By Reno Omokri
I was moved by the plight of Nigerians who were affected by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The human suffering involved moved me. Knowing our government, we could not expect a quick resolution of their issue (although I must commend General Buhari for approving $8.5 million for their evacuation).
However, what troubled me the most were the continental wide outrage at the alleged racism that was said to be going on in Ukraine against Black Africans. I could not just watch helplessly.
I personally went to Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and The Czech Republic. I am a civilian. I am not in government. Nobody gave me a dime to do it. But I did it. Do you know why? Because it is not enough to use your mouth to complain, if you can’t use your hand to help!
Nigerians are trapped in Ukraine and its neighbouring nations because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Without understanding that in war times, you prioritise your own citizens, you sat in your living room, complaining of racism. I went there myself. In all of these places, the so called racists have been helping Nigerians. The Ukrainians had a policy in place for war time evacuation. Ukrainian women and children first, Ukrainian civilian men next, then foreigners. That is not racism. It is pragmatism.
If I were Nigerian President and Nigeria was fighting a war, I would do the same thing for my citizens. I will not prioritise foreigners over my own countrymen and women.
Complaining will never help Nigerians abroad or in Nigeria. What will help us and change our country for the better is if we take individual action to create the Nigeria we want to see. Talk is cheap. Actions are not!
Not only was I in Eastern Europe, by the grace of God, my team and I were able to raise money for to get stranded Nigerians out of the war zone.
Let me quickly say here that because I know my countrymen, it is important that I establish that nobody donated money to me to go to Eastern Europe. I went there to help. While I was there, I did a video appeal and asked my supporters to donate directly to Pastor Edward in Ukraine. I flew here with my money. I used my money to help. And I returned with my money. If anybody on Earth gave me a penny directly, I authorise them to expose me.
I am just being proactively transparent, because, like I said, I know my people!
Having said that, let me now explain to my fellow Black Africans what our unwarranted cries of racism will do to us. Yes, BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera and MSNBC will carry such stories with glee, not because it is true, but because it is sensational and will drive traffic to their sites, which is what they need to command huge advertisement revenue.
But those stories were false and the Eastern Europeans are now more likely to be unwelcoming to Black Africans after this this crisis has blown over, because at a time when they faced a calamity, we did not show understanding. Rather, we whipped up false sentiments that had the capacity to turn the world against them at a time when they needed all the help they could get.
I ask my Black brothers how many Black Africans have been killed in Ukraine by the Ukrainians since this incident began? How many have had their property looted? How many have been attacked by mobs?
Not one single Black African.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, we have seen repeated waves of xenophobia and Black on Black racism, by South African Blacks against Black Africans from other African nations, whom they christen ‘Makwerekwere’.
In multiple waves of these xenophobic attacks, hundreds of Black Africans have either been killed, maimed, had their properties looted, or frustrated out of South Africa by their own fellow Black Africans, who are now raising a hue and cry against the beleaguered Ukrainians and their neighbours.
Within Nigeria, various Northern groups have given quit notices to people of Southern descent to leave their region, which was immediately reciprocated by some Southern groups. And we are the ones shouting that Ukraine is a racist country.
Meanwhile, back home we are more intolerant of each other than others are.
I give a good example. The largest church in Ukraine is the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations (also known as Embassy of God). It was founded by a Nigerian-Mr. Sunday Adelaja.
So, Ukrainians are so racist that they gathered and worshiped in large numbers at a church with Nigerian roots? What is more precious to a man than his connection to God? Where are human beings most open and sincere? Of course that is in a house of worship.
Now, imagine that the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations wants to help poor people, who would they help first? Members or non members? Mind you, scripture says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith”-Galatians 6:10.
So, even Scripture and common sense dictates that the church should prioritise its own members first before others. If they do that, is that discrimination? Of course not.
Then why would we as Black Africans accuse Ukraine of racism in their weakest hour and time of need, when they need good media the most, simply because they prioritised the evacuation of their own citizens before foreigners? It would have been delinquent of their government to prioritise foreigners over their own citizens.
No serous country would ever doing. But it is us. We must be emotional, rather than rational. We must antagonise rather than empathise. We must react, rather than pro-act. And we wonder why we are where and how we are!
What we have done to Ukraine and Eastern Europe is not yet clear to us. But the war will be over. The dust will settle. It is only a matter of time. And when that time comes, they will remember how we stoked the media against them in their darkest hour.
Sadly, we Black Africans have a victim mentality. We need to change that mindset. We need to acquire a victor’s mindset. Yes, racism does exist. But when we cry wolf even where there is clearly no wolf, time will come when nobody will listen to us, even when the real wolf comes.
Your husband is not irresponsible because he refuses to carry your siblings and your parents welfare on his head. Rather, it is your father and mother who are HIGHLY irresponsible for collecting bride price and still want your husband to collect bills! The ideal situation is for your husband to use his money to care for you and your children. However, if he has extra, then he should invest for the future, not on your parents and siblings. Marry and leave your father’s house. Don’t extend your father’s house to your husband’s house!
Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, Vice-Chancellior, LASU: My Vision for LASU Is Unique and Focused
Prof. Ibiyemi Ibilola Olatunji Bello is an eminent scholar of great pedigree, reputed to have won several laurels, breaking records of attaining great heights. For her, it has been a record of first among equals all the way. She is the first professor of Physiology in the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), having been an associate professor at the University of Lagos, College of Medicine between 2005 and October 1 2007. She was the first female acting vice-chancellor of LASU between July 2010 and October 2011. She was also the first female deputy vice-chancellor of the university between December 2008 and December 2010. She was the first substantive head of the Department of Physiology Lagos State College of Medicine between October 2007 and December 2008. In addition, she was the pioneering director of Lagos State University Directorate of Advancement (LASUDA). Prof Olatunji-Bello grew up in Lagos under excellent parenthood. She attended the Anglican Grammar School in Surulere between 1970 and 1974 and later Lagos Anglican Grammar School also in Surulere. She also attended the Methodist Girls High School in Yaba and Lagos State College of Science and Technology Ikosi Campus for her ‘A’ Levels in 1982. After graduating From the University of Ibadan with a B.SC Hons degree in Physiology in 1985, she proceeded to the University of Lagos for her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Apart from her victorious intellectual exploits leading to being awarded an MSC degree, she also deepened her academic and research breakthrough leading to being awarded a PhD at the University of Lagos in 1998. For so many years, she has been so versatile in the issues regarding leadership and management configuration perspectives in LASU, having been the state government’s representative in the university’s Governing Council between 2004 and 2008 and Senate representative in the council. In 2012, she was nominated by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to attend Course 34 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru Plateau State. She was awarded a ‘Member of the National Institute’ (MNI) Certificate. She was awarded a fellowship by the Physiological Society in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2007, which led to a similar fellowship of the Physiological Society of Nigeria. During an interview with THISDAY newspaper on the commemorative edition on Women’s International Day 2022, she bares her mind on many issues, including the takeaway lessons from the race to become LASU vice-chancellor. Excerpt:
In retrospect, how would you describe your growing up years and the impact of your upbringing?
Growing up was interesting. I was brought up to be a very curious person about my environment. I am also a goal-getter; when I’m determined to do something, I will do it. By the grace of God, I rose very fast in life, and in fact, I seem to be in a hurry to achieve everything. Sometimes, I ask myself: ‘where are you hurrying to’? Everything about my life happened so fast. I went to secondary school at age nine going to 10. I left secondary school when I was 15. When I graduated from university, I was barely 21 years. It was as if I needed to be in a hurry to get all those things done. My vision was to be a professor before the age of 40, but I couldn’t make it. I became a professor at the age of 43, which was still ok by all standards. Regarding my childhood, I had very influential parents but God-fearing. And they brought us up well. I became born-again in my secondary school days. I love God and serve God all the time. By the time I entered the university, I didn’t think I had free time. I was focused on myself and my goal of becoming a professor. It wasn’t as if I wanted to try my luck. From day one, I knew I was going to get a PhD. I went to UNILAG for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) after I had graduated from the University of Ibadan. Before I got to UNILAG, a lot had been discussed about me based on recommendations and reports from the people at UI. So everybody was interested in meeting me. However, when I got there, I was just myself. Although we were two serving at UNILAG then, I was the only one retained initially on a part-time Demonstratorship. While at UNILAG, I did my master’s and registered for my PhD. And immediately there was an opening, I was employed on a full-time basis. So my trajectory was quite fast. However, while I was in a hurry during my growing up years and as a young adult, God used this vice-chancellor’s race to stabilise me. From lecturer to HOD to professor to DVC to acting VC, everything happened in quick succession, but becoming a VC took time, and I thank God for it.
Has there been any time during your earlier career that you have been limited by gender? Or, you couldn’t get something because you are a woman?
I never saw myself as a woman. I saw myself as a colleague with my contemporaries. From my days in school to work, everyone was my colleague. We discussed everything together, shared jokes and did things as colleagues. For the guys, I knew their girlfriends, and they knew mine. Their girlfriends know me. It was all like a big family. When they have challenges, they inform me and vice versa. We usually gist during the practical classes, so no limitation. But I realised later that I’m in a male-dominated environment. It dawned on me that I have to publish or perish, and if I have to publish, I have to do as much as twice my male counterparts. As a married woman, I do my school work, take my children to school and pick them up. I make sure dinner is ready for everybody in the evening and get the children ready for school for the following day. In those days, the computer was not as prevalent today. Hence, we kept writing and writing. That was the situation. From the onset, I never saw myself as a woman, but while rising up, it dawned on me that I was in a male donated profession. And I have to prove a point. And I thank God I was able to be a challenge to others.
Being a professor at 43 years is a feat. Many could have fallen off the line along the way. What did you do differently that helped you to succeed over the years. What were your strategies, the philosophy, or your benchmark growing to the top level?
As I said earlier, I worked twice as hard as my colleagues. As a young academic, I had mentors and role models. I would always go to the senior ones and ask, ‘Prof, how did you do these things?’ And at meetings, I was always talking. I believe that as intellectuals, we should debate things. Whether your point is taken or not. You should debate it. In the end, the person that has larger support would have his way. I also saw University meetings and Conferences as a way of expressing myself. Even now, I will always say my mind. I may not win the argument, but it will be on record that I have said my mind. You must not shy away from speaking the truth; it may not pay at a particular time, but in the long run, when you look back, history will justify you. So I had role models who encouraged me. Mention can be made of Prof. Shofola, Deputy Vice-Chancellor University of Lagos. Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos. Former Vice-Chancellor of Ondo State University of Science and Technology. Also President of the National Postgraduate Medical College. Prof. Odugbemi would always ask me, ‘Yemi, bring your CV’, and I will give it to him. Three months later, he will ask again, and I will say, but I gave you three months ago. And because I knew he would ask of me every three months, I would make sure that there was something new added to the CV before he would ask for my CV again. That was the push. Prof. Sofola will tell me, ‘if we push you, you will move’. They were pushing me because they had great belief in me. Some other people would have run away, but I did not.
What are the lessons regarding the contest in your appointment as LASU vice-chancellor?
There are two lessons. One, believe in yourself. The vision I had for the university was the same I submitted during my first contest for the position. People will say go and look at the way they did this or that. It is not done this way. They will ask me to go and read other people’s visions and model mine after theirs. But I realised that what I have is better than what they are saying, and I stuck to it. The only thing I added to the first one I did was the decision to create new faculties. It was the same vision during the first, second and third contests. I would have entered into the Guinness book of records as the only person that vied for the same position five times. The second lesson is never to give up once you believe in yourself. The competitions were stiff, and the oppositions were strong, but I continued, and I never gave up.
I have said it in different churches where I have given my testimonies that I was focused mainly on becoming LASU vice-chancellor. I never applied to any other university. It was not that I was desperate to become vice-chancellor of LASU, but I was called (by God) to be vice-chancellor of LASU, so I never attempted to be vice-chancellor elsewhere. Most of the others that contested with me since 2011 have gone somewhere else, but I am here. I’m maybe the only person who didn’t go elsewhere despite seeing many opportunities.
Kenya urgently needs national renaissance, By Tee Ngugi
Pictures of thousands of youths who turned up for the Kenya Defence Forces recruitment drive a few weeks ago told a story beyond that of the exercise.
They showed endless lines of youthful humanity, all hoping to be among the select few.
The pictures told a story of a country where unemployment among the youth has become immoral and a national shame. But they also told another more fundamental story; our economic growth over the years has either stagnated or grown at a snail’s pace.
The pictures exposed the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and government’s optimistic growth projections over the years as figments of bureaucratic imagination. The narrative told by the youthful human bodies contradicts that told by statistics of impersonal bureaucratic international and national bodies.
While the tragedy of unemployment and poverty is playing out before our eyes, we learn from the Head of Public Service that high-level state employees live largely. Not that we did not know this but hearing it from the horse’s mouth brings the reality home to even those government sycophants who label those who criticise government incompetence foreign stooges.
This admission of wastage was not prompted by a prick of conscience. It came a day after the Controller of Budget indicated that over the past nine months, public officials had spent a staggering Ksh20 billion ($135 million) on domestic and foreign travel.
An earlier report had indicated that the budget for the presidency had increased significantly since the assumption of office by the Kenya Kwanza regime. Other reports have indicated unprocedural award of tenders to regime loyalists.
And, just the other day, the President and his deputy revealed that their Cabinet was incompetent and that many of its members spent their time on foreign travel.
When a country is in the throes of economic crisis; is years behind in infrastructural development; is bedevilled by ever-increasing youth unemployment; is crippled by runaway thievery; and suffers ethical and moral decrepitude, it is time to have a national conversation about itself with a view to pushing the reset button.
What values define our nationhood? What is the Kenyan national character? What do we want to achieve in so many years? Why have we not performed as well as our erstwhile peers? Crucially, what can we change about ourselves to catch up quickly? This reflection and self-interrogation would inform a new framework to guide the rebuilding of our nationhood — a national renaissance.
The way we are carrying on can only lead to a national implosion. To be sure, this slide was not instigated by the current regime. It started on the day we gained independence.
Every regime, even the slightly more conscientious one of Mwai Kibaki, not only failed to halt the slide but also increased the downward spiral.
I am not sure there resides in the current regime the ideological and moral depth to lead a national renaissance.
From Experiment To Experience: Why the Nigerian Central Bank Needs its Traditional Navigators Back, By Chibuikem Ugo-Ngadi
Commerce Takes the Central Helm
If you’re tuning into this, you’re likely aware of Yemi Cardoso becoming the new chief of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). His appointment, following Godwin Emefiele’s exit, is notable for another reason: both are commercial bankers, and their leadership comes at a pivotal moment for our economy.
For those who’ve journeyed with my earlier piece, ‘A Call To Action,’ I won’t delve into the detailed statistics again. However, to give you the big picture, our economy is on shaky ground. The naira’s value keeps dwindling, now taking over N1000 to match a single USD. The task of steadying this precarious situation leans heavily on the decisions and actions of the CBN and its helm.
While the trend of appointing commercial bankers to lead the CBN brings forth concerns, it’s not a question of their competency in the banking sector. They excel there. However, piloting the Central Bank has its own set of challenges distinct from commercial banking. The differences and intricacies of central banking are profound, and that’s where my reservations come into play.
At first glance, central banks and commercial banks might seem to operate within the same realm – the financial sector. However, their mandates, operational scopes, risk management practices, and utilised tools delineate two distinct worlds.
Central banks serve a broader public interest. Their primary objective is maintaining economic stability for the nation. This means they work to control inflation and ensure steady economic growth. On the other hand, commercial banks are primarily business entities. Their driving force? Profit. They focus on attracting customers, granting loans, and providing other financial services to ensure their bottom line grows.
Scope of Operation:
Central banks have a wide lens, monitoring the entire economy. They pay close attention to various economic indicators and global trends to make informed decisions that impact the nation. Commercial banks, however, operate on a more individualized scale. They cater directly to their customers, whether individuals or businesses, offering services that respond to specific financial needs.
When central banks think of risks, they’re looking at the bigger picture. They’re concerned about large-scale economic threats that can affect the whole country. Commercial banks, in contrast, handle risks that directly impact their day-to-day operations. This includes managing potential loan defaults or keeping up with shifts in the market.
Tools and Mechanisms:
Central banks use tools meant for guiding the entire economy. They employ methods like adjusting the amount of money in banks or setting key interest rates to influence economic conditions. Commercial banks, however, use their tools in a more direct manner. They decide on loan interest rates, offer deposit schemes, and introduce new financial products to attract and serve their customers better.
Navigating Two Worlds: Profit vs. Policy
Merging the distinct worlds of central and commercial banks requires careful consideration. While central banks are dedicated to ensuring national welfare and economic stability, commercial banks have profit as their primary goal. As commercial banking leaders transition into central banking roles, there’s a vital concern: could they inadvertently favour their previous domain?
This is more than just an economic dilemma—it directly influences the trust that the public places in these pillars of finance. Central banks are guardians of our financial health, setting rules to foster a robust economy. In contrast, the profit-driven nature of commercial banks often sees them navigating these rules inventively.
Furthermore, the importance of relationships in the commercial sector can’t be understated, yet central banking demands unwavering impartiality. Introducing a leader from the commercial world might blur the lines of decision-making, raising valid concerns about whether the broader economic interests remain the focal point.
In the intricate dance of global finance, the choreography of central banking leadership remains crucial. We’ve explored how central and commercial banks dance to different beats. Now, let’s shine a spotlight on Nigeria’s recent break from tradition.
Over the recent years, Nigeria has embarked on what can be termed a ‘recruitment experiment’. The rhythm shifted recently as the trend favoured promoting commercial bankers directly into the central bank’s top role, a distinct departure from traditional appointments. The result: Nigeria’s monetary choreography seems to have missed some crucial steps, leading to disruptions in our macroeconomic performance.
One can’t help but think this isn’t just a twist of fate. While the federal government’s fiscal choreography has certainly added complexity to the central bank’s performance, decisions like the FX Swaps, Naira Redesign Rollout, and Ways and Means Lending resonate as tunes unfamiliar to the seasoned central banking ear. It’s like a skilled ballerina suddenly trying to lead a breakdancing performance.
“Those that are doing it, do they have two heads?” as often quipped in Nigerian households. Globally, it’s a rarity to see a central bank led by someone without deep roots in central banking. While commercial bankers in other countries do occasionally don the central banker’s hat, they usually do so after an extensive apprenticeship in central bank policymaking.
Consider Jerome Powell of the US Fed: his journey from corporate banking and legal practice to the helm of the Fed spanned several years, allowing him to immerse in the central banking culture. Or Andrew Bailey of the Bank of England, whose decades-long waltz within the bank’s corridors prepared him for the top job. Even in emerging economies, leaders like Pan Gongsheng in China and Shakitanka Das in India have risen after extensive experience in their nation’s policy tapestries.
So, while commercial banking insights might offer some flair, nothing replaces the deep, nuanced expertise of a career spent in central banking. As the world’s financial ballet continues, it’s time Nigeria reconsiders its lead dancer.
The Pillars of Traditional Central Banking
Grounded Knowledge in Monetary Dynamics:
Central banking goes beyond mere figures. It’s a complex interplay of strategies, forecasts, and responses. Those who’ve spent their careers in central banking have a hands-on understanding of these complexities. They’ve been in the trenches, navigating global economic shifts, balancing inflation, and setting interest rates. This isn’t just textbook knowledge. They’ve witnessed how policy decisions play out in the real world, equipping them with insights that are tough to replicate.
Objectivity at the Helm:
In the vast world of finance, varying sectors sometimes have clashing goals. Career central bankers stand out with their honed objectivity. Their journey within the policy-centric environment of a central bank ensures they approach challenges without any tilt towards commercial banking influences. This unbiased stance guarantees decisions made prioritize the nation’s overall economic well-being.
Steady Policy Hand:
A stable economy thrives on clarity and predictability. Enterprises, investors, and the general public all benefit when there’s a consistent policy direction. Central bankers, with their repository of past experiences and policy impacts, offer this steady hand. Their decisions aren’t hasty but are rooted in long-term objectives, reducing abrupt policy changes that can disrupt markets.
Years in the central banking sphere mean they’ve forged essential ties. They’ve worked side-by-side with diverse teams, partnered with governmental bodies, and conversed with international peers. These connections are invaluable. When a new policy is on the horizon or when feedback is needed, they have a ready network to tap into, ensuring efficient and informed decision-making.
Charting the Right Course
As Nigeria stands at the precipice of an unparalleled macroeconomic tempest, the actions of the Central Bank in the coming months will either anchor us firmly or leave us adrift. While the allure of shortcuts in policymaking might seem tempting, it’s crucial to remember that the Central Bank isn’t just another institution; it’s our nation’s flagbearer in the global financial arena. It’s our voice, our representative, asserting our place on the world stage.
The Central Bank should be our sanctuary from the pitfalls that often plague Nigerian policymaking. It should be a beacon of steadiness amidst the chaos, guiding our economic ship through tumultuous waters with an experienced hand at the helm.
To mitigate the challenges ahead, it’s imperative we revert to the tried-and-true: placing the keys of the Central Bank in the hands of those who know its every corner, its every nuance. For the health of our nation, the vibrancy of our economy, and the future of our people, it’s high time we return the Central Bank to its rightful stewards: the career central bankers.
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