Northerners will rule us for long: This pill we hate to swallow


Towards the end of 2011, our TV Production firm was invited to make a presentation to the management of the National Health Insurance Scheme under the then Executive Secretary, Dr. Dogo Mohammed, a highly qualified British-trained surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.


We had earlier submitted proposals and company profile. The ES we were told, insisted firms who desired jobs must appear and make presentations because he needed to know who to hold accountable for shoddy performance. My friend in the scheme, Moritiwon Olusanjo told me Dr. Dogo is down to earth and a no-nonsense man. He said Dr. Dogo loves brilliance and guts. I told him “No problems…”
We started preparing for him.

When we were eventually ushered into the Boardroom of NHIS, all the directors were seated with the ES conspicuously reclining on his central seat. I looked at him intently and told myself, “KILL THIS, AKIN, KILL IT!”

This is clearly because ten equally good agencies were invited and I did not even want to come second! Secondly because, being an agency under the federal civil service, the stage was different from corporate or international development institutions’ consultancies. There were so much lobbying, intrigues and pressurizing interests.

When we were done, Dr. Dogo and his team of directors adjudged us the best firm suited for the available contracts. Four jobs were open for media procurement. Dogo awarded three to us at a go! In every opening, we scored the highest. Dr. Thomas Adeoye, Harvard Alumni, wrote a great recommendation having listened to us. He was head of the user-department and knew how to spot talents. If you spend five minutes with him, he knows if you can add value or constitute a brain damage. All was good and set.

Then, an ugly development arose: Certain interests protested the award and demanded from Dogo where we “came from”? Dogo reportedly responded by saying, “I don’t care where they came from… they are competent and fulfill our required skill specs, there’s no going back on my decision”.

No one dared challenge Dogo further. The reason was not far-fetched. You would need to first challenge Dogo’s unbeaten track-record either within the scheme or as a business stakeholder to question his strong position. Dogo it was, who designed the template for robust enrollee enrollment through innovative processes that endured before the advent of recurrent pilfering rats. He carved a niche by introducing best practices. He grew the number of enrollees from 450,000 in 2006 to 5.6 million in 2012. Dogo also increased NHIS financial strength from N12 billion to N94.8 billion. So, when he takes a stand on credible consultants to fit into his vision to reinforce these milestones, you must come with superior intelligence to fault him.

This is the catch.

I need not tell you that some of those who competed with us came from the north.

Dr. Waziri Dogo Muhammed is also from the north. But the day of presentation was the first day I ever set eyes on him. We did not know him one bit. He only wanted the job done. He was not interested in ethnic or tribal narratives. When Dr. Abdulrahman Sambo, another northerner took over from him as acting ES, we became best of friends. He is also very detribalized, from my relationship with him, this much I noticed.

Fast forward, 2016, when I had engagements with the inspector-general of police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, on the inherent benefit of working with us to combat grassroots corruption in the police, no one gave me any note to him! Force PRO Jimoh Moshood said, “the IG keys into good ideas and runs with it, he does not look at your language or tribe”.

Dolapo Badmus, Zone 2 PRO, earlier told me that “my IG is a very practical manager of men. He has soft skills. If he believes in your innovation, no one can talk him out of it. And he does not ask who your parents are or which town did you come from”. Those were her exact words.

True to these testimonies, the IG received us in his office, and mandated his management committee of DIGS and police secretary to attend the meeting on a Monday. After our presentation, he asked pointed and frank questions but very politely. None of those questions pertained to our tribe or our godfather in Nigeria. He cracked jokes and made us feel relaxed.

He simply wanted the job done. The kind of cooperation we got from the police in the launch of the partnership with Not In My Country speaks to how much weight the IG threw behind it, without knowing me, the convener, from Adam. The IG is not a Yoruba man.

In my interaction with many Yorubas like me and from personal experience, a lot have sacrificed hugely for many highly powerful Yorubas in top echelon of government functions, dishing out ideas and innovations such leaders actually utilized optimally. These Yoruba leaders eventually exit power without impacting their younger folks positively. Even when they have all it takes to do good, they simply get complacent till they lose the opportunity. Does anyone want the truth? Some Yoruba leaders are not even committed to the doing of good. One observation I must make: I have been privileged to pass through the impressive tutelage of certain men of honour amongst the Yorubas.

Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN has been my role model since my secondary school days but he is not a politician; Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN) is a very selfless man. He values decency above politics.

Simon Kolawole of TheCable and Gbenga Adefaye of the Vanguard are some of my idols, Dapo Olorunyomi and Folu Olamiti are self-sacrificing; But they chose Journalism above power chase. Just a handful of others and you are dry counting, if you are in search of very genuine Yorubas that is.

But these credible men are just a drop in the ocean.

Bola Tinubu must have seen the deficit we incurred in standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers from the north in the balancing act of power.

He therefore developed an urgent and rare template for building a political empire that has been aspiring to get into the mainstream. After him, you will need to show me another Yoruba leader doing same. Some of the rest are good but many of the rest are selfish, egoistic, petty and unforgiving. Amongst them are beneficiaries of benevolence and sheer providence. But they get to power and soon forget. They forget that the real beauty of power is deploying it to uplift others and by implication, stretch spheres of influence. If you do so by building others, you have become a King amongst champions; If you fail to, you are as empty as when you climbed the ladder. After your retirement, you cannot draw influence from a man you kept away from influence.

I stand to be corrected but northerners are more adept at building and raising other northern stars. No tribe in Nigeria has matched that yet. If you are in denial, go to the federal civil service, the military, judiciary and the nation’s overall power configuration.

So when you want to push a northerner out of power, first calculate how much strategy of mentoring successors with an eye on regional advancement you have brought to the table. Calculate how you empowered others within your region when you had a little opportunity as minister or as modestly as director-general.

In fact, when I hear tales like “northerners are cheating us, we too should be in power”. I get really amused. When you get to power, what do you do for others?

Pushing the narrative of our tribe as better leaders is subjective, sweeping and myopic and there is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action. Our tribe does not make us good…Our great heart and preparedness to develop other champions does.

And I dare say, I have met many great northern hearts. They have been smart and power-savvy. We have a lot to humbly learn from them!


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