Vanguard (Lagos)

13 February 2013

Nigeria: Keshi's Path of Honour

The consternation that greeted news of the resignation of Stephen Keshi as the national football manager was unprecedented. From the point of adulation as a national hero Keshi turned into a villain for many who believed he had overreached himself.

The shock and disbelief is upon the fact that resignation from office is a strange practise in this country especially among public office holders. Public officers caught in acts of impropriety, embezzlement of public funds or the misappropriation of the public goodwill simply see it as nothing.

So it turned into a scandal for many that Keshi, the first indigenous coach in the country to win the continental AFCON cup should harass the imagination of the citizenry with a resignation.

Many who have flayed him, however, did not bother to prospect the conditions under which he worked and the running multi-billion naira scandal that has been the story of our national sports.

It was reported that the national coach was owed months in arrears of his salary, his official car not provided and he was generally disregarded.

Besides Keshi, only a few other Nigerians have showed similar streaks at the point of accomplishment. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, remarkably from the same section of Delta State as Keshi, also tendered her letter of resignation from the Obasanjo administration in 2006.

Okonjo-Iweala had used her contacts in the international finance circuit to win a remarkable debt forgiveness of $18 billion for the country. She was abroad sometime in August 2006 negotiating the details of the write-off when she was removed as chairman of the country's Economic Management Team. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala who had earlier been removed from her area of core competence in finance and reassigned to foreign affairs, did not blink an eyelid in tendering her resignation from the cabinet. Though many saw her removal as one of the collateral damages that followed the former president's bellyaching over third term, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala with her head up left the cabinet on her own. Her action inevitably opened the way for her to be considered for the landmark position of Managing Director of the World Bank.

After her, Mr. Remi Babalola who was appointed Minister of State, Finance from his position as executive director in First Bank was another person who resigned from the cabinet with his head high up.

Mr. Babalola was generally acclaimed to have performed excellently at Finance, a development that gave him the opportunity to act as supervising minister of the Federal Capital Territory when a vacancy in that office arose.

Given the high stakes involved in that office, Mr. Babalola it is claimed, refused to allow himself to be used as an agent provocateur in the intrigues that brewed between elements of the Yar'Adua clan and Nasir el-Rufai, and as such attracted to himself the badge of disloyalty. At the advent of the Goodluck Jonathan era, Mr. Babalola caused a stir when he said what everyone now knows to be true; that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC was becoming insolvent.

His assertion attracted denunciations from fellow cabinet members and the NNPC which today is looking for a $1.5 billion loan to pay its debts! Babalola who was reportedly nominated to the cabinet by Ibadan based billionaire, Alao Arisekola was then demoted to the Special Duties portfolio, and that, despite his finance background.

Once he got his new posting, he went on leave and from there left the cabinet. Such professionals like Babalola, Keshi and Okonjo-Iweala who do not pander to the whims and caprices of the man on the throne are few these days. Indeed, there are few men out there who stand on their convictions. The conviction of many of such 'radicals' now in government cannot stand the test of money. It is a pity. They would rather sink and soil themselves in office than take the honourable path.

It is gladdening that Keshi upon persuasions from high quarters withdrew his resignation, but he has acted and done well.

Those officials who reportedly paid themselves allowances without doing same to the players and officials should resign. Would they?

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