorities which are not really material for present purpose. In short, he is, to all intends and purposes, the executive of the Federation, not just the “Chief Executive”, as he is erroneously designated in section (2) of the Constitution. Subject as aforesaid, all executive powers or functions of the Federal Government are absorbed in his office.’’ This also applies to the delegation of powers by the President and this flows unmistakably and indisputably from the provision of section 5 (1)(a), quoted above, that executive powers of the President of the Federation may be “exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or Officers in public service of the Federation emphasis supplied”. By the decisions of the courts, the provision may be interpolated to read: “may be exercised either by him directly or by him through his appointees”
APPOINTMENTS: Accordingly, a head of government, who has a strong passion for the achievement of set-objectives would employ trusted and tested hands to assist in prosecuting his/her agenda for sustainable development. This is one of the reasons why deputies could complain of having no role to play in successive administrations. This lack of understanding of the workings government generally results in disagreements between the boss and the subordinate in the private sector; or with their principals who are heads of government in the case of political governance. However, there are enough responsibilities to be shared among so that they don’t constitute cogs in the wheels of the administrations they serve. A case in point: I was in the midst of the top functionaries of a State government whilst discussing the list of names of ambassadorial nominees approved by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. No name forwarded from Osun state for consideration for appointment as ambassadorial-nominee was picked by Abuja. Obasanjo threw away the list and appointed his own highly competent people whom he felt would run with his vision. Among them: Dr. Christopher Kolade who was posted to the United Kingdom. You cannot fault that choice. They never knew Kolade was from Erin-Oke. I heard them complain, but they never could go meet the president to ask why; because he would, apart from telling them it was his prerogative to appoint ambassadorial nominees, would have scolded them such they would run out of his office.
In remembering this incident in a discussion with a friend, we recalled the Second Republic and noted jokingly that nobody dared go ask Chief Bola Ige why he chose a Secretary to State government or any State Commissioner, a duty that fell within his purview, and the complainant goes free without being tongue-lashed and educated. The Fourth Republic came with powerful State governors wanting to impose Ministers on successive presidents of the Federal Republic. This is one of the reasons for crises in political parties. But State governors have never been known to allow local government chairmen to donate State Commissioners for appointment into the cabinet in their States.
CRITICAL THINKING AS ONE OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESSES: The Chief of Staff must be a critical thinker. A renowned psychologist, Edward Maynard Glaser defines critical thinking as ‘’the analysis of facts to form a judgment. ‘’The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased, analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence. Elsewhere, John Clarke, in his treatise themed: ‘Critical Dialogues: Thinking Together in Turbulent Times’ asserts that critical thinking is ‘’self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective and self-corrective thinking’’ A management expert, Vance Packard, in his publication: “The Pyramid of Climbers” has given the roles as; planning, evaluating, negotiating, scheduling, coordinating, interpreting and inspecting. The successful manager also ”personalizes, expertise, publicizes, maps out procedures, investigates, supervises, and offers professional advice.’’ More importantly, the public service is the vehicle for service delivery and governance. The quality of the public service largely determines the pace of development of any nation. This is because of the crucial role public servants play in the formulation and implementation of programs, policies and procedures.
REASONS FOR POWER PLAY Wrangling or contention should naturally be expected to feature in every organized setting. Every so often, disagreements arise largely as a result of an inordinate love for power and relevance as exhibited by political functionaries and even private sector operators. In truth, the measure of power allocated or devolved to different offices accrue by virtue of the delegation of responsibilities by the head of an organization or government. It may arise that the powers wielded behind the scene by an efficient personal assistant as delegated by the head of government based on trust and ability to deliver, may be greater than that of the honourable Minister. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in his inauguration speech as the first indigenous Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the federation of Nigeria stated that: ‘’I should make it clear that one important reason why human society is unstable and full of conflicting emotions is because of the tendency to intensify rivalry beyond their normal course. ‘’After all, our leaders fought the good fight with all their might because they believed in the righteousness of their causes; and history has proved them right. ‘’But they also knew that in a team of many players all cannot be elected captains since it is generally accepted that more than one captain cannot run a ship efficiently’’
WE MUST EXPECT DISAGREEMENTS – AWOLOWO: Obafemi Awolowo summarized the need for the society to continue to expect disagreements within the polity: “Wrangling or contention has a human trait’ which will be exhibited under all and any circumstances. “Even if all our problems were solved by God in one go with all mankind having enough to eat and to wear; decent houses to live in; sound education; good health; happy homes; big cars; political freedom; godly and truly public-spirited rulers to administer our affairs etc., we will still argue among ourselves, at least as to why God should bestow His bounty so generously on everyone!’’ Let us also never blame all that served the military. We might not know the roles of individuals played at that horrible period starting from the military intervention in 1966. So, do we condemn all that served in the military from 1966-1999? We all claimed to have helped to stabilize the polity. And military officers have come out to say that there was no coup plot that was not instigated or supported by powerful civilians. We all gave the military the opportunity of staying too long by serving in their regimes.
AS PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE/AMBASSADOR: Criticisms about standing the position of a country by its ambassador is a non-issue. Whoever holds the position of an ambassador is in the Office to protect the interests of the country that sends him on the assignment. An official might not like the position he is canvassing but he/she, as an emissary of the President of the Federal Republic and must carry our presidential directives. As a representative, they offer up their home country’s position on many political, social, and economic platforms. Therefore, to fail to do that which your employers direct you to do, amounts to gross insubordination. The best you could do to escape being caught in the web of the principle of collective responsibility is to resign.
COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY: Most people do not respect the principle of collective responsibility and engage in acts unbecoming of public officers who should owe their allegiance to Nigeria first, and then to the head of government who appointed them. Quite naturally, those involved in governance cannot all the time hold the same views on issues and events that are brought before them for consideration from time to time. There are bound to be disagreements that must be mutually resolved. Where the majority views are upheld, those who disagree are bound by the decision in accordance with the principle of collective responsibility. Anybody who totally disagrees should be free to opt-out, and ought to take the honourable path of bowing out if he or she disagrees with decisions reached at meetings bound by the principle of collective responsibility. To stay within the system and later criticize collective decisions amount to a betrayal of trust and should never be the option employed by an honourable person.
ENDING THE RIFT & THE MEDIA: I made up my mind not to accept the position of an information manager in government after 1999, following the very tough situation towards the end of the military administrations in which I served from 1994-1999 before serving Chief Bisi Akande for about seven months. That burden was too heavy and only God saw me through. Part of the social responsibility of the press is its role in assisting the nation to pay greater attention to the needs of the people and also promote national interests as obtains in foreign media. It is important to state that this initiative would, in the final analysis, benefit collectively, a plural society.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo made an allusion to the relative freedom enjoyed by the Nigerian media at the Leon Sullivan Summit Dinner in the United States on 20th June 2006. He said: ‘’Our press is as free as any press on the planet. Our media also share the same unsavoury tendencies as the rest of the world media. For instance, our media make a capital of our tragedies and problems and parade our weaknesses before the world, as extravagantly as possible. ‘’So it is easy for those who don’t know us to be the victims of Afro-pessimism”. We must realize that we can never be perfect and that it will take some time before our region of the world moves away from the back row in the comity of nations. Our media should, therefore, allow some measure of patriotism to come into play while presenting the country to the outside world. The Nigerian media, and indeed others in the developing world need to brace up to the challenges posed by modernization’’ Now, Coronavirus is here. How long it will take for the pandemic to remain with us is our collective responsibility to evolve.
UTILIZING MERIT & COMPETENCE: WHO ARE THE BEST MATERIALS? Mr. President knows his best material. Don’t let us deny him that right and the right of review of his actions from time to time. The issue of the appointment of the Chief of Staff to the President raises the importance of policy analysts to evolving workable agenda that goes beyond narrow confines to adopt a very broad outlook. The question of running political systems is one that has consistently raised its head in the polity, particularly among the elite and political classes. This is very relative and is subject to the thoughts of an individual or group of individuals. Opinions would certainly differ about personalities, their contributions and their inherent capabilities. From the proposition, the person that may be adjudged as the suitable material may emerge from anywhere. Choosing the best materials would also mean doing away with religion, tribalism, nepotism, and other ills that have plagued the polity. The government and the governed both have critical roles to play. The emphasis here would be how to galvanize Nigerians to wholeheartedly support measures directed at bringing about the desired development and improvements. These would include working positively to embrace best governance practices, mapping out coherent and purposeful policies geared towards development, as well as paying proper attention to visioning and long-range planning. I feel very strongly that Nigeria would benefit immensely from this appointment, particularly with regard to contributing to advancements these days of multilateralism and rampaging COVID-19.
POST COVID-19 AGENDA: I have in the past few years requested to know from Ambassador Dapo Fafowora’s junior ones why he has not featured at the national level because I know his worth. I got no answer. On Saturday Special programme to which he was invited at the Broadcasting Corporation on Oyo State 1990, he reeled out statistics and global economic indices from memory! People were amazed. The merit system ideally supports promoting and hiring government employees based on their ability to perform a job, rather than on their political connections. Governance is about seeking solutions to problems through the judicious management of the available human and material resources for the achievement of set goals and objectives.
One area in which Prof. Ibrahim Gambari would be useful to Nigeria would be to work as part of Vice-President’s Economic Team that is responsible for running the economy till 2023; and members are now putting in place measures to stabilize Nigeria in the Post COVID-19 era. Working with experts who served in multilateral institutions like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesi, Akinwumi Adesina; Kingsley Moghalu, and contacting influential personalities like President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Wazirin Fika, Alhaji Adamu Fika, and Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora for inputs would definitely help the nation. After all, it is our common nation and we must be enthusiastic to find solutions to our common problems. Some of these influential leaders could initiate telephone calls from their backyards and influence positive developments for Nigeria. It is always better to make these moves quietly because there would always be people who would attempt to throw cogs in the wheels.
Fortunately, we are now very conversant with Virtual Office that aids good governance. Our commitment to rebuild Nigeria must be based on our ability to offer good governance. Its importance is underscored by the fact that democracy and good governance are interwoven. Then peaceful conducts. From my experience as a participant-observer in governments, I know so well and can submit without any fear of equivocation that political leaders at all levels require lots of prayers to be able to ward off the effects of negativities. Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel laureate nominee for Peace states: ‘’If we can invest in a different vision of peaceful coexistence, I think we can change the world because every problem has a nonviolent answer.’’
A major proponent of Globalization, President Bill Clinton once lamented that humanity is living in an exciting, but still unequal and unstable world. Only those who give thought to this development would think deeper about the need for collective efforts towards advancements. On security, said Clinton in his inaugural lecture of the Nelson Mandela Foundation: ‘’I think that the rest of the world has more work to do with Africa. ‘’We should invest in Africa’s capacity to fight terror, to provide good law enforcement, to strengthen its borders and financial institutions, and to engage in peacekeeping. Global warming will flood the whole Pacific Islands over the next 50 years and will take 50 feet of Manhattan Island away.
Climate Change will change agricultural production patterns in a way that can make hunger much more pronounced than in Africa, meaning more civil wars, more disruption; more terror. We must be thinking about these issues, otherwise generations yet unborn will not forgive this generation. My Bible says, “All the Law is fulfilled in one word even this, love thy neighbour as thyself”. The Koran says, “Requite evil with good and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend”. The Talmud says, “That man is a hero who can make a friend out of a foe”; in the Dhammapada the Buddhist says, “Never does hatred by hatred cease but by love alone”. Easy to say, hard to do. But we live in a world without walls and we cannot own the future of that world unless we share it.
TONING DOWN THE POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF ANIMOSITY: It is possible, with sincerity, for us to drive Nigeria in a way that would make it evolve from the ruins of the past. Let merit, justice, and fair play permeate every stratum of our national life. We must deemphasize all issues that tie Nigeria down. Dialogue would prove beneficial. It would at least douse tension, tone down strong influences of animosity and disagreements, and move Nigeria closer to her place in destiny. It would be fine if elders step into this issue to effect an amicable settlement.
I close with a quote from Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States: It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. I rest my case.
May the Good Lord Bless Nigeria.