The trademark of activism in Nigeria is to demonise government officials whether they are corrupt or not, guilty or innocent. The only thing needed to cast aspersions on them is for them to hold public offices and without evidence (s), the shout of “crucify him, crucify her” rents the air and until it is done, there is no peace for the activist. I know this because I’m one of such activist but unlike most of all, it is my prerogative to dig deeper into the alleged crimes or corrupt act supposedly carried out by such public holders. It is in the light of crucification that we do not even know when we criticize and call for the heads of the saints and innocent among them.
This populist movement of bringing down public government officials has also spread to the once moribund organisation called the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) where Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Juliet Olejeme hold sway as its board Chairman. I am not going to hold brief for her, especially when I am not her media aide but evil minded men continue their crass ignorance when silence which is supposed to be a virtue is kept long enough by men good enough to defend them.
I stand to be challenged that until Olejeme came on board NSITF, 95% of Nigerians never knew that an agency like such ever existed. All that ever mattered to government retiree is to wait for years waiting for when their pensions will be paid without any hope. Most of them have to sit in front of their employer offices so as to get their benefits, but as one with the Midas touch, most government employees can beat their hands on their chest that in the cause of their work; there lies an agency that monitors their sweat and will give them back their return when they turn to senior citizens of this country.
Until the coming on board of Olejeme, NSITF can best be described as a dead body only existing on government memos, with staff collecting salaries for no work done. What will they even do when there are no offices to work? What will they be doing when the few offices have no tools to work with? Tell, what will they be doing when they themselves are not sure of what will become of them when they retire? These and many more questions is what Nigerians nay critics should be asking themselves. They should task their brains and picture where the agency was few years ago, prior to the coming of the lady most of her critics just love to hate.
For a body that prides itself as being the keeper of workers pension, it is shameful that less than 200 staff work round the clock to ensure that the million Nigerians that retires yearly get their pension, while other sister bodies have over 3000 staff under their payroll. This thread of unemployment immediately stopped when the Amazon took over the board management ad opened the floodgate of employment. No, she didn’t just employ staff but made sure that almost all states in the Federation have offices housing the agency, where these employed staff was posted to.
During the Delta State gubernatorial election, I expected Olejeme to have contested for the Delta North Senatorial ticket which she would have easily won. Without sounding flattering, she has the gift of lawmaking and the lobby that goes with it. If in doubt, I wish to bring to our knowledge that the Employment Compensation Act (ECA) 2010 that breathed fresh air into NSITF was singlehandedly procured by her through her intense lobby which prompted the Senate passing it into law and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan eventually signing it, yet in the same Senate lies Senators who could not sponsor a bill passed into law. It couldn’t have gotten better than this. Still under her watch, a bill which is waiting assent by the President was passed by the Senate. It is the social security package that will not only benefit government workers but all Nigerians. Only someone with the heart of Mother Theresa will deviate from her constitutional duty to think about the welfare of the common man.
What do you expect from a woman who has a passion for philanthropy and readiness to help the down trodden? For those who have relayed with her; the testimony is that she is too soft to be a boss, but can you blame her? No! Her refusal to be bossy and pushy like the Margaret Thatcher of other government agencies is what has made the staff put in their best and see that she succeeds in her assigned role. Could her friendly disposition and uncommon heart of gold be the reason for her quietness despite some negative media publications?
I once wrote that among all the aspirants that contested for the Delta guber she is unarguably the most read with three MBA from world prestigious school. Her knack for excellence is what makes NSITF stand at par with a sensitive body like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Under her leadership, she caused the agency to rub shoulders with CBN by having Oracle in Social Security Solution which is reputed as one of the best in Africa. Here is the shocker; only the CBN and her agency have this in Nigeria!
As one of those who campaigned for Muhammadu Buhari during the last Presidential election using the media, I hate to see him fail and will do all it takes to make sure he succeeds. It is simply outright evil to conclude that Buhari should not tap from the experience and management wizardry of some of Jonathan’s appointee. One of the key areas the President Elect cannot afford to joke with is the issue of what happens to workers salary. Nigerians being impatient people will call for his head sooner than expected if such happens, hence persons like Olejeme should be allowed to stir the board till it achieves the dream it was meant for, or govern higher assignments haven proved herself worthy.
Come January 2015, Nigeria will be hosting the world via the ISSA Bureau, which was made possible through the diehard efforts of the heroine we fail to celebrate today, with the MD of the agency appointed a member, a feat which was last achieved 15 years ago. We cannot afford to fall backward into the gutters where she picked NSITF from, not now that the world will be feasting their eyes on us in less than eight months time. We are on show and only the best team led by Olejeme should be allowed to see that it sail through successfully. No one changes a winning team in the middle of a contest.
Just recently she was nominated for an award in Netherland in contribution to Nigerian and philanthropy gesture. For those of us familiar with Netherlands, they are very strict with giving award especially to foreigners but how Olejeme was able to get such will be an interesting revelation someday when she decides to speak. But again, she is media shy except you are able to track her down during an event she attended. To her, she prefers her work speaking for her than blowing her Vuvuzuela as most CEOs and Board Chairmen do in Nigeria.
A people in search of heroine like our nation should be celebrating this Amazon who have turned a moribund agency into a celebrated government outfit where young graduates who despised to work there years ago now jostle to be employed in it. A nation in search of heroine should be treating people like Olejeme as ‘golden eggs’ fit for the leadership positions where young person’s desiring of effecting change can keep looking up to her as mentor.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, an Investigative Journalist, Media Consultant and Human Rights Activist is also the Co-Convener of Coalition of Human Rights Defender (CHORD) and can be reached on +2348022050733 (SMS ONLY) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Engage him on twitter on @fejirooliver86.