Why Nigeria Deserves Efficient Leadership, By Adelegan
Femi Adelegan, retired public administrator is President/CEO of Terrific Investments and Consulting Co. Ltd. He is the author and publisher of publications such as, Africa: The Game Changers and Dynamics of Power (2014; Nigeria’s Leading Lights of the Gospel (2013); Governance: An Insider’s Reflections (2009, 2012); The Press Secretary (1998); and Editor of From The Treasures of the Heart (2006). For most of the 1990s, through the turn of the millennium (1994-2000), Adelegan served as an image manager and spokesman to four successive governors of Osun State, Nigeria. He also served (2003-2010) as Chief Private Secretary/Special Adviser on Policies, Programmes and Plans Implementation to former Governor of Osun State, prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. In this encounter with KABIR ALABI GARBA, Adelegan spoke about his love for writing and why issue of political governance dominates his literary engagement. Excerpts:
Your flair for writing has enabled you to author some books on governance, what are the motivation and the attraction?
I would say that I have been privileged and lucky to have had the wonderful opportunity of serving personalities, who gave a me wide latitude to perform my official and professional functions while serving in different governments, and I was fortunate that they also trusted my inherent abilities. The bosses are, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Navy Captain Anthony Udofia (retd); Colonel Theophilus Bamigboye, (retd); Colonel Anthony Obi (retd) and Chief Bisi Akande. Working with these people provided me opportunity to acquire a rich blend of knowledge, experience and maturity that I have continued to share with the public, thus, demystifying what governments and political actors do. I must also state that birth into a family of educationists is a notable factor. I developed my flair for writing through continuously scripting, and also, reading whatever literature that comes my way. I have served in governments first as a press secretary, and later, as a speechwriter. My duties involved handling huge paper work that requires writing all of the time. Above all, I have always asked for God’s wisdom, because I believe that it is the Creator that gives wisdom to people to achieve their goals and objectives.
With the perceived poor reading culture, do you think writing and book publishing is commercially rewarding?
I meditate a lot, and in the process, lots of fundamental issues arise, which I consider important enough to be published in public interest. Like I have said, coming from a family of educationists, my father was a 1951 graduate of the University College, Ibadan, and my mother was a school headmistress, impacted my flair for writing considerably. Over the years, I developed the habit of reading widely, issues pertaining to political governance, international relations and similar filed. My training in journalism and administration, wide exposure, and public service experiences have combined to serve as critical influence, having served in various positions as a participant-observer in five different governments. I served as Chief Press Secretary during the turbulent military era when the emphasis was more on management of crises. I have been involved in continuous writing, reading and research, and these have made me develop the art of reflecting deeply and logically; through scripting. I had the responsibility of writing former Governor Oyinlola’s speeches, public lectures and papers, among others. And you know this involves deep research and reading. I was also in charge of Diaspora liaison, relations with foreign embassies and also supervised the investment promotion desk for the governor who was passionate about developing Osun State. During this period, most of the difficult and sensitive tasks that had to do with paperwork got assigned to my desk. Among others, I was very involved in the process leading to the establishment of the Livingspring Free Trade Zone, and the Livingspring Minerals Promotion Company, Osogbo, which were successfully achieved. Osun State was the only state government in the whole of Nigeria that was able to bid for, and win mining sites all over the country, in a thorough exercise conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprises. Also, the Osun State Airport project. The week my dad, who was critically ill passed on in May 2007, I was in Abuja, on the orders of Prince Oyinlola, shuttling between the Federal Ministries of Water Resources and Aviation, to do a last minute follow-up of approvals for release of funds for the Osun Airport project and the rehabilitation of the Ede-Osogbo water supply schemes. There was also the Centre for Black Culture project. I really have cause to be grateful to God for the confidence reposed in me by my successive bosses and the divine enablement to cope with responsibilities.
What are the issues that have militated against the development of Africa?
Each time I have travelled out of Nigeria, I wonder why Africa, and particularly our dear nation, has not developed significantly like the First World where things work and there is order. I would say leadership and good governance seem to be the strongest factors militating against Africa. The continent requires competent, patriotic and selfless leaders to move it forward. They must be leaders with mission and vision, who could articulate the development agenda to the advantage of the citizenry. Lack of adequate infrastruture that are critical to quality of lives, armed conflicts and militancy, hunger, political instability, lack of respect for the Rule of Law and illegal capital flight are some other issues. I believe there is a compelling need for the redistribution of income through workable policy initiatives. We should start to learn how to shun ostentatious display of wealth and extravagance in a continent where starvation and relative lack of welfare services are staring Africans in the face. Unfortunately, our efforts at diversifying the economy are yet to start yieding encouraging dividends. We must evolve policies that would radically reduce spendings on overhead in favour of infrastructural development, while the private sector must properly take the lead in growing the economy of Africa, supported with good policies and reforms. With good leaders and good governance, Africa can record monumental breakthroughs, and these issues are adequately treated in my publications.
How lucrative is the business of publishing in which you are engaged in self-publishing?
It is a matter of great satisfaction for me that my books are being marketed by reputable foreign publishers. But I , I still have to be better known to make tremendous impact. It takes some time to record the feat of selling in millions and only a few known writers could easily record that level of achievement. You must be prepared to attend book fairs and the likes in some major capitals globally, and participate in functions where generation of literature is encouraged. I believe I will get there soon, by God’s grace. Let me say that my books, particularly those on Governance have been very useful and are being used as text books in tertiary institutions, and in government training institutions. And I will continue to write because the urge comes naturally and my wife knows that whenever I am on my computer, I don’t allow distractions so that my thoughts could be coherently written. In summary, I am grateful to God for the gift or skill of writing. As to financial resources, I would say, with modesty that I am an easy-going person who is not carried away by the lust of office. I think whatever influence I had in positions in which I served was a function of my organisational ability, administrative competence and resilence. I also have the spirit of contentment inherited from our parents. I never believed I was influential in any manner, or was the best hand available, or that I was indispensable, and never conducted myself in any way that would injure the confidence reposed in me by my bosses. I kept a reasonable and respectable distance and I was not an influence peddler. I have also always been conscious of the fact that God detests the proud. Public officers must demostrate humilty because it is a virtue, and they are in office, at the expiration of their tenures. As to financial resources, contractors never passed through my office and my office never had a vote for the award of contracts while I was in government. I also never asked my bosses for favours too often; but I used my writing skills to publish some books, which was a legitimate business and I am grateful to them for supporting my book publishing objectives.
What are the secrets of remaining in the corridors of power for that long?
There cannot be any alternative to hard work and sincerity of purpose. As for intrigues, nobody is immune to it, even among fellow workers, and the recipe is to prove your worth prayerfully. And intrigues occur in every gathering where people interact. It occurs in places of worship too and they could br products of envy. People would gossip and tell lies against you and do all sorts of terrible things. As an aide to a head of government, people tend to over-estimate the extent of how one could go, to assist numerous people. But once your conscience is clear, you just forge ahead as you are not expected to engage a town crier to talk about your limitations and how many people you have helped. As to the secrets of staying long in office, I would say God, dedication, hard work and a bit of luck were responsible. I say God first, because of my faith and belief that you cannot achieve anything without the knowledge and backing of the Creator, and that every accomplishment is by the grace of God; dedication – because it is a critical determinant of success; hard work – because success demands sweat and determination, while laziness attracts failure; and a little bit of luck, – because there are numerous equally good, or even better hands that were not located for sensitive and important positions that I have been privileged to occupy. I never allowed any challenge to weigh me down, and was ever prepared to ride on every storm that I encountered. And God has been very faithful.
How has the virtues you have spoken about and other influences aided your performances?
First and foremost, I appreciate God without whom nothing is achievable. Basically, my nature and nurture have been very strong factors. I would say I became an observer of the process of governance very early in life. My father, Chief S.T. Adelegan (now deceased) was deputy speaker of the defunct Western Region House of Assembly from 1960-1965, and we were very close. Before the first Republic collapsed in 1966, I was already a teenager and being in dad’s company most of the time influenced my political proclivity later in life. I remember attending some sessions of the Western Region House of Assembly with him, and watched proceedings from the public gallery with his driver, especially during the post-emergency period in the Western-Region, when my dad acted as the hon. Speaker. I remember having the privilege to meet with high-ranking government officials like late Chief S.L. Akintola, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, who was then deputy-premier, and other great Nigerians. Fortunately, our dad was very much respected as a principled person who managed the post emergency Western Region Legislature competently and got commendations from both sides of the House for being an impartial hon. Speaker. He loved equity and justice and would always say his mind.
I witnessed the unfortunate political disturbances of the era which consumed precious lives and property. In particular, I remember that political thugs of the opposition party visited our residence in Ipetu-Ijesha a few times, but never harmed us because they themselves told our father that he was an extremely humane person, so no harm would come to him. I believe it was God that was at play, otherwise a political thug who had lost his sense of reasoning as a result of consumption of dangerous substances had no business reasoning in that manner. It was such a very terrible period and anybody who witnessed what happened at that period would never pray for a recurrence in this nation.
What are lessons of the political upheavals of the period?
I would say our inability to live together in harmony and conduct ourselves properly and in a civilized manner, as people bound by the constitution, is heightening fears of crises. Avoidable conflicts have encouraged deep-seated hatred among different groups and tribes, and those who profit from all these are the elites. If the truth must be told, the ordinary Nigerian on the streets might not mind who governs or rules, if all the basic necessities are provided to alleviate the sufferings of the citizenry. We must be prepared to tone down all these negative influences. We must not put the future of our nation in jeopardy by taking wrong steps at all levels. I honestly see no correlation between service to the people and hooliganism and threats to lives of people, and unity of Nigeria. We need a complete reorientation and I want to implore our politicians to comport themselves and their followers this election year. I have always wondered why we cannot just decide to conduct ourselves peacefully, and allow the electorate to decide who governs or represents them without shedding blood. I pray that our leaders will listen, and allow wise counsel to prevail, as we approach the period of the elections to save us all from any calamity that might accompany the feverish struggle for political power. Against this background, our values and norms require a thorough examination and we need to tone down the strong influences of animosity that have unfortunately pervaded the political atmosphere. It is my view that we should imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship, like politicians of the first Republic did to a considerable extent. If the objective of politicking or seeking political offices is to serve the citizenry, then let us do it peacefully; and let winners be winners, and losers should accept they are losers in national inyerest, because elections should not be matter of life and death.
Your bosses must have sighted some virtues in you.
I have God Almighty to thank for whatever measures of successes are attributed to me. I am always conscious of the fact that I might not have been the best candidate at the time of my appointment but enjoyed a great deal of divine favour that was bolstered by my absolute commitment and dedication to duty, sincerity, honesty, excellent spirit, and my loyalty to my bosses. I inherited some traits from our dad, who had an excellent spirit and was a sympathiser of humanity. He loved to have people around him all of People often described our dad as an over-patriotic Nigerian. One of those rare things he did as a great patriot was to resign his appointment from an exalted seat of Education Officer in Ibadan in January 1957, to return to his native place of Ipetu-Ijesha to start Ipetu-Ijesha Grammar School because the community could not find a university graduate to be the pioneer Principal. In the process, he accepted that his annual salary be reduced from about £1,300 to £900 pounds to serve his community. That was an act of undiluted patriotism. I cannot honesty imagine what we suffered by his relocation from Ibadan to a rural setting that lacked potable water, electricity, health facility and infrastructure. I also don’t know how many people would suffer such deprivations to serve their people then and even now. How do we encourage such patriotic acts? His name was forwarded for consideration for national honours award four times on account of his patriotic services to his community and humanity by the Osun State government but he was not picked by Abuja. Good enough, he was never bothered by such things which he considered unimportant.
Political power has the capacity to influence so many things. I want to believe that you would at least have some experiences about this.
Yes, I was influential while serving in governments; but I never allowed this to go into my head at all. I thank God that it never occurred to me that I should abuse power or trust, because I cherish humility, fair play, honesty and justice. Our parents inculcated in us the spirit of contentment and always told us to be upright and sincere in our dealings with other people. If I breached any trust, I probably would not have lasted that long in the positions I held. While serving in Osun State, my office was one of the few ones where people were requested not to fill visitors’ forms to see me, in spite of my heavy workload as head of the governor’s secretariat. You know the type of workload that could demand my having four very competent confidential secretaries who worked at my pace of a workaholic. I want to state emphatically that there is nobody who can come out to say I refused to attend to him or her, or was rude in my interactions, or treated his or her case on the basis of asking for ‘’what is in it for me,’’ a sort of requesting for gratification before performing my official functions. Outsiders who had dealings with my office usually went back to inform former Governor Oyinlola that I was too efficient and requested to know if I was hired from the private sector. I got to know about most of these reactions after our exit from governemnt. When others went on official engagements or political campaigns, I made sure to stay back in the office to engage in some productive paperwork, rather than go to campaign functions and other state functions where you had elaborate introductions. I regarded these as time-wasting and preferred to work rather than peddle influence. But above all, I have always been conscious of the Biblical saying that ‘’It is not of him that wills, or him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.’’ The Creator has always been there for me and I will eternally be grateful to God.
There must be some very tasking assignments and others that challenged your resilience and ingenuity during your service years that remain indelible.
I had too many challenges that time and space would not permit me to relate. Managing the Government House correspondence between 1994 and 2000, when I was Chief Press Secretary easily comes to mind. The journalists were not fans of Gen. Abacha’s administration after the political upheaval that followed the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election. God gave me the wisdom and good spirit to manage media correspondents in Osun State whom we jokingly named ‘’NADECO’’ as a result of their fierce opposition to military rule. I had to be proactive in my duties, buoyed up with prayers, tact and diplomacy. Those were periods I would first rush to the vendors first thing on on Sunday mornings to check if we had a bad press before thinking about the church! I don’t think it is a job I would love to do again because information management is a difficult assignment. Others have to do with trust and sincerity. Sometimes, when I was Chief Press Secretary, I had to announce postings or redeployment of State Commissioners or Permanent Secretaries, and these earned me some hatred on account of wrong assumptions that I proposed the postings. But I never offered explanations because it would amount to a breach of trust if I had to start exposing my bosses to public odium. That is the price personal staff must pay. Another exercise was when shortly before Prince Oyinlola assumed office as governor of Osun State, he called me and requested that I should dispassionately distribute on paper, political offices to be allocated on the basis of the 9 federal constituencies in Osun State. I never fixed names which was the governor’s prerogative. I followed very strictly, the instruction that nobody must see the compilation. I got a commendation for handling the matter dispassionately. Again, in 2012, when I was serving as Principal Secretary to Prince Oyinlola, who was national secretary at the PDP national secretariat, I was directed by him to carry out the same type of assignment, this time – distribution of federal government board appointments allocated to the PDP national secretariat dispassionately. The documents were in my custody for about three months, with instructions that nobody must see them until I was instructed to personally take the list to Senator Pius Anyim’s residence on December 26, 2012. That type of assignment could only be given to a trusted hand who would not smuggle names into those lists for pecuniary reasons. And I have God to thank for this.
With your background, don’t you think you would have been useful as a Member of Parliament or don’t you regard yourself as a politician?
I must state that my thoughts have been influenced, to some extent by my experiences during the political disturbances of 1963-1965 in the Western region. More importantly, the expectations of constituents from their elected representatives are rather too high. These are very frightening. The way we now seek elective offices is very frightening and this, I think, is a function of the enormours resources injected into potitics. To the second part of your question, you will agree with me that it is not all politicians that would mount the soap box, or go around with guns and cutlasses to show they are campaigning for them to be regarded as politicians. In the advanced countries, they accord due recognition to people who are engaged in research, strategy, organisation, and the likes. Politics is also not about violence, maimings and killings, but about service to the people through logical reasoning, dialogues and debates, and superior arguments. Beyond that, I don’t go into assignments without consulting God, as that could be disastrous; and I will not go beyond the bounds dictated by God. The way we now seek elective offices is very frightening and this, I think, is a function of the enormours resources injected into potitics. The sum total is that the terrain is too slippery and one requires lots of wisdom and prayers to navigate through I don’t think I have enormous resources for electoral contests, except I am sponsored; but is also dependent on if God gives the go-ahead. Until we eliminate problems of chronic poverty, poor political strategies, and the imbalance in gap between the rich and the poor, the problem will remain with us. Sometimes, I reflect and wonder why the electorate cannot collect the money they are offered as inducement by politicians and yet vote according to their conscience. Why must people sell their votes? The nation requires true, sincere and committed leaders at every level of Government to move our polity forward.
What are your views on political developments in Nigeria and Africa?
My views are contained in my publication titled: Governance: An Insider’s Reflections on the Nigerian Polity. But I believe we must look beyond Nigeria at this critical point in world history because of our country’s strategic influence and its place in world politics. That is one of the reasons why I took the pains to write another book titled: ‘AFRICA: The Game Changers & Dynamics of Power’ which was published in December 2014. The compilation highlights important requirements of political governance in Africa as the need to re-awaken political leaders on the importance of good governance, encourage efforts towards the re-evaluation and proper utilization of the economic fortunes of Africa, and also reinforcing the consensus about the immediate and long-term goals of the continent. It highlights the important role of the citizenry as the key components of governance expected to demand accountability from their representatives in government, as well as the role of civil society organizations, in mobilizing people for political activities. The book notes that there have been commitments to change the old order that we have practiced for many years, with political leaders trying to reposition the polity. With every modesty, I believe it is an impressive compilation, and an intellectual exercise by an advocate for positive political development, in the bureaucratic systems of African nations. To the second part of your question, you will agree with me that it is not all politicians that would mount the soap box, or go around with guns and cutlasses to show they are campaigning. In the advanced countries, they accord due recognition to people engaged in research, strategy, organisation, and the likes. Politics is also not about violence, maimings and killings, but about service to the people through logical reasoning, dialogues and debates, and superior arguments. Beyond that, I don’t go into assignments without consulting God, as that could be disastrous; and I will not go beyond the bounds dictated by God.
Lastly, what are your fears for Nigeria and Africa?
I believe that we will outlive the hard times by the grace of God. We have the problem of underdevelopment arising from incoherent implementation of policies and institutional reforms for the enforcement of rules and regulations introduced for the economic and political transformation of Third World countries. Chief Emeka Anyaoku once asserted that one of the most serious problems confronting Africa and African Diaspora is the mismanagement of resources through poor culture of governance. On his part, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari has observed that if we accept that conflicts and wars retard development, in no continent is this more true than in Africa, and this is why our continent is behind the rest of the world. He argued that people are not going to invest in countries of conflict, and without investment, both domestic and foreign, they are not going to have production. Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan was in Nigeria recently and pointed out that our country holds the key to the development of Africa. Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi too has pointed this fact out very patriotically. That is why we must not fail Africa, and indeed the global community, because the consequences, God forbid, could be disastrous. Whatever affects Nigeria would affect ECOWAS, and ultimately, Africa. I think we politicians, must sit back and reflect deeply. Our fate in Africa, is in our own hands. We could join hands to develop Africa. We can make or mar the development of Africa. I believe that there will be no problems if we engage in robust debates that are issue-based, and also engage in logical discussions that are provoked by national and continental interests. We must continue to expect disagreements but these must be done within the limits of decency. Then, let us get our priorities right and act dispassionately in the overall interest of the masses.
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