By Nkiru Balonwu*
Here To Serve :
Speeches, Op-eds, Essays and Advocacy for Good Governance
Oseloka H. Obaze
(ISBN-978-0-9893821-7-5; New Albany, Ohio, USA; Ben Bosah Books, 2016; pp. 264 Price, $20.) (Publication Date: 6 May, 2016)
First, a few brief words about the author. Oseloka Henry Obaze is one of the best people I know. He is upstanding, selfless and committed to the progress of his fellow man. After several years of meritorious service to the nation in the diplomatic corps, and then at the United Nations, it was a real coup for the people of Anambra State that a man of his stature and exposure was invited to serve and bring all his experience to bear. As you will find from the numerous thoughts recorded in this compilation, Obaze is a cultured and critical thinker – a man of solutions, with the capacity to translate vision into reality. It is a privilege to see the frenetic activity going on under the calm and composed mien. I am proud to call him family.
Here to Serve –In our part of the world, it is quite rare for public officials to give accounts of their stewardship. What one is more accustomed to is reading their defenses when a succeeding regime makes an accusation of mismanagement. Thankfully, this is not our lot in the Anambra State of today.
Obaze has written a highly readable, inspiring account of his time in the Anambra state government. “Here to Serve” is a book of speeches and essays accounting for how a committed public servant measures the imperatives of high stake politics. From the unprecedented flood disaster of 2012 to grappling with the nightmare of Ebola, what emerges is a portrait of governance that is closer to what we hope for than what we fear; one that rises above the maneuverings and the sludge. Reassuringly, Obaze has shown that government can still be a calling, not a business.
Praise must be reserved for Peter Obi – As any good leader knows, the most difficult part of the job is finding the right team – who believe in your vision and can run with it. The right leader is not afraid to delegate, to give up control for fear of being outshone. In the words of Andrew Carnegie, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” And as Theodore Roosevelt put it, “the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” It is to Peter Obi’s acclaim that he had the farsightedness to recruit such a lieutenant as Obaze and a testament to his leadership and vision that he empowered Obaze to do the job he did.
Most indigenes and residents of Anambra State will recall the challenges that confronted us in the early days of the Fourth Republic. We had tremendous security challenges, brought on by years of neglecting the emerging class of young people, both in terms of education and in the availability of opportunities for development. “Here to Serve” shows the methodical steps taken by the Obi administration to advance our trajectory to truly becoming, the Light of the Nation, – the state with the highest FDI outside the oil sector, the state whose Onitsha-Nnewi-Awka (ONA) industrial hub is characterized as singularly having the greatest potential for investment, growth, and productivity in Africa, the state whose students have consistently topped the national education league tables. Joe Torre wrote that strategy is like putting together a puzzle, hard to assemble but easy to understand once it’s done. Undoubtedly, the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS), provides incontrovertible proof of the Obi-Obaze team being, “simply the best, better than all the rest”, cliché intended. The hope is that their vision for Anambra will not only be sustained, but built upon by present and future governments, breaking away from the excuse we are frequently fed, of how little change can be achieved during one’s tenure. No longer shall it be, business as usual.
All 31 essays in this 264-page book are well written, informative and enlightening, culminating in a book that students of politics and history, will have trouble putting down. Reading between the lines many of the essays were moving, some humorous, even if unintended. It would have been interesting to be at the events where some of these speeches were given. Imagine the faces of the newly elected local government chairman and deputies being cautioned not to take advantage of the “opportunity to get rich in government or to put it decently, the opportunity to make money.” I wonder how many actually read the recommended guidebooks “The Public Service Rules and Pension Act; The Financial Regulations; and The Civil Service Manual. As Obaze put it, Public office etiquette demands that each encounter must start with the question, “How can we assist you?” and end with, “I hope we have been of assistance to you.” The only problem is that one would probably collapse, if walking into a government office in Onitsha, or for that matter anywhere else in Nigeria, a government official says, in English or any other language, “How can we assist you?” The final chapter of the book titled, “Deciphering Nigeria in the Context of the 2015 Prognostications”, is eerily prescient.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I’m convinced that more than a book of essays, posterity will judge the book as a template for success for African governments looking to break away from cycles of the past and put themselves firmly on the road to prosperity. I am also looking forward to the next book. With Oseloka Obaze’s first-hand knowledge of what goes on in the corridors of political power, I am bursting at the possibility of an even more revealing volume delving into the actual on-goings and day to day interactions in the often foggy world of government and politics.
Dr. Nkiru Balonwu is an attorney, intellectual property expert, communications strategist, business services profesional and literary critic. Her book reviews previously appeared in Kwenu.com Book Review Forum, THISDAY, and several other Nigerian newspapers. © Copyright 02 May 2016.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.