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The SLS’ TEDx Lecture


Noel A. Ihebuzor

SLS’ TEDx youth platform lecture which he gave in August 2013 showed up on Twitter last week and was roundly shared. The timing of the appearance might not be accidental. SLS’s sympathizers may have deliberately chosen to put it up to present their principal as a good outspoken technocrat who could be trusted to convey hard and inconvenient truths as a counter to the view of him as someone who could leak an official letter which was gaining ground. The technocrat who speaks hard truth view is positive. The government official who leaks a letter view is negative and damning.  

I listened to the man. He is a good communicator, he spoke well and clear. His NVC was perfect. He got and retained the attention of his audience. The use of stories with his children showed him as a man who tries to connect with his children and young people but he goofed in not knowing the precise age of one of his children

He found a connection to his audience and maintained it – coming back to the gap between actual and potential, between aspiration to greatness and refusal to do things that lead to greatness was a good one. He told the youths what they wanted to hear. He then challenged them. But he also blew his own trumpet – how under him, the CBN took on and brought defaulting bankers to book. He stressed what they did in the area of asset recovery.

Was he marketing himself as a good presidential candidate in this lecture? Was this speech brought up at this strategic point in time so that the APC would notice and approach him as a possible presidential candidate now that Tambuwal has almost blown his chances by his “body language” talk and reports of his displaying fawning obsequiousness immediately to the president? I am sure that the APC is also “clueful” enough to know that El-Rufai is a “no-touch/ba takpa” on this one.  Sule Lamido wavers in his defection aspirations. The former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, is poorly perceived since he is seen as having virtually sold himself down the river when he succumbed and fraternized with a GEJ led administration!  Aliyu Babaginda has so far acted as a man who is unsure on which side his bread is best buttered.  The hunt for a northern presidential candidate for the APC is still on.  And this is a season defections! Is the airing of this TEDx then a well timed publicity piece for someone seen as a good candidate? Or were SLS and his handlers/sympathizers using the speech to try to redeem his image after the gaffe of his politically motivated but poorly packaged missing funds accusation where he had played to a certain political gallery and to the tune of its vested interests? Recall that after the confutation by the NNPC, SLS had come across as a loose cannon who could speak at times without either bothering to consult or verifying his facts? Was the timing of the replay of this TEDx part of efforts then at damage control and image redemption? I am still struggling to unravel this one.

Now back to the TEDx lecture and its content. SLS was spot on in lambasting us for our grab-grab mentality and the immorality of our leadership class, be they in the private, public or political sectors. Kleptomania “rules OK” and we are proof that the law of diminishing returns does not apply to the hunger and consumption of the proceeds of graft and corruption. He blasted our rentier state mind set and showed that it applied even in the private sector. Here again, he was spot on.

He was also subtly critical of GEJ’s approach to corruption – but in pointing out his (SLS’s) successes against corrupt bankers, he was indirectly agreeing that GEJ’s administration was also acting against corruption. The success of the CBN boss is the success of his boss!

I had hoped he would say something on cronyism and nepotism and the extent to which he had worked and succeeded to bring these two manifestations of corruption under control during his headship of the CBN – but he did not! People are usually taciturn when it comes to talking on areas where they have not succeeded! Did his listeners fail to pick up this gap in his speech?

He also indirectly criticized previous CBN governors for failures in regulatory and oversight functions and for being slack. He made reference to 2009 as the watershed year – year when he came to power and began to change things. I expect a reply from his predecessors in office to show that they too were not sleeping on duty.

He scored major points on the fuel subsidy saga and sham.  He was scathing in his comments on oil theft and bunkering, placing the blame squarely on the Navy and agencies charged to protect our pipelines. But he was silent on the correctness of the decision to remove the subsidy, the non-removal which fuels and sustains much of the corruption in the oil industry. The technocrat stepped down here and the political animal knew that it is politically incorrect to be seen as recognizing/admitting the merits in oil subsidy removal in public. His silence on this touchy issue was “politically correct speek” taken to perfection.

He challenged the youth to come out and challenge “vested interest”, this very elusive beast which always acts with “circumstances beyond our control” and the devil to frustrate all our best plans and intentions in this country. Clearly, he must believe very strongly in the young generation to ask them to take on such a formidable foe. He must have a lot of confidence in them.

Have they lived up to this confidence? Have they shown that they are different from their fathers and mothers? The fuel subsidy protests presented this young generation with an opportunity and a structure upon which they could truly organize and become a credible political platform and vanguard for real change. But did they pick up this opportunity? I am not sure that they did. Rather than build/consolidate this platform, rather than form a viable and third political force in politics in Nigeria, rather than seek to reach out and extend beyond Lagos, their leaders chose self aggrandizement on social media and to align themselves with differently garbed members of the same political class whose excesses have kept this country on her knees and made her unable to rise to claim her destiny and a place in the sun. I am not sure that these leaders got more than measly bowls of porridge for this unfortunate affiliation.  I hope they decode SLS’s message, return the bowls and redeem themselves. They were severe, and correctly too, in their judgment of the failures of their parents. History will judge them even more harshly for betrayed hopes unless they act now to redeem themselves.

By the way, is this TEDx speaker not the same controversial SLS who, gossip has it,  promoted a lady ahead of her time to protect a personal and vested interest? After listening to him, I concluded that all those tongues that tried to rise in judgment against this fine son of Nigeria for promoting a lady at his own will, whim and speed, were doing so out of envy and “pepper eye”.  A good man like SLS has a right to certain interesting vested interests which he can then divest or unvest at his want and will. Anyway, having being held spell bound in his lecture by the fire in his voice and the flawlessness in his English, I now believe that those accusations were baseless envy-driven gossip.

Oh, I forget – I liked his dressing and his build – I wish I was that well dressed and good looking. Nature can be unfair!




Development and policy analyst with a strong interest in the arts and inclusive social change. Dabbles occasionally into poetry and literary criticism!

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