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  Open Letter To Striking Lecturers

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Recently a number of retired university professors paid a solidarity visit to their ailing colleague who had been bed-ridden for the past eight years. It was a pathetic sight to find a once vibrant professor of engineering lying helpless like a sick baby, home alone. Rather than self-pity or cherish any expression of such from the visiting friends and old colleagues, the professor in a humourous manner, asked that one of us should read aloud the Editorial of The Guardian newspaper on his table.
Part of The Guardian Editorial comment went thus: “Primitive acquisition enabled by massive corruption would seem to be the directive principle of state policy, rather than the welfare of the people as enshrined in chapter 2 of the Nigerian constitution”. That day was Wednesday, July 6, 2022; and the bed-ridden professor was able to add that there are fewer things that weaken the urge to stay alive and fight injustice, than giving into intimidation. According to him” the ready instruments of human degeneration are not health challenges, but giving into blusters and gangsterism”.
While the visitors to an ailing professor refused to use the occasion as a platform to discuss the ASUU strike or politics, the reading from The Guardian Editorial, as well as the professor’s statement remained as issues to think about, as the visitors left. Also the courage and humour of the 84-year-old man became the issues which dominated the conversations of the visitors as they were driving away from the sick man’s home. All his children were in foreign countries, working, and his old wife also ill and living abroad with a daughter.
Without asking too many questions or revealing too many secrets, one of issues of gossip as eight professors were driving away after visiting their sick colleague, was the “lechery charge” that a professor was facing in court that same period. Nobody raised any objection about the suspension of the professor from service until the court case would be discharged or disposed of. What because of a vital concern to the “visiting professors” was the seriously deteriorating image and reputation of the “Ivory Tower” generally, especially in Nigeria.
Therefore, the issue of ASUU strike should be seen as going far beyond monetary benefits, funding of education in Nigeria, or the shenanigans of the negotiations intended to end the strike to tell striking lecturers that “enough is enough” looks like making a travesty of the ASUU case. Similarly, the strategy of “No work, no pay” is an old game that rarely holds any water. The level of degeneration and rot in Nigerian universities can best be appreciated by honest persons who have firsthand knowledge of situations in that sector, not the prattlers who think that they know it all.
While this is not a medium to take sides with ASUU members, patriotism demands that truth must be told, no matter “whose ox is gored”. For reasons that cannot be examined here, the ranks of Nigerian lecturers as well as the solidarity that there used to be among them, have been successfully undermined. Now there are more of “political lecturers” than real “Ivory Tower” lecturers. One group are politicians in lecture rooms, while another group are dyed-in-the-wool academic professionals. Academic autonomy is vital!
From the appointments of Vice-Chancellors, to the phenomenon of cultism in universities, there are more issues that have undermined the pride of Nigerian tertiary institutions, than what the public is aware of. It would take an honest and fraud-free commission of inquiry to be able to get to the roots of the rots in Nigerian universities. Even then, many of those in positions to speak the truth would choose to remain silent rather than give testimonies, for obvious reasons. What can be said in summary is that Nigerian universities are exact mirrow-image of the Nigerian polity. Is the phenomenon of examination malpractices or certificate scandals different from various forms of elections malpractices and other corrupt practices?
When an Australian professor of Zymurgy said that Nigeria is “a nation of contradictions”, it was due to surprises which he encountered with Nigerian students that he had taught and supervised. By the way Zymurgy is the branch of technological chemistry having to do with the brewing of wines and alcoholic drinks. One of the professor’s Nigerian Ph D. students refused to return home, but chose to work in New Zealand because of fear of being called “professor of booze”. One is not sure if there is currently any professor of Zymurgy in Nigeria.
Prior to 2009 when a long-drawn ASUU strike resulted in the signing of an agreement between the lecturers and federal government of Nigeria, the way that the agreement stands currently, speaks much about credibility and sincerity. To describe the 2009 ASUU/Federal Government agreement as controversial or an issue to renege on, does not create a befitting image on a government that should be taken seriously.
Among other shenanigans, that 2009 agreement did, a lot of injustice to many lecturers who retired during that period, especially with its implementation being shifted to 2011. Without going into the details, any fair-minded person would wonder why lecturers who participated in the negotiations which resulted in the 2009 agreement but who retired in 2010, should be denied and deprived of their rights and entitlements. Even if the financial burdens were considered enormous for the government, a right solution would not have involved placing some people at a disadvantage, with no intention to revisit the injustice done.
Besides, there is now a division between lecturers in federal universities and those in state-owned universities. While some students are out of lecture rooms because of ASUU strike, some others in state and private universities are having lectures and writing examinations. Thus university calendar becomes so distorted that nothing commendable can result from such disparities and distortions. Apart from the strike phenomenon causing lecturers and students to find alternative engagements during the period of strike, there are other damage to the Nigerian educational system generally.
To say that children of Nigerian political elite are studying abroad and in private universities, does not account for why there are degenerations in the education sector generally. Lecturers as insider-stakeholders are in a better situation to know where things have gone wrong. Unfortunately, the political will to address the situations holistically is rarely there.

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Max Webber Doctrine

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Far from being a doctrinaire affair, the Max Webber doctrine is a summary of the cream and global best practices in management science. An organisation or a nation succeeds or fails in its goals and objectives, based on the application or non-application of the Webber doctrine of resources management. In the words of Max Webber: “It is God’s will that only industry, not relaxation and pleasure, can magnify His glory. Wasting time is thus the first and fundamentally most serious of all sins”. Available manpower rarely utilised!
A doctrine, prescription or formula, becomes doctrinaire, if it is full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, with regard to addressing the challenges and problems of every-day living. The philosophy of management, summarised in the Webber doctrine, places emphasis on prudent use of resources, of which time counts as vital. To spend time effectively demands not relaxation and pleasure, but industry or self-exertion. Self exertion also demands vigilance and the ability to know what demands priority attention.
A sad flaw in Nigeria’s public sector manifests visibly in what a common man describes as “lack of a maintenance culture”. Do we make timely repaires of ailing or decrepit public facilities or draw up a regular maintenance schedule? Webber doctrine prescribes that managers of public affairs should be co-ordinators rather than dictators; consultants rather than confrontationists. Rather than civility, public servants become pugilists and macho-men.
A sound management and maintenance economy would prescribe taste for good quality and durable standards. What we find common in Nigerian project execution is usually cosmetic adornment which rarely stands the test of time. No one is clever enough to bamboozle everybody all the time, even as a miracle performer. What Webber doctrine calls emotional maintenance prescribes that humans give their best when they are in a state of emotional stability. This comes about when there is justice in public affairs, demonstrated by transparency and accountability.
Sad practice of monopoly and hoarding of power is sharply detested in the Webber doctrine, but rightly recommends the cultivation of team spirit and power sharing. Where the masses have a stake and commitment towards public affairs, available resources can be used judiciously and responsibly. Through voluntary, cost-saving and direct labour strategies, management of public affairs would become a mass movement. Priority attention should be given to security and safety of the masses, rather than a situation where security and safety facilities become the shield and succour of delinquent political elite and power merchants.
Where there are partnership, cooperation and commitment of the masses with regard to security and safety of the nation, criminality would bear the tag of a common enemy of the masses. The public would collaborate with state agencies to see that terrorists and bandits do not take over the country. Neither security nor politics must be allowed to become an all-comers’ affair, hence there must be serious screening and selectiveness of intending candidates.
Webber doctrine warns that in the development of a nation, there comes a critical moment when dabblers and fraudsters seek to take over the polity. Where such project succeeds, a nation so doomed finds it difficult to get out of such plight. The seriousness and sanctity of the management of public affairs, demand that only people of highest integrity should handle a nation’s political offices. Mismanagement of public facilities and abandonment of public projects demand that serious penalties be visited upon those who aid and abet such malfeasance.
Use of local resources and expertise must not only be implemented as a policy, but it must also be applied with strict selectiveness, whereby “quota system” must never over-ride competence and merit. Nigeria cannot move forward where the polity can be over-run by baboons. Undue interferences in professional matters by political influences, or putting square pegs in round holes, are not compatible with the ideals of bureaucracy. Things must be done according to guidelines provided for them, rather than a situation where there are abuses of due process and the rule of law.
Max Webber doctrine encourages use of personal initiatives and discretion, provided there is a process of transparency, accountability and personal responsibility attached thereto. Public officials who frustrate planned projects and programmes arbitrarily should be penalised, while those who make thing work better through personal discretion should be commended and rewarded. What we find common in Nigerian public sector is the killing of personal initiatives and discretion because of envy.
Committed and competent professionals do not become slaves to rules, especially when rules are seen as impediments to efficiency and effectiveness. They would break the rule, get things done better and then stand tall to take responsibility and be accountable. Webber doctrine detests buck-passing or evasion of responsibility, but demands strict monitoring and self-evaluation as regular practices. Rigidity in management is not the same thing as firmness. Rigidity can arise from incompetence and fear, while firmness means sticking to the rules of justice, without fear or favour.
Any nation where incompetence, mediocrity and serious official lapses and misconducts can be condoned, ignored and covered up, is a nation that would install corrupt practices. Part of corrupt practices include the implementation of flamboyant or “white elephant” projects whose priority or value is merely cosmetic, meant to line up private pockets. In reality, politics is a contractual affair which demands public office holders to perform according to public mandate, but also conserve rather than waste and squander public resources, including public confidence.
To procure irrelevant, flamboyant, expensive facilities solely for the comfort and pleasure of public office holders, while the masses languish in hunger and penury, is a gross abuse of public trust. Rather, good political culture encourages self-reliance, industry, effective use of time, resources and leisure, through exemplary leadership that would not pander to ignoble propensities. Nigerian politicians must acquaint themselves with Max Webber doctrine.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Concept Of True Leadership

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There are many aspects to being a great leader.  We believe that every leadership is  defined under only two main categories which are either skills or behavioural. This means that respect, loyalty or trust are not asked for but earned. Suffice it to say that there are no short cuts, for great leaders have integrity and truly value their people.
It is behaviour that differentiates a manager from a leader. “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” – General H. Norman Schwarz. Getting people to “Walk over hot coals for you” is simple but I did not say it was easy. It requires unswerving dedication to the task. It requires truly valuing people as people, not as a commodity. It requires trusting people. It requires empowerment of people. It requires an understanding that if people are stretching themselves they will sometimes make mistakes.
It requires coaching and supporting them to learn from their mistakes. You might be reading this and questioning the validity of what I am saying. True leaders really are in the service of their people. True leaders act with integrity and in doing so they establish trust. True leaders genuinely value their people and in doing so they create loyalty. True leaders are in the business of assisting people realise their full potential and in doing so they inspire excellence. Every one of us is a leader in our own right.
Whether we lead an entire company, or a team of people, or a group of friends, or our families, or just ourselves, we are all leaders in some form or fashion. Whatever size our circle of influence may be today, if we work to improve as leaders, that circle of influence will enlarge.
True leaders know who they are and what they stand for. They know their values and the rules they will abide by, regardless of the circumstances they face. They allow their people to understand the values they are committed to uphold, which lays a foundation for the rules their people will be expected to adhere to.
True leaders both know and communicate their values openly with the people they lead, creating an atmosphere of certainty and trust. True leaders have integrity which is the very core of their influence. Living the values they profess to believe is what gives them credibility and allows others to place their trust in them. They are able to say “do as I do” rather than just “do as I say”, because they lead by example.
They work right alongside the people they lead in order to get to know and care about the people they are leading. Working with people allows leaders to lift and inspire their team, listen without being condescending.
They are willing to hear what others have to say without rushing to judgment. They are patient and genuine in their desire to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people they lead.True leaders are forthright with their people. They communicate openly and often.
True leaders take the time to communicate often to their team in order to show that their team is valued and important to them. They understand that they have an obligation to communicate directly with their people so they never allow a void that someone with mal-intent can fill. True leaders reprimand their people from a place of love and a genuine desire to help them improve.
They reprimand without anger, and they relay feedback in a direct, yet kind and respectful way. Even when they see a bad behaviour needing to be corrected, they do not view the person doing the behaviour as a bad person. They listen and attempt to understand what led to that person making the mistake or exhibiting the bad behavior in order to understand the underlying cause that needs correction.
True leaders understand that when persons  feel valued and cared for by their leader, they will be far more willing to take the feedback and implement the needed changes. They understand that no value comes from the use of sarcasm, beating around the bush, or sugar coating things that need to be communicated. They understand that using those things breaks people’s trust and leaves them feeling uncertain or belittled, which ultimately lead to harbouring bad feelings toward their leader, none of which inspire a desire to change or improve their own behaviour.
True leaders do not control their people, they inspire them to do great things. They give them the values and rules, which set the boundaries to operate within. Then they encourage people to go out and make choices on their own.
True leaders understand that employees cannot grow and progress until they are given the freedom to make choices, to try things, and yes, even to make a few mistakes so they can learn  and improve. Effective communication is important, but it requires more than just a basic oral or written transaction between two people.
Good leaders facilitate genuine conversations, meaningful human -to -human connections and bring people together to work and gain agreement in order to achieve goals. Quite simply, strong leaders walk the walk and talk the talk. In other words, they model the same behaviour they expect from their teams.
It is important for leaders to be aware of their own strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, preferences and other personality traits  because these characteristics have a significant impact on how they behave and interact with others. Leaders with high levels of self-awareness can consciously influence situations and positively affect the people.
Leaders that are not self-aware make decisions and behave in ways that can lead to undesirable or negative consequences. True leaders delegate. They give important and specific tasks to their people that will allow their people to learn and grow in their positions.
Often times it would be far easier for the leader to simply do the task themselves. They could get it done more quickly, effectively, and exactly to their liking. However, true leaders understand that doing so allows no growth for the people they are leading, and therefore they see their greatest role as a delegator and a teacher to the people they lead.
They  are not afraid to make demands from  the people they lead,  understanding  that it is a mistake to be too soft, just as it is a mistake to be too harsh. They have the courage to direct people in the work that needs to get accomplished, expressing their belief in the people’s abilities, delegating duties, and teaching and correcting their people along the way. They help people grow by making reasonable but real demands.
They do not assign people tasks that are beyond their ability, but only assign such tasks that cause people to stretch themselves. They recognise the possibilities of what their team can accomplish and they motivate each person to recognise their potential. True leaders use their time wisely. That does not mean they can not take time for leisure and fun, it simply means they do their best not to waste the time they have.
They are selfless and they work tirelessly to help make their team a success. “True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.”  –Sherry Dew. We all have room to improve as leaders, but our ultimate goal should be the same: To be leaders who are loved, admired, and respected by the people we lead as we motivate and inspire  people to achieve their full potential.

Harry writes from Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Who Is A Patriot?

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The Oxford Dictionary defines a patriot as someone who vigorously supports his country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. A patriot is he, who is interested in the unity, progress and development of the country and will not keep quiet and watch things go wrong in the country. On the other hand, the National Ethics and Integrity Policy refers to patriotism as love of one’s country and willingness to defend it. This means, that one who truly loves the country should be ready to fight or speak up against corruption, tribalism, nepotism, injustice, selfishness, lack of productivity in the public service, marginalisation in the public and private sectors, poor governance and other dysfunctional attitudes of Nigerians, both the leaders and the led, which are destroying the nation.
This topic has become important because of the way the word “patriot” is being branded lately in our society. Some people now regard anyone who criticises the government or the leaders as being unpatriotic. Citizens asking questions of their leaders is interpreted as unpatriotic. You call government’s attention to the on-going industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has kept the students of public universities at home for almost half a year, and someone terms you “unpatriotic”. Two days ago, someone called during a radio programme, complaining of the hike in airfares and the difficulties the citizens are facing in moving from place to place – bad roads, kidnappings and killings on the road. As a matter of fact, he said he just returned from Kaduna to Abuja on road and needed to go and check his blood pressure because of the soaked tension and fear he was in throughout the journey. Behold, he could hardly finish talking when another person called, accusing him of being unpatriotic and creating unnecessary tension in the land.
Any report that puts the government in bad light on account of its numerous failures is frowned at and the reporter is seen as being anti-government and unpatriotic. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, displayed a similar attitude  last week when he threatened that the federal government will sanction Trust TV, a television owned by Media Trust Group, and the BBC over their stories on bandits in the North. The minister termed the separate documentaries, by the two media organisations, which exposed the activities of the gangs making life difficult for Nigerians, as glorification of terrorism and banditry in Nigeria. And the media he called “oxygen that terrorists and bandits use to breathe”.
For Mohammed and his fellow regime apologists or rather “patriots”, helpless Nigerians, the victims of insecurity, economic hardship, misrule that have become the lot of the country for several years,  should not even groan. Everybody should pretend that all is well. Everyone should join him in telling foreign investors to discountenance the reports on insecurity in Nigeria and come and invest their money in the country, even when he knows that the lives of these investors may be at stake. Is Lai telling the media to  turn the other way when they see things going wrong in the country, when they see the citizens being slaughtered daily like chickens, so they will be good, patriotic citizens.?
Mohammed Lai’s “patriotic”Nigerians are those who never condemn the evil ways of their principals and associates. They are bystanders to the anomalies in the land, always call white black. If you have them on any social platform, the platform will continually be in turmoil because they are ever ready to lash out on any one who criticises their principal and their preferred political party. They do not want to engage and possibly allow triumph of superior argument, opinions and facts. Neither do they want their official propaganda lines to be questioned.
Someone should please call these “patriots” to order,   tell them that they are far from being true patriots because a true patriot does not consider his personal comfort and wellbeing above the good of the generality of the people. A true patriot defends the nation against misrule, high cost of governance, insensitivity of those in authority to the plights of the citizens. A patriot worth his salt will not be comfortable when a few selfish, elected politicians at local, state and federal levels are pushing our fatherland to the cliff, and are bent on tripping it over in 2023. A true patriot considers any bystander, who watches the Nigerian ship sinking without doing anything as a traitor. He calls a spade a spade and does not support evil for a pot of porridge.
It is therefore high time we did something to salvage the current poor state of the nation. We may all not be the president, governors, lawmakers or what have you. but at least, we can quit condoning, supporting the flawed leadership in the country. The truth is that we have no other country than Nigeria. Yes, some may have dual citizenship but definitely, there is no country like your country of origin. So, if we fold our hands and watch the country sink, we shall all bear the brunt. Someone recently wrote concerning the insecurity in the country, “If you think they are not here, that’s a gaffe. And if you price your personal comfort at your “dinning table”, amidst the frustration and impoverishing of many, and above societal wellbeing, too selfish, too bad”.
Another general election is around the corner, will you rather sit on the fence and allow others to decide the future of the country or you will prepare to participate in the election? Sacrifice your time, comfort and if possible, your resources to see to the emergence of the right persons at all levels of government, who mean well for the country and are ready to pay the price to make Nigeria a better nation. That is the mark of a true patriotic citizen. In the words of an American Political Activist, Thomas Paine, “ The duty of a true patriot is to protect his country from its government”. And for the government and its threat on the media organisations, the comment of the renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, is very instructive. He said “FG’s attempt in trying to find a scapegoat to justify its glaring failure after wasting over $16 billion in the last seven years without any commensurate result on security and efforts to blackmail certain media organisations for their patriotism in reporting the crisis is unfortunate and should be resisted by all responsible media organisations.
“When a Commander-in-Chief rewards failure with ambassadorial appointments in a system and a society that records increased attacks, when security agencies cannot even protect Abuja and especially when the Guards Brigade cannot even protect themselves not to talk of the President, then why blame the media for such failure and ineptitude for reporting it?” What Nigerians need now is urgent solutions to the numerous problems in the country, not insincerity, falsehood and covering up of obvious truths and unending blame games. Patriotism is not demanded of the led alone. The leaders should also show that they love the country by displaying a high level of integrity, honesty and sincerity in handling the affairs of the nation.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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