Sweet and Sour

December 31, 2021

Role models

Don’t be deceived!

Donu Kogbara

THIS has, to put it mildly, not been a good year for Nigeria or the world. Here, we have had to contend with massive insecurity – banditry, kidnapping, etc – and endless economic traumas. Globally, COVID has turned millions into nervous wrecks and deprived many people of their lives, homes, businesses and jobs.

But clouds do sometimes have silver linings, and I’d like to highly commend impressive role models like the Emir of Bauchi.

Someone sent me a video of His Royal Majesty cheerfully singing “Jesus is coming soon” with Christians who live in his domain. Since he is a premier league Muslim, he was clearly doing it purely to set their minds at rest and make them feel loved. Tears came to my eyes. What a wonderful man. He personifies true nobility and grace.

If only all Nigerians could be like him…unbigoted, kind, civilised and relaxed about religious and cultural differences that are, after all, caused by nothing more momentuous than accidents of birth.


Bus conductor at Gboko Motor Park

Another role model worth mentioning today, as we end an old year and enter a new one, is Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.

Ortom was a bus conductor at Gboko Motor Park in the l970s and ’80s, and he decided, to host a Christmas gathering for his one-time boss, a driver called Mnenge Mtemave. Mr Mtemave’s friends and colleagues were also invited. And the Governor did him proud.

He praised Mr Mtemave for giving him a break, trusting him with money, treating him well and teaching him how to drive. He reminded all and sundry of his humble beginnings (he was a primary school dropout at the time) and urged his audience to never despise less than stellar origins, focus on service to God and seek formal education, even in old age.

Then he lavished gifts on Mtemave and his guests – a Hilux van, livestock, provisions and cash. Mtemave was also promised support for any commercial activity he may choose to embrace in future.

Many once impoverished VIPs struggle to forget where they came from…and strut around like emperors, lording it over everyone else, expressing contempt for the poor and powerless…and talking pretensious trash – for example, insisting that their palates can only cope with the most expensive champagne on the planet.

One can only admire a man who has the self-confidence, integrity and compassion to respect his background, respect those who haven’t been as lucky as himself and thank those who helped him. Bravo to Governor Ortom for making Mr Mtemave’s day.

Until now, all I knew about him was that he is a fierce firebrand who frequently fights for the rights of persecuted Northern Christians. Now I know that he can also be a warm-hearted jolly good fellow.

According to The Africa Report Magazine: ‘In a change of gear from the Trump administration, the team that President Biden has assembled to guide policy, security and economic relations with the continent have many decades of cumulative experience in Africa.

The US administration has made it clear that Africa will be at the forefront of US foreign policy, along with a focus on democracy around the world. As President Biden stated on the International Day of Democracy: “No democracy is perfect, and no democracy is ever final. Every gain made, every barrier broken, is the result of determined, unceasing work.”’

Some of his key officials – Chidi Blyden, Enoh Ebong and Akunna Cook – are Nigerian-Americans. And all have great CVs. Take Cook for example. She is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern Africa.

Cook is another top Africa policy official with deep personal ties to the continent. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she returned to the State Department in March after an almost 10-year detour into the private sector, practising law and as the founder and principal of Drake Road Strategies, advising on public policy.

Her previous experience with the Africa bureau includes stints as the desk officer for Ghana, Togo and Benin and at the US embassy in Pretoria. In her new role, Cook is also expected to help promote trade, investment, climate, health, democracy and human rights.

She has been boosting US health diplomacy by showing the US commitment to sharing COVID-19 vaccines. “We know that we cannot end this pandemic anywhere until we’ve ended it everywhere,” Cook told journalists. She has been critical of Nigeria’s moves to ban Twitter and China’s lending practices in Africa.

The interesting thing about these international Naija role models is that if they were here, they would probably be floundering or simply achieving much less. I have long believed that it is much easier for honest, talented Nigerians to shine in America, despite the racism than it is for them to shine on their home turf.

In Nigeria, institutional corruption, ineptitude and bad belle often hold brilliant professionals back. It is therefore hardly surprising that so many of our brightest and best are queuing up to escape to the US, UK, Canada et cetera. Shame on our authorities for allowing this brain drain to continue! I pray that 2022 is better than all previous years for all of us. But I am not holding my breath.

Vanguard News Nigeria