The Parliament Diary


The founding executive director of African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (LSD) and currently Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President of Nigeria, Dr. Otive Igbuzor is an interviewer’s delight, having attained an enviable intellectual height in diplomacy and strategic leadership skills.

In this exclusive and excellent electronic media chat with our esteemed Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Precious Chukwudi Enebuse, the Orogun born intellectual power house, political strategist, and widely travelled gentleman bared his mind on why leadership failed in some countries of the world.

He equally called for total cooperation amongst nations to ensure that insecurity and terrorism challenges are eradicated. Dr. Igbuzor further advised that Nigerian citizens ought to take their destiny into their own hands, rather than wait for their leaders to form better leadership policies for them which might not be realized in their lifetime. Excerpts:
For the benefit of our teeming readers, we would like to know who the man Dr. Otive Igbuzor is and his academic background?

Dr. Otive Igbuzor is an Orogun man from Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. I come from a very humble background. I grew up in a mud house and was sleeping in bed made up of moulded mud by the wall with mat on top. But I never say that I come from poor background because my parents were rich in ideas, values and integrity. In any case, I never went to bed hungry any day because there was food three times a day. My mother had a large expanse of farmland. My late elder brother (Francis) was among the few people from my village that attended secondary school in the 1960s and early 1970s. During my primary school days, when I was less that twelve years old, I will tap rubber in the night and go to primary school in the morning. I attended Ugono Primary School, Ugono-Orogun from 1970-1976; Baptist High School, Eku from 1976- 1980; Government College, Ughelli from 1980-1981; University of Benin, Benin City from 1981-1986 and the University of Maiduguri from 1990- 2004. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy, two master’s degrees, one in Public Administration and the other in International Relations and a PhD in Public Administration.

What have been your major legacies in your days with the ActionAid in Nigeria?

ActionAid International Nigeria was set up in 2000 but I joined the organisation in January, 2004 as Deputy Country Director and became the Country Director in September, 2004. At the time I became the Country Director, ActionAid had a staff strength of about twenty people and annual income of two million Pounds Sterling. But by the time I left in 2009, the organisation has grown to over eighty people with annual income of about seven million Pounds Sterling. Under my leadership, the organisation grew from a small organisation to a very large and impactful organisation. The community level work of the organization was deepened and the profile of the organization was raised such that ActionAid Nigeria was a nominee of the ThisDay NGO of the year award in 2005. The IT and telecommunication system of the organization was upgraded and a lot of policy influencing publications were rolled out by the organization. ActionAid became a clear leader in the Development sector and I was elected the Chairperson of International Non Governmental Organisations Forum in Nigeria.
Looking at these sterling leadership qualities, you possess, would you say that the organization has performed to your desire since you left for other assignments?
At ActionAid, I was succeeded by Dr. Hussaini Abdu who handed over to Ms. Ojobo Atuluku who passed on the baton to the current Country Director, Ms. Ene Obi. It has been a generation of activist scholars and visionary leaders. I must say that they have all maintained the quality and tempo of work. ActionAid has remained a leader in the development sector in Nigeria. No, doubt ActionAid has become a household name in the country today. I am very happy and proud of the achievements of ActionAid because good succession management is one of the hallmarks of good and enduring leadership.

Now let’s look at your current appointment as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, what really endeared you to the distinguished lawmaker?

Actually, I grew up with HE Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy Senate President and the Obarisi of Urhoboland in the same community. He knows me very well as we attended the same university. He knows my views and positions on issues right from the University as I was a prominent member of the League of Patriotic Students (LOPS), a Marxist-Leninist organization on campus. When he ran for Governorship in 2007, I put together his strategy team. When he approached me to become his Chief of Staff after being elected as Deputy President of the Senate, I had to accept to work with him.

How has it been working with the members and staff of the National Assembly?

It has been a great and rewarding experience but challenging working with members and staff of the National Assembly. As Chief of Staff to the Deputy President of the Senate, my responsibilities include among other things coordinating all the activities of the office, supervision of all the staff of the office, handling all the correspondences and meetings and ensuring the DSP performs his functions creditably while engaging with stakeholders. I must say that the DSP has made my work very easy by giving me free hand to run the office. In addition, he is very straightforward in his dealings and will not do anything that will tarnish his name which gels with me one hundred percent. More importantly, the DSP has chosen very competent staff as his legislative aides. So I have a competent and professional crop of colleagues to work with.
The challenge I met on assumption of duty is that there was no document to work with. We had to create the office from scratch. But I am happy to say that we have developed a comprehensive strategic plan for the Office of the Deputy Senate President which will be very useful to any one who will succeed me.
Politics, in today’s Nigeria seem to be more problematic for our politicians, giving the kind of nonchalance and unpreparedness nature of those who mount the saddle of leadership positions.

As an expert in socio and political developments, across the continent, what sound advice would you like to give our leaders on the way to bestow a better society for incoming generations?

Leadership especially political leadership is a challenge all over the world, not only in Nigeria. The world is full of Managers, supervisors and followers but very few leaders. There is scarcity of leaders across the world. Meanwhile, it has been shown that leadership is one of the most important variables that affect the performance of any organisation or nation. Everything rises and falls on leadership. But it has been proven that leaders can be trained. That is what motivated my wife Ejiro and I to start a leadership school in 2009 which was later handed over to the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development. The leadership school has graduated over 1, 200 students from the schools in Delta, FCT and Rivers state with students across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. There is the need to train more people for us to produce a critical mass of transformative leaders. More importantly, the leadership selection process must be interrogated so that dynamic and visionary leaders will emerge. Nigerians are performing wonderfully in all spheres of life across the world. But political leadership across all levels of government is challenging. Plato counsels us that if you refuse to participate in politics, you will be ruled by your inferiors. Edmund Burke admonished us that for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing. All men and women of good conscience must rise up to participate in politics to fill the leadership vacuum. The refrain that politics is dirty will not help us. Only clean people can clean dirty politics. My experience in participating in politics tells me clearly that you can participate without compromising your principles and faith. You may not get all that you want because of your principles and faith but you will be laying the foundation for a more decent politics for others to follow.

Still on the National Assembly, is your Principal, Ovie Omo-Agege duly performing the duties of his exalted position, if not, what major bills would you like him to propose at the floor of the senate that you feel would better the lives of his constituency and the Nigerian Nation?

In my opinion, my principal HE Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is performing his duties excellently well. At the end of one year in office, he has presented 12 bills at the Senate being the second person to sponsor the highest number of bills. In the coming years, I expect him to continue to bring more bills that will impact the lives of Nigerians. I am expecting that review of the constitution will bring new provisions that will impact the lives of citizens. I expect that the electoral laws will be amended to improve our electoral process. I expect that the Petroleum Industry Bill will be passed and communities in the Niger Delta will benefit more from the proceeds of oil.

What’s your comment on the unending insecurity challenge that is still steering our beloved nation in the face or do we need foreign support to eradicate this lingering terrorism menace?

In the last few years, there have been huge challenges of insecurity as a result of insurgency in the North East and parts of North West; and armed robbery and kidnapping across the country especially in the Southern part of the country. Unfortunately, they have not given any coherent and comprehensive strategy to deal with the insecurity in the country. Meanwhile, security is very important for the development of any country. It is well known and established all over the world that peace and security of life and property is a necessary pre-condition for development. The principal agency charged with the responsibility of internal peace and security of nations all over the world is the police. It has been established that policing all over the world is undergoing constant and rapid changes to meet the challenges of changing security situation and crime wave. This has led to the concept of modern policing. The concept of modern policing underscores the point that old ways of policing are ineffective and new and modern techniques and trends have to be utilised for a more systemic approach to policing. It has been documented that in order for police agencies to be successful today, they have to be able to adjust to constantly shifting social and environmental pressures. From the vast emerging literature of modern policing, it is clear that modern policing has to address issues of community policing, strategic oriented policing, problem oriented policing, proper organisation and management, respectful policing and use of Information, Communication Technology and scientific aids in policing.
Community policing is a key way of policing today across the world. Police institutions across the world are moving away from the traditional model of policing in favour of a policing model oriented towards establishing a close working relationship with their communities. The utilisation of neghbourhood watch has become integrated into policing in many nations. Experience and practice has shown clearly that community policing can effectively contribute to reducing crime and promoting security. It is therefore commendable that the Federal Government and the Nigeria Police Force has placed a lot of priority on community policing. We hope that its operationalisation will improve the security situation in the country.
Terrorism by its nature is not confined to any one country. Therefore, there is the need for countries to support each other especially in terms of sharing intelligence and experiences. So Nigeria needs support from other countries.

We are almost six decades as a country yet we have been indisputably unable to achieve the desired dreams of our nationalists, like other nations in the world. What do you think will be the better solution to revitalize this country and make her join the comity of technologically developed nations across the globe?

By 1st October, Nigeria will be celebrating 60 years as an independent country. Many commentators have argued that Nigeria is politically independent but has remained economically dependent. But we must also recognize that in those 60 years, the military ruled the country for about 30 years. It is true that we have not achieved the nation of our dreams. Poverty is widespread. Indeed, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world hosting the largest number of poor people in the world. Inequality in Nigeria is scandalous. The wealth of the five richest people can eradicate poverty in Nigeria. Unfortunately, studies show that the political elite are unwilling or incapable of bringing about fundamental reforms that will benefit ordinary people. That is why the only solution to revitalize Nigeria is for a coalition of reformers to work together to set agenda and advocate for issues from government, private sector, civil society and the media.
Unfortunately, it appears that the movement for reform is in retreat. Although there are many individual organisations working on these issues and many individuals active in the social media, synergy and co-ordination are completely absent and the momentum for change is waning. As we look forward to 2023, we must interrogate the leadership selection process and election to ensure that good people with vision and leadership skills are elected at all levels. We must push for electoral reform to reduce monetisation of politics, violence, rigging of elections and thuggery from politics to encourage godly and decent people to participate. We must push for review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to reflect the federal structure of Nigeria and deal with various gaps in the constitution. We must struggle to engender a political system that will give space to the working people, women, youth and persons living with disability. We must promote transparency and accountability in all aspects of society including government, private sector and civil society. We must give priority to value re-orientation to operationalise the constitutional provision for the social order founded on the ideals of freedom, equality and justice; and national ethics of discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance and patriotism. We must advocate for a system for generating good policy ideas that is nationally owned and nationally driven. We must engage the good initiative of the Buhari administration to develop a long term development strategy that will overhaul the politics, economy and social values as well as the public service.
The way forward for revitalising this country is to promote citizen engagement and participation. It has been proven that the political elite of all countries are unwilling or unable to bring about fundamental changes to any society. Citizens must therefore organise to change the narrative. It must start with raising awareness of the condition and what needs to be done to bring about change. As citizens gather consciousness, they will come to realise that they are not helpless. They must then go beyond abuse of leaders to map out concrete programmes to change the narrative. Citizens need to organise to change the nature and character of the state as well as the conduct of politics, organisation of the economy and what is valued by society. The kind of democracy we are practicing today is not the one that will deliver dividends of democracy to majority of Nigerians. Meanwhile, what needs to be done to change the narrative is known. If we wait for the political elite, we will wait till eternity. Nigerian citizens must take their destiny in their hands and change the narrative through awareness raising, consciousness building and organising for change. What we need urgently today is a coalition of reformers from government, private sector, civil society, academia and media to build a new Nigeria.

Lastly our amiable Dr. Igbuzor, you have helped to prepare economic blueprints for other state chief executives in the country, kindly advice the governor of your state, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on areas like, health, security, economy, culture and other areas that will improve upon his leadership strata?

Advice to Okowa. No need because it will not serve any purpose. He will not heed the advice. We have analysed Delta budget and given prescriptions in the past which were never followed. I will rather advice Delta people to mobilise to change the cabal that has held Delta State captive since 1999.


About Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *