By Osita Chidoka
My Dear Abdulrasheed Bawa,
Congratulations on your appointment as EFFC Chairman. As somebody who shares some similarity with your trajectory, I want to publicly advise you as the euphoria of your appointment and the deluge of advice continue to come your way. Usually, I would have been critical of this appointment as it continues the profound disrespect and insensitivity to the constitutional provision on Federal Character.
Since the inception of this administration appointments in the paramilitary, intelligence, police, and military organisations have been so lopsided but not my letter’s subject. I will continue that conversation at an appropriate place.
Today, I support the generational shift that your appointment represents. We should remove all the clauses in our laws that create an age barrier to executive positions. It is anachronistic and against the spirit of the Not Too Young to Run Act.
Your appointment is reminiscent of mine as Corps Marshal in 2007 when I was35 years. The difference with yours is that you came from within the organisation. The first challenge you will face as a young man is the difficulty your direct reports who are older and more experienced than you will have taking orders from you. They will pledge their loyalty, laugh with you but will be bitter and rightly so. Those who publicly try to belittle you or want to be the leaders of the opposition to you should be quickly excused from the organisation through transfer of service or termination if necessary. Do not try to convince or manage them. It won’t work.
They will try to do two things. First, expose you to public ridicule as an intemperate and inexperienced young man by pushing you to make rash decisions. If that does not work, they will try to show you ineffectual, incapable of taking decisions, and always waiting for the Attorney-General to direct or run to him for cover. You can avoid both by establishing a universe of principles that guide you. Still sleep over decisions. Learn to use weekly management meetings to get free advice and guidance on issues you are not conversant with. Don’t be shy to ask questions. I always ask my staff, “What should I say?” before I appear on any media or official function. You are the leader, not omniscient.
You are now Chief Executive. Past interactions and friendships should not cloud your actions. They may try to blackmail you. Don’t give in. Abdulrasheed the investigator is not the same as Abdulrasheed the Chairman. Always remember that and make it clear to your colleagues. A new Sherriff is in town.
Quickly set up a team to review the commission’s mission and the journey so far and develop a corporate road map for the future. If such a document already exists, the team should review it. Hire a world-class consultancy firm to guide the review and choose three countries you admire or those rated highly in preventing corruption and use them as your benchmark.
Continually benchmark your work. My mantra of Measure, Monitor, Improve is recommended. Relentlessly measure and monitor. Quantify always, as our culture is not a numerate one and our public service is weak in data collection and analysis. Train a small team to do that.
Do keep a diary. You will need it. I kept a diary but was not religious in updating it to my regret. President Reagan kept a diary daily for his eight years as President, so there is no excuse. Keep a copy of all the approvals you grant, and important circulars. Nigeria’s ruling and media elite are vicious. Be ready to defend yourself.
Dimension your time to 48 months. That way, you will realise that every four months is 10% of your time, and you need to work to achieve your road map within your first term debarring any changes. Time is your enemy. Don’t spend time celebrating. Don’t stand still while you are waiting for the roadmap. Move on to the tactical issues confronting you.
As a staff, you know all the murmuring of the junior and senior officers. Usually, they include the backlog of unpaid transfer allowances, late promotion, punitive postings and exclusion of other ethnic groups from core operational functions. Deal with them. You are too young to be burdened by the fault lines of a dying order. Successful organisations are inclusive, goal-oriented, merit-driven, and anchored on fairness.
Create opportunities to interact with staff. Invite them randomly to eat with you or travel with you so you can remain grounded. its lonely upstairs, especially if you are young.
Create a safe place for the female staff of your organisation. It is an issue. Please encourage them to speak out against abuse and gender discrimination. Remove all rules that discriminate against women and entrust them with operational roles. I believe you are disciplined don’t fall for their feminine wiles. Keep clear.
On the job, you have a decision to make, and history will guide you. How do you want to be remembered? I think you have an advantage of age, ICT knowledge, global training and on the job experience. I think you should embrace technology and work on digitising the commission you promised during your Senate clearance. Purge the commission of the police analogue and brute force mentality. Technology will make your investigating team productive and help in preventing corruption.
Do not be frightened by the plight of your predecessors. Be bold. Be guided by facts and data. Don’t make media show when you have no evidence. Strike like the MET police or the Singapore Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, not the past Chairman’s unintelligent media posturing. Good investigating agencies don’t arrest people and start looking for evidence. Combine the boldness of Nuhu Ribadu and the meticulousness of DIG Lamorde as your guide.
Finally, the powers that be will use you. Be smart about how you go about it. Fairness is important. Use them too to get funding and support for your agency. Anchor your work with global institutions so you can use them as an excuse to ward off undue influence. The last for me: truly fight corruption. The war against corruption needs a sociological and philosophical underpinning. Lead that conversation.
Corruption is at the root of the state failure staring us on the face. We have to re-establish a fair compensation system; otherwise, the excluded will continue to seek ways to equalise those with unfair access to state resources. We must fight corruption.
Fight without fear or favour. Kick big and small men hard; you have enough time to make peace afterwards. It is better Nigerians fear than love you. Our love is worth nothing if you are judged incompetent.
*Dr. Chidoka was Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)