Saturday 23 August 2008

Apes Obey! Lack of apprehension

If she could have visualised the future
One can almost begin to sympathise or even attempt to empathise with Professor Ndi (Ndidi) Okereke-Onyiuke, the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange as her bluster creates more tribulation on the verge of ruining her otherwise well-earned reputation.
Even I could not have anticipated a situation where I would be writing an Apes Obey! Series [1] with her as the principal frame of reference.
What this simply signifies is the sad but succinct analysis of character that Lord Lugard documented of Nigerians 86 years ago which permeates all strata of society from the lowly proletariat to the aristocrats of business and politics.
Ruing the race about race
Professor Okereke-Onyiuke must be ruing the day she allowed her quite sharp and incising thinking along with her great intelligence, her academic PhD and stature of being a woman of the highest integrity [2] to play second fiddle to the notion and politics of race affiliation.
Supporting Senator Barack Obama for his policies, rhetoric, thinking, ideas, vision and message of hope alone should have made this matter a cause for the meeting of minds and buttressed the points about her intelligence but she made it a meeting of the colours of the skin.
Basically, she was pandering to race and emotively trying to persuade people of African descent who happen to be Americans to view Senator Barack Obama from that perspective rather than one of a person who has brought a message of change that is in season to change a nation and eventually the world at large.
The other matters about her judgement and her outburst are already covered in blogs [3] I have written and many others in the Nigerian blogging community.
The problems
The aftermath of the advertisement, the dinner/concert, the moneys raised and the robust defences are the subject of this blog.
Having raised about N100 million ($834,000), with the Africans for Obama dinner/concert, regardless of the chronology of events, the Obama organisation put out a letter of disavowal and dissociation to the Editor of PunchOnline that published the advertisement for the party. [3]
Since the fundraising concert did not clearly state its intentions regarding the raising of funds even though the professor contends that it was to sensitise American-Nigerians to vote for Senator Obama as opposed to going out to vote as a civic duty regardless of who they decide to vote for the whole event was on the verge of looking fraudulent and deceitful by obtaining funds under false or dubious pretences.
Interest of the agencies
Just after the event, the Security and Exchange Commission in Nigeria queried [4] the Director-General to clarify her position on this Africans for Obama organisation and the publicity accompanying her fundraising event in the light of her prominent position in the economic profile of Nigeria.
As she protested the transparency of the Africans for Obama organisation and acclaimed her high integrity; the whole exercise was fast becoming a farce of idle busybodies but she felt she could bulldoze and bluster her way through the criticisms of her actions.
In fact, two anti-graft organisations by reason of her office could have had some interest in this developing farce, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) where Sections 13, 18 & 19 [5] without much legal argument would cast the Director-General as a public office holder and without much extrapolation would have made an offence in Nigeria to sensitive through fund-raising Nigerians to vote for a particular candidate and hence an offence to attempt to do such in the United States.
The indignity of it all – meeting the EFCC
However, the higher profile Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) [6] has taken an interest in the case and Professor Okereke-Onyiuke has suffered the multiple indignities of
Being invited for an interview with the EFCC
Being detained [7] overnight in their facilities then released [8]
Having her passport seized [9] then returned with the advice that the commission be informed of her intentions to travel
Being told to return all moneys [10] to the last kobo to all donors and participants possibly with her bearing the full cost of the dinner/concert she organised and not being able to defray costs
And they are conducting an independent investigation of the banks [11] holding finances of the Africans for Obama organisation with the unfortunate impression that they have not taken her for her word.
A lack of apprehension
That there is a whiff of a financial crime involving the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange due to an unfortunate lapse in judgement that could have been minimised with a humble and contrite admission is as bad a hit to the reputation of a highly placed person as one can get.
But this is a trait to be expected of Nigerians according to Lord Lugard when he talked of what has impressed him “as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his lack of ability to visualize the future.” [1]
In this case the professor threw caution to the wind by not being apprehensive about being misconstrued as having a conflict of interest or the use of her exalted office to promote issues where such high profile people should be very discreet.
The law of consequence
Her inability to visualise the future also indicates how she could never have expected her well intentioned activities to lead to these rather embarrassing developments even though there were enough warning signs and detractors to make her think again about her activities.
This same lack of apprehension allows us to muddle through issues rather than thinking through and following through to a conclusion, it allows for the subjective of the present to overrule the concept of anticipation, preparation, thoroughness and objective thinking.
We leave everything to divine providence without making the necessary plans to accept the providence such that if one encounters misfortune, it is not blamed on the lack of planning or preparation but externalised to vague enemies and detractors.
The law of consequence is being able to visualise what our decisions now would create for the future – short term or long term – we have very little regard for the possible consequences of our actions or inaction.
What we do to ourselves alone
It can be outrageous to suggest that most misfortune is brought on more by self-fulfilling prophecies or self-inflicted action because one does not apply ones abilities, talent and intellect to the fullest rather attribute issues to the active malevolence of some vague enemy, else that enemy would be identified, confronted and defeated.
The inability to visualise the future permeates all strata of society from the feeling of morbidity of writing wills and testaments to pension planning to times of retirement, but it also includes family planning where people who have insufficient means do not discipline themselves enough to prevent bringing into the world children they cannot properly care for.
The list is long, the analysis too harrowing and the analogies ever present, just as palpable as ones hand touches ones face for feeling and comfort, we all have a lot to learn from both Professor Okereke-Onyiuke and Lord Lugard, it is both a shame and instructive that this seemingly benign Africans for Obama event exposes more about what people have observed of us Africans in a negative and pejorative sense.
[6] Economic and Financial Crimes Commission - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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