custom-boss-Hameed-ali

The only reason why one may excuse Ali and perhaps see him as some superstar who must live beyond the law, is if he has caused some profound changes for the better in the institution he leads. Yes, sometimes whizkids are exempted, even though it is bad management practice. But in Ali’s case, revenues have dropped, morale has to have become even lower with his kind of attitude…


Hubris is what is plaguing Hameed Ali. Not all military men feel that way though, thankfully. But he belongs among that stock that revels in pride and prejudice, afflicted by megalomania, and look down on all Nigerians. In fact, his type of Army guy believes they are superior to the Navy and Air Force. In those days of military rule, they would round up and beat policemen to a pulp from time to time. Civilians quaked and shivered at their sight. I am not intimidated by them; I went to an Army Secondary School and grew up seeing soldiers in the most impressionable period of my life, while the Army reigned in the mid to late 1980s. I am friends with their children, and today have a lot of them as pals – some of them my friends since secondary school.

Meanwhile there is nothing special about these guys (the Ali era type) really. In their time, mere Majors became governors of states, and ministers. They headed large agencies. There was a time Nigeria ran out of Lt. Colonels to fill the roles. So we had middle level officers with big job functions that were really beyond them. It’s like asking an Assistant Manager to run a whole bank. Truth is, I’ve interacted with loads of them at that level over time, and they are still at a learning stage and largely inexperienced (nothing wrong with that). The uniform can veil a lot of inadequacies. With hindsight, I believe anyone below Brigadier General shouldn’t have been allowed to lead any state in Nigeria. Being in the military may teach you structure, and it is easy for you to administer because it is command and control. But in the real world, you need real LEADERSHIP SKILLS. In fact, you need EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. Today’s military is less lucky. The promotions no longer come as they did in Ali’s days. Chances are that Ali shouldn’t have retired with more than a Major’s rank if not for coup-induced rapid promotions. Now, he brags about how having been in the army, no other uniform can touch his skin. Impunity. Impudence. Hubris.

His oga, General Buhari has also proven to be like that too. Sad. They are kindred spirits. The failure to lift off his government has a lot to do with HUBRIS. Many of those who work with him – even ministers – find him unapproachable, to start with. So he gets no new idea beyond that coming from those he has known since, well, his days in the Army. All their memories, jokes, and inspiration come from their days in the Army. Those were simple and ordinary days of innocence, compared to now. And these guys believe that they are the best suited for any crucial position. They almost imagine that they are gods. Tribalism, nepotism and religionism are only icings on the cake.

This man believes that wearing a customs uniform will confer him with skin cancer. He doesn’t care that the latest customs recruit is looking up to him for leadership. He doesn’t care to leave the Nigerian Customs a better place. Whatever he is able to achieve by way of reforms, if any, he is there to claim the glory, alone… after all he is the only one in the service who stood out in the way he appears. His refusal to identify with a Nigerian agency which he heads – even in ceremonial times – is a disrespect to Nigeria and a further desecration of our institutions, because here is a person proving he is bigger than Nigeria. Who is a leader, who cannot identify with his followers? Only a phoney, a fake leader, does that. We have had it better in Nigeria though. We can point to better leaders like General Hananiya, and many others who have done the needful to inspire their followers. Even Aregbe in Osun dressed like a public school student and nothing evil came upon him.

Some people have turned into emergency lawyers for Ali. The man is wrong. This is not about ‘show me the law that says he must wear uniform?’ Stop being clever by half. Search your heart, leave the law for a minute. Make sure you don’t support or oppose issues just because the man concerned bears a name you can relate to or something of that sort, or because you know him. What is wrong, is wrong. We roasted Goodluck Ebele, for diving under the law (which they say is an ass anyway), when he declared “curse me from heaven to hell, I will never declare my assets openly. no law says I should”. The same you asking for law today, we were in the same camp then.

Ehmm, I think you need to cure yourself of your own hubris too.

Meanwhile, even in the private sector, there are examples. Banks and other corporate organisations choose to wear branded t-shirts on some days of the week. The MD is not an MD who refuses to wear his and expects his staff to. Uniforms are a symbol of leadership, solidarity, structure, discipline, order, legacy; even if a mere branded office tie. Even organisations like NDIC and other institutions have that culture today. And everybody complies, from the MD to the lowest person. Hameed Ali is only amplifying one thing I’ve seen among some ‘connected’ people who are paid salaries by the Nigerian people. Some of them, even as mere trainees, cannot be controlled by even the CEOs of their organisations. They do what they like. They come and go when they like. They flaunt rules and regulation, like the wearing of branded uniforms, just because ‘it is their time’. Their godfathers are in power. It is sick.

The only reason why one may excuse Ali and perhaps see him as some superstar who must live beyond the law, is if he has caused some profound changes for the better in the institution he leads. Yes, sometimes whizkids are exempted, even though it is bad management practice. But in Ali’s case, revenues have dropped, morale has to have become even lower with his kind of attitude, and oh yes, the men of the Nigerian Customs still demand for bribes anywhere they can be found. So what qualifies him to have a chip on his shoulder? The results so far can only mean that he has left his troops far behind and as a general he is basically on his own on the warfront. That is a bad war to carry on as someone who should understand leadership. Humility is part of leadership sir. He should wear the uniform or vacate that post. I am least concerned that the Senate is the one asking him to do this. The Senate may be rotten, but a dead clock is correct at least twice a day. The customs under Ali is equally messy.

foraminifera

What is more? The man dreamt of asking his men to waylay cars on the streets in a bid to recover import duties, when his men have become billionaires from gyping the government? How many Customs men have been jailed? Are there no records to trace who collected what? Or Ali, as well as Magu, does not want to rock the boat? Does this not give a lie to their claims to being anti-corruption crusaders?

‘Tope Fasua, an Economist, author, blogger and entrepreneur, can be reached through topsyfash@yahoo.com.