I’m sure this topic needs no introduction to Nigerian bloggers and netizens. For the uninitiated, “My Oga at the top” is a mantra that arose from a TV interview with an area head of a Nigerian security agency – the NSCDC (Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps). Due to reports of employment scams going on at this agency, Channels TV interviewed Mr. Shem Obafaiye, the Lagos commandant of the agency. In an attempt to understand the official employment route of the agency, Mr. Obafaiye was asked to clarify the agency’s website…and the rest is history. Commentators across the country were appalled that Mr. Obafaiye did not know his agency’s web address or basic web protocol (ww…that’s all).
The commandant’s body language, response to questions and weak attempts at deflecting the simplest of questions by deferring to an imaginary “oga at the top” was, to say the least, an embarrassment to his agency. The shock and comic value of this interview has made it go viral, with several variants like music, comedy skits, full-length interview and all sorts of parodies on YouTube, averaging 60,000 hits.
What is the NSCDC?
NSCDC is a para-military agency of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is commissioned to provide measures against threat and any form of attack or disaster against the nation and its citizenry (sic). Their website (the real one) also shows that they are engaged in peace keeping missions abroad, they respond to national emergencies, etc. Why do we have the military, police and the fire fighting services? In my opinion, this is another duplicate agency offering no additional value but creating an administrative and financial drain on our annual budget.
So what has happened since this earthquake?
Vanguard newspapers reported that the NSCDC leadership, in the wake of this TV interview, suspended Mr. Obafaiye. There are also unconfirmed reports that his wife was at Channels TV office to protest her husband’s embarrassment by the TV station. The real question here is how many government officials even understand the concept of a website? What kind of people development is going on in our public sector if someone can rise to the rank of Commandant of such an agency and is incapable of representing his organization in public? I have heard folks come out to criticize Channels TV for deliberately exposing Mr. Obafaiye’s ignorance. Some have even gone on to say other officials may not be open to doing interviews on Channels TV. I think Channels TV was in order. They were doing their job as a media organization. Now it is confirmed to everyone, even the ostriching Ogas at the top all over government that we have a legion of yesterday’s men running today’s affairs. I would like to see our president and ministers start up a laptop and open a simple yahoo email account without looking at a cheat sheet. To all those who think our politicians have been the ones updating their Facebook statuses. I naff in Agbaro dialect.
The state of our public service
I have been to several diverse government offices to conduct municipal business. With each one I visited, I came away with almost the same feeling of pity for the folks growing through these systems and annoyance at politicians for the slow process of reform. Lagos state and Abuja are the only civil service offices that I’ve visited that showed a purposeful drive to modernize. In some cases Lagos has even comparable systems to the organized private sector. The quality of their personnel, management systems and office environment is way above others. My experience at the Ogun state judiciary is another story altogether. The courtrooms were unkempt and had an unprofessional air about them…this even with the magistrates being given brand new jeeps as official cars. The record keeping was so poor that the file for my case was misplaced and this delayed us for another two months! Also all the record keeping of proceedings was done on a hard cover notebook in hand writing. No functional computer was in sight, talk-less of a system.
Courtroom in Ogun state…shhh…(she’s sleeping)
My Oga at the top should be a national wake up call for those saddled with the task of modernizing our public service. If the commandant was truly punished, it was a wrong move. The logical next step is to take a cursory look at systems in place in our bureaucracy and strengthen how people are developed through the ranks. This is not just about the commandant. The rot is system wide in our public service. But yes, Mr. Commandant proved to be out of his league at the top of any National Agency. But that is the Nigerian standard. Sadly.