his ice is colder than yours

amongst older African Americans, there is this saying that "the white man's ice is colder than that of the black man." It's usually said with some sarcasm because everyone knows that ice is ice, regardless of who sells it or not. What they are trying to say is that some people have been so brainwashed so as to think that things of the West are ultimately superior in every respect and that such a fact can never ever be questioned. I am sure we have all seen instances of this both in Nigeria and abroad. Like for example, we may know of someone who insists on buying their "Made in China" shoes when the AbaMade brand looks similar and may be superior in quality.

So what does all this have to do with our formerly esteemed, but now fallen, Minister of Health, Dr. Adenike Grange. Plenty...well at least, in my humble opinion....your own opinions are most welcomed.

Two weeks ago (yeah, I know, I'm late), Dr. Grange resigned from her post as the nation's Minister of Health, under allegations of corruption and mishandling of funds allocated to the Ministry of Health. As for the specifics, N300 million of unspent funds meant to return to the national treasury went missing or - according to the Ministry - were spent on Christmas bonuses. Grange claims that she did not personally benefit from these funds, but, in my opinion the gross mishandling of these funds hints that she handled her post irresponsibly, at the least.

I was still in Nigeria when Grange was appointed to the position of Minister of Health. When I did a proper search on her credentials (ehem...google), I was more than impressed. Actually, I was inspired, even hopeful. Beyond being a Nigerian woman, (because most Nigerian women are simply awesome...), she served as the president of the International Pediatric Association (IPA) and as a consultant for respected institutions such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

I believe it is safe to assume that while she was working for these institutions, which are heavily funded and monitored by the West, she must have been very careful in carrying out her responsibilities. I'm sure that is why she was recommended to and later given the post of Minister of Health (as for the junior Minister, who in his former life was an architect...i no know wetin he dash Yardy make da man call am...but i digress).

But what happened when she entered the Ministry, if this whole debacle is indeed, as she claims, a "lapse" in duty on her part?

That is where the white man's ice comes in. I feel that many (including myself at times) tend to perform differently amongst different people. I feel that amongst the company of her oyinbo peers, Grange probably was meticulous in her various appointments. But when it came to handling the affairs of Nigerians, it seemed as if her guard went down. After all, this is Nigeria - anything goes (including the sum of N300million). If, Grange felt that the white man's ice is colder, then when she goes into his store to buy such ice, it required of her a higher degree of decorum, as she displayed when working with the likes of WHO, IPA, and UNICEF. I guess entering the black man's store she let her guard down and the millions of women and children she claimed to protect.

Dr. Grange is not the first, and definitely not the last, to behave in such a manner. I know that I have done the same too (I won't get into specifics). But I guess this post and the Grange issue serves as a reminder to myself that we should be careful when we approach the work of humanitarian aid or service to our fatherland (or motherland, whichever). Grange in her resignation shifted blame to inherent political corruption in the Ministry. But I wonder if that is a good enough excuse to ignore her own personal call to promoting high moral standards in government. Personally I think she did not take her post as seriously as she did her other appointments in the West simply because she was amongst Nigerians.

But then again, this is just my take on things. She might have had this "lapse" because of personal problems at home or work that made her miss the millions of naira being reshuffled.

But I do agree with her, in a speech she made in 2005, when she quoted Rev. Martin Luther King that "'We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people but for the appalling silence (and inactivity) of good people.'"

Might I add, that our generation shall have to repent, not so much for an unwillingness to do good, but for being crappy at doing good (sorry, I'm having a brain freeze - no pun intended - and "crappy" was the only word I could think of...)

23 comments:

  1. Honeywell said...:

    CHRISTMAS BONUSES??????

    ok, i'm sorry, but that was the first thing that jumped out at me... its funny how nigerian politicians bother less and less about coming up with an excuse for stealing our money... see how they just threw "christmas bonuses" in our face.... biko, who are these people recieving this so called bonuses, hmm?

    as for the woman, i don't know for her oh, the whole is just a shame.... but abeg don't telling me that sum of money went "missing".. for heavens sakes, nigerians may be silent, but they are not stupid... at least she should have the dignity to come up with a better excuse....

  1. as much asi dont want to agree with her, she could be right.

    you need to see how "bonuses" are shared during ileya,xmas,easter, end of year and all that in the ministries. its shocking

    the only thing i blame her for was that it was done on her watch. ALL of them in power are no better. remember the saying - THE PERSON WEY HIN MESS SMELL FOR INSIDE MOLUE, NA HIN OWN SMELL WORSE PASS FOR THE WHOLE WORLD

  1. wow. il have to research this more before I reach a conclusion.

  1. I mentioned her in one of my posts. I think its simply a shame on her part, she shouldn't offer excuses and I don't think we should for her sake, she says it was the civil servants who misled her,they told her that's what's normally done after Yardy had categorically said all excess funds should be returned. She didn't return hers as I expect most other ministries did not.She got caught because a disgruntled member told on her,if not we would never have even heard of it.
    She has tarnished her name,at 68(not very sure) She simply should have known better.
    Even though it's slow, change is coming in Nigeria and these leaders will soon realise that there is no hiding place for them.

  1. Uzezi said...:

    one day we will talk about these days of looting all the name of goverment workers.

    like u noticed, many of us preffer the ice of the white man as u put it.

    i no fit talk. i dey hungry abeg.

    they are just so disappointing. and some are saying she is humble enough to resign. wetin she for do? the humility didnt extend to other areas at all.

  1. Ollay said...:

    Well written and on point...what can I say? We all need to do something positive, soon and well.

  1. Waffarian said...:

    Look people, all na fear. Make i explain.

    In the first case, where she worked in international organisations, she would have had too much dignity and respect for herself to have attempetd such. Once you are not among your own, you tend to be extra careful, doing oversabi, doing more work than is sometimes necessary. Nobody wants to be the black lazy woman or the dishonest foriegner. So when we work in foriegn places, most times we are meticulous to a fault. Fear no go even allow am take extra sugar for im tea.

    Case number two. Among your own people. Who wants to be the party spoiler? How many times have we sat by and watched people do the most outrageous things and not said a word? Nobody wants to be a rat. We are afraid of them saying "get with the program".Nobody wants to be the "oyibo" that is spoiling runs.

    So, in both cases, people are afraid of other peoples perceptions. We are more worried about how people see us than being true to ourselves.

    Too bad. She fucked up....but me self, i dey suspect say na the long throat males for her family na im put the poor woman for dis wahala.

  1. yes o!!...i too was horrified to hear this news...i was thrilled and hopeful when i heard that she was to be the minister of health, especially after reading her list of qualifications...then this...as much as she would like to say she didn't benefit from the missing money, neither did the people the money was intended to benefit...the fact that she used that as part of her argument in her defense, makes me question her character a bit more...

    ...i agree with waffarian about how people worry too much about the perceptions of others...but at the end of the day, your own moral compass should guide your actions and inactions...and if it can not, you don't deserve to be in a position of leadership...

    ...great post...the nigerianhealthwatch posted some interesting commentary about her whole ordeal...

  1. Anonymous said...:

    Well written article. You definitely hit the nail at the head.

  1. SOLOMONSYDELLE said...:

    Hm, well here are my thoughts. We have loads of institutions in Nigeria. Plenty ministries, schools, bureacracy upon bureacracy, but what we lack are institutional structures that guide entities such as the Ministry of Health. Such structures need strong leaders and wise individuals who will not look the other way when rules are broken. Who will demand that the right thing be done at the right time. If the individuals fail to do so, then they risk the possibility of being lumped with the bad guys when katakata bursts (trouble comes).

    I daresay that this is what happened to Ms. Grange. I refuse to believe that her heart is black like the rest of the big boys because when she came to office, you hsould have seen the rejoicing amongst medical professionals. Her failure to know what was going on in her ministry has resulted in the complete and utter destruction of her reputation. It is possible that she will rise from these ashes, but its stench will follow her everywhere. What is so sad is that she spent so much of her time travelling and taking a closer look at the nation's failed health system. I just saw her o n the news visiting Houston with Mrs. Yar'Adua (who I must say I like a lot, will explain later).

    I do not relieve her of her responsibility. As the head of the ministry, she should have not let this happen, but I do wonder if the lack of a proper system within the bureacratic ministry plays a role here.

    I'd like to point you to a post of mine from February 2007 called WHITE MAN'S MAGIC. Do read it when you can and drop your thoughts.

    BTW, I've been meaning to contact you. Have you heard of Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade? She's a John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award winner and is doing work on breast cancer. I read about her and immediately thought of you so, I am passing on her name.

    NIGERIAN CURIOSITY
    IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN I ONLY HAD ONE...

  1. Loomnie said...:

    I agree with SolomonSydelle. I find it hard to believe that she is part of the serious game of corruption going on in the ministries. It is possible that she was lax, but it is not exactly very easy for a minister to follow exactly what the bureaucrats in the ministry do. Actually, any minister who does that could be described as a person who has problems delegating duties. The lack of structures that support this is a serious culprit in the whole drama. It is a shame that this happened, but I wonder how many other ministers would be found in similar messes if one actually took a close look at their ministries.

  1. Naapali said...:

    Nneoma, I am forced to disagree with the central premise of your post. I doubt this lapse happened because of white man's ice. The analogy does not hold here mainly because we are talking about institutions and institutional behavior. Nigeria is corrupt, the civil service is corrupt as is the rest of government. No single individual can overturn that. What is more likely is those who have the most to lose from the new leader(ship) will plot and scheme to make this person fail. Then things return to how they used to be. There are corrupt people all over including here in the West. The difference is that most of the time the institutions and majority of the people within abide by the rules. No US cabinet secretary devotes any reasonable amount of their time trying to prevent graft and theft, they trust the system and their subordinates will handle that. Heck, the General Accounting Office, GAO exists for just that reason.

    I am sorry to hear Dr. Grainge has failed to live up to the standard she set herself. What is noble is that she , like Okonji-Iweala, has stepped down, unlike their entrenched Naija colleagues that would have held fast, secure in the knowledge that they are owed too many favors to be fired.

  1. nneoma said...:

    thanks for the comments everyone, I will try to respond to all of you one by one in one sitting...

    @honeywell - I meant the part about "missing" N300 million to be sarcastic...I guess I didn't do such a good job at that. Her excuse is that the inherent corruption in the Ministry allowed for such a sum of money to be used towards other things (bonuses) and that it was not entirely her fault. Her only crime, according to her, was that she was not as vigilant as she ought to have been. However, my contention is that she was hired on the basis of experience and sound judgment as evidenced in her ability to manage previous positions she has occupied in the West. Why did all of the sudden that experience and sound judgment disappear when she was put in charge of the Ministry?

    @an ibo dude's corner - yes, she could be right that the 300million naira was indeed used for Christmas bonuses BUT there was an executive order requiring that such monies be returned to the national treasury. Though I have never held such a position before and anything like it - I think it was a simple directive to follow. And considering that it was such a huge amount of money, she should have been somewhat aware of where it was going. Yes, she may be right in that she did not benefit from the corruption, but I think she was very wrong to allow it to happen by her inactivity.

    @nigeriandramaqueen - welcome back from your weekend excursion to Abuja (I'm too jealous). I hope the links I provided help with researching on the matter...but in terms of looking at the Nigerian dailies, they all pretty much say the same thing in regards to the matter. So once you have read one or two of them, you have read them all.

  1. nneoma said...:

    @for the love of me - yeah, i totally agree that she is excuse-less unless she can cite some other issue in her life that was taking precedence over her performing her duties well. Yes, people should be fired for engaging in corruption. But people should also be fired or they should resign if they fail to perform well or up-to-standard in the duties that they have been assigned. Grange failed to live up to not only the standards she set for herself - but also those basic standards we Nigerians set for our leaders - of which one of them is to make sure that huge sums of money are managed well. It's sad that it took a whistle-blower to rat her out, but I think that should lead us to demand for increased checks and balances in such ministries - like independent auditors or something like that.

    @Uzezi - she is humble enough to resign....uhhh yeah right. I bet it's the same type of humility that she displayed in her resignation statement in which she essentially blamed it on "inherent political corruption" I guess the devil made her do it (or ignore it...whichever). So I agree with you - Grange does not need our sympathy. She had an opportunity to positively affect the lives of millions of Nigerians and she blew it.

    @Ollay - thanks. I agree we all need to do something positive. What I was trying to emphasize is that we not only have to do something positive but also do that positive thing WELL - regardless of whether we are working for Westerners or Nigerians.

    @Waffarian - your explanations are always more than welcome.lol@ the extra sugar for the tea....unfortunately I am guilty of this is another regard - I won't suck and chew on bones in a western gathering but when amongst my own - you would think that my meat came boneless because I chewed and sucked up all the evidence...i digress again...
    in regards to whether she benefited (or the males of her household), I won't venture to say - though you are free to present your own speculations. For me, she is innocent until proven otherwise. I personally think that a failure to be responsible over her ministry is just as bad as partaking in corruption.

  1. nneoma said...:

    @gnigeriana - "as much as she would like to say she didn't benefit from the missing money, neither did the people the money was intended to benefit"
    I totally agree. Nigeria has spent alot of time fighting corruption and rightfully so, but it should also spend time fighting mediocrity and irresponsibility of some of its civil servants. I interned at a hospital during the summer in the East and on my first day I was shocked when people were getting ready to leave for the day at 2pm. I thought they were getting ready for a late lunch, only to find that they were not coming back...this is just a small example of how civil service is geared towards failure.
    I found the nigerian health watch's review of the situation to be fair. Here it is for those that are interested nigeriahealthwatch.blogspot.com - it is the March 26th post.

    @anonymous - thanks (hmmm, I wonder who this anonymous could be - but you are very welcome, nonetheless).

  1. nneoma said...:

    @solomonsydelle - in essence you are calling for a revolution of each of these ministries. That is why, I believe, Grange was hired. She has stated in the past that inactivity kills and that corruption bars things from going through. One would hope that she would take extra care to put her talk into practice and walk it out. If she was not able to do what she championed for, she should have not accepted the position. (On a side note, I think it is scandalous that her junior Minister was an ARCHITECT - erghhhh).
    I do not think her heart was black or is black. I think that she was irresponsible because she was working for Nigerians and was not under as much scrutiny as she might have been when she was working for Western organizations.
    As for whether the blame should be shifted to the fact that the ministry's bureaucracy is to blame...
    Well, Nigeria is a young country - barely hitting 50. Therefore, we should demand that those that are trusted with leadership should take this into account and realize that their jobs require taking something from scratch or that is disorganized, and making it into something that is sustainable and effective - or at least putting the machinery in place for this to happen. Mediocrity is killing the country.
    So, I guess, I can see your point that maybe the situation could have been avoided if the Ministry of Health was as organized as some of the western organizations she worked for. But I think that it is her responsibility as someone who has been exposed to and has headed such efficient organizations to recreate it in Nigeria. That is why Nigerians who have spent time abroad have been hired to such high positions - such as Iweala who headed the World Bank. To transfer those skills they learned abroad to help the fledgling democracy....sorry if this post is not making to much sense or is devoid of any eloquence - I'm in a noisy environment at the moment and I'm finding difficult to concentrate with Oriental Brothers blasting in the background - olllld school. I will check out your post and respond when my scenery changes.
    By the way, I have heard of Olopade, her daughter and I used to be classmates in undergrad. I have not met her personally (I wish, though). In regards to her research, I am not well-read on breast cancer disparities but I find her take on social determinants of these disparities to be interesting....i digress for a third time.

  1. nneoma said...:

    @Loomnie - I agree that Grange's case is not a case of corruption. I guess where I disagree with you and others is whether she is right in blaming it on the "system." Like I said, Nigeria is a young country that sometimes lacks the institutional structures needed to keep corruption at bay. However, I feel that she was hired to protect the health interests of the nation against that of corrupt civil servants and the like. I also think that it was her duty to make sure that N300million is not spent for frivolous purposes. Unless, to Grange, such an amount is too small to warrant her attention - which I hope is not the case. I do hope that other ministries are probed for such mishandling of funds and that those on the top are called to order.

    @Naapali - My dear, your disagreements are most welcome. Institutions and institutional behavior is the result of the individual behaviors that make up the said institution. And I do believe that individuals have the power to change such institutions - Akunyili comes to mind. Maybe it was my mistake in the beginning to think that because of her impressive resume that Grange could become another Akunyili.

    I still hold that white man's ice does play a role here (please forgive me if I stretched the analogy). You mentioned that what keeps people in line in the West is that they abide by some rules and some standard of decency and responsibility. Then, seeing that Grange has spent some time abroad heading such well-behaved institutions, why could she not abide by those same rules in Nigeria? Like I said, those organizations place on her a requirement to act responsibly - but of course, when she entered the black man's store (Nigerian government), those rules went to the wind. I don't see how N300 million could have been squandered and it not bother her. If it was not her responsibility to see how this money should have been spent or returned to the Federal government, she should have pointed fingers to those who should have managed it rather than blame it on some nebulous corruption spirit. Again, the "devil made me do it" defense. If you don't want to own up to your responsibility and there is no one else that you can credibly point to - you blame it on the devil. If she was made aware through the media or some other channel that N300 million was spent frivolously, it was upon her to find out who was responsible for that money and then punish the culprit.
    I think it would have been a noble exit if she owned up to her mistake whole-heartedly rather than blame those incorrigible Nigerians who make up this inherently corrupt system. Additionally she would have helped her own credibility had she owned up to her responsibility and listed all the good that has happened under her tenure - whatever that may be.

    I hope this serves as a lesson to those of us abroad who are called to serve our fatherland because of our experience in the white man's store buying ice. That we uphold to the same level decorum in our brother's store.

    Again, I apologize for stretching the white man's ice analogy, but I hope there was something in my post that made sense.

  1. nneoma said...:

    addendum - please excuse the gross spelling and grammatical mistakes....

  1. N.I.M.M.O said...:

    Nne, I actually think Dr. Grange's troubles are actually due to her error in thinking that 'our ice' is as cold as the 'white man's ice'.

    I believe that in all her years of working and heading institutions, there had always been a body/unit that looks into issues of fraud and corruption and controls them just like the GAO.

    She probably thought that the EFCC (or any other body) would play a similar role in the MoH. It was rather naive of her.

    The Presidential order to return the said N300m to the Treasury was a simple enough directive that I don't think would require a Minister to carry out. There are enough Secretaries and Executives in the MoH to do that.

    If you have worked in or with the Civil service in Nigeria, you will understand how they look forward to these bonuses and 'free money' that come along like this. I doubt if any minister can stop it.

    I think she was just naive. Allowed herself to hoodwinked.

  1. Nine said...:

    She ACTUALLY resigned?A Nigerian minister resigned?Jumped instead of being pushed?I don't believe it...

  1. Eve said...:

    Nneoma – I thought I might add a little from another perspective -

    I’m a Niaga wife – who had the privilege of living in Nigeria for 2 and a half years very recently.

    I worked during the last 6 months of the OBJ administration for the Minister of Solid Minerals….. my previous work in Nigeria was in capacity strengthening for the Nigerian police through a UK government Dept initiative (a story that might one day be told).

    The Minister I worked for lost herself to the system – she tried so hard to be transparent – that she put herself in trouble in the process…. She fell out of favour with colleagues – used her own resources to ensure there was the appearance of fairness…. She failed those of us that she had brought in to ‘fight the system’ because it all became too much. Including her Nigerian people she brought from the US and UK – decent, hard working committed people!

    At a practical operational level - It was IMPOSSIBLE to function within the Ministry – we couldn’t book flights to destinations because we didn’t ‘dash’ small small, I myself was never paid for the 5 months work that I did! The Accountant dey chop em. People bought paper for the printer with their own money and hid it in their desk – to enable them to meet basic work requirements.

    At a policy level – other wealthy folks – in and out of government would call all the time asking for ‘things’….. no agreement or assistance meant your legislation did not get passed, no one turned up to your events and people plotted internally to have you ‘removed’.

    My point – people live in real poverty – even when they have a full time job in the federal government – we all know this! Not be their fault – na poverty. At that level a conscience about financial credibility is a luxury. But the functioning CAN NOT happen without them.

    I agree with solomonsydelle whole heartedly – the system is flawed, broken, riddled with cancer – can not be fixed unless EVERYONE agrees and this can’t happen until there is complete reorientation - nothing any decent, qualified, hard working dedicated person can do – even in positions of power – not on their own. Which is why the EFCC was/is a fantastic initiative.

    I don’t agree that we can just say Nigeria is only 50 years old – look at Ghana – the US and UK governments give money directly to the government for their development work – and we all know Nigeria doesn’t even need ‘development money’… with all the fabulous things it has!

    Finally – I agree – she should have owned up and used the opportunity to talk about her experience in the system – as a Nigerian woman who has worked within and without. Who knows maybe she was told the money had been remitted - and it wasn't!

    Love your blog – thanks!

  1. nneoma said...:

    @n.i.m.m.o - I think we're forgetting that 300million is a substantial amount of money. I am sure that anything involving such a large sum of money, should come to her attention first. Or maybe it is just me. I don't know. However, another report came in stating that Grange also approved fake contracts - I do not blame that on naivety. Also, this is not Grange's first time working in Nigeria. I think she also headed some department in a federal teaching hospital. Even such a comparatively small post is fraught with corruption (I know from personal experience, though limited) and one can only imagine what her "naivety" allowed her to get away with there.

    @nine - I believe both Grange and Aduku (the architect turned health guru...errgghhh) resigned. I have a sneaking suspicion that she received some encouragement to resign from those higher up.

    @eve - thanks for stopping by. if you're referring to Oby Ezekwesili and her travails, I think it was because of her efforts to be transparent that she finds herself in the position she is now (World Bank), as opposed to where Grange finds herself (EFCC). That is why Nigeria not only needs morally strong men and women it *requires* them. She struggled, and we all collectively appreciate her struggles (though how she went from Ministry of Education to Solid Minerals baffles me....).
    In regards to Ghana, I believe Ghana has its own issues and dealings with corruption. Even though the colonizers were the same, comparing Ghana to Nigeria, politically, is a stretch. I still maintain that Nigeria is a young nation in desperate need of strong leaders, more so than older democracies. And if Grange was told that the money was remitted and it was in fact not, then she would have no need to resign. The fact that she resigned hints at some foul play or incompetency on her own part.

  1. nneoma said...:

    Oh, by the way, thanks for stopping by, eve.