What will NOA do with Jimoh Olawale?By Garba Shehu

Garba-Shehu1-580x340Before I am accused of being a biased pundit, I need to explain why I have chosen a newspaper column to counsel my friend, Mr. Mike Omeri, the Director-General of National Orientation Agency, NOA, instead of going to meet him in his office to ask him this question.
Those of us who are perceived to be on the inside but actually outside of the ruling dynasty in the country have been taught by experience to keep your distance from high government officials until they on their own beckon you to come close. If you don’t heed this wisdom, two things may likely ensue: your friend sees you in his/her office and ignores you, pretending as if they didn’t know you, which will cause you personal embarrassment, or you, without knowing it endanger someone’s job because he/she is seen to talk to you (as someone who is not a friend of government).
Let me cite one example. Anyone with a finger on the pulse of the nation will not have been surprised by a recent series of adverting distancing Abdullahi Inde, the Comptroller-General, CG of the Nigeria Customs Service from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
It is a known fact that there is a South-south aspirant for the post of the Customs CG – which is a legitimate aspiration – using all the dynastic privileges at the disposal of his people to first of all create the vacancy, by having the incumbent retired or dismissed, for him to take-over the job. First there was a widely-distributed story that Inde was an Atiku man and the published testimonial was written by someone who claimed to have met the CG at “Vice President Atiku’s house in 1988.” The CG’s office was quick to rebut this, saying he could not have been “Atiku’s boy” in the Customs, when he (Inde) joined the Service after Atiku had left the service. They also rebutted the 1988 meeting at the Vice President’s house because Atiku occupied that post only from 1989.
The next campaign was to the effect that CG had met the former Vice President last month in Lagos.
If there was any meeting between the CG and Atiku in the course of the latter’s last visit to Lagos, I would have been its witness. I was at the impressively new Intercontinental Hotel on Victoria Island, Lagos just ahead of the former Vice President’s arrival. As his convoy of vehicles made to drive into the Hotel, the CG and his long line of cars were getting set to drive out. An expatriate businessman who had apparently been with the CG sighted the Atiku convoy, ran back to the CG’s jeep and tapped on its window, in the wrong thinking that Inde might wish to come down and greet the former VP. The CG rolled up the window and sped off with a clear intention of avoiding the former number two man. Perhaps his instinct was the one that told him to avoid any chance or accidental meeting because the opponents will use it against him. Atiku himself did not in all probability, know this had happened until he reads this account. This did not deter the CGs opponents from placing advertorials to the effect that a meeting had taken place.
So my point in not meeting Omeri is actually in order to help him keep his job and all the privileges that go with it.
Since his assumption of that office, Omeri has sought to foist an idealistic leadership at the NOA. He has introduced many innovations, among which is a policy to reward honesty among the population in a deliberate effort to rid the country of its bad image occasioned by unending waves of scams. In a number of speeches, he has highlighted the bankruptcy of political thinking – a feature common to both the ruling and opposition parties – in a system where only the ego of political parties or godfathers matters.
In pursuit of this, Omeri instituted a rebranding slogan called “Do the Right Thing”. He has even set up an anti-corruption task-force, to educate the citizens on the need to change the perception of Nigeria as a corrupt nation. In line with a value reorientation programme as a part of the wider transformation agenda of the government, an honour scheme by which Nigerians who show acts of rare courage, diligence or honesty are given a cash reward and a badge. On July 17, 2012, Governor Fashola was rewarded with a badge and a cash reward of N30,000 from the agency for showing courage in stopping soldiers from driving on the lane meant for BRT buses.
The agency also gave a reward of USD200 to a taxi driver who found and returned USD120,000 forgotten in his car by a passenger.
A deeper look at the political spectrum in today’s Nigeria shows political corruption as the most persistent of these problems. With the political mandate becoming fractious and elected officials becoming more dependent on godfathers’ and patrons’ whims and fancies, there is no better time than now for this value re-orientation program to be extended to the political arena. In this context, it is politically significant that a little-known politician, Jimoh Olawale in Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State has shown the way to national re-orientation by declining to take up a Councillorship seat stolen from the winner of the election, an opposition candidate, saying that he won’t take that which belongs to another person. This has not happened in the country before now.
Jimoh’s singular action may have embarrassed his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which arranged this election and awarded victory, generally in line with what happens in elections by State electoral commissions, SIECs. Such elections are in all cases not credible, returning between 90-100 percent victory in favour of ruling parties.
But it presents the country with a rare type of action and an opportunity to create a role model for the political class if Nigeria is to be rid of the culture of stolen elections.
I am absolutely sure Mr. Omeri’s good work at the NOA will stand to gain a lot by recognizing Mr. Jimoh who no doubt deserves the same type of badge and cash reward as given to Governor Fashola and the honest taxi driver. This is worth more than the two put together.

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