‘Followership will determine success of this government’
Samuel Kolawole is the 26th President and Chairman of Council, Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN). As he winds down his two-year stewardship as head of the institute, he spoke to GLORIA EHIAGHE on how followership can make or mar a government, role of chartered secretaries in economic growth, and his expectations from the incumbent administration on good governance, among other national issues.
What are your expectations for good governance in this new administration for the next four years?
The fact that the National Code of Corporate Governance (NCCG), has been passed is a starting point. For all administrations you can only be hopeful because there are so many conflicting interests, and many challenges that people face. Many people before they get into government make so many promises, the moment they are sworn-in and get into seat of power, they begin to understand the complexities, and then you hear many people withdrawing the statements they made during their campaigns. I believe if we put government on its toes, we can achieve what we want.
We need to challenge our leaders, so followership is also important. What are our values? A lot of times we blame the leaders, what about the followership? We have a society where our values are wrongly placed? You find somebody, who is in position of power for four years, he comes out and goes back to his little bungalow somewhere in his village, and then he’ll become a laughing stock because he didn’t embezzle. That is where our problems are. What is important is followership. We can make our leaders abide by the things we demand of them. If we start making frivolous demands from our leaders, we don’t expect them to perform miracles. Our values should change. Followership is key, and I think that is where the problem is. If you are not satisfied with a government, you can make things change by the way you vote. By collecting bribe to vote, you can’t demand anything good of that government. For me, followership is a major challenge. Followership will determine how successful this government and other governments will be.
What are the roles chartered secretaries are playing in the Nigerian economy?
They play very strategic roles. For the economy to grow organisations and industries have to thrive; they cannot thrive if the principles of good corporate governance are not applied. We have seen what happened to most companies around the world. Since we are professionals, trained with the principles of good corporate governance, it is easy for our members working in organisations to be able to instil the application of these principles of corporate governance. This is so that these organisations can survive as well as have longevity that will grow the economy, and help organisations function better whether in private or public sector. But they will have success that is short-lived if they are not based on good corporate governance.
How would you appraise your administration over the last two years?
The administration I was privileged to lead over the last two years is not for the president alone. The administration consists of the president and members of council. I think we have tried to take the Institute from the level we met it to a higher level. In the areas of publications and dissemination of knowledge, for the first time, we started the Institute’s journal. We have had an edition out, which I believe will be continuous. Also, the Institute’s magazine has been improved upon to make it more professional. In terms of creating awareness, we started the corporate governance platform, which is a radio programme and that has continued over time. Before this administration took off, the Institute had signed two linkage programmes with two universities – Babcock, and Lead. Within the last two years, we have been able to sign three more linkage programmes with three more universities. Although we have not commenced the building of a new secretariat, we have gone ahead to improve the functionalities of the current institute. A lot of changes and renovation have taken place, because I recall during my investiture, I said we should be able to work together to ensure members and staffers are comfortable. We were also able to introduce the insurance scheme for members, and for the first time we introduced company secretaries handbook.
What were the challenges you faced during the course of your leadership?
I wouldn’t say when I came in and I met challenges. When I came in what I believed were my challenges were the things I set out for myself to achieve within the period I would be president of the Institute. I believed that over the years those who piloted the affairs of the Institute, the past presidents and councils as constituted under them had done their own bit. We had some issues, but they were not really challenges as such. Among some of the things we set out to achieve was the visibility of the Institute, creating awareness among Nigerians. We had the issue of the secretariat, which was not that comfortable and befitting for our members. I also had the idea that since this Institute is knowledge-based, we should disseminate knowledge, not just through qualified-based examinations, but we should enrich the body of knowledge in the society. Having come from a publishing background, I want to leave a legacy of publishing, being able to publish books and journals were among the things I set out to achieve.
In what ways is the Institute contributing to human capital development?
We have done that by the training we give to our members and non-members, to equip them for performance in the environment in which they find themselves. Like I mentioned earlier, we have our members in different organisations. Because of the training, our members are able to reach very high level in their organisations. Through that way, we are contributing to human capital development. We also assist other members to help them improve their capacity.
This year’s conference is based on ease of doing business. What informed the choice of theme?
We believe that the country can grow through diversification of the economy. For us to be able to diversify and encourage industries to grow in other areas, we have to ease how business is done in the country. If you don’t ease it, you can’t promote and encourage organisations or individuals to invest in the economy. If it is not easy to run businesses in the country, then the idea of diversification and improving the economy will just be a mirage. That is the essence of the ease of doing business. When we look at Nigeria’s ranking on ease of doing business, we felt it was something we needed to talk about if we want to improve on it. We chose that theme because we want to contribute our own quota to the development of the country. Ease of doing business has a lot of things to do with good corporate governance principles because if government applies good corporate principles, a lot of bottlenecks will not be there. If good corporate governance is applied, the ease of doing business will also be promoted.
Following President Buhari’s instruction to state governments to increase VAT to boost their IGR, how will that impact on the already sapped Nigerians?
One of the things that have been advocating is that government should not tighten or demand more from those who are already making their own fair contributions. Government must try to enlarge the tax net and bring in more people. What we demand from individuals doesn’t have to be that high if we are able to enlarge the net. That approach is what I believe is best for the states because those who are paying are already under so much pressure. The president’s advice is a general statement. How do you now boost it? My own recommendation is to expand the tax net, and not by putting more pressure are those who are compliant.
Recently, the Federal Government unveiled the National Code of Corporate Governance (NCCG). What is your view on corporate governance?
Corporate governance is necessary for the success of organisations and the interest of the society at large. We pride ourselves as being the front-runner and professionals in this area. Definitely, we will support the NCCG and its applications, to ensure organisations are run and managed properly in the interest of all stakeholders, because if organisations apply good governance principles, they will thrive, and if they don’t, there will be issues. If organisations thrive, the economy will thrive, and the nation will thrive also. It is a good thing that has been done. A step has been taken, and we believe this will help to improve the corporate governance landscape in Nigeria. In the steering committee that put together this code, we have about three of our members who participated. That would tell you about whom we are, and the experience and knowledge required to be able to participate. All the teething problems would be dealt with as the application commences.
What role is the Institute playing to ensure more companies embrace the new NCCG?
One of the things we are doing, an obvious one, is the corporate governance platform through which we are able to enlighten the public about good corporate governance principles, and how the NCCG can be applied. Letting people know that this is not a code that is meant to stifle operations in organisations, and to let them understand the values of good corporate governance. In the course of our activities, we also talk about corporate governance and enlighten people on how it can be handled. For example, we have the annual, “Round table on Corporate Governance” that we hold, through this medium we are able to enlighten the public about the principles of good corporate governance and also in the training of our members.
What are the steps Nigeria can take to promote good corporate governance?
The step is so simply and that is by being fair to all stakeholders. Once you adopt that principle, everything would be fine. In terms of public governance, once you consider fairness to all stakeholders and not just shareholders only, then you would be doing the right thing. Even in public governance, if you are not thinking about yourself alone but all stakeholders then you are taking the right decision. All of these steps would help to transform this country. One of the major factors militating against organisations is selfishness. When people think of the interest of all stakeholders in an organisation, then there can be fairness because without it there can’t be sustained progress.
What are your expectations for the Institute as it journeys into the future?
I expect the Institute to claim its place in the front-runner in propagating the principle of good corporate governance in terms of letting people know who we are and what we do. I look forward to an Institute with much bigger membership than we have now. I look forward to see an Institute with a befitting secretariat where people will look and see its core values. I look forward to an Institute that would be very relevant to this country, and be properly recognised by government and its agencies because of the value it is adding to the improvement of corporate governance. I also look forward to an Institute that would have influence across Africa and the world, because that is what will make a difference. I look forward to an institute that would be properly structured, and properly placed to able to contribute its quota to the development of Nigeria.
Finally, how can Nigeria overcome the challenges of kidnappings and other social vices?
We believe that the appropriate authorities still need to do a lot more. Security experts will tell you security matters are not what you leave to government alone; we all have to participate by being vigilant. Analysing situations as they arise and being able to focus on the right direction. Many a time, when things happen, we focus on the wrong direction and we don’t address the real cause of the problem, which is why it degenerates. If you look at countries in the world that have had serious conflicts that had to do with certain interests, those who want to propagate a particular narrative is always a difficult task. We need to be very careful. We need better analysis of the situation so that we can deal with it. The government still has a lot of responsibility as well as the individuals.