Sunday, 24 June 2012

Opinion: You're Nobody Without A Name


Of reputational value
Almost 10 years ago, I went on a walk around my neighbourhood with my uncle as he lamented the apparent disobedience of his sons to obey an order he had given.
I could sympathise with him at the same time that I was strongly disagreeing with the premise of his irritation.
His sons being European citizens resident for just about a decade in England were instructed to send a letter of invitation to a distant cousin of theirs, which they refused to comply with, the circumstances of which I will not delve into but the fundamentals remain the same.
Unlike anywhere else, your name, your address and all your dealings in the West make up your reputational value that determines your credit rating for credit worthiness and other issues of integrity.
Your name is all that matters
Especially, in circumstances where you are legally resident and gainfully employed, you want to be in control of all the variables that make up your reputational value and most especially the people you decide to vouch for as referees, guarantors, sureties or witnesses.
My cousins had in their time in Europe understood this very salient point that they were ready to defy patriarchal authority to protect what many might think is intangible but is of the utmost importance to their livelihood, integrity and reputation – especially in an era where background checks are becoming quite standard for things as mundane as basic employment contracts.
A tarnished name by reason of acts of omission, inadvertent activity or unfortunate circumstance of some misfortune can take more than a decade to repair, the price for such a lapse in judgement, process or attention to the minutiae is just too high to expend on the apparent mundane act of writing a letter of invitation for a relation that can be vouched for by your father – the stakes are too high and in my view the boys were right – reputation counts, integrity counts and perception counts, always.
Farouk Lawan
This brings me to two recent events that Nigerians will be familiar with, the first relates to the Fuel Subsidy probe conducted by an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives.
We were literally glued to every communication device we could find that relayed the proceedings of that committee headed by Farouk Lawan who in the chair achieved almost hagiographic levels of praise for exposing the corrupt enterprise that was a nexus of government institutions, political appointees and private companies siphoning untold amounts of money to the tune of 10 times more than had been budgeted for by the Federal Government, it was an unprecedented scam that threatened to drag the name of the Presidency into the muck.
As it transpired a report was published and as it was being deliberated on, Farouk Lawan asked for the House to exculpate two companies because the committee had lately received fresh evidence on that matter. The House obliged.
Unbeknownst to us, a sting operation apparently engineered with the security agencies involving principals of the exculpated companies had successfully mired Farouk Lawan in a corrupt transaction that purportedly had him recorded on video collecting moneys from an oil baron in the dead of the night.
Lost on all fronts
Whatever plans Farouk Lawan might have had to expose the attempts of persons close to the Presidency to suborn legislative process and cast aspersions on the report he helped pen came to naught when those persons went public before him and then he did not immediately quash the rumours, he dissimulated, he deigned, he confessed and then spun tales.
His fight back was timid at best, but his reputation had been done irreparable damage and the report we had so greatly lauded was about to go down the drain with him.
The House of Representatives has done the minimum possible to restore the integrity of the report by censuring Farouk Lawan, deposing him and restoring the exculpated companies to the original indictments made in the report.
Ideally, I would have preferred the House of Representatives audit that report independently against the originally collected evidence and then reissue it, but that is a matter of process and procedure.
Perceptions on reputation
The second concerns people I respect and engage with, mostly on Twitter but in certain instances we have communicated through other channels.
They have not reached the point where their integrity and reputation is irredeemable but this and Farouk Lawan’s situation highlights how differently we tackle these matters between those of us in Diaspora and those of us back home in Nigeria.
Whereas, we in Diaspora will put in place systems, processes and safeguards to ensure that nothing ever touches the issues of our person, our character, our integrity, our reputation and every perception of our standing, our people back home are more poised to wait to defend the same when it comes under attack but risk losing the battle of hearts and minds when they are not prompt, forceful and immediate in disputing all assertions and aspersions.
This is not to confirm the presence of an impropriety, in fact, there is probably none and the circumstances within which they work and operate might impact on their ability to respond as promptly as might be required.
My view on Dana Crash Action
Once again, I find myself sympathising and even understanding but disagreeing with their approach to reputational and integrity issues, these are not matters to be trifled with and to tackle the same with deference to a few, seeming indifference to some and possibly arrogance bordering on hubris to others with the view that they are being so principled and above reproach is to misunderstand the considerable fallout that might ensue from this matter.
Much more than Dana Crash Action rests on how the principals respond to the attempts to besmirch their good names, their humanitarian efforts, the friends they interact and associate with, and each subsequent worthwhile campaign launched in spite of and despite the government on Social Media.
I have been informed a comprehensive report debunking all claims and assertions will be released at the end of the month.
However, it is not a matter of being answerable to anyone or being accountable to anyone, it is one of being seen to be accountable regardless, acting transparently regardless, doing that promptly regardless, protecting the present and future reputational value above all else and at the same time learning one serious lesson from Farouk Lawan that no matter the hundreds of millions of dollars that oil companies will pay in fines and restitution with regards to the fuel subsidy scam, a man’s honour and integrity is still priceless.
You are nobody without a name.

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