A few years back, giant billboards dotted some strategic areas of Lagos. The ad was a parody of the statement of Apostle Paul to the Philippians, but a captivating good copy from an ad agency to market Tasty Fried Chicken (TFC) in its early days.
The ad catchphrase says: “For us to live is pain and to die is gain”.
Nice three chunky chickens were used to illustrate the message with the logo of TFC by the side.
The message was simple: Anyone who buys Tastee Fried Chicken will be making gains, because the chickens will lay down their lives for the person’s growth.
This ad came back to me as I think of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), its new order and the new Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
The list of what’s needed to be done at NIMASA is long and well known, including closing the loophole that allows the leadership of the agency to run it like a private estate.
This is where Dr. Peterside will need to make his own parody of Apostle Paul’s message to Nigerians.
I’m not certain what exactly Peterside’s copy will look like but I can attempt a parody for him to be something like this: ‘for me to live is service and to die is gain.’
Corruption remains the great, crippling defect of NIMASA, tainting all that it does and fails to do over the years from one regime to another.
And that Peterside is arriving NIMASA at a time, when his predecessors have had to be questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for corrupt practices makes it a golden opportunity for him to clean the temple and take out those who have turned it into a den of thieves.
Really, the battle will not need kids’ glove treatment, but a whip of cords.
For insight, those abetting crimes are often found among the civil servants who create the documents and the drainpipe for the executives in most offices. When the game is up, they are usually the star witnesses in court as we have seen in recent past.
Comprehensive ethics reform should be part of the current discussions at NIMASA as Peterside takes his seat and he should be prepared to face the principalities and powers in the system headlong.
Some of them are already masquerading as maritime experts in the newspapers, questioning the capacity and capability of a man with knowledge of business management and public administration to run NIMASA.
Helpfully, Peterside’s credential is strong enough to withstand the storm. With an MBA and a PhD in Management Science, such tale has become that of a winebibber.
Indeed, those who want more of his records should equally check at the National Assembly, where he served in different committees, including serving as Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources, Downstream as a representative with progressive leaning and as a reformer.
But this discourse boils than to this: this Buhari’s administration needs stars that can help build the tumbling confidence of Nigerians in the government and Peterside is now strategically positioned to be one of those stars.
The late Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nuhu Ribadu, Oby Ezekwezili, Charles Soludo, Akinwunmi Adesina to mention a few, are some of the star players paraded by the previous governments, who are now hard to forget for their outstanding performances.
So Peterside can take advantage of his work at NIMASA—where his appointment provides a silver lining for the troubled agency—to join the rank of these unforgettable skilled reformers.
Crucially, the job at NIMASA needs someone so level-headed without political arrogance to move the agency forward.
It requires someone with the gravitas to represent new paradigm shift in leadership rather than repeating the old leadership’s cliché and catchphrases.
And it needs someone who won’t be gaffe-prone, because policy statements from the leadership would be important to how foreigners and local business owners perceive and relate with the agency and Nigeria. For sure, Peterside has got all that with him.
“My mind is focused on leaving a lasting legacy at NIMASA. I am convinced on achieving the goals I have already set aside for myself based on my interaction with the workforce.
“To be honest, I must say that I am impressed with the staff. I found people who are knowledgeable, dedicated and willing to work. I just feel that there was a leadership gap at some point,” he said during a recent TV interview.
But Peterside needs to learn a few things from the United States Federal Maritime Commission to enhance public’s confidence in NIMASA and that is transparency.
Transparency will be important to the progress Peterside will make and for a man who has shown integrity, I’m convinced that the deals inside NIMASA will provide an example for open government in Nigeria.
The technology is at his fingertip to do it; he needs not ponder for too long on how to make this happen.
And this, he must be careful in following the rhetoric common with government departments—the roadmap.
When he said: “Our plan is to make Nigeria, the hub of shipping in Africa,” he needs to speak with convincing statistics.
On the balance, I believe Dr. Peterside will do what he says he will do at NIMASA; I have spent quality private time with him to understand his dreams and aspirations for the good of Nigeria.