You are currently viewing All Protocols (Un)Duly Observed
Share this story

Most of us have attended functions in our beloved country where, after a long wait (some lasting several hours), the guest of honour finally arrives with a retinue of security men and political hangers-on. The Master of Ceremony (MC) then takes over. “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, please permit me to welcome His Excellency,” the MC begins before reeling out titles of the arriving guest. We are then told that ‘His Excellency’ is just a filler because the person we were expecting “is unavoidably absent due to urgent state matters”. No problem. The introduction continues with His Excellency “being ably represented by His Excellency (the MC again reels out titles for another stand-in) who is also unable to join us today because of the exigencies of state but is ably represented by His Excellency…” 

This peculiar kind of protocol speaks to a lack of accountability that defines officialdom in our country. There is hardly any Nigerian who doesn’t feel devalued by the nauseating practice. With the exception perhaps of those at the receiving end of the buffoonery. The issue here is, if we cannot change such a simple but notorious image that requires just basic decency, how does anyone expect public officials to fix the more complex socio-economic problems? How can we accept that public functions are about wasting time and disrespecting people? Is it not obvious that those who hold the people they are supposed to serve in such contempt would feel entitled to abuse public resources?

A document by the United States-led Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—comprising 37 member countries which account for three-fifths of world GDP and three-quarters of world trade—on the required standard of ethics in government prescribes that public officials must serve “in a timely manner with care, respect and courtesy.” Those virtues are lost on most of those who hold the levers of power in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this is not restricted to the public sector, it is across the board. Today, the hallmark of being a ‘Big Man’ in Nigeria is to be able to live above the law, disrespect the people and be waited upon, including at public functions.

There is a short piece going round on WhatsApp that has no name of the author titled, ‘The things I missed at King Charles’ Coronation today’ which I find very instructive. It is about what transpired (or did not) last Saturday in London. It is a must read for authorities in Abuja and the 28 states as they plan their programmes for the 29May inauguration. I hope they understand that what we showcase to the world at public ceremonies is sheer indiscipline and a lack of manners. And we cannot continue like this if we want to be considered as a civilized society. I have had opportunities to sit with diplomats and foreign dignitaries at events in our country and I see the way they laugh at us. But before I get ahead of myself, let me go back to the WhatsApp post. I will highlight each of the points made by the writer and put my own comments under it.

Nobody ‘stole’ my precious time, as everything went according to schedule; even the King and the Queen arrived the venue at the appropriate time. I never heard any announcement of “ladies and gentlemen, while we wait for the special guest of honour, may I beg your indulgence to…”

Public officials in Nigeria are notorious for coming late to events because ‘Bigmanism’ (and ‘Bigwomanism’) in our country is defined by how irresponsible someone in a position of authority can be. They will send their protocol people ahead to events to be alerted to ‘start coming’ once everybody is seated. Leading by example does not apply to them. From politicians to businessmen and traditional rulers, especially the new ones being installed these days, what they exhibit is utter contempt for the people. Midway to an event, they will arrive with their unruly mob ostensibly to ‘steal the show’ and in the process disrupt proceedings. They do it at both official and non-official ceremonies, including weddings and burials and we even applaud them.


There was no siren and escorts of dignitaries driving recklessly into the venue and trying to outdo one another.  

The competition among aides of these officials is a security risk on their own. There have been scuffles and fights over turf by these aides and security details in their attempt to boost the bloated egos of their principals. I have witnessed a few that portray us as no better than barbarians. Meanwhile, official convoys in Nigeria are needlessly long and wasteful because it is seen as a projection of power. Yet what is being advertised is that the entire essence of seeking public office in Nigeria is to be able to live large at the expense of the people. Not to serve the public good.


There were no area boys or praise singers ushering people into the venue; and no intimidating ‘bouncers’ at the entrance of the hall requesting to check one’s Invite.

I understand that many uninvited guests like to turn up at events in Nigeria so having bouncers around can help with crowd control so long as they are polite. There are also cultural aspects to the issue of praise singers. I will not advocate a ban. A confession here: Like most people, I enjoy the beats that come from some of these local drummers and whether some people believe it or not, I can throw a few dance steps. But a safe distance can be created for them so that they do not become a nuisance.


I didn’t see police escorts wielding AK-47 and asking people to give way. No chief of protocol or ADC leading the PM and showing the way as if the man was a toddler. There was no need to read out the names and appointments of all the ‘big men and women’ present as part of Protocol before making any speech. In fact, there was no ‘existing protocol’ for anybody to stand on today. 

This was the response from a senior official at the Villa to which I forwarded the message: ‘We are truly a special breed. That’s why security people outnumber guests and aides take up valuable seats and space at events. Our president entered Westminster Abbey alone and heavens did not fall’. The message here is that the gra-gra is not necessary. But this will be addressed another day when I share experiences from another life. Meanwhile, the idea that every speaker must begin with ‘His Excellency…’ and then going on to recognize (with bogus titles) all those who had already been recognized is crazy. Interestingly, in Nigeria, the MC does not work alone. They also have ‘aides’, mostly from the organisers or simply those who want to be noticed. Or even aides of our big men and women. Intermittently, they will walk to the podium to whisper to the MC, sometimes with a note. The important information being passed is the name or perhaps title of an important dignitary or their spouse who has been omitted or not correctly pronounced. The ‘apologies’ to His or Her Excellency can take another three minutes. Meanwhile, after every speech, the MC must rehash for the audience what ‘His Excellency’ had just said. In the process, they inject their own view, almost in the manner of ‘Icheokwu’ (that inimitable television drama for Nigerians of a certain generation) even when the speech was rendered in English! And talking about speech, elected public officials in Nigeria are too important to carry their own speech. Somebody must carry it for them to place the file on the podium!

I never saw members of the media running around with their cameras, blocking the views of invited guests, and almost pushing their microphones or handsets into the mouths of the officiating ministers.  

Okay, this one is too close to home. I agree as a reporter that my colleagues can do better. But I am also aware that many of the ‘journalists’ we see at public events are touts. In any case, with social media, everybody is a journalist these days. Even this can be controlled by whoever manages the media for an event if they work with security.


looked round to catch a glimpse of those hawking ‘pure water’, colanut, chewing gum, white handkerchiefs, and new currency notes inside the hall, but there was none.  

The less said about this indiscipline the better. The people here are at the margins of society trying to eke out a living and probably hoping for any crumbs that would fall from these ceremonies. There is also an economic dimension to this that we should not ignore. Knowing the way officialdom works in Nigeria, it is easy to enforce suggestions that these people be done away with, and the directive will be enforced with brutality. I have also witnessed a couple of such unpleasant situations.


The prophets in the UK probably didn’t hear nothing from God; So, there was no single prophecy of ‘what will happen if Charles was crowned as king’.  

The commercialization of prophecy is another Nigerian invention by which merchandise is made of the name of God. We see them every election season. They will make rational (sometimes irrational) deductions of who they think would win an election, and then proclaim that God told them. Mostly based on their personal bias, their god will tell them who would die before or after election or those who would win and not be sworn in. I guess that is another lucrative ‘industry’ we can leave for today since it also provides its own entertainment.

Lennox Mall

Overall, the issue here, as my late principal, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua reminded us in his inaugural speech on 29 May 2007, is that we will not develop as a nation until we “stop justifying every shortcoming with that unacceptable phrase, ‘the Nigerian factor’ as if to be a Nigerian is to settle for less.” We as a people must begin to demand more accountability from our leaders: They are there to serve, and not the other way round. And you cannot serve people without respecting them.

Coming late to events and disrupting proceedings is an irresponsible behaviour that we must curb. Dr. Muiz BanireSAN, a former Lagos State Commissioner, and erstwhile National Legal Adviser of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), last December wrote about this vexatious issue of lack of appreciation of time and timeliness in Nigeria. “A time waster is a destroyer of nature and human values. While this unfortunate attitude reflects in the personal lives of many, it has become a permanent feature of our public or political life”, Banire wrote, citing several examples to buttress his point, including during the last conferment of national honours when President Muhammadu Buhari arrived two hours late for the ceremony without any apology to the audience by the organisers. 


Now to the future. On 29th May in Abuja, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be inaugurated to succeed President Buhari at a ceremony for which there will be many local and foreign dignitaries. Hundreds of millions of Naira will be expended on the event. The same thing will happen in the capital cities of 28 states. If the past were any guide, the ceremonies will be chaotic. But as I stated earlier, Nigeria will not develop until we begin to change some of these seemingly little things that present us to the world as unserious people.

Osinbajo, Wunti, Elumelu, Dangote and the Road Ahead


At the invitation of its Chief Upstream Operating Officer, Mr Bala Wunti, I was in Lagos yesterday to speak at the Annual Value Assurance Review (AVAR) of the NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services (NUIMS). My session was on the ‘Fiduciary Responsibilities and Stakeholder Communication in the Post-PIA Era’. With participants drawn from the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Plc senior management, it was also a learning experience for me, as I engaged with industry experts.

The most insightful presentation came from Alhaji Aliko Dangote who shared his experience on the challenges he faced while trying to build the biggest single-train refinery in the world that will be commissioned on 22 May. I was shocked to hear him say, among other things, that the premises of his refinery complex is seven times the size of Victoria Island in land mass, most of it reclaimed. He also shared insights on the oil and gas industry. Without the NNPC doing well, according to Dangote, it will be difficult for Nigeria to do well. Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Mr Tony Elumelu also spoke at the session.

I am aware of the discussions around removal of the wasteful and inefficient regime of subsidy in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry (and we should). But it is the upstream sector that holds the key to our future. The developed countries are largely responsible for the carbon emissions threatening our world. But they continue to aggressively invest in the exploration of fossil fuels in the wake of the energy crisis caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine. So, it is easy to understand the hypocrisy of their renewable energy campaign. This should trigger in the developing world a conversation akin to what obtained in the seventies about a ‘new international economic order’ for which the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was a catalyst.

It is unfortunate that African leaders are not using the debate about climate change to extract concessions from leaders of developed countries who have put us in this mess yet still have the temerity to impose decisions they themselves are not committed to. For instance, Nigeria has more gas than oil, with about 208 trillion standard cubic feet projected to be worth over $803.4 trillion. Given the growing need for gas across the world, the decision to stop funding fossil fuel investment in countries like ours makes no sense. Meanwhile, huge investments are being made for oil and gas exploitation in these same countries.


That this inequality has always been the case is reflected in the 1975 book, ‘A Hundred Million Dollars in A Day’, by Michael Field where he narrated an incident that happened at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in 1973. According to Field, a member of the OPEC delegation had just been gifted a small bottle of whisky by the Middle East correspondent of Financial Times. Looking at the content, he reportedly asked the journalist: “Do you know that this small whisky bottle costs the equivalent of four barrels of crude oil?” The OPEC man went on to argue that the pricing system was unjust, considering that whisky is made from renewable ingredients while oil is a wasting asset. A few weeks later, a combination of events conspired in OPEC’s favour to wrest control of oil prices.

We need such disruptions today and this is where I must commend Vice President Osinbajo who understands the issues involved and has taken a pragmatic stance on the need for a transition period on the climate change debate. In the last few years, Osinbajo has been consistent that as Nigeria charts a path towards clean energy, we must be supported (and assisted) to harness our vast natural gas resources. For Osinbajo, whose position I wholeheartedly endorse, a global transition away from carbon-based fuels must account for the economic differences between countries and allow for multiple pathways to net-zero emissions. 

Incidentally, I was also in Port Harcourt on Tuesday for the official commissioning of the 240MW, AFAM 3 Fast Power Project by Osinbajo, who spoke about the challenges and prospects of the power sector in Nigeria. He also commended Chairman of Transcorp Power PLC, Elumelu for leading the way. “The tide (inadequacy of investment) is turning with indigenous power entrepreneurs such as Transcorp Power, and Heirs Holding making significant investment such as this hundred percent acquisition of the 966MW installed capacity Afam Power Plc and Afam 3 Fast Power Limited at an acquisition cost of N105.3 billion,” said Osinbajo who reminded the audience that on Monday, the National Council on Privatization “formally delisted Transcorp Power PLC (formerly known as Ughelli Power PLC) from routine Monitoring & Evaluation by the BPE, indicating yet another successful power investment.” 

I also commend Elumelu for the investments he is making in power. But this is a difficult sector. On Tuesday in Port Harcourt, I had opportunity to interact with critical stakeholders, including the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc Managing Director, Dr Nnaemeka Ewelukwa, and I can see that huge challenges lie ahead. The disclosure by Osinbajo that “in 2019 subsidies (in the power sector) reached a peak of N584 billion in an environment that was very burdensome on the Nigerian government’s fiscal position” says it all. And yesterday, I learnt even more from Wunti and the oil and gas people on the state of the upstream sector that holds the nation’s most valuable assets. 

If there is anything that I have taken away from the experience and exposure of recent days, it is that the next administration has its job cut out for it. For Nigeria to work, the oil and gas sector must work.

Source: THIS DAY


Do you have an important success story, news, or opinion article to share with with us? Get in touch with us at or Whatsapp +1 317 665 2180

Join our WhatsApp Group to receive news and other valuable information alerts on WhatsApp.

Share this story

Leave a Reply