THE mission of the Information Minister Labaran Maku-led National Good Governance Tour is not only to see and report to Nigerians the concrete projects on ground that have either been completed or are on-going, the initiative is also to highlight or draw attention to even innovative idea or approach to governance that exemplifies good governance.
I am happy to announce that in the course of the on-going nation-wide projects inspection tour, which began in the FCT on September 20, we have come across so early in the day one very good example of a Nigerian public officer who can be announced as the poster person of this administration. That man is Dr. John Ade Abolurin, Commandant-General of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Abolurin epitomises frugality, focus, patriotism, sense of mission and above all, honesty and prudence in the management of public funds. This man deserves to be promoted as an exemplary public officer because his conduct and approach to governance are sufficiently impressive enough and therefore worthy of recommendation to others.
On the very first day of the tour, the team visited the Civil Defence Academy in Sauka near the Nnamdi Azikiiwe International Airport. The Academy, as the name suggests, is meant for the training of recruits into the Corps. When Abolurin disclosed that all the structures on ground in the Academy were built with a ‘paltry’ sum of N1.5 billion, there was a spontaneous outbreak of praise for him among the journalists, civil society representatives and other stakeholders who constitute membership of the team. These segments of society who are usually very critical, cynical and stingy with praise could not help themselves but poured a lot of generous words on Abolurin, describing him as one of the very few honest and prudent public officers that can be found in the country and that if other public officers were like him this nation would have moved forward.
It is only the television medium that can effectively capture for those who have not gone to Sauka to see for themselves what Abolurin has done with the sum of N1.5 billion. What is on ground in Sauka needs to be seen to be believed and appreciated. In a country where in spite of the existence of the Bureau for Public Procurement, many public projects are still executed at about 1,000 times the cost in neighbouring countries, what is in Sauka is truly a pleasant surprise. It is known all over the world that Nigeria is the most lucrative market for construction jobs. We got this dubious reputation because of the inglorious practice of padding the cost of execution of projects so high in order to feed corruption.
But in Sauka, Abolurin has been able to build male and female hostels, an auditorium, fish pond, dog training facilities, tar roads, equip the structures with facilities and do so many other things, all with the sum of N1.5 billion. Journalists and those other hard-to-please members of society on the team remarked that in other agencies, ministries and department of government that sum of money which Abolurin used to do that number of impressive things will not even be enough to build the auditorium which was just one of the many things Abolurin did.
Several years ago the late eminent journalist Dele Giwa said that Nigerians were no longer shockable. So many atrocities are committed in our country but we do not seem moved by them. If it were not so what Abolurin has done in Sauka with N1.5 billion should have provoked a chain of reaction in the highest reaches of government in the country. Many public do-gooders would have come out boldly demanding that a public inquiry be instituted without delay to find out how one chief executive of a public institution could use such an amount to do so much and why it is otherwise in many other MDAs in the country. Abolurin’s good example is a pleasantly rude shock to a people who have become inured against scandalous corruption and the misuse of public funds. His use of 1.5 billion to do all that is visible on ground in Sauka should be a ringing indictment against most public officers in Nigeria who should bury their heads in shame.
Abolurin has confirmed my own personal thesis about Nigeria that if over the past 30 years when corruption grew dangerous horns in our country, we have been consistently applying even 20 per cent of the revenue we have been earning judiciously in development projects, we would have by now become a fairly developed country. But we do not. Our leaders trivialise or tend to devalue our national currency. They talk about a billion Naira as if it was some few miserable hundreds of Naira. You see a few kilometres of tarred road and they tell you several billions have been used to construct it. You see a public building that is worth only a few millions of Naira and the officers who superintended its construction will tell you without any blushing that several billions have been used to construct it. And no one questions such scandalous claims. But Abolurin has exposed the level of thievery in our country by showing that a billion is no small money and that it can do much in the hands of anyone who is honest and is concerned for the public good. What Abolurin has done in Sauka will surely prick the consciences of thousands of lying and thieving officials in Nigeria.
When I shared with a friend of mine Godwin Agim, who is a top shot in the NSCDC, our positive impression of Abolurin, he was more effusive in his praise of his boss. He said for them who are insiders and who know and feel the full extent of the good Abolurin represents, he deserves even greater national applause than he is getting because his hard work, dedication to duty, commitment to his goals, his concern for the well being and welfare of his workers and his prudence in the management of public resources entrusted to his care are exemplary. He said it is these attributes that have made it possible for Abolurin to have taken the NSCDC from ground zero to the height hero that it has become in Nigeria today and have made the NSCDC the preferred destination of many job seekers in our country.
The Abolurin example is a testimony to the fact that if there is honesty and frugality on the part of the leadership of any organisation, so much can be accomplished even with so little. In our country what you hear mostly from public officers is constant complaint about lack or the paucity of funds for them to carry out their projects. Not many have taken to heart the saying by the famous American Black jurist Thurgood Marshall that we should accomplish much with what is available.
But in Nigeria, constant complaints about lack or insufficiency of funds have become a convenient excuse for inaction. The result is the lack of development staring us in the face. It is also the reason we have a museum full of abandoned projects dotted across the country. In Sauka, there are three projects yet to be completed and given the reputation of Abolurin, there will not become abandoned. This speaks of a chief executive whose watchword is meticulous planning and committed execution.
Perhaps, those who are running our system need to be reminded that there is no agency of government anywhere in the world that will have all the money it needs to do all what it wants to do. This is where leadership comes in. This is where planning comes in. This is where prudent management of available funds comes in. This is where commitment to a cause comes in. This is where honesty and selflessness come in.
Abolurin has proven to be a different kind of a Nigerian public officer. I invite any Nigerian who is interested in good governance and especially in seeing what 1. 5 billion can do to visit Sauka and see for himself. The fact there will speak for itself.
Abolurin need not only to be saluted with mere words as I am doing here. I invite President Goodluck Jonathan to proclaim him as an exemplar of a public officer that others should seek to emulate. He should, in addition be conferred with a new national honour to be known as Good Citizen of the Federal Republic whose abbreviation GCFR should be similar to the current national honour reserved for whoever becomes president of the republic whether he performs or not. This other GCFR I am calling to be conferred on Abolurin should become the standard ‘civilian’ version of the award meant for exemplary public officers who are not presidents but have acted in a presidential manner, showing exemplary leadership.
In making this call and in writing this tribute, I am fully aware of the fact that Abolurin can by no means be perfect. After all, he is human and will therefore be guilty of one or two weaknesses deserving of censure. But from what he has done in Sauka and the leadership he has provided for the NSCDC, he is exemplary at least by Nigerian standards. And we need heroes regardless of whatever warts they may have if this sleeping or slumbering giant is to wake up and fulfil its mission.