Friday, 3 June 2011

Positive Thinkers

Igali as Chief of Staff:
Jonathan ’s positive change
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan
has, in the past, been accused (by
me and many other
commentators) of hiring people
who are incompetent and/or
unpleasant to fill important
positions. But I don’t know
ANYONE who is complaining
about his recent decision to
make Ambassador Godknows
Igali his Chief Of Staff.
Igali, a former Ambassador to
Sweden and former Permanent
Secretary, is a seasoned, polished
and highly intelligent public
servant.
But I’m not applauding his
appointment purely on the basis
that he has a big brain, relevant
experience and an impressive CV
because Nigeria is full of people
who have big brains, relevant
experience and impressive CVs.
Igali’s solid academic
qualifications and appropriate
career credentials are, therefore,
not what make him special.
The thing that makes Igali stand
out from the crowd of senior
personnel who populate the
corridors of power is his
excellent character.
He is widely acknowledged as
one of the most outstandingly
decent men to emerge from the
Niger Delta. He is loyal to his
roots but detribalised, pragmatic
but principled, humble but self-
confident, creative but down to
earth, relaxed but rigorous and
strong but compassionate.
Furthermore, he somehow
manages to combine a
wonderful sense of humour with
immense seriousness.
Igali’s presence in the Villa will
greatly enhance Mr. President’s
image and effectiveness. And I
salute the Commander-in-Chief
for having the foresight to
recruit such a safe pair of hands.
With Igali at his side, he can sleep
soundly.
Last but not least!
Kudos to Dame Aleruchi Cookey-
Gam JP, a onetime SSG and
Attorney General of Rivers State
who is currently the
Administrator of the Greater Port
Harcourt City Development
Authority…for receiving the title
of Ibifriwangibo (Achiever) from
His Royal Majesty, the Amayanabo
of Opobo Kingdom.
Dame Cookey-Gam (an Ikwerre
native) is linked to Opobo via her
late husband, Architect Roland
Cookey-Gam. And the thing that
strikes me most forcibly about
her in-laws ’ eagerness to honour
her is that it is unusual.
Since many Nigerian women are
despised by their husbands ’
people, no matter how successful
they are (and Dame Cookey-Gam
is a consummate professional), I
think it is fair to say that she
must have been an exceptionally
good wife, mother and friend to
the people whose son and
brother she married.
So bravo to her…and also to my
darling sister, Lela, who turned
50 last weekend and has so
often been the shoulder I cry on,
the staunch supporter who
dashes me cash when I am
broke and the cement that holds
our family together.
While Mr President and various
governors were being
inaugurated in Nigeria, I was in
London celebrating this
landmark birthday with Lela.
And the reason I’m in such a
sunny frame of mind at the
moment is that we had an
absolute ball at a party that can
only be described as fantastically
uplifting. And I hope that you will
all join me in praying that my
kind, clever sibling lives another
50 years.
A shining example
A girlfriend who works for the
Nigerian Maritime Administration
and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has
nothing but praise for her new
Director-General, Mr Ziakede
Patrick Akpobolokemi, and has
just told me a nice story about
him.
Apparently, Akpobolokemi
recently decided to go overseas
for a short training programme.
So his staff organised estacode
(a foreign exchange allowance
that government officials get to
cover costs like hotel bills while
they are abroad).
But the trip had to be cancelled
at the last minute because the
foreign embassy to which
Akpobolokemi had applied for a
visa did not deliver the visa on
time.
Most Naija VIPs would’ve hung
onto the money. And nobody
would have batted an eyelid if
Akpobolokemi had done so. But,
much to everyone ’s amazement,
he insisted on returning the
estacode, which amounted to
thousands of dollars.
We definitely need more men like
him in the system. But Nigeria
has a way of frustrating those
who possess integrity; and I
hope that corrupt elements do
not begin to regard his laudable
honesty as a threat.
A welcome rapprochement
I WOULD like to commend my
Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, for
finally making peace with his
former mentors, Dr Peter Odili
and Justice Mary Odili.
Amaechi spent a large chunk of
his formative years as a member
of the Odili household and was
treated like an adored son and
trusted political heir until a bitter
difference of opinion pushed
them into different camps.
Because of this rancorous rift
and the dramatic legal tussle that
ensued, Amaechi ’s de facto
parents were not there when he
was eventually sworn in as
governor in October 2007. And it
saddened me that they did not
witness his first moment of glory
at close quarters and with proud,
joyful hearts.
Some Rivers people hate Odili
with a burning passion and
angrily told me off whenever I
expressed the view that Amaechi
should, as the younger person,
do everything possible to patch
up this quarrel. And some of
these detractors constantly
urged him to completely forget
about the predecessor he once
loved.
But I can be very sentimental.
Whatever Odili ’s faults may be, he
and his family were very good to
Amaechi for a very long time. And
I ’ve always felt that the tensions
that have kept them apart in
recent years could never be as
significant as the emotional
bonds that kept them together
for a couple of decades.
I like to think of their
longstanding closeness as an
ocean …and of their dispute as a
mere drop in this ocean. And I
was pleased when I heard that
Amaechi had resolved this issue
and that the Odilis were there
during his second moment of
glory …when he was sworn in to
serve a another gubernatorial
term last Sunday.
Congrats to Amaechi for having
the maturity and generosity of
spirit to get over this hurdle.
Congrats also to the few people
around Amaechi – Nyesom Wike,
his Chief of Staff, for example –
who did not maliciously pour fuel
on the fire when hostilities were
raging because they realised that
our state would be a happier
place if folks who had once been
friends could become friends
again.
As for those who are not part of
this reconciliation and feel
betrayed because they stood by
Odili when he and Amaechi were
on bad terms: I am begging
them to please forgive and forget
and look forwards rather than
backwards.
This, by the way, is an
appropriate time to hail Amaechi
and Justice Mary Odili for their
recent elevations to the
Chairmanship of the Nigerian
Governors ’ Forum and Supreme
Court. I am sure that they will
both perform magnificently.

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