Tuesday 25 March 2008

Nigeria: The resignation of Adenike Grange

A new development

The resignation of the Nigerian Minister of Health, Professor Adenike Grange following allegations of graft would elicit much commentary and I would deign to add my own perspective to these interesting developments.

Obviously, the issues here cover the facts, the norms, the traditions, the aberrations and now the whistle-blower albeit an aggrieved one.

The President has spoken

President Yar’Adua had given an executive order ordering all ministries to remit to the Federal Treasury all monies that had not been properly allocated for spending by the end of the year 2007 and it appears the Ministry of Health and its officials flouted that order.

The President of the Federation has executive remit over all that pertains to Nigeria, he is implicitly the Chief Treasurer of the Federation and is crudely supposed to smack the hands of pilferers who try to raid the national till.

The clear fact is Professor Grange failed to follow a simple order from her boss and in the process had already committed an act of insubordination which could very well have embarrassed the President – she most definitely had to go - her resignation could only have been face-saving.

No leader of Chop I Chop

After the President gave the order, he followed up his request by auditing to see if the ministries had complied and found that the Ministry of Health had not fully complied, he definitely was not satisfied with the excuses and the rank disobedience of his appointees and their subordinates – he then requested and obtained the resignation of the appointed officials whilst ordering the indefinite suspension of the salaried officers.

The lesson we can take from this action is that the President has refused to be the leader of the “Chop, I Chop Party” and they who work to besmirch the name and dignity of his albeit illegitimate government would definitely face the music.

Prevailed upon by rotten people

Now, back to Professor Grange, there is a possibility that once she received the order she was prevailed upon but the norms of that institution which probably was steeped in corruption and headed previously by such incompetent buffoons that she found it hard to overcome the weight of their insistence.

Given that, it was still her responsibility to run that ministry and it is merely semantics to try and separate her responsibility from her culpability in allowing illegal actions to take place under her watch.

Bonus for what exactly?

It is quite instructive that the N300 million was to be shared out as a “Christmas Bonus”, there is probably no way how a ministry in Nigeria can really lay out clear performance goals as we have in the private sector for which the achievers could be justly rewarded.

People just have their noses in the trough and look for occasion to run off with funds that should be invested in issues that the ministries are supposed to be concerned with.

If our leaders still have to go abroad for health checkups and treatment, then all workers in the Ministry of Health have to have their pay docked till things begin to change – there is no way that any of them were deserving of any bonus talk less of a blanket Christmas Bonus where the allocations are just the plain daylight robbery of longsuffering Nigerians.

The disgruntled whistleblower

The matter of the whistleblower informing the anti-graft authorities is a welcome development; it shows that the little man in Nigeria now has a place to go to report corruption in public office and expect action to be taken to investigate and bring the people involved to book.

But looking closely at the whistleblower, it does not seem it was an act of altruistic piety but one of disgruntled pique – the allocations which would have amounted to N175,000 to the most junior thieves in this escapade was slashed to N40,000 to bulk up the takeaway of the middle managers.

I do not think we would have many whistleblowers in the future to expose these corrupt practices if everyone feels that they have been adequately compensated to keep their lips sealed, which is sad indeed.

Irregular alliances

That also is a snapshot of Nigerian partnerships where agreements are made and some influential apparatchik changes the rules of the game with impunity expecting nothing to result of that action – well, the game has changed – if you cheat someone even in an illegal alliance of looting the treasury, the cheated has every right to the “righteous” indignation of getting even.

Dishonest lettered people

Then we look at the names of the people involved, as academic excellence is considered a badge of honour in Nigeria, here we have a two Professors, a Dr. and all the others probably have academic letters of excellence garnered from global institutions of renown – we now know that no matter how much you have achieved academically, it does not proof in anyway that you have integrity, that you understand the responsibility of holding public office, that you are honest, that you are beyond reproach or that you can be trusted with any office.

Just as being religious does not confer godliness if you in and of yourself do not have that virtue after you have been stripped of everything that gives you substance.

Professor Grange is fully responsible

Finally, this allocation was approved by someone in that ministry and the Minister could not have been oblivious of that approval – she might not have shared in the largesse but she failed in her stewardship of her office and allowed the country to be defrauded to the amelioration of undeserving miscreants.

The full force of the law should be visited upon her for her dereliction of duty and hopefully an example shall be made of the issue that nobody should think public office is an opportunity for self-enrichment even if it is dressed as a Christmas Bonus.

Ministers cannot become bystanders to events that take place under their watch in their own ministries, if they cannot control their crowd they should return to their former day jobs. I am not convinced that this represents a sea-change in responsibility when holding public office - but I would say it looks like a start.

To the gallows of public shame with them all – Good job, Yardy!

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