UN’s Amina Mohammed and Nigeria’s unsustainable nonsense
Lest we should continue in our culture of low expectation and celebration of mediocrity everywhere we go, let’s discuss an old story that can shape our tomorrow. Before we continue to leave everything to God as we often do instead of taking action, I would like us to reflect this week on another weightier matter of public policy within the context of “knowledge management and political leadership”. No, it is not an academic exercise. It is just within some historical construct of how the new Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Mrs.Amina Mohammed would have been a ‘brain gain’ for our local sustainable development instead of the ‘brain drain’ that she now represents.
This is the context: but for poverty of ideas nurtured by the corruption in our political management, a development sector supreme intelligence, Madam Amina should be working at home (in Nigeria) as part of the change management team to chart a course that can move Nigeria from Third to First world. Even as we celebrate and congratulate her on this remarkable achievement as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, I am persuaded that we should also reflect on how to improve on the bad politics thatin 2011 got her out of the leadership of the then Nigeria’s MDGs Office domiciled in the presidency. Specifically, it is apt to reflect on the poor leadership of the then President Goodluck Jonathan that removed her as Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs SSA-P. She was inexplicably replaced with a neophyte in the development sector, Dr. Precious Kalamba Gbeneol from Okrika, Rivers State.
Amina was removed despite her pioneering effort and hard worksince 2005 and institutional memory of the very important office that could make or mar our image in global context. It is noteworthy that Dr. Gbeneol’s appointment was quietly made in September 2011 as there was no formal announcement by the presidency through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) when the first set of 20 presidential aides were engaged in July that year (2011). The significance of reflection on this strange development is that the thenPresident Jonathan was not interested in Nigeria finishing strong with the MDGs. It is in the character of our leaders here. He was more interested in the $1 billionthat MDGs Office had to spend annually and, of course, how Dr. Gbeneol from his political zone had to be the one to manage it. It is this same spirit of personal relationship syndrome in Nigeria’s politics that has negatively affected the presidency of MuhammaduBuhari too.
It is still a mystery that in this complex federation of six geopolitical zones being led by an elected retired General, presidential appointments are dominated by what the media has tagged parochial appointments (of kinsmen) everywhere we go. Let’s not get this twisted: This lamentation on the way we are, is not just about how a president and his kitchen cabinet had treated Mrs. Mohammed who would have assisted Nigeria to achieve more Milliennium Development Goals in 2015. It is to draw attention of those in power and those who are bidding to take over from them that today’s world of work and public service is about “talent management”to make profit in business through customer satisfaction and service delivery to the citizens through strategic planning and project execution beyond tokenism and mediocrity that we daily celebrate. It is clear from Amina’s credentials that she wasn’t a gatecrasher in the development sector and political leadership scene: From 1981-1991 Amina worked at Archon, Norman &Dawbarn a Multi-disciplinary firm of Architects, Engineers and Quantity Surveyors in Kaduna, Nigeriain association with Norman and Dawbarn, UK.
From 1991-2000, she served as a co-founder & executive director of Afri-Projects Consortium, Kaduna & Abuja. The consortium was a major player and project coordinator in the then Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) Major General MuhammaduBuhari presided over when GenralsaniAbacha was Head of State.From 2000-2002 the Gombe-born technocrat served as Private Consultant & National Coordinator for The Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA) Abuja.From 2002-2005 Mrs. Mohammed served as, National Coordinator Education for All (EFA), Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja.
Between 2005-2011 she served as the SSA to the President on MDGs; coordinating debt relief gains to Nigeria. She was generally believed to be very resourceful, organized and disciplined with project management, funds and coordination.
It is relevant to note at this juncture that those in the development sector were quite shocked that such an experienced and knowledge worker could be dropped so casually like that for political reasons. I was at the United Nations Headquarters, New York in 2010 when 10 -year assessment reports of the MDGs were submitted by the affected developing nations. Madam Amina Mohammed’s reports at various sessions were quite outstanding and she received several plaudits and even standing ovation as witnessed by three new ministers who accompanied her to the United Nations Assembly then. The reports were generally believed to have reflected Nigeria’s performance index at the time:
The reports were not sexed up and justifications and illustrations were provided for all the milestones in good documents that impressed operatives at the United Nations. That was the time Amina’s pedigree and character must have been well noted by the United Nations and even the academia in the United States. That also explains why the ‘prophetess’ who was never honoured at home was immediately invited by the office of the UN Secretary General and one of the Ivy League Universities in the U.S, the University of Columbia “to come over to Macedonia an help”. Immediately President Jonathan dropped her in 2011, Gombe state government engaged her as a special adviser on MDGs and she warmly accepted the offer to serve. She had hardly settled down in Gombe when the University of Columbia, New York invited her as an Adjunct Professor in the Master’s degree programme on Development Studies.
And on June, 7, 2012, she was also promptly engaged by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning. In this role, she acts as the link between the Secretary-General, his High Level Panel of Eminent Persons (HLP), and the General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG), among other stakeholders.
That was how Nigeria’s ‘brain drain’ in 2011 became a ‘brain gain’ to the University of Columbia and the United Nations all in New York in 2012. She was there until 2015 when she was invited home as Environment Minister. That was just to boost her profile as a candidate for the plum office of Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations she assumed this month. There is a sense in which some of my brethren could claim that if Amina had not been sent packing in 2011, how could she have been recognized for this office? That is a twisted logic by apologists of the bad politics that we celebrate in Nigeria, our Nigeria.
The MDGs office job was a critical assignment that is worth about $1 billion annually towards the achievement MDGs in Nigeria through the establishment and implementation of a Virtual Poverty Fund. The mandate included designing innovative approaches to poverty reduction, budget coordination and monitoring as well as providing advice on pertinent issues regarding poverty, macroeconomic stability and sustainable development.
There are more of the like of Amina that the political system has emasculated. I have also covered the plight of a Nigerian Professor of Police Studies (from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom since 1997) who also holds a British Passport. The Ekiti-born Professor Olu Ogunsakin once offered to assist his country in its policing challenge at a time an Ekiti man, (Caleb Olubolade) was Police Affairs Minister. He was rebuffed and he went back to the United Kingdom. But it came to pass that Nigerian authorities asked the British Government for assistance in the areas of capacity building for community policing. Behold, it was the same Professor Ogunsakin that was sent and the Police Affairs Ministry then warmly received him at the Abuja airport because the British authorities delegated him to represent them. Why do we celebrate mediocrity when we have experts that can fix our challenges? Professor Ogunsakin is City of London Police’s Cultural Diversity Adviser and the Force Equal Opportunities Officer.He is widely acknowledged as one of the country’s foremost experts on policing diverse communities, having worked with police forces in the United State, Canada, and the U.K Home Office.
As I was saying, this comment is not about Madam Amina’s rising profile. It is should not be misconstrued by conspiracy theorists in Abuja that Amina too is being drafted by the Nigerian press to run for president in 2019. Not all successful development sector activists and even governors and even former military leaders are fit for the office of the president. The point at issue here now is that those who lead us should note that the most critical success factor in management and leadership positions now is quality of team membership and talent management. Though we serve a miracle-working God, miracle will not work for you as a leader if you fill your working team or cabinet with semi-literate, political jobbers, nincompoops who have little or no skills to run even supermarkets.
Political recruitment for development is still at the core of why our nation is a failing state. The people we elect as leaders are crooked dealers. The dealers themselves recruit more unethical dealers who loot our treasuries with all their strength. Instead of fighting corruption, dealers who masquerade as leaders use subterfuge approach to fight a few corrupt people in the name of fighting corruption. In the 21st century, God the almighty has created avenues for learning through modules in Business, Management & Governance Schools where people imbibe elements such as Organizational Learning, Learning Organizations, Emotional, Executive and Social Intelligence, among others. These are tools for recruiters in the private and public sectors.
Besides, since managers in the 21st century private sectors are now looking for knowledge workers to be competitive in the market, even football managers are looking for their Lionel Messi, their Christian Ronaldo, their Gareth Bale, their Neymar da Silva Santos, their Luiz Suarez, etc, to face competition and make good return on investment, why won’t political leaders in the most populous black nation in the world recruit the brightest and the best for the name of God to be glorified in the black man that is Nigerian? Leaders who cannot read and recruit team members that can read too cannot lead successfully at this time. That is why Alvin Toffler, a management guru, has warned managers and leaders in these times that indeed there are what he calls “the illiterate of the 21st century”. According to Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.
It is thus clear that people and leaders should not recruit and vote for the people who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. What can people learn from heads of department, managers and leaders that are themselves clueless about issues they are elected or recruited to address? All we are saying here is that our leaders should note that the country they lead cannot make progress if they cannot recruit knowledgeable advisers, assistants and public officers that have executive intelligence and competence to deliver services to the people they should regard as customers they need to satisfy.