Tunde Fagbenle: Those who should be in Buhari’s team

by Tunde Fagbenle

But the job is not just retired Major General Buhari’s alone. He faces a herculean task of successfully navigating between the treacherous sea of politics, the quagmire of countervailing interests and the quiet, narrow stream of trustworthy technocrats. It is not going to be an easy job

The country is in an upbeat mood,full of hope and expectation that President-elect Muhammadu Buhari would turn the country around: from the precipice of systemic and economic collapse it finds itself, into a country that reinvents itself, rediscovers its lost moral values, and is galvanised into modernity.

But the job is not just retired Major General Buhari’s alone. He faces a herculean task of successfully navigating between the treacherous sea of politics, the quagmire of countervailing interests and the quiet, narrow stream of trustworthy technocrats. It is not going to be an easy job

The country is, in the words of retired colonel Dangiwa Umar, rotten through and through. Moreover, fear and distrust reign and the people will be impatient for the ‘change’ they have voted for. There also will be those who will actively be working to undermine the new government. They will be there everywhere – in the media, in the ivory towers, in the civil service, in the armed forces, in business circles, alas, in the government itself.

If I were Buhari, I would put out a search for 100 men and women of proven integrity and performance in virtually all spheres – education, health, culture, sports, agriculture, power, technology, etc. – technocrats to form my A-team of modernisers, people who share in the dream to salvage Nigeria and turn the country into the land of prosperity and modernity. They will be folk to whom material acquisition means nothing, but honour and humanity everything. They will be members of his “think tank” to formulate policies and oversee adherence to them.

Way back in this column of February 15, 2012, wondering, I rhetorically called for a list of “100 Nigerians to save Nigeria.” Men and women of proven integrity, intellect, dedication to duty and patriotism “who can be trusted to turn a new Nigeria around, in values, in vision, and in development;” a list to take to God, of men and women of such “redeeming value” enough for God to grant Nigeria a second chance.

The column kick-started the search with its own suggested list of 14 that included, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nuhu Ribadu, Nasir el-Rufai, Babatunde Fashola, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Prof. Bolaji Aluko, Adams Oshiomhole, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Col. Dangiwa Umar (retd.), Prof. Attahiru Jega, Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Dr. Obiageli Ezewesili.

By the following week, some of the names, particularly Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, were already shot down in a barrage of responses from readers, whilst some other names came up. One Dr. Yinka Ologunsua remarked: “There are several honest, God-fearing, hard working men/women who are not in the limelight; some diligent professionals and artisans, they give themselves for the joy of others. Only God can reward them.” Names of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Gen. Ishola Williams, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, Fr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Prof. Femi Bamiro, Prof. Kayode Oyesiku, Frank Kokori, Prof. Fidelis Oditah, Odia Ofeimun, Prof. Sayed Malik, etc, were mentioned.

One name stood out, both in repetition and in eulogy. It was that of Prof. Roger Makanjuola! So much, the column of 02/09/12 was devoted to readers’ effusion on him.

One by Prof. Kayode Oguntuase read: “Dear Tunde, Thank you for showcasing Roger Makanjuola’s leadership style: Unique, extraordinarily simple, but didactic. Reminiscent of Sofoluwe’s (the late University of Lagos VC) but that’s hardly surprising since both were Edinburgh graduates! Only shows the attention we must pay to the “School as an Institution”, for many a man they make.”

Dr. Peter Olaluwoye of OAUTHC added: He (Roger) is a phenomenon, very un-Nigerian and in a class of his own. His kind is a rarity in this clime. It is sad, my generation may not witness such at the national level as we have a propensity for mass producing swindlers and rogues and decorating them with national awards. Maybe it is our own lot that the beautiful ones are either not yet born or some have come ahead of their times, like Roger.”

While we are at it, I would, even at the risk of being accused of nepotism, and violating my rule of distancing self from the exercise, make bold to include my own elder brother, ‘Layi Fagbenle, in the list. A distinguished professor of mechanical engineering, those who have passed through his hands, nationally and internationally, would attest to the quality of his mind, personal integrity, and commitment to the development of Nigeria.

A professor at UI once told me of how in Botswana the laughing talk amidst academic colleagues is of a Nigerian who was responsible for that country’s stable power whilst his own country suffered. That was he, Prof. Fagbenle, for five years or more in the 90s (under a UN programme) the Director of Energy of Botswana (and Southern Africa overview).

May God lead Muhammadu Buhari aright

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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