Hadiza Bala and the perils of patriotism.

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

It was really delightful to have such a young lady, become appointed the MD of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA back in 2016. It spoke loudly in many different languages. It was a positive for gender equality, and it was a headway for the younger generation into executive positions, partaking in decision making, not just as PAs and SAs in the governance hierarchy. It was light in the dark tunnel of the lost generation of Nigerians who are neither youths, nor elders, enclosed in an age bracket of entrapment. One minute they are considered in the old age bracket of 40 & above, and in the next minute, not old enough to assume positions of power, where difficult and tasking decision making are done on a daily basis. Hadiza’s appointment was a rarety and from the get-go, it promised to be interesting. For perspective, she is the daughter of Dr. Bala Usman, who is a historian and politician, and one of the greatest scholars from the North, who shaped Nigerian historiography. He was the founder of The Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, ABU. Hadiza Bala is a daughter to a historian who made history himself, fighting distortions to our history which he believed were due to bias, and influence from European writers. So Hadiza’s outing as MD NPA wasn’t just going to be one of those usual political appointments with ‘business as usual’ on their schedules. Where she comes from? That is not on the table.

When her appointment was approved, I bet her Minister did not see her coming. She was definitely not going to blur her future and taint her family name. She would certainly want to follow the footsteps of her father, who is remembered with greatness. She would want to succeed and leave NPA a better place, or atleast improve on its revenue generation, profitability, and transparency. She was part of Elrufai’s A Team in the FCT and later his Chief of Staff in Kaduna. She would be tempted to build a career profile of a goal getter and a problem solver, and not just be part of the statistics of government appointees.

When trouble started brewing at the NPA, Hadiza was placed under suspension and was probed for 9 months. She was accused of not remitting 165 billion operating surplus of the NPA, and for breaching communication channels as laid out by public service rules. The panel of inquiry did not find her guilty of any financial impropriety, especially the non remittance of 165 billion naira of the NPA through the Single Treasury Account. For what it’s worth, Hadiza wasn’t found guilty of the charges against her and she did not deserve the suspension nor the removal from office, where she was discharging her duties diligently.

From her recent book ‘Stepping On Toes’ and of course different accounts detailing the real reasons surrounding her removal from office, it is now clear that certain huge contracts at that time were the bone of contention between herself and her supervising Minister. What would it have taken, for Hadiza to simply comply with her Minister’s directives on the said contracts? The contracts of the companies involved had expired and were in violation of the revenue sharing agreements between them and the NPA. 200 million dollars was owed the NPA in violation of the Treasury Single Account where all government revenue is supposed to be warehoused. Those were some of the issues involved and as The Chief Executive it was her decision to make on behalf of the Ministry and the Federal Government.

She was well aware of the peril she was going to face, going against the wishes of her Minister. She was even warned about the circumstances she was going to get into if she failed to comply, according to her book. She had a decision to make. Either decide to ‘yes sir’ and keep her job as MD of one of the biggest and most lucrative government agencies in the country, or do her job. Do the job she swore an oath to, pledging to protect the country’s interests in all of her official undertakings. She also had the other job of protecting and upholding the integrity of her late father’s name, Dr. Bala Usman. She had the job of not going the business as usual way, such that in time when investigations were made, it wouldn’t be a shocking revelation that a daughter to Dr. Bala Usman signed and approved such corrupt contracts while overseeing the NPA.

When Okonjo Iweala wrote her book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous’, she gave detailed accounts how one way or the other, corruption in the highest offices of government would never allow you to do the right thing, no matter your honor or integrity. You’d have to bend over backwards to satisfy the ever stretching and grabby hands of corruption or get out of the government. Hadiza has done the same as Ngozi did in her book. She did well and did a world of good to her name. Even after her suspension she was still picked as The APC’s Presidential Campaign Council’s Deputy Director General. It means that she is seen as a valuable asset to the party. At the Nigeria Economic Summit group’s interactive session with the APC’s Presidential candidate and now President-elect, Asiwaju; he proudly introduced Hadiza alongside a few other women when he was asked about the gender representation in his team. Proud of you Hadiza for being a responsible representative of our bottled generation of PAs and SAs.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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