Espying the Challenge of Elite Dishonesty: Beyond the NIIA’s Own Quest for a Better Nigeria

Ike Nwachukwu

The Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) responded in an advertorial to my Vie Internationale of September 9, 2018, entitled ‘Ike Nwachukwu’s Quest for a Better Nigeria and the Challenge of Elite Dishonesty: Quo Vadis’. It is a most welcome advertorial but mainly predicated on half-truths. As virtually the main issues raised are already in courts of competent jurisdiction, attempt will only be given here on the focus of the advertorial.
The NIIA Advertorial not only provided its own version of the truth on the ‘NIIA and the Ike-Nwachukwu-led NIIA Governing Council,’ but also has it that ‘the only aim here is to respond to the points raised concerning the NIIA and the Council. There are four (4) points under reference’. We will limit our reactions to the four points as raised in the advertorial.

The first point is the position of this Column, which is that the Nwachukwu-led Governing Council covered up an alteration of promotion examination results but the advertorial claims that ‘it did not’. In justifying this claim, it submitted that the Council ‘only directed that query be issued with a view to taking action in the next meeting. Furthermore, nobody was promoted in that case.’ Let us first espy this version of the truth to determine the extent of truth by asking some questions.

If the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council directed that a query be issued to the Director of Administration and Finance, Miss Agatha Elochi Ude, who was accused of several falsifications, is the NIIA Management now claiming ignorance of the fact that Miss Ude not only admitted to the falsification before the meeting of the Council but also gave apology at the meeting?

This action alone speaks volumes and raises more questions: who did the Council direct to issue the query? During the tenure of the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council, I was the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute. To my knowledge nobody was directed and I was never given any directive to issue any query, more so that I was the complainant. In the next meeting during which a decision was to be taken, what really was the action recommended? Which concrete action was taken? Let us seek the truth.

The NIIA advertorial says that “nobody was promoted in that case. This submission is far from being the issue. The main issue is that an infraction was committed and Vie Internationale is claiming a conscious and reckless cover up of the infraction. If the explanation of the NIIA Management is that nobody was promoted, this does not remove of the fact that there was an infraction which should have been sanctioned by a Governing Council preaching the sermon of sanity, rule of law and due process. What everyone should be interested in is more information on the issue of query. There was no query and all efforts were made to prevent the issuance of any query. In fact, Miss Agatha Elochi Ude was issued a first query before the matter was referred to Council for further directives.

What is noteworthy from the foregoing is that if a query was directed to be issued to Miss Agatha Ude, it means that she had truly committed an infraction and if there had not been any query, the Public should simply take further interest in knowing why? This Column stands by its assertion that the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, not only consciously but also cautiously covered up the infraction with the ultimate objective of undermining good governance required for the achievement of the mandate of the NIIA.

Point 2 is on the candidates for professorial appointments. In reaction to Vie Internationale’s claim that the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council interfered in the assessment of professorial candidates, the NIIA advertorial has an explanation to the claim: ‘what appeared as interference was a response to series of petitions by the candidates to the Council. The Council had to find a solution to the issues raised and that meant deeper involvement in the process than would otherwise be. And the process was still incomplete when the tenure of the Council ended.’

This submission is only good to the extent that the Council provided a rationale for the interference. The Council has simply admitted interference in the day-to-day management of the Institute contrary to governmental instruction. The instruction, to borrow the words of the incumbent Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Ekanem Oyo-Ita, at the Institute of Directors’ Conference held on November 8, 2018 in Abuja, when explaining the roles and responsibilities of Boards of Parastatals, is that ‘a Board shall not be involved directly in the day-to-day management of a parastatal or an agency.’ If for whatever reason, there has to be direct involvement, the purpose must not be partisan. It must be justice- and fairness-seeking. More disturbingly, let us hypothetically admit the rule of force majeure in the interference: must the interference take another form of infraction? In an attempt to deal with or respond to the alleged series of petitions, were there or no replies to the petitions? If there were official responses to the petitions, what were the official reactions of the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council to the official replies to the petitions? In fact, what is the final decision of the Council on the matter? The truth is that the Council kept quiet about the replies that I provided but continued to preach the gospel according to the petitioners.

Put differently, the point being made here is that if there were petitions against the Director General and the Director General provided his own explanations, one of the two parties, that is, the DG or the petitioners, must be right or wrong. Let the NIIA Management tell the Nigerian public, what was the ruling of the Council. The Council was only much delighted in issuing me with queries but unable to act when faced with the truth: were the petitions validly sustained?

The Council directed that the papers of the professorial candidates should not be sent abroad for assessment. Why? This is global best practice in the academic world worldwide. It is important to remind the NIIA management that the then Director of Research and Studies, Professor Ogaba Danjuma Oche, informed the professorial candidates that the Director General was about to send their papers to international assessors abroad and that doing so was contrary to the practice.

Armed with this information, the professorial candidates sent petitions to the Council and the Council granted their prayers. I gave the Council documentary evidences showing that assessors were always appointed on the basis of their expertise and not on the basis of their location. That the Director of Research and Studies, Professor Ogaba Oche, illegally informed the professorial candidates, which is an act of serious misconduct in itself, and that the professorial candidates had the audacity to request the Council to prevent the sending of their papers abroad, and the Council so accepted, are some of the ordeals I was fighting tooth and nail. This is part of the reasons I have always considered that the Nigerian system discourages honesty of purpose, dint of hard work, and patriotism, and protection of values of integrity and nationalism. Why seek to bastardise academic professorship?

Professorship, like Military General-ship, is not a commodity normally put on shelf in the market for sale. You either earn the status of professorship or not. You do not lobby or bring nepotism into its acquisition. It is not a chieftaincy title that can be given to highest bidders on the whims and caprices of a monarch but the Ike Nwachukwu-led Council already turned it so. This is my own opinion.

Secondly, even if we have to forcefully admit sending the papers to local assessors, there is still the need to query the disagreement between the Council and the Director General on the matter. The Council wanted an Associate Professor of only two years to be assessed for promotion to the full professorial cadre. The Council did not believe that the NIIA had its own tradition borrowed largely from the University of Lagos. Even when the Council was prevailed upon to accept the minimum of three years required before consideration of eligibility for professorial assessment, it dictated to me the contents of the letter to be sent to the assessors. The dictated letter asked that the DG’s initial letter should be disregarded. The Council compelled the Director General to sign the dictated letter and the Council dispatched the letters to the assessors by itself.

One thing is noteworthy about the eligibility for NIIA professorship. The tradition is that, 2 points on 3 points must be obtained to qualify for eligibility. When letters are sent to assessors, it is clearly stated that they are all required to indicate whether the candidate has passed fully or marginally. Full pass attracts one full point while marginal pass only attracts half point. The maximum point obtainable from three assessors is therefore three, while the minimum point obtainable is either zero or half point. To qualify for professorial appointment, two points on three must not only be scored but must also have other favourable reports.

The truth is that only one of the two candidates assessed scored two points and was in the circumstance, eligible, while the other candidate scored one and a half points and was therefore not eligible. The relevant observational question is this: will the candidate have ever scored one and a half points if there had not been any interventional influence on the assessors? When the Council wanted to know from the Director General about the results, the Director General told them that a member of Council was already linking up with the assessors, but the member said he was not getting in touch in respect of assessments. Who wants to believe this type of story? The Director General respectfully suggested to the Council to continue to link up with the assessors as it so desired.

The management of the NIIA is also submitting that the process was still incomplete when the tenure of the Council ended. This observation is most unfortunate because it consciously seeks to cover up again the foundations already laid by the Council before the end of its tenure. It consciously closes its eyes to the fact that before the end of the tenure of the Council, one of the Council members, an ambassador, was mandated to discuss with the petitioners, particularly Dr. Efem Ubi, who was advised to apologise to the Director General, when he could not substantiate his allegations against the Director General and who, during a Council meeting, accepted to apologise, but also later reneged because of the need to avoid jeopardising the interests of other petitioners at stake.

Let me also recall that I clearly stated in my handover note and report to the Government how the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council had destroyed the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs beyond repairs. I have been drawing attention to this matter since 2015, but to no avail. This is why I strongly believe that the NIIA Management did well by responding to it for the first time. What is more interesting about the advertorial is that the NIIA Management suddenly woke up to discover that Ike-Nwachukwu’s quest for a better Nigeria is worth dealing with. It is also interesting too that the NIIA Management is attracted by the challenge of elite dishonesty.

I am therefore more than convinced beyond any jot of doubt that the elite, and particularly the public servants put in position to advise Mr. President, are largely responsible for all the various challenges with which the Mohammadu Buhari’s administration is facing today, the elite is so unnecessarily dishonest by way of misguidance and untruth.
The third point raised by the NIIA advertorial is accommodation rent. Vie Internationale, as claimed by the advertorial, said ‘the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council imposed an unfair rental system which made some to pay N90,000, while others pay as little as N14,000 for the same apartments.’ And true, who says that it is not unfair? The NIIA Management says ‘the said block of flats is NIIA controlled Federal Government’s property. What the Ike Nwachukwu-led Council did was to resolve the issues pertaining to accommodation brought before it by adopting a formula provided for in the NIIA conditions of service which stipulated that rent for staff should be 8.5% of individual gross salary income for every occupant. Hence the difference in payments for the rent is a reflection of the variations in the rank and salary levels of the staff living there.”

This explanation looks good but let us ask again some questions to begin with. Where does a Lecturer II, or a Sergeant in the army live in the same block of flats with his Vice Chancellor or with his Field Commandant or Marshall? Where is the standard practice where a subordinate and his boss ever brought together to answer queries in a Board or Council meeting? The Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council is cannot but be a very good topic for special research because it claimed it was seeking justice and fairness but what it did was not a reflection of that. The truth of the matter, simply put, is the Governing Council’s general non-compliance with the extant rules in the Public Service.

Federal Government’s 2004 Monetisation Policy was put in place by me with effect from January 2011. The said NIIA controlled Federal Government property is located on Idejo Street, Victoria Island. The property is a block of ten flats. Each flat has four bedrooms of international standard, a self-contained boys’ quarter, and two parking slots, as well as a fairly big, well-oxygenated compound. Under the Monetisation Policy, each occupant was paying N40,000 per month or N480,000 per annum. What is paid in terms of commercial rates is a truism.

However, as part of the officially orchestrated petition, the petitioners said they could no longer pay the sum of N40,000 monthly rental after more than two years of execution of the policy. The Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council simply found it easy to hide under the application of 8.5% to set aside the Monetisation Policy. The Council opted to forget that NIIA’s rule does not and is not superior to the Federal Government’s policy of monetisation. The standard rule of law to remember here is that lex posteriori derogat priori.

In fact, did the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council ever bear in mind that I was the Director General and the Chief Executive of the Institute? Did it ever occur to it that I had been in the Institute for more than ten years before the petitioners joined the Institute and therefore that I am more of a custodian of the NIIA’s culture than any of the petitioners? The Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council always joined the petitioners to undermine not only my person but particularly the Office of the Director General as if it is a private office. The Council did not see anything wrong in the non-provision of an official quarter for the Chief Executive. And whereas, the NIIA conditions of service provide for official accommodation for the Director General. Why seek to protect the concerns of the petitioners and not those of the Director General?

Why is the application subjective and selective? The same Council is justifying its actions on the basis of NIIA conditions of service. Do the NIIA conditions not provide for official accommodation for the Director General? What did the Monetisation Policy even say about it? Are occupants of official quarters not required to pay commercial rates for houses and quarters that were not sold? How do we explain the preference of the Council for NIIA for old conditions of service and not for the new monetisation policy?

The Council wrongly thought that it had found a good basis to attack me and knock me down. This is most unfortunate. The advertorial says ‘the formula is still in effect binding on all occupants.’ The formula is ludicrous and unfair. It defrauds the government of its legitimate revenue, and therefore, is most unfortunate.

The fourth point of the advertorial is on the Vie Internationale’s observation that the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council was indirectly biased because of its attitude towards a ‘capital project’ involving the refurbishing and reconstruction of a building in NIIA. The advertorial also recalled that ‘the Council was not interested in the building but in the financing of it.’ The answer and justification given in response to the observation of non-interest of the Council is this: ‘ultimately, the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Council was not involved in the project at all either as a whole Council or through its Finance and General Purpose Committee.’

If and when a Management Committee can begin to misinform the public on very important matters like this, the future cannot but be bleak, not only for the NIIA but particularly for the whole of Nigeria. I state clearly here that a member of the Council was at the General Assembly of the Institute where the contract for the project was awarded. The important point Vie Internationale made was that the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council was not interested in the project and the advertorial has simply confirmed it.
Many questions should be asked at this juncture: why was the Council not involved in the project, either as a whole or through its Finance and General Purpose Committee? How can the Council give the impression that it was never involved when it actually issued queries on the project? If the Council had the interest of the NIIA in mind, what prevented it from correcting what was wrong? The Council never bothered during the 365 days of the project execution to visit the site. What impression is being given to Nigerians.

And true enough, the Council knew absolutely nothing about how I got funding for the project but was only eager to find all possible means to indict me, because it was not involved. Didn’t the Council write malicious reports against me, but has that prevented the recalling and telling the truth? Truth is constant and nobody is on record to have ever fought it and succeeded. The truth will always prevail. Let us all thank God that the project is not an abandoned project. With the involvement and protection of God Almighty, I completed it. If the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council had been involved in whatever manner, and particularly with its tent already pitched with the petitioners, there was no way the project would have ever been completed.

So if the NIIA Management advertorial says ‘the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Council served for only two years and nine months (i.e. from September 20, 2012 to June 16, 2015). It has come and served its best under the conditions prevailing at that time. Now it has gone. NIIA appreciates their tenure and service’, the NIIA Management must be dreaming during day time. The observation cannot but be most laughable for various reasons. First, the incumbent NIIA management is not in the position to assess the Governing Council under which I served as Director General. The foregoing authentic version of the truth, as provided by me, cannot lend any credence to the pretensions of the advertorial,

Secondly, the NIIA management should advertise what the Council achieved in its over two-year tenure beyond inciting staff against the Director General and dealing with unnecessary bickering? Did the Council attract any funding or any project? What research project can it lay claim to? If the NIIA appreciates “the tenure and service of the Ike- Nwachukwu-led Governing Council, it is quite understandable. The Council condoned various acts of serious misconduct which I brought against many members of the current management. For instance, who among the senior level management staff has not tampered with his or her age in the file? Was the Council not told that the Director of Administration and Finance, Miss Agatha Elochi Ude, removed queries (even queries issued by my predecessor) from her file and repaginated the file? What did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Ambassador Bulus Lolo, as Permanent Secretary (when Ministers were not yet appointed) do on these reported cases of serious misconduct? Did Ambassador Bulus Lolo not direct that the money earmarked for the final stage of the project should not be released? Is it not on record that Ambassador Lolo was giving instructions to the Director of Administration and Finance to counteract my own instructions?

There is nothing wrong in defending a good or a bad administration, regime, Council or a Board. In doing so, however, let us always remember one Yoruba proverbial saying, according to which ‘what is behind six, is more than seven.’ Besides, when seeking to influence situations against the truth, always also remember that there is God.

And perhaps most thought-provokingly, in which way is the incumbent management of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs not worsening and further reflecting the mania of the Council? The Council encouraged the petitioners against me to the extent that one of them, Dr. Efem Ubi, and his wife, assaulted my wife, tore her dress and stripped her naked in the public. The matter was referred to the Police and to the Court. Dr. Efem Ubi and the wife, Mrs. Constant Ubi, were tried and convicted. The Public Service Rule provides in Section 030402(d) considers ‘conviction on a criminal charge (other than a minor traffic offence)’ as a serious act of misconduct, and therefore says in Section 030412 that ‘an officer convicted or criminal offence (other than a minor traffic or sanitary offence and the like) shall be suspended with effect from the date of conviction, pending determination of his/her case by the Commission.’

Has the NIIA Management bothered to even inform the Supervisory Authority about the conviction as required by the Public Service Rules? As shown above, whenever any public servant is convicted, the convicted must be placed under suspension until the determination of the matter by the Public Service Commission. Does the Rule provide for any caveat? Is the NIIA Management not also engaging in cover up what is already in the public domain? Is this not an expression of elite dishonesty that we are talking about?
Dr. Efem Ubi was never suspended. When asked why he had not been placed on suspension, the NIIA Management said he had appealed against the sentence. Even for a lay man, does an appeal that is yet to set the judgment of the lower court aside remove the fact of the existing conviction? As at this time, Dr. Efem Ubi and the wife remain convicted and should be placed under suspension. The fact that the Management of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs has not done so is a reflection of gross dereliction of duty and an expression of its not being better than an accomplice in this case.

What about the removal of financial documents and personal queries by Miss Agatha Elochi Ude from the files? Why have I not been paid up till now, my entitlements or the monies I incurred on behalf of the NIIA? Why has it been difficult for the Management to investigate this? Miss Agatha Elochi Ude is claiming not to have seen, taken or be in possession of any documents, whereas, she and Mrs. Stella Abimbola Dada, the Director of Library and Documentation, paid their own entitlements from the same controversial documents that they claimed are missing. The staff who put in black and white that they gave the documents to Miss Agatha Elochi Ude are still in service. They include Mrs. Romoke Ojukwu and Daniel Adelana. Why the silence of the Management over these evidentiary facts? Or is the Management again claiming ignorance of their reports?

More interestingly, the incumbent Management of the NIIA is living by destruction. It wrongly believes that it can succeed and survive by destroying what it met in place. In fact, the very brief tenure of less than three months of Mrs. Stella Abimbola Dada, witnessed reckless destruction of what she called ‘Akinterinwa’s legacy.’ Most unfortunately, however, a legacy is not destroyable! Electronic panels reflecting the names of Founders and Catalytic agents of NIIA development, like Dr. Lawrence Fabunmi, the first Director General of the NIIA, Chief Louis Mbanefo, Kashim Ibrahim, Kenneth Dike, Rusell Aliyu Dikko, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, etc, were either destroyed or removed. The Panels were procured with public money but who is talking about this? Shouldn’t a succeeding management seek to consolidate rather than destroying? Why shouldn’t Mrs Stella Abimbola Dada explain to the Nigerian public the reason for the removal or destruction of the electronic panels installed in memory of those who founded and those who sustained it professionally and patriotically? Why does she, as a documentation staff, be more interested in the destruction of memorial records?

Let me ask for purposes of concluding reflection: the lift I installed in the Institute, why is it not removed or destroyed? Why are those opposed to Akinterinwa’s legacy, those who wanted Institute’s capital project money used in purchasing toilet rolls, now using what they kicked against? What about the printing machine that I procured which the Institute never had in more than two decades? What about the dozens of computers donated by the Embassy of China? Why didn’t the Management reject them because Professor Bola Akinterinwa requested for them as part of the equipment required for the Press Unit of the new International Conference Centre which I built? The project was nick-named ‘Akinterinwa Project. True, it is, but did he go away with the structure to his village when he left the Institute? The NIIA Management will need to urgently do away with myopia as evidently reflected in its advertorial.

The attitude of the incumbent NIIA Management is a reflection of the Elite Dishonesty that we are talking about in the whole of Nigeria. Nigeria has not developed; it is not developing and will not be able to develop simply because those who cannot perform, and who do not perform, are always in the position to prevent those who are capable and ready to perform.

The NIIA Management should therefore stop spending public funds defending the Ike-Nwachukwu-led Governing Council. It should rather focus on the research activities for which the Institute was established. Some of the issues raised, especially the alleged series of petitions which are very malicious and defamatory are already before the law courts. At the appropriate time, the Council will be able to defend itself and the whole truth can then be told. Dr. Fred Agwu would also have the ample time to prove his malicious allegation. Dr. Frederick Aja Agwu alleged in 2015, that I sent a paid killer after him and he reported the matter to the Police and to the Foreign Ministry. Since 2015, the Police has not been able to identify the owner of the telephone number given to the Police by Dr. Agwu which the hired assassin used to call the complainant. This is one of the effects of the tenure of the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council.

Therefore, the NIIA Management advertorial remains an advertorial and another attempt to mislead the general public. What I have always requested for, but which no one is interested in, is public inquiry into the petitions referred to in the NIIA Management’s advertorial. Why is the government keeping quiet on the report of panel of inquiry which looked into the acts of serious misconducts by the petitioners?

Finally, it is useful to note that Vie Internationale as a column, is a reflection of academic journalism that I introduced in 1996 in this same ThisDay Newspaper. It does not engage in frivolities. It imbibes the ethics of academia and journalism. Consequently, it never seeks to malign or defame or promote untruths. It only talks about the truth as known. It therefore maintains its own original version of the truth. The version of the truth as presented in the advertorial is, at best, a rationale for actions embarked upon by the Council. The advertorial never denied any of the allegations made in Vie Internationale. This simply gives more credence to the column. The advertorial cannot be a good way towards the making of a new Nigeria that can be free from political chicaneries, from Council-appointed professors, and from academic anaemia. Management should therefore prevent the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs from being completely destroyed.

I am a Nigerian by ius sanguinis and therefore have a stake in its survival, more so, as a Fellow of the Institute and former Director General. This is why I have taken the burden to respond to the advertorial and not that the rationalisations given in the advertorial are anything so thought-provoking enough to have warranted any reply. The problem created by the Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council for today and which tomorrow may not be able to cope with successfully, is the establishment of a new category of Professors in the NIIA. The existing category of NIIA Professors is that of those who either had three on three points or two on three points, and therefore, are qualified. The other new category of Professors is the Governing Council-Assisted Professors (GCAP). They are, at best, GCAP and not Professors of the NIIA. Appointments on the basis of political lobbying, and for that matter, on the basis of obtaining one and a half points on three, are not compatible with the tradition of the Institute. If the Management is to be worth its position, let it publish all the contents of the petitions and the replies to them and let the court of public opinion decide since the Federal Government has opted to condone the situation until now.
It is by so doing that both parties can refrain from engagement in acts of foolishness as seen by Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux in his L’Art Poétique: ‘a fool always finds a greater fool to admire him.’ Our misunderstanding should not be presented to the general public from this framework.