It is Not in the Name!

A name connotes or expresses directly the identity of a person (or group of persons), place, event or being (inanimate or living). In certain climes and sects, a name goes beyond being a mere tag or nomenclature. Within most traditional African enclaves, the name an individual bears reflects either the circumstances of birth or a desired future. Moreover, in religious circles it is believed names do influence the fate of bearers – bearing an “unfortunate” name may compel the life events of an individual to be full of miseries and failures. Conversely, an auspicious name may from onset guarantee fortune for its bearer.

In contemporary times, names are still devised for identification purposes. In particular, organisations or groups of people are named in such a way to depict the purpose or activities of same. Howbeit, within corporate enterprises, while names may continue to remind stakeholders of or guide towards organisational goals, the role of leadership, content and character cannot be overlooked. Put differently, while the name of an organisation may spell its purpose, it is the people and not the name that drive the establishment to its destination of accomplishment or otherwise, failure.

Many Nigerian enterprises, particularly organs of government have experienced various (re)naming ceremonies christened “restructuring”, all at no small costs. Regrettably, such changes in names have only brought more miseries, wasted resources, misplaced priorities and loss of focus to such organisations.

The first villain on this list is the present Nigeria energy parastatal – the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). From the Electricity Cooperation of Nigeria (ECN) of the early 1960s to the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) of the mid 1960s, the PHCN (birthed in 2005) has served every other purpose but producing electricity. In point of fact, in recent times it seems PHCN is in the business of generating, transmitting and distributing darkness in “kilodark-hour” – a situation that has turned the Nigerian landscape into a dingy, sinister jungle with dispelled sparkles of light (made possible by generators) when viewed aerially at nighttimes. Aside the enormous bills incurred on fuel consumption to power their generators, neighbourhoods and homes have to cope with the additional agony of noise and fouled air. Many businesses are crippled or at the brink of closing down due to attendant high costs of generating their own electricity.

PHCN staff’s inclination to work and mind frame beg for reason – a rationale to confirm the rot in the system is actually people-oriented. Until the issues of leadership, content and character are addressed, billions of naira meant to revamp the energy sector will ceaselessly go down the drain – or more appropriately put, the pockets of some heartless felons.

Another malefactor on the list is the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). It was once proposed to change the name to The Nigeria Police (TNP). What this security arm of government needs is not a name change but a lineament alteration. The core and fabric of our police force reek of endemic corruption. It also appears this sleaze is uncontrollably contagious. The system has a knack for attracting the most uncultured, aggressive and otiose individuals from the society and if and when it fails to find one, it transforms the unspoiled to septic and the adept to effete. A modification of name and/or uniform guarantees little or no improvement of our police force. Rather, a comprehensive system overhauling is expedient which entails scrutinising the character and substance of personnel being recruited while doing away with the fetid.

The Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was created by the Babangida military government in July 1992 “to increase the government’s involvement in ameliorating the environmental and ecological degradation of these communities as a result of the exploration and exploitation of crude oil.”

However, according to Cyril Obi, “OMPADEC, like earlier official policies towards the Niger delta, was a gesture of tokenism. It ended up as a conduit pipe for the federalist bourgeoisie and its oil minority allies, and portrayed a grand strategy of destabilising the oil producing communities of the delta through divide and rule tactics. Worse, the limited contributions that OMPADEC could have made were hampered by institutional instability and crisis. OMPADEC’s first chief executive was removed from office after numerous petitions and allegations of corruption, and he fled abroad shortly after.”

Sadly, the story has not been different even with a transformation into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000 by the Obasanjo administration – the more things change, the more they remain the same. Instead of developing the oil-rich Niger-Delta, the NDDC has only succeeded in stupendously enriching a few individuals particularly the commission’s executives. Recently, the NDDC chairman was arrested for paying half a billion naira to a sorcerer, to carry out unthinkable things!

On the continental stage, the name-change syndrome fails not to play. Established in 2002, the African Union (AU) was formed as a successor to the amalgamated Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and African Economic Community (AEC) both established in the early 60s and 80s, respectively. It would be expected the AU will truly unite its integral country members, while they enjoy gains of their union like their European counterparts on the platform of the European Union (EU). On the contrary, most African nations have only experienced resentment and hostility within territories and across borders.

Lately, indigenous South Africans took to the streets destroying properties and taking lives of fellow African non-indigenes in bestial, despicable manner, claiming the foreigners were denying them scarce job opportunities. The situation remains a template for most African sub-regions. Furthermore, most African nations have only known tyrannical rule and despotic forms of government. With Muammar al-Gaddafi holding sway for absolutism in the north; the Eyadémas, representing the league of monocrats in the west; Mwai Kibaki sitting tight in a so-called power-sharing deal in the east and the octogenarian, shogunal Robert Gabriel Mugabe in the south; one wonders what name change has to do with regional unity and delivery of the dividends of good governance to people.

Actualising genuine, tangible and constructive changes must be premised only on structural revolution which addresses leadership, content and character – in essence, the human element. Without these, the status quo can only get sorrier no matter the brand of risible, splendiferous names organisations bear.

Written by
Adewale Ajani
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