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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Onyeka, Remember Remi Oyo, Ifueko

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Edifying Elucidations By Okey Ikechukwu. Email, okey.ikechukwu@thisdaylive.com
Onyeka Onwenu’s story would most probably be very different today if she was given her due after her youth service with the Nigerian Television Authority, decades ago.
Some still recall how she changed the face of television news reporting in Nigeria, at least from the news presentation we were all familiar with at the time. Crisp, professional and confident about her capacity without flaunting it, the NYSC news correspondent who returned to Nigeria with a Masters' Decree had everything going for her as a well-trained media professional.
She trusted her capacity, rather than other ‘matters arising’, to earn a place in order to serve her fatherland. It didn’t quite work out the way many cheerful observers had expected.
There was profound consternation when she was not retained by the NTA after her National Service.
Then her music, which was peculiarly her own, came without warning.
If not for her current appointment, Onyeka would most probably have spent the rest of her life known to the much younger generation of Nigerians as another iconic singer and part-time actress with good elocution and above average self-possession.
It is also very likely that she would not be where she is at the moment, but for the First Lady’s drive on women issues and the president’s leaning towards capacitating women in the public domain via appointments. So, welcome to the new story of Onyeka Onwenu that is about to begin, following her appointment as the Executive Director/CEO of the National Council for Women Development (NCWD).
The new position is both an exciting and a delicate one, demanding great political maturity, profound women (not just people) skills and a team disposition. She must strive to ensure that no personal qualities stand in her way, as she has to deal with various strata of society.
Onyeka Onwenu is to offer leadership to an organisation that needs to be taken to new levels of relevance, credibility and visibility.
But it is a level that must take it beyond the stereotypes we are familiar with, to where the rest of the right-headed world is. That is why she must do everything which her years of experience and exposure have taught her to ensure she gives competent leadership in her new position.
Remi Oyo, former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, former head of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), left exceptionally commendable precedents in this regard.
Their tenure and trajectory leaves no one in doubt today that these two women, among others, understood that all it takes to move an organisation to new heights of excellence and service efficiency is a leadership that has its wits about it in every respect.
They understood that to offer leadership is not the same thing as merely to be the CEO, give orders and generally “be in charge”. A person in charge in a 21st century world must be in charge of the right value paradigms for transformation, sustainability, effective and relevant partnerships, as well as processes and procedures that ensure and preserve best practices.
Remi Oyo and Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru offered competent leadership as seen in their personal psychological maturity and thorough understanding of the real challenges of the operating environment.
They took everything beyond the institutional or structural challenges facing their respective organisations at the time they took office and broke new grounds.
These two women, during their tenure in the aforementioned organisations, operated with well thought out templates for resurrecting the souls of NAN and FIRS.
They also ensured sustainable management of the human and material resources entrusted to them.
Yes, they went beyond merely holding fort to completely re-engineer these public institutions; unconsciously making themselves prime candidates for possible prosecution for the unheard-of crime of being highly efficient, effective, respected, unobtrusive and truly transformational leaders.
They had so much to lament about, but they did not. They had more than enough reasons to put on airs following their track record early on the beat, but they did not.
They had such brilliant ideas about what to do but they did not advertise their brilliance or distract anyone by verbal extravagance.
They could have incorporated a fiery messianic temper into every utterance and written word, but they did not.
They had so much to lament about in terms of the challenges and even official obstacles they met, but they avoided any proclivity for ‘lamentational’ public commentary – even as they dealt with all manner of benumbing issues.
Omoigui-Okauru took on all comers in a sector that was densely populated by individuals and organisations whose subversive creativity keeping and reprehensible book keeping would leave Sherlock Holmes speechless.
But no one heard her voice, except when she had perfected a policy or intervention template that made yet another antic of tax dodgers unattractive. She felt no need to demonise anyone, but focused on the simple fact that FIRS needed to chart a course for the citizens and the national treasury.
Having designed the new road, she installed road signs, defined penalties for non-compliance and deployed enforcers to keep everyone on the slippery path of rectitude.
And, lest we forget, all this came after and along with painstaking public education initiatives that are fool-proof and ever on-going!
Remi, on her part will forever introduce herself as “ A Reporter”. Take her on and she will cheerily reply, ‘Okey my brother, this MD business means that I have to ensure that news is available by making the report available.
Therefore, I am a reporter’. If you accuse her of misinforming herself about her status she will quickly retort that the only time she will worry is if the public and the profession she is serving complains of being misinformed. Remi Oyo? The woman should be restrained o! See what she made of NAN, as she built on all the gains from those before her! Capacity, infrastructure, revenue generation, institutional credibility, international standing and much more tumbled out huge positives under her watch.
But you will not easily notice Remi in a ‘crowd’ of three people. Ditto for Ifueko. The two ladies seem to be in hiding at the moment, but no one should allow them get away with such mischief! Please fish them out for more work.
An essential element in the obviously successful tenure of the two ladies is their clear knowledge of the political economy of the sectors they were getting into.
Every leader must have this, in addition to knowing the interests that must be taken into account so as to move forward.  Some of these interests are to be accommodated, while others are to be creatively led off to the undertaker. It is interests that often come under the omnibus, if not nebulous, title of ‘stakeholders’. A leader who defines his stakeholders wrongly is already a failure.
The spectacular failure of several reform efforts of the federal government over the years is traceable to this one failing.
Over and over again, otherwise gifted public office holders across all industry divides achieve much less than they are capable of because they take off with the mistaken assumption that ‘the good guys’, who want to create El-Dorado on planet earth (and even in hell, for all you know) are the only  real stakeholders to be taken seriously.
A good deal of the time, ‘the bad guys’ are actually the ones to be taken much more seriously and sometimes even into confidence on how their interests could be modified to accommodate a wider bracket of beneficiaries. Sometimes all that the bad guys need is education on the unsustainability of their platforms and how unfolding events would make them unviable in a year or two.
Going back to Remi, no one knew of her battles with editors and media owners who would take NAN content without the simple courtesy of acknowledgment. All her years of media work and management were collapsed into a personal resolve to help develop the simple business of news procurement, selling and buying into the great asset it is in many nations of the world.
As we welcome Onyeka Onwenu to what will undoubtedly be an eventful national assignment, let us also remind her that she will be dealing with her fellow women.
It is rumoured that they are difficult to manage, when they are all by themselves. I refrain from any personal comment on the latter claim as I am neither a women nor a rumour monger. Suffice it to point out that the CEO of NCWD will not be managing a corporate platform with sometimes unimpeachable Rules of Engagement.
What will most probably put Onyeka in good stead is the fact that her upbringing gave her the opportunity to understand some fundamental cultural issues that could impact positively on women development and empowerment if they are properly understood and harnessed.
But she must seek a new understanding and definition of womanhood itself. Motherhood does not necessarily translate into womanhood as such. Yes it is possible to be a mother in the biological sense and yet not be a genuine woman in the spiritual sense.
Congratulation, Onyeka Onwenu and may your path lead in the right direction!
Values! The new CEO of NCWD must begin her interventions by clarifying and redefining the core values that have guided our understanding and use of our women for far too long.
Why is it that they are often presented as just side entertainment and ‘dancing things’ at political rallies? When will women cease to present themselves as part of the menu at public events and conferences? Is there a role for young ladies in the council and should Onwenu think of occasional consultaticve forum with female Head Girls, etc. and how is she going to navigate the troubled waters of onter-agency rivalry and sundry land mines all over the place.
She can do it, of course and a clear template of implementable actions with measurable results which enjoys wide strakeholder ownership will see her through.
ThisDay

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