Beatrice is a single mother of two. She was clearing up after dinner with her boys when she heard loud gun shots of the masked men of Boko Haram as they raided her town and set buildings ablaze. She knew this day was coming, and in tears, grabbed her boys and ran in the same direction as her neighbours and her friends. Unfortunately, the nightmare that has become of her life did not end there; today, she is one of the 43 women in seven internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps in Maiduguri who has been abused by camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, or soldiers.
In a story that first came to light in October, 2016 after the Human Rights Watch released the report that as at July, there were 43 cases of sexual abuse in the camps, it is depressing to note that 3 months later, there are still no reports from the supposed inquisitions that have been made into the matter, neither has this inhumane abuse of power stopped. To think that women and children have been forced out of their homes, with no means of livelihood, are being taken advantage by the very people that have been tasked with the responsibility to protect them is beastly! With promises of food, security and even marriage, the women – and GIRLS – who aren’t being forced into sexual relations – are being manipulated into these relationships, only to be abandoned if they get pregnant.
This is the extent to which the corruption of power has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. It is no secret that leadership in Nigeria has over the years become synonymous with corruption, poor governance and insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians. Unfortunately, even the private and social sector is so deeply affected that we now have on our hands a complex labyrinth of problems that appears insurmountable. Granted, issues of social unrest, crashing oil prices, a weakening currency, and an economy on a downward spiral have been prioritised to be dealt with, but do we know that many of these problems would not exist if the underlying mechanisms of good governance, transparency and accountability were properly addressed?
Take for instant the challenges Arik Air has faced in recent times. That situation deteriorated to the point that customers physically assaulted a member of staff – bearing in mind that Arik workers were owed salaries for at least 7 months – and he had to be taken to a hospital. The question here is: what is Arik Air doing right? Its operations were shut down for a whole day late 2016 simply because of a strike action by all employees over Arik Air’s failure to pay salaries, remit employees’ taxes and other fees to the relevant authorities, and indiscriminate termination of employment of some workers. This of course further heightened the growing displeasure of customers over Arik Air’s worsening performance at the time, which they blamed on an undersupply of aviation fuel.
The foundational problem here – as with many of the problems we are currently facing – is a lack of responsible leadership and governance. We need to understand the fact that our systems and procedures can only deliver value and run efficiently if we have ethical and responsive leaders in place. Governments, businesses, and communities do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are made up of, and surrounded by, various stakeholder groups with teeming interests that must be properly managed. For too long, ours has been a society where those in positions of power have gotten away with any and everything, while the masses continue to suffer in silence, until one day, they have had enough and they take the law into their own hands.
How many ‘investigations’ into missing funds and crimes of corruption have been initiated with no word on the conclusions or outcomes? How many of our former and current leaders have we seen prosecuted for known crimes and made to pay the price? How many clear violations of human rights have we witnessed with no one held responsible for the crime? Rather, what we have is the celebration of seeming unrepentant ex-convicts, accusations and counter-accusations about whose hand was truly in the cookie jar, and violent – and maybe even diabolical – tussles in the corridors of power, leaving the masses to whatever fate will befall them after the powers that be have had their fill.
This needs to end. As citizens, employees, employers, and leaders in our own right, it is our responsibility to hold the ruling power accountable for its actions – public or private sector. People get away with bad governance because everyone else is out to protect themselves and will rather work around the problem to get what they need. So, Arik Air’s airport officials will not act to demand for their pay because they get ‘tips’ from travelling passengers daily and they still get to keep their jobs. Women who are subjected to inhumane experiences will not speak out of fear of what will happen to them or to their children if they do. And we the citizens will continue to strive to make ends meet, including cutting corners or giving bribes to corrupt officials to grease the wheels to turn in our favour.
Responsible leadership begins with responsible behaviour. Perhaps, if more of us give to the camps and demand for transparency in how the funds are expended, we could be sure that the men, women and children were being properly taken care of and would not have to subject themselves to such harrowing experiences. Maybe, if employees pay more attention to fulfilling our roles and our functions judiciously, we would be able to keep our word and satisfy stakeholders’ expectations. More than likely, if employers of labour listened to the needs of our stakeholders more closely, rather than listening to the sound of credit alerts on our phones, we would deliver services that people could enjoy. Ultimately, if as governing leaders, we stay true to our oath to serve Nigeria with love, strength, and faith, we would not continually exploit and disgrace her, but do our best to uphold her honour and glory, and move her upward and forward.