By Williams Ochonu
Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights legend who led the movement to end segregation and counter prejudice in the United States of America through a peaceful protest, once said, and I quote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at the times of challenge and controversy.” Alhaji Mhammed Goni Alkali is one of the few Nigerian leaders whose lifestyle, beliefs, vision, and tenacity match the above quote.
Since 2009, a radical religious sect known as Boko Haram has unleashed one of the country’s worst mayhems in the country’s north-east.The region consists of Bornu, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, and Bauchi states. These states became a bloodbath and a theater of war, attracting the attention of the entire world. This carnage was indeed a treat for the people of the North East, Nigeria, and humanity at large. The death toll was on an incessant increase; millions of citizens were internally displaced; and wanton destruction of property worth billions of naira in a short time was on the rise. It was one story of woe after another on a daily basis. Farmers lost their livelihood; education became a complete nightmare; hearts beat in palpable fear of death. It was a very challenging moment for the people of that region. The government in charge at the time tried its best to restore normalcy to the region, but it appeared that efforts were futile.
Bringing tranquility and normalcy to the region was one of President Buhari’s priorities during his administration. This was indeed a rescue mission. In his wisdom and unflinching quest to restore hope and sanity to that region, he signed into law an act establishing the North East Development Commission. It was a visible feat that will live on in the minds of the people of the Northeast and the entire country. It was a move that presented light at the end of the tunnel.
The cardinal vision and mission of NEDC are crystal clear: to pilot the affairs of the reconstruction and development of the North East, which had over the years become a nightmare characterized by destruction in all facets of human existence and modernization. Furthermore, the NEDC is to receive and manage funds from the Federal Account and international donors for the reconstruction of roads, houses, and businesses, as well as to address illiteracy, environmental degradation, poverty, and a slew of other issues that plague the region.
Having such a body already established, it needed a man of integrity and foresight—a man furnished with great and exceptional ideas about human emancipation—to man it. The president desired the restoration of sanity in the region, similar to the relief provided by torrential rains following a season of scorching hot harmattan winds and bush fires.The president scouted for that man who would paddle the canoe and navigate through the murky waters without capsizing and becoming dinner for the sharks. The searchlight eventually beamed on the man of capacity, Mohammed Goni Alkali, who has the trenchant zeal of a crusader to succeed no matter the situation.
Mohammed Goni Alkali was appointed as the MD/CEO of the North East Development Commission in January 2019. Many people looked over his resume to see if he was the right man for the job. His credentials spoke volumes, and all those who raised eyebrows became silent as there was no stain on his personality. To set the record straight, Mohammed Goni Alkali had an unmatched track record in public service. It was audible to the deaf and visible to the blind. Mohammed Goni Alkali is a first-class degree holder in accounting from the very prestigious Bayero University, Kano. Additionally, he holds a Master of Science degree in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics at the University of London, United Kingdom.
He is an alumnus of the mighty Harvard Business School, Harvard University; Columbia Business School, Columbia University; and the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. Before his appointment as the Managing Director, Mohammed Goni Alkali was the Executive Director, Operations, of the Bank of Industry (BoI).
Mohammed Goni Alkali received his appointment with open arms. He, being at the helm of affairs, brought an incredible and unmatched concept to the leadership architecture of the North East Development Commission. His vision was so clear, and his determination to succeed in the commission was seen by all. The managing director rolled up his sleeves and faced the tasks and daunting challenges that were piling up on his desk without fear, just as the eagle does when it looks at the cloudless sun. He is a great achiever and a complete patriot who is so sensitive to the plight of the people of the North East. Overtime, in public functions, he reiterated that he would work so hard to ameliorate the suffering of the people that had become prevalent in that region and to erase the memory of the excruciating era perpetuated by the Boko Haram insurgency. Apparently, he has since matched word with action in the execution of his functions. He is a man who has respect for constituted authority and would do everything within his jurisdiction to ameliorate poverty through his carefully planned program and activities for the wellbeing of the people of the North East.
Through numerous intervention programs in the NEDC, the Managing Director has significantly reduced the destructive tendencies that have plagued the region in the past. Because of Mohammed Goni Alkali’s true and unbiased leadership style, the NEDC has been able to deliver on the mandate given to it by the President Buhari Administration.
For instance, a six-billion-naira Education Endowment Fund was initiated by NEDC to revive the educational sector and revive human capital in the region. Over 20,000 beneficiaries were recorded. The NEDC also implemented over 1,310 response projects in all 112 local governments in the North East. The interventionist agency launched an agricultural program that provided agricultural machinery and equipment, fertilizers, and a variety of other items to help farmers in that region get back to work. Without mincing words, we can say that the leadership of the Managing Director has worked in harmony with other relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to deliver on the constitutional duties he swore an oath to.
There is a saying that “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands.” Mohammed Alkali’s dealings as the managing director have been done with clean hands. We have previously heard of a wanton and unbridled wave of corruption cases spanning ministries, departments, and agencies, siphoning funds in astronomical proportions. They tend to dread when anti-graft agencies come for them or when oversight functions are to be performed. This is not the story of the man at the helm of affairs at the North East Development Commission. He has been transparent in the discharge of his duties and channeled relevant funds to the appropriate quarters. He believes that on the last day, everyone will give an account of his or her activities in the land of the living.
Sometime ago, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Duties led a delegation on a three-day oversight function to evaluate the commission’s performance so far in Maiduguri. He reiterated that there had been a significant achievement in the one year of its operation. He said, “The NEDC is a baby of the federal government; it is just one year old, but it has performed tremendously well in the past year, especially in the area of humanitarian intervention.”
The commission has received more prestigious local and international honors. These recognitions wouldn’t have come if someone like Mohammed Alkali hadn’t managed the commission. On the overview, the Managing Director was born a leader, and the world has seen those qualities exhibited. Many young people aspiring to leadership positions have a lot to learn from this icon. He is one of the few people who will be remembered forever. Chinua Achebe once said, “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” Mohammed Alkali stands firm on the pedestal of true leadership and hasn’t compromised. The whole world has seen it.
Ochonu is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja.