Sunday, 30 March 2008
“The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! “(2 Samuel 1:19)
The resignation last Tuesday of the Honourable Minister of Health of the Federal Republic, Professor Adenike Grange and her Minister of State for Heath colleague, Mr David Aduku over allegations bothering on scam is simply unbelievable. Professor Grange came into the job with impeccable professional and personal integrity credentials. I am still in a state of shock. A perusal of her biography should make my shock understandable, if not perfectly in order.
Until her appointment on July 25, 2007, as the first female Minister of Health ever in Nigeria, she was (and still is) the President of the International Paediatrics Association, the first African woman and second person from sub-Saharan Africa to hold the office. By her performance in this office, she is reputed to have acquired the status of an international stateswoman and is widely respected as a resolute advocate of the children and an unshaken defender of their rights.
With nearly 45 years in the practice of medicine, she had garnered widespread experience spanning more than three decades at such top levels as consultant paediatrician, post graduate medical and nursing trainer, departmental and medical college administrator, program manager, strategic planner and technical adviser on child, maternal and reproductive health issues at national and international levels. Such had been her reputation for efficiency, competence, commitment and integrity that she is ranked next to the late highly revered paediatrician, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.
A Professor of Paediatrics at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, since 1995, the first woman to be so appointed, she had served that institution in various capacities. She was Head, Department of Paediatrics; Director, Institute of Child Health and lastly Dean of the School of Clinical Sciences. She had also served the nation creditably before her short-lived tenure as Health Minister. She was a consultant to the Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation, United Nations Children Education Fund, United Nations Fund for Population Activities and United States Agency for International Development. While serving in the various capacities, she was said to have been instrumental to the formulation and implementation of a number of training and practice guidelines. These include, diarrhoea management guidelines, breastfeeding guidelines, immunization monitoring guidelines, and most recently strengthening adolescent health programme in Nigeria.
Author of more than fifty scientific papers mainly on diarrhoeal and nutritional
conditions in children, Professor Grange still serves on the board of many national and international expert committees including the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI).
That, dear reader, is the antecedent of the woman who had to leave office in such a scandalous circumstance. Presidential spokesman, Olusegun Adeniyi was at his dignified best announcing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s acceptance of Mrs Grange’s voluntary resignation. Although, never given to glee in such circumstances, his sobriety was touching as he told State House correspondents: "Both ministers are leaving the Federal Executive Council following charges of corruption brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is expected that without the burden of their ministerial duties, they will be better placed to respond to the charges against them.
“Charges of corruption brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)...” That is the heart of the matter: “charges of corruption brought against” Professor Adenike Grange! Incredible. Unbelievable. There are two versions of the story making the rounds. One states that the sum of N300million unspent part of the Health Ministry’s budget for 2007 which was supposed to have been returned to the treasury was shared among officials of the ministry. The other version said rather than return the money, contracts were hurriedly awarded from which the officials benefited. No matter which version is correct, graft would still be the name of the game with insubordination as its twin since there was an express presidential order to return all unspent funds to the treasury.
Some legislators, notably, Dr Mrs Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, chairman, Senate Committee on Health; and her House of Representatives counterpart, Dr. Alaba Ojomo Oladoyinbo, are also being mentioned in connection with the scam and may have a date with the EFCC.
Now, given her antecedents, the question that would normally come to mind is: Did Professor Grange share in the money or in the proceeds from contracts hurriedly awarded in defiance of presidential directives? EFCC will unravel that, if they have not. But the former minister herself seems to be saying that she has done nothing wrong. In her public statement, she was quoted to have said that she accepted responsibility, but not blame for “recent events” in the ministry. Her words:
“I am leaving this cabinet because I consider my dignity, reputation and legacy - values that I have worked hard for and hold dearly. I am returning to my unblemished career which I have assiduously laboured for over the years with resounding success nationally and internationally and to the business of which I am familiar with – saving the lives of mothers and children across Nigeria and the world in general.
“As a professional and a technocrat, I must admit that the level of decay and corruption within the Ministry and the whole Nigerian system as we all know glaringly need to be decisively tackled and purged. I saw my invitation to serve on this cabinet as an opportunity for professionals to join in the extirpation and re-engineering of the whole system to move this great country forward expediently.
“I wish to clearly state that while I am not the chief accounting officer to the ministry; the fact is that the recent episode involving contracts and welfare packages happened under my leadership for which I accept responsibility but not the blame. However my acceptance of responsibility should not be misconstrued as an admission of guilt but rather a path of honour for lapses and intrigues under my watch for which I unfortunately was not well versed in.”
I have read those three paragraphs again and again and I am none the wiser. Mrs Grange says she is not guilty and that’s fine. In fact nothing would make me happier than to for the courts to find that she did not benefit from what she described as “recent episode involving contracts and welfare packages” Nothing will make me happier than for the courts to find only “lapses and intrigues…which I unfortunately was not well versed in” and so tell her to “go and sin no more.” But I am disappointed at the feeble attempt of offering the technical defence of not being the chief accounting officer, even while taking the commendable step of accepting responsibility as chief executive. However, as Adeniyi pointed out, with the burden of ministerial duties out of the way Mrs Grange “will be better placed to respond to the charges against” her. That is what she should do and do speedily and unequivocally. I wish her well.
Of course there are those out there wondering, what is there in high government office that seems able to destroy its occupant? What stronghold is there that seems to be able to warp up people or eliminate them? Who or what are the perpetrators of the intrigues that Mrs Grange spoke about? What can be done about them?
The answer is simple. The bible says “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12). That is why our weapons must be spiritual! The bible puts it like this: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
So, every child of God who wants to make an impact for the kingdom, in high office, must take a decision to be led of God’s Spirit in every action, big or small, because the serpent is still as subtle as he was in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1). As the scriptures also say “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Peter 5:8). Our academic and other credentials, including good grounding in social and cultural ethics can only take us so far. For the kingdom person, Christian ethics ingrained upon the heart with the help of the Holy Spirit is the quintessential qualification. If we seek this in tandem with our other qualifications, we won’t have to lament: ““The beauty of Nigeria is slain upon her high places: how are our best fallen”
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Sunday, 23 March 2008
>“The work, witness and outreach of CGM (Church Of God Mission Int’l) are in great shape and obviously growing at a consistent rate. When Archbishop Benson died in March 1998 CGM had one hospital, it now has four! It had one bible school, it now has six! It had 98 primary and secondary schools, it now has 104 …”
It all seems like yesterday, but believe it or not, Archbishop Benson Andrew Idahosa has been with the Lord for ten years…one decade! It sure seems like yesterday when news of the departure of the flamboyant charismatic preacher and great mentor of many of today’s great men of God, began to make the rounds on March 12 1998. He was six months shy of his sixtieth birthday and had been in ministry for about 35 years! Reports had it that he died from a heart attack while chatting with a visiting delegation from Oral Roberts University.
Of course the Pentecostal preference for celebrating life rather than death makes any fanfare unnecessary, particularly as his 70th birthday on September 11 provides ample opportunity to remember and honour the life of one of God’s generals from this part of the world. Still a little reflection won’t harm, will it?
Founder and Presiding Bishop of Church of God Mission International, Idahosa was unapologetically flamboyant. His long flowing robes made of the best fabrics and his sharp suits, whenever he found it necessary to wear one, made him the butt of many attacks from the secular press. His appearance ran against the church rat characterisation of men of God, you see, and so many liked to see him as a con-man who cajoles his congregation for money. To all such critics, Idahosa’s answer was simple and direct: “My God is not poor!”
So, you’ll be right to describe Idahosa as the first of the so-called prosperity preachers. He was however much more than that. He was a bold demon chaser, if ever there was one. Many Nigerians would recall how a group which called itself the World Council of Witches announced they were planning to hold their conference in Benin, which houses Idahosa’s headquarters. Now, you must understand that the fetish was commonplace in that ancient city and so it seemed a natural place for witches to seek to congregate. But, Idahosa told them: “no, not in my territory”. For a while the newspapers were full of “yes we will” and “no, you won’t” reports. In the end, the conference never held! Not only was Idahosa’s God not poor, He wasn’t a weakling either.
Idahosa’s reputation as being the pioneer in local content in evangelism on radio and television in Nigeria was not earned without a fight either. It was reported that attempts were made severally to yank his programme off air for flimsy reasons which were calculated to hinder the spread of the gospel. In a particular instance, a certain producer got in the way and he paid for it dearly.
He began his ministry at age 24, having given his life to Christ as a football playing prankster in Benin City, in Edo State, south-western Nigeria. He had gone to play football at a pitch near a Salvation Army church on a Sunday afternoon when he succumbed to the temptation to aim his shot at the head of the pastor through one of the open windows. Five attempts to hit his target had failed, then he made what proved to be his sixth and last effort. It wasn’t clear what the ball hit, but it came ricocheting back to hit him on the chest and knock him flat on his back. He was in such pain that a crowd soon gathered round him. This drew the pastor’s attention; he came out, prayed for him and his chest that was rapidly swelling returned to normal. It was the hand of God and young Benson realised it. He followed Pastor Ogolo back to church and later answered the altar call. He thus became the very first Bini, as Benin sons and daughters are called, to join that largely Igbo congregation.
Idahosa hit the ground running, as it were. Listen to him as he testified to one of his earliest exploits for God as recorded by a chronicler, Elijah Akinwunmi:
“As a young Christian, I once heard my pastor say during a morning service that Christians could raise the dead in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believed it with all my heart. And flying around on my bicycle in those days, I went through the city of Benin in search of a dead person to raise to life. After about five hours of hard searching I found a compound where a little girl had died a few hours before. The corpse had been cleaned and prepared for burial. I walked boldly up to the father of the dead child. "The God whom I serve can bring your baby back to life," I told him. "Will you permit me to pray for the child and bring her back to life?" The man was startled, but he agreed. With great enthusiasm, I walked into the room and up to the bed. The child was cold and dead. With strong faith in the Lord, I called on the Lord to restore the child back to life. I turned to the corpse and called it by name, "Arise in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Oh Glory to God! The corpse sneezed, heavily, alas. The child had come back to life!”
It was also recorded that it was a similar death and life issue that won the heart of the young lady who was to become his wife, become his partner and take over the running of Church of God Mission after his departure. One report stated it like this:
“…Margaret was the daughter of a princess of juju, steeped in witchcraft and black magic. At first the relationship was purely platonic but things changed one remarkable day. A young cousin of Margaret’s had fallen sick and died despite the family sacrifices at their juju shrine. Benson arrived in the grieving household, “Will you permit me to pray for her?” he asked, “The God I serve can bring your baby back to life.” Emptying the room of all but his Christian companion, Benson prayed for the baby and suddenly, the relatives heard the little girl sneeze.”
Raising the dead was to become one of the hallmarks of his ministry. In all, it was recorded that he raised 28 persons from the dead at different locations including his meetings and crusades.
Other statistics were no less impressive. According to a piece on the website of the USA branch of his church, he pioneered the establishment of over 5,000 churches in Nigeria and parts of Africa; took the gospel to 143 nations; pastored the fifth largest church in the world in his time; hosted his daily and weekly "Idahosa and You" television and radio programmes for 20 years; through the programmes he reached millions of people in Africa and impacted lives in the Muslim territories, garnered four degrees, including two doctorates from four different institutions; authored many books and produced thousands of audio tapes and videos of his messages.
If you are wondering what has become of the church he left behind, the answer, in the words of a 2006 report by Bishop Harry Westcott, an Australian pastor and associate of the late Idahosa is this: “the work, witness and outreach of CGM (Church Of God Mission Int’l) are in great shape and obviously growing at a consistent rate. When Archbishop Benson died in March 1998 CGM had one hospital, it now has four! It had one bible school, it now has six! It had 98 primary and secondary schools, it now has 104…” Rest in peace, Nigeria’s own God’s General.
Sunday, 16 March 2008
Dr Mike Omolayole, remember him? Remember him of the dapper suit and stylishly parted haircut; him of the hilarious but message-laden after dinner speeches; him who did great exploits as the helmsman at the behemoth, Lever Brothers Plc? How can anyone forget, you might counter, until you realise that this management guru and boardroom icon, actually retired from Lever Brothers a whopping 24 years ago!
But this is not a piece about the man. This is about something he said recently that got me thinking and returning to an issue we had partly raised in this column before.
This is a piece about Dr Omolayole’s take on integrity in the corporate world and its possible effect on what I would like to call the creeping recolonisation of the Nigerian economy. In a piece titled “Corporate Management: More Questions than Answers,” this veteran of the board room and corporate management trailblazer reviewed the corporate landscape and wondered what had gone wrong.
Backgrounding his concerns, Dr Omolayole recalled how during “the last quarter of the 19th Century to the early 70s of the 20th Century” conglomerates and multinationals in Nigeria “were managed by expatriate personnel especially at the top” and how “the Indigenisation Act in Nigeria in the 70s helped in no small measure to change the status quo.”
So helpful was the Act, he said, that “where there was only one Nigerian CEO of a Multinational Company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange” in 1973, “by 1980, the picture had changed. The country had four or five Nigerians who were CEOs of multinational companies quoted on the Stock Exchange. By 1990, the country probably reached the highest number and quality in terms of progress made”.
Continuing, Dr Omolayole wrote: “However, between 1990 and 2000, some large multinationals somehow did not seem to find it easy to sustain an indigenous management succession or decided outright to turn back the hand of the clock. Some of these companies are Guinness Nigeria Plc, Unilever Nigeria Plc, and Nestle Nigeria Plc. We are now more than half way into the first decade of the 21st Century and the picture is more gloomy. Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc, WAPCO and PZ Industries have joined the groups that are now managed at the very top by expatriates”.
He then posed the questions: “What has gone wrong and still going wrong? What exactly is happening? Have the majority owners of multinationals lost confidence in Nigerians? A situation where the two biggest Confectionery Companies, two biggest Breweries and two largest detergent companies are being managed by expatriates is worrisome. Are all Nigerian top managers non-performing or adjudged by expatriates to be bitten by the bug of lack of integrity?” (Emphasis mine)
Although he went on to raise issues like whether “this phenomenon is going on unnoticed or is being swept under the carpet” and how “this trend calls for a public debate by all stakeholders including the Federal Government “etc, it is the latter part of his questions above that caught my attention.
No, I do not dismiss as unimportant the other issues that he raised. How can one say it is unimportant to reflect on and find answers to such posers like:”What future projections can we make? Has it occurred to multinational owners of large manufacturing outfits, that 99 per cent of the consumers of their products are Nigerians? Is economic nationalism dead, killed by globalisation? Is there now an artificial glass ceiling in the Corporate Boardroom for nationals? That is, a level beyond, which nationals cannot rise. What answers could we possibly give to such questions from our children and grandchildren with regards to this phenomenon?”
Neither can one fault his conclusion that: “The future of our great country still lies in its ability to harness the potential of its abundant human resources (Human Capital) at the very top levels, be it in Management or Public Service”.
But I wish to state unequivocally that the issue of integrity is critical. I know it because, I know that if there is a grave national drought in Nigeria; it is in the integrity department. And I am sure you and I know it. I know also that Dr Omolayole knows it, otherwise, he would not have raised it. In fact, so acutely aware of it is he that his contribution to Marketing Memoirs, one of the works of the prolific Nigerian journalists and authors, Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe, centred on integrity. In chapter seven of that book, he was quoted as saying: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. We stand for integrity, we stand for transparency.” And the authors commented: “It is interesting and commendable to note that Omolayole and Associates insists on not offering or receiving bribe to induce patronage whether making profit or loss. Dr Omolayole is a role model to leaders in private and public sector in Nigeria”.
So, whilst we debate the glass ceilings and the consumer statistics, I wish to state that we need to take a closer look at the subject of integrity in the work place, at ALL levels. This is because, I believe in the injunction of the bible that says, “…if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:31).
Readers of this column will recall my reports of the Christian Men’s Network Nigeria’s luncheon addressed by Elder Felix Ohiwerei last October. During the interactive session, a number of the speakers raised the issue of integrity in the marketing departments of major companies particularly as regards sponsorships and related matters. It was clear that where outright bribes were not being demanded, over-invoicing was rampant and the sponsorship seeker who refuses to cooperate does so to his peril.
I recently requested a few of my friends who operate in this area to react to an earlier piece, “Corporate Nigeria and the Secularity Bogey”. One of them wrote and I quote: ”It is true that values of jobs is are jacked up by sponsors. It is really sad. I even have a friend’s account of how he submitted a proposal with a certain amount, executed the job and was paid a much higher amount. The instruction he got was to CASH THE CHEQUE AND RETURN THE BALANCE. And that if he protested the entire sum will be tied down for God knows how long. In the course of running my own programme, I’ve found out that even NGOs collaborate with some company officials to defraud companies, because donations for charitable purposes are not taxed. So they write a N2million cheque and turn round to get, say N1million; give the NGO N1m and N2m is reflected on record. I tell you this is deep…”
The significant thing here is that the marketing departments have tended to produce the CEO of major companies. With antecedents like this, what is the integrity level that can be expected of such CEOs? When you recall Elder Ohiwerei’s account of his brush with the Customs as NB Plc’s CEO and how he had to airlift raw materials rather than pay a bribe, it should be clear that the issue transcends one department. For, had the director in charge been around, CEO Ohiwerei would never have known about it!
So, as we debate the recolonisation of Nigeria’s corporate world, and focus, as we have been doing lately, on corruption in political governance, let’s open up an equally urgent and important debate on integrity in corporate governance in our land.
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From My Inbox
RE: SHEPHERDS, THIEVES …
Lawyers have a saying that "nothing can on nothing stand" You cannot build a concrete mansion on a wooden foundation. Without being born again, no amount of "holy living" can take a man to heaven. If the Devil could carry out some humanitarian activities, will that make him acceptable? Is it in order to dine with the Devil, with or without a long spoon?
You hit the nail on the head with that biblical quotation about the shepherd and the sheepfold. Morally and spiritually, the end does not justify the means. "You cannot steal a goose and offer God the gosling" - C.H. Spurgeon. Amalekite oxen are unacceptable as burnt offering. Might is not right but right is right. This is the way forward for the country.