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Why The Two Samuels Are Rare Species – By Emmanuel Onwubiko


In faraway Geneva, Switzerland, in Western Europe, over ten dozen top Chief Executive Officers of blue-chip Companies operating on the Black African continent are about now rounding up their meeting with the objective of uncovering the magic wand for the rapid industrialization of Africa.

These egg-heads plus a mixture of politicians from Africa had originally set out to find out the new most workable economic models to turn around the continent currently ravaged by hunger, mass poverty and conflicts.

Ironically, somewhere in between their dialogue sessions, a prosperous African born but Europe based billionaire Mr. MO Ibrahim convinced them to change the focus of deliberations to a much more pressing issue- lack of good governance.  

One striking factor out of their constructive dialogue was the unanimous conclusion that the most critical needs of the African continents are not economic models or absence of such but that what is lacking grossly in Africa is good governance.

Although, I am uncomfortable that these African business leaders did not behave wisely by holding this sort of a key meeting outside of the shores of Africa, but in my philosophical belief that it is better to analyze the message and avoid paying so much attention to the messenger, it is strategic to affirm that the assertion of these African business leaders is factually correct.

The plenary session, comprising Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Pierre Guislain (Africa Development Bank) and Abebe Aemro Selassie of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), blamed African governments for the continent’s dwindling economic fortunes.

This important call by respected business and socio-economic leaders for effective decentralised political systems at the forum where more than 1,000 chief executives of leading organisations are seeking sustainable solutions to Africa’s economic woes would sure put pressure on weak governments and encourage prudent management of resources.

The above were  reports of The Nigeria guardian newspaper whose group news editor is reporting live from the meeting venue.

Mercel Mbamalu had captured the nitty gritty of that high profile meeting in such a manner that a reader in Nigeria would nostalgically ask question about why Nigeria’s political space is no longer dominated by leaders with sterling qualities such as the two most famous SAMUELS- Chief Samuel Mbakwe and General Samuel Ogbemudia.

Well let’s revisit that strategic  African business parley in Geneva whereby we were told by The Guardian reporter that whilst responding  to the moderator’s question on what he represents in the African economic model, Mo Ibrahim had sought to modify the theme of the conference – “Re-inventing the Africa Business Model” – on grounds that transparency should be much more important to the continental administrations than any economic model.

“Africa is not a company. It is made up of 54 countries,” he noted, describing the situation as a “big elephant in the room.” 

The philanthropist argued that what the continent needs are “countries with no corruption. An Africa that is more transparent with open governance.”

This perspective reminds us of the indubitable fact that leadership legacies shape public opinions in a very formidable way.

In that line Mr. Julius Olu Odetunde who wrote a book titled: “Teach yourself Yoruba proverbs and idioms in English language”, reminds us of a particular Yoruba proverb.

This wise saying   goes thus:  “oba to je ti ilu toro oruko re pare, eyi ti o je ti ilu fi tu oruko re o ni pare bakan naa.” 

When interpreted it means that: “ a king that  reigned when the town was peaceful his name will not be forgotten, and the one that reigned when the town was chaotic his name too will not be forgotten.”

This proverb warns that if one assumes or hold the reins of government or any other leadership’s post in life, one should strive to do good, because whatever we do today whether good or bad will soon become history.

The above mentioned facts are tangential to the essence of our reflection today on the good leadership models exemplified by two great and indeed iconic Nigerian SAMUELS who were governors namely chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe of the then old Imo State and General Samuel Ogbemudia of the then old Bendel State, both have joined the saints triumphant.

Then putting the lofty goals achieved in their leadership positions with the total absence of good governance in the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, it is safe to assume that the duo of Samuel Ogbemudia and Samuel  Mbakwe are indeed rare political species.

Both Statesmen being discussed were not even fortunate enough to control the humongous federally redistributed allocations which the current set of Governors do get but long after they left offices, even the most irrational observer is singing their praises because of how so well they impacted positively in shaping and building lasting legacies and durable infrastructures that have stood the test of time and indeed are still seen as reference marks of good governance.

In the old Imo State which comprised the present day Abia and parts of Ebonyi State, the Governor, Mbakwe was known to have erected massive canals in Aba, and built rural roads all-round the State. 

He (Mbakwe) was not known to have refused to pay civil servants or pensioners but what do we have in place now in Imo State under Mr. Rochas Okorocha is the direct opposite.

In Imo State now, civil servant are owed long backlogs of salaries and pensioners are not paid. Institutions that should ensure transparency and accountability have gone to the dogs. 

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