By Olusegun Adeniyi
One of the more interesting short stories in the Bible can be found in 2 Samuel chapter 23. Bethlehem had fallen into the hands of Israel’s mortal enemies, the Philistines. King David had fled the city when he said in the presence of his loyal aides, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” Nothing in the story suggested that David was thirsty or that drinkable water was not available nearby. It was simply his craving for something out of reach in a moment of self-indulgence. But it was enough for three of his men to fight their way through the ranks of the Philistines to access that Bethlehem well water.
The circumstances might be different but there is a way in which we can draw a parallel between that story and what popular artiste, Davido (real name, David Adeleke) did last week Wednesday. To mark his 29th birthday, Davido posted a bank account number to which he asked friends to donate. Perhaps to demonstrate, like his Biblical namesake, that it was a want rather than a need, the musician said his goal was to raise N100 million to clear his Rolls Royce from the port. And he was indulged. From celebrities who credited the account with millions of Naira to people on the street who sent in between N1,000 and N5,000, a deluge of donations followed. Within 48 hours, the account had swelled to N200 million. And with that, Davido had a choice to make.
Four options were available to him. One, he could spend the entire amount anyway he wanted and regardless of whatever anybody may say, he could rationalize that decision. Two, Davido could donate a portion of the money to charity and pocket the remainder. Three, Davido could do ‘give-away’ on Twitter—a move that would be tremendously hailed by the unreflective social media mob. If, for instance, he had decided to play with N50 million, that would be enough for Davido to create a digital stampede for weeks given the way some people beg for crumbs on that platform. The last option of course was for Davido to give the entire money away to a worthy cause and do it in a transparent manner.
This now brings me back to the story of King David. When the three men brought the water to him from the Bethlehem well, he decided it was too sacred to drink. “Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this! Is this not the blood of the men who risked their lives?” he said as he poured the water to the ground as a sacrifice. A Bible scholar wrote that if King David had just taken a swig of that water, it would amount to despising these three loyal aides and the sacrifice they had made. So, he chose to reciprocate by honouring them in return.
Now, let’s come back to Davido. When this whole idea started, according to the artiste, it was simply meant for fun. But he was humbled by the response. I am delighted that Davido had enough sense of awareness to see the bigger picture the moment millions began rolling in. To rebuild this society, we need those in critical positions in various sectors of our national life to understand that nothing edifies more than the positive impact we create by selfless acts. The message is simple: We need to focus less on ourselves and our immediate environment and pay more attention to those who could use our help.
Since Davido is a successful musician from a wealthy family, we may be tempted to think that N200 million is not a big deal to him. But it is. There is a saying about money that nobody ever has enough. I once listened to an interesting discourse on that from the Chair of Metis Capital Partners, Mr Keem Belo-Osagie—he called it ‘the shifting goalpost’. While we can have contentment, which is not dependent on the size of our bank account, we can never have enough money. Even Bill Gates welcomes donations from Warren Buffet for his Foundation! So, despite his personal and family wealth, there are many things Davido could do with what, to many of us, is a jumbo amount of money. But he chose to respect the people who contributed to make him happy on his birthday by yielding the entire sum to those who need it more than him. And he added his own contribution of N50 million. He also did it in a transparent and accountable way. And for that, he taught a significant lesson in leadership.
Like most celebrities for whom there is no place to hide, I am aware that Davido has his failings and we have many self-righteous people in Nigeria who point them out. But they miss the point. Despite his social status, what Davido did is not too dissimilar from that of Mrs Ngozi Onuegbusi who refused gratification during the last election in Anambra State. She needed the N5,000 offered to purchase her vote. But she also had a choice to make. She could have rationalized taking the money with the usual excuse—’everybody is doing it’. She chose to be different by rising above the poverty of spirit that afflicts many in our country, including those in big public offices who behave like scavengers. Without any expectation of a future reward, she refused to sell her vote. Now, she is richer for that choice with the N1 million cash reward from Governor Willie Obiano.
This less-travelled road is also enormously rewarding for Davido, and I am not talking about the media attention his philanthropic gesture has generated globally. Or the way it will advance his music career. In the world in which we live today, according to Indian writer, Tharini Sridharan, selflessness is no longer just about charity, it is also uplifting. “Ironic as it may sound, selflessness is now an essential survival skill, a skill that relieves, heals and inspires,” Sridharan wrote and Davido perfectly understands that because, as many attest, he is by nature a generous person. “So, the next time you’re out saving the world, it wouldn’t hurt to remember—that the world is, in fact, saving you right back.”
In an era when leadership is exercised more through influence than coercive methods, those who inspire commitment to noble ideals are far more important than those who demand compliance to what they might not even believe in. And the former is more impactful. When Davido sent out the first tweet with his account details, I commented in a small chat group: ‘Alagbari l’oga mugun’ (a popular Yoruba slang to depict how smart people make money off their ignorant peers). But as I followed the story, I saw things differently. Those who contributed money to Davido, despite knowing he is far richer than them, were making their own statement too. Last night, I joined that company by adding my own token of N25,000. And whenever Davido makes such a call again on his birthday in the years to come, he can be sure I will be among those to honour him with my contribution. That is because he has proved himself worthy. He understands accountability, transparency, and the essence of public trust.
At the end, Davido’s example stands out for a generation increasingly notorious for selfish showiness, garish ostentation and throwing tantrums, especially on social media. He chose a worthy cause over the transient enjoyment of a Rolls Royce! To corrupt officialdom for whom enough (looted public funds) is never enough, here is a young man of 29 tossing away N250 million to a cause higher than his personal interest. And to the rest of us, Davido has pointed in the direction of the enduring values that uplift a society. It will serve us to pay attention.
Justice Mary Odili and the Invaders
A few years ago, at a public function in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Supreme Court Justice (Mrs) Mary Odili took the seat directly in front of mine. When she noticed me, she asked, “What are you doing here?” I jokingly replied that I had been sent from Abuja to be her ADC. She laughed but if I thought that was the end of the matter, then I was wrong. The moment the event ended, Justice Odili turned back and handed me her handbag saying, “since you have appointed yourself my ADC, you have to do the job. Now, follow me.” From that moment, I was compelled to escort her around and to everybody she met, she would first introduce me, “meet Olusegun Adeniyi, my new ADC.” That day, she practically ‘detained’ me for more than an hour before I could extricate myself but not before we exchanged contacts.
Following her ordeal in the hands of those now identified as rogue security personnel, professional blackmailers, and spiritual merchants on the night of 29th October, I visited Justice Odili the next morning. And she had apparently not lost her sense of humour because she welcomed me by asking why I ‘abdicated my responsibility’ as her ADC when ‘unknown gunmen’ invaded her residence the previous night. Then, she shared her experience. Aside the fact that the invasion was well timed for when she would be alone at home, it became obvious that had she not been able to call top government officials who denied involvement and were the security people around the house not been very alert, the outcome could have been tragically different.
Exactly two weeks ago today, 14 suspects allegedly involved in that invasion were paraded by the police. They included Lawrence Ajodo, a fake Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), who claimed to be a consultant to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and others representing banking, law, journalism, law enforcement and the religious industry. These fortune hunters, including others still at large, were reportedly tipped off about a large sum of money in foreign currencies at the residence of Justice Odili. Eventually they ran out of luck.
Meanwhile, the matter is far more serious than it is being taken by the federal government. The implication is that anybody can organize a band of criminals and then use the instrumentality of the law to invade the residence of a high official of state in Nigeria. Of course, the AGF has denied involvement by dismissing Ajodo’s claim, and I don’t doubt him. But given that there is hardly any scandal involving perversion of law and order in Nigeria today without a Malami mention, the AGF must begin to ask himself the Mario Balotelli question: ‘Why always me?’
It is instructive that a chief magistrate would give the controversial order before rescinding it on pretext that he was misled. But it would not be the first time that institutions of state would be misused by senior government officials and collaborators to subvert the system. In August 2003, the then Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State (current Labour Minister) was abducted right in his office by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), the late Raphael Ige, whose services were procured by a politician with strong connection to the presidential villa at the time. Also involved in that sordid drama were rogue judges and corrupt security personnel.
The main concern now is the way we sweep matters under the carpet in Nigeria. Less than a month after the illegal raid on Justice Odili’s residence, we no longer hear anything about the case nor are there any indications of the promised prosecution of those arrested. But this is also typical. In situations like this, there is usually a drama of investigation to lull the people into forgetfulness in a nation where citizens are ever quick to move on and collective amnesia is a national disease.
In an uncharacteristic strong statement in the aftermath of the invasion, the Supreme Court expressed alarm over “the unwarranted and despicable raid on the official residence of one of our senior Justices…in a Gestapo manner.” The attack, according to the apex court, “depicted a gory picture of war by some armed persons suspected to be security operatives representing different agencies of government who seemed to have come to kill and maim their target under the guise of undertaking a search whose warrant was questionable and baseless.”
Then the court concluded: “Though there have emerged discordant tunes from the various security agencies that allegedly participated in the dastardly act, we are not lying low on this dehumanizing treatment meted out to one of our own. We have commenced a full-scale independent investigation to unravel the true masquerades behind the mystery as well as the real motives behind the whole incident.”
Whatever may be the outcome of that investigation, as well as the one instituted by the police, there is a significant lesson we can take from this tragic episode. The Standard Operating Procedure for our security agencies needs to change. Their personnel should stop operating at night like a gang of bandits. If they need to invite anybody for questioning or raid an apartment, such must be done during the day and in a civil manner. That way, people would have no doubts as to who they are dealing with when confronted by night marauders masquerading as law enforcers. That is also the only way to deal with this vexatious situation in which rogue politicians use their positions as instrument of extortion and blackmail to our collective shame.
Waziri Adio’s Memoir
Before Waziri Adio arrived the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in 2016 as Executive Secretary, he had practised journalism at TEMPO and THISDAY, spent the 2001/2002 academic session at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow, served as special adviser to Senate President (Adolphous Wabara), worked as communication specialist at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), returned to Harvard in 2008/2009 for a master’s degree in public policy/public administration at the Kennedy School of Government before establishing his own magazine, Metropole. The totality of that experience and exposure reflected in Waziri’s stellar stewardship at NEITI and in his memoir, ‘The Arc of the Possible’, which will be released to the public next Wednesday, 1st December and formally presented on 11th December in Abuja. The book is both insightful and sobering with several lessons for many of our young people who may want to seek a career in the Nigerian public space, those currently in service, and for all those interested about improved governance in our country.
• You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com