Obazee, a sack long overdue

Obazee, a sack long overdue

The sack the other day of Mr. Jim Obazee, former Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), and the dissolution of the Council’s Board, shows three glaring anomalies in the system: indiscipline, pursuit of private agenda and government’s reluctance to wield the big stick.

Gross insubordination, and disobedience to lawful directive are said to be the unenviable hallmark of the civil/public service in Nigeria. This decadence is attributable to the manner rather than the method of recruitment into the service. Quite often, method is circumvented, and rules are bent based on extraneous considerations, such as filial, tribal, sectional or group connections.

Thus, using this matrix to fill most available vacancies even before they are advertised (if at all) breeds indiscipline in the system, as there is a “godfather/godmother” somewhere to intervene and protect the recalcitrant official. Only officials without such nepotistic backers get punished for any infraction, by visiting on them the provisions of the General Order (GO) that guide the service.

So, when there are no proper checks or the rules are not evenly applied, those entrusted with authority tend to use the positions they occupy to advance personal agenda or fight their battles, as reported revelations seem to suggest in the case of Mr. Obazee and the implementation of the Corporate Governance Code in the FRCN.

Government, in its desire to ensure transparency in the governance of organisations, including Not-for-profit-organisations (NFPOs), established the Code in 2015, but to take effect from October 17, 2016. Under the rule, a Founder or Leader of an NPFO “should not take on too many responsibilities in the organisation or have an indefinite term in the running of the organisation.”

Hence, a Founder or Leader of an NFPO should not occupy the three governance positions of Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees, the Governing Board or Council, and the Headship of the Executive Management (or their governance equivalents), so as “to ensure the separation of powers and avoid possible concentration of powers in one individual.” Likewise, a Founder or Leader of such an organisation should not exceed a term of office of 20 years, and thereafter hand over power to somebody outside of their family.

However, the Pentecostal churches and other NPFOs, which saw the government policy as specifically directed at interfering in the running of their affairs, took out a writ in court against the government. The latter eventually suspended the take off of the code, to allow for more consultations on the way forward.

But rather than leaving fallow the law, Mr. Obazee, perhaps in advancing his own agenda, reportedly flouted several directives, including that of the supervisory Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, to suspend action on the policy’s implementation. He was quoted as insisting that only an official gazette would stop his action, which Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye cited as necessitating his resignation as the General Overseer (GO) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Nigeria.

Save for government’s last minute intervention, other heavyweight leaders and founders in the Pentecostal or other religious community would have thrown in the towel, and add to the consternation, condemnation and huge embarrassment that attended Pastor Adeboye’s example.

Most times, government is slow to taking action, as indicated in the Obazee case. Had Pastor Adeboye not resigned his headship of the Nigerian arm of the church, on the back of inducement from the application of the provisions of the CGC, Mr. Obazee would have retained his seat today, and continue perfecting his strategies on how to fight his personal battles.

Mr. Obazee, once a zonal pastor in the RCCG, reportedly had some beef with Pastor Adeboye over allegations of breaches to the rules governing the church. According to Pastor Segun Adegbiji, head of the church’s Media and Public Relations, Obazee refused to honour Pastor Adeboye’s summons to answer to the alleged infractions.

“When the General Overseer noticed some infractions and sent for the then zonal pastor, he (Obazee) immediately replied that he was in his office and (that) if Pastor Adeboye really wanted to see him, he knew where to reach him,” Pastor Adegbiji told reporters last week.

He added that Mr. Obazee vowed to remove the General Overseer from the exalted position – a threat that could be interpreted as quickening Pastor Adeboye’s action “in order to avoid being officially removed on the instigation of a former zonal pastor under him,” said a member of the RCCG, in reaction to the developing event.

As stated above, faulty recruitment process breeds indiscipline in the system. For example, how was Mr. Obazee recruited for the position of Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the FRCN? Was the position advertised, and he came tops at the interview? What influence did the RCCG played in his selection, in anticipation of possibly representing well the interest of the church? Was there adequate background checks on Mr. Obazee, such that would have unearthed a simmering feud between him and Pastor Adeboye, as reportedly revealed by the church?

Government is harbouring many Obazees, who scheme daily in pursuit of private and narrow interests, not minding the implication of their actions to the system that propped them up. It’s about time government fished them out, and wield the big stick, to stop the next fire that may be more intense than the one set off by the alleged Obazee fiasco.

Official response to the instant case, though belated, was the right one. It should be prompt and quicker the next time.

 

Ehichioya Ezomon

 

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