April 12, 2024

Copy as well as praise! By Donu Kogbara

Copy as well as praise! By Donu Kogbara

When Herbert Wigwe, the former CEO of Access Bank, died in February in a plane crash, several VIPs lavished tributes on him as they indulged in public outpourings of grief.

Herbert was indeed a colossus who deserved to be eulogised. His outstanding professional achievement aside, he launched so many laudable philanthropic initiatives and helped so many people.

But the jewel in his crown was Wigwe University, which he founded in his village – Isiokpo – in Rivers State – in the hope of providing Nigeria with a new tertiary institution that would be world-class but considerably less expensive than its foreign counterparts.

Herbert was an international, widely travelled cosmopolite; but he also had a strong, down-to-earth Local Boy streak as well as a deep emotional connection to grassroots elements in his ancestral terrain. And his brethren were so profoundly touched by his sincerity, his determination to put Isiokpo on the map and the fact that he was generating employment and business opportunities for its inhabitants that they protectively rallied around him and ensured that not one bag of cement was stolen during the construction phase. Even notorious troublemakers behaved themselves.

Anyone who has tried to build anything in a Nigerian community will know that it is almost unheard of for habitual thieves to allow any project to go so smoothly!

Someone reminded me yesterday that Wigwe University will soon – in September – receive its first batch of students; and this information triggered off memories of my late father, Ignatius Suage Kogbara…an intellectual gentleman with a charitable spirit who would have loved to do what Herbert has done for his people.

Daddy did the best he could for suffering natives of Bodo, our Ogoni village. And his wife and children often did without luxuries so he could help have nots get educations, medical treatment or whatever. But he never had the funds to go as far as he wanted to go.

Many of Herbert’s most vocal fans in the corridors of private- and public-sector power are stinking rich. But how many of them have done even one tenth of what Herbert did for the disadvantaged?

Hardly any! Truth be told, many of them are hypocrites because they shower praise on Herbert for being kind-hearted but are themselves famed for being extremely selfish and stingy!

On reflection, generosity is a state of mind and nothing to do with the size of your bank balance.

One of the Nigerian dignitaries who has bailed me out over the years – whenever I’ve been in a fix and struggling to pay my rent or whatever – was the governor of a state that had almost no money.

He is a True Humanitarian; and I will always include him, his lovely wife and their offspring and entire family in my prayers.

Naija billionaires should please take a leaf out of Herbert’s book and copy him instead of just singing his praises!

Avoidable tragedies: No lessons learnt, no sanctions

My uncle, Jonas Odocha, sent me this thought-provoking lament and I think I should share it with Vanguard readers:

Our environment is finite, and this is why concerted efforts are put in place globally to protect it. Environmental degradation has direct consequences on sustainable development, as evident in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, caused by petroleum industry activities. As I was reviewing lecture series with some Petroleum Geology undergraduates, the issue of oil spillage with its consequences on the environment was a prime topic. I ran through for them the key factors responsible for oil spillages in the Niger Delta, namely: Equipment Failure, Human Error, Sabotage and Theft; which led to more curiosity. “What is the best way to handle a spillage?” I simply told them that the best way to handle an oil spillage is to avoid it.

I have deliberately used the above preamble to illustrate that there are certain events or occurrences that are better avoided than allowed to happen. The most critical is one that might lead to the loss of human life, because of its finality. It is indeed a sad commentary on our capacity to plan that we have continually lost precious lives in attempts to assemble human beings for one thing or the other. You will recall that during a church programme to distribute some food items in Port Harcourt a couple of years ago, lives were lost as stampedes occurred. In Abuja, as the Immigration was carrying out a recruitment exercise involving the distribution of forms, lives were lost from stampede. In Lagos, as the Customs was selling cheap bags of rice to interested individuals, human lives were lost. Recently, in Nasarawa State University, as the government was making available bags of rice to students, lives were also lost from stampede. All these are as a result of our incapacity to manage large numbers. This reinforces the management dictum that: YOU CANNOT MANAGE WHAT YOU FAIL TO MEASURE.

As our prayers and thoughts reach out to the bereaved families, we must begin to wonder why we are not learning from any of these tragedies. Is it as a result of mental laziness, debarring us from planning properly before embarking on these worthy exercises or that we are unmindful of the consequences of crowd or mob action? But I believe that when we consider the numbers of people that may be involved, the quantity of materials that we have, coupled with the venue for such events, these tragedies may not occur or at worst reduced to the barest minimum. The Nasarawa University tragedy is most inexplicable, considering the quality of people there in that environment, and knowing that there are faculties, departments or even hostels that can be organised for such massive distribution of scarce food items.

It is really gravely sad that in all these tragic events where human dignity was debased and human lives lost, there are no sanctions as a deterrent. This is why these ugly irreversible tragedies have continued to recur. No resignations and no firing of culpable individuals responsible for these lapses. This translates to compromised leadership. Let us remember that in management, job functions come with levels of authority and responsibility. YOU CAN DELEGATE AUTHORITY, BUT YOU CANNOT DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY. Period.


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