In Defense Of “Oga At The Top”

Why the cries of “Crucify him”? Why the uproar about the on-air slip by the Lagos State Commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)? So, the man does not know the website of his organization. That is not a grievous offence, especially if one considers the social realities. I know it is funny, but let’s get serious about this thing. Before you sentence me for taking this stance, please read my argument.

From our cyberworld, it may seem as if the whole world is part of the internet, but that is not through. Yes, the internet is fast growing, and it is changing life and the world as we know it. But in Nigeria, the level of penetration of internet usage is 28.4% as at 2012 (from www.internetworldstats.com). Mr. Obafaiye Shem did not grow up in the internet-age. He never had to google a difficult concept for his assignments. He probably keeps an address book and diary for important places, and if you ask him for the physical address of his office, he most likely knows it. He grew up learning physical addresses, not web addresses. He is no different from today’s children who have stored thousands of web addresses in their memory, yet do not know their house number, and have to make several phone calls when filling their physical address in a form. Maybe we needed this incident to remind us of the technology disconnect – the digital divide that separates cultures, and generations. How many offices in the civil service have computers?

Shem’s ignorance of the organization’s website is the lesser evil, and we still remain blinded to the real issues. We have sensationalized the issue, creating tunes, tee-shirts and baseball caps to distract us from the real problems we have. The question should not be “How could he not know the website?” It should be “What is the state of information technology diffusion in the civil service?” Do you know that the Nigerian Police Force does not keep a computerized database? Have you realized that when cases are reported, they keep the records in loose sheets that can be blown away by the wind?

Some journalists stooped to muckraking and victimization, and we join them in humiliating Shem for an offence that could have very easily been committed by any of our parents with even more educational qualifications than he. They could very easily have let that question go, instead of their derisive insistence that led to his saying the now classic www.nscdc that’s all. Journalists are supposed to treat their interviewees as customers; interviewees are not supposed to be embarrassed. There is no acceptable justification for the way the Channels Sunrise Daily interview team managed the situation. Their exploitation of Shem’s ignorance is tantamount to ‘unprofessionalism’. It is a very low comedy, with no developmental value. While I acknowledge the classical functions of journalism as information, education and entertainment, I believe that these should be underscored by value, by relevance to development. What those interviewers have succeeded in doing is to generate distrust between public officers and journalists.

The subject matter was on employment scams. That is what we should focus on! Those responsible for such fraudulent activities should be exposed and humiliated instead. Journalist should engage in true investigative journalism, instead of stooping to sour sensationalism. The media (which I am part of) should develop and publish/broadcast content that will enlighten the public on such rip-offs, and on how to trap and report duplicitous employment agents. Expose the rotten system, instead of focusing on one trifling issue.

The NSCDC, and indeed organizations generally, should learn from this experience. There are great lessons on how not to do interviews and pitfalls to watch out for in public relations. This issue has created questions on the reputation of the NSCDC. The organization has been painted as one with riddled with ignorance and incompetence, and with a massive communication gulf. Forget the fact that it was just one person who made the slip on air.

This situation is not without remedy, though. I suggest that the “Oga at the top” takes an “Inside-Out” approach to dealing with this problem. Do not be in a hurry to communicate. This is not the time for press statements and press conferences. Clean house.  Fix the website. Teach your staff effective communication and public relations skills. Organize regular training, workshops or seminars, and ensure that every department and member of the organization is on the same page. Prepare before going for interviews. Consult Public Relations strategists or specialists to guide you, so that you do not tarnish your reputation with your own mouth.

There is also need to explain the real issue to Mr. Obafaiye Shem. He may not have understood his faux pas or its implication. There is no need to fire him or even suspend him. Instead, let him know that this is the 21st century, and for survival in this age, one has to learn how to use the tools of the age. Teach him how to manage media interviews. Teach him to think on the spot, and to say ‘I do not know,’ or ‘I need to confirm’, when in doubt, and stick to it. He is in need of education, not reprimand. Maybe some good things will result from what seems to me like an unproductive sarcasm by the media. (I am aware that some wily business persons have taken advantage of this situation – if you call that productivity, that’s your fine.)

I have said my bit. What is your stance? Let me hear your side, please.

 

 



50 thoughts on “In Defense Of “Oga At The Top”” by Efadel (@febidel)

  1. Did you watch the video at all Efadel?

    Well, I’ll totally go the opposite direction. Shem is a COMMANDANT and therefore deserves what he got. He didn’t know or forgot NSCDC website which is supposed to be a friendly platform for communicating with the public. His ignorance of the website is an insult to the public because it shows we never mattered to them. What the public did was only to send a message to them that we do matter. That is not what even bothers me in his gaffe. What bothers me is the way he handled the situation, like some primary school boy who is afraid of his papa. How would such persons handle sensitive and urgent matters required of him as a leader?

    About the journalists, they did nothing wrong. They were simply educating the public on the kind of individuals at the helm of important and sensitive government organisations like NSCDC. No wonder this organisations contribute nothing to the development of the nation. Channels TV did well by not playing down the issue. As small as you think Shem’s gaffe is, it says a whole lot more. Masking this kind of things is the major reason we don’t move forward. The same thing happened to ex-Italian President, Mccain, Patience etc and they were fried for it. So why defend Shem. It’s unfortunate he had to be suspended after displaying his unflinching loyalty to his Oga. An officer from the same NSCDC mentioned Nairaland as a list of websites created to offer sham job recruitment offers to the public. So you see, this is not an individual thing. The whole NSCDC operates in ignorance. Thank god for journalism, if not we wouldn’t have known.

    What somebody says speaks alot more about that person. What the public did is not a matter of antagonising anybody or organisation, but simply to promote excellence and eradicate mediocrity in every facet of the society…

    I never intended writing anything on this. *shrugs* I guess I couldn’t resist commenting after reading your piece…

      1. @topazo, so it’s Shem and me against y’all. Lol.

    1. @francis, I watched the whole interview. I still think they made a mountain out of a molehill. But then, we see differently, and that’s the beauty of life.

  2. nice writing and ur arguments wer well articulated but I noticed a few typos.

    1. the journalists were professionals. they did what they were trained to do. have you watched Larry king, pierce Morgan or Christine amampour give interviews? if you don’t go prepared you will be humiliated. journalists are supposed to bring out the truth. and do you know the truth? the lagos state commandant was incompetent. it’s that simple.

    2. His incompetence is just a glimpse into the massive level of mediocrity that is pervasive in our leadership, and it shouldn’t be overlooked or swept under the carpet. if it was, then we would be celebrating incompetence and mediocrity. Let’s crucify him so that the leaders and those aspiring to leadership will embrace the culture of excellence. if we don’t then there’s no hope for tomorrow.

    3. all the other issues you raised should also be addressed alongside this. one doesn’t have to be overlooked for the other. leaders should upgrade themselves, not being born or raised with the Internet isn’t an excuse. you wouldn’t allow a mechanic that didn’t have a training in repairing a Toyota handle your car. so also a man who can’t learn new things or who is fixed in the past shouldn’t lead us. does he want to lead us into the stone ages? and then you wonder why we are not moving forward as a country. we are only as good as our leaders.

    4. I love the viral nature of the spread of the ridicule, it’s a message to the government and those in power, we are watching you! we won’t hesitate to wash you if you mess up. that’s the nature of democracy, the judgement belongs to the people, power belongs to the people and the leaders are only custodians. Now all public officials granting interviews from henceforth will go prepared and watch what they say and not just coming on air to insult our intelligence with their rubbish. we aren’t dumb!

    5. The world is watching too, and what will they think of us as a nation if we don’t take our stand against such. we would be lumped together as birds of a feather. No, we aren’t of the same breed with them! and we have to make sure they know that. we take a stand against mediocrity and incompetence and lack of expertise and know how in leadership positions. we celebrate excellence and superior intelligence.

    and yes if that were my parent out there, I would feel so ashamed.

    let’s not be sentimental… let’s do everything necessary to redirect our country from the path of destruction it’s headed.

    that’s my submission

    1. @Topazo, about the typos, oops! I’ll be more careful next time. On the other issues, so we made poor Mr. Shem our scapegoat? We all make mistakes; I hope you remember that.

    2. @topazo you have echoed my thoughts even better than @francis did my thoughts. Lol.

      @febidel, I think you leapfrogged to important issues (which you articulated well) from a flawed premise. In the first place, there are gaffes that are inexcusable. Secondly, the manner in which such gaffes are committed and who commits them is also important.

      I agree though that the Channels interviewers seemed to have a desire to ridicule their guest, something I think is not very professional.

      Finally, I will say this without batting an eyelid: Social media is the new police force around the block, and a very efficient one indeed. The guys on top should sit up or be whipped by this Social media police.

      I refrain from saying more :-)

      Well done. Nice article, even if I don’t agree with its premise.

      1. @chemokopi, thank you. I still stand by my arguments, though. For me, this was a case of ‘Much ado’ misplaced.

  3. I feel the shame the PRO of the NSCDC has got is enough punishment. This is an everyday occurrence that most people in public offices have no ideas of their organizational correspondences…Have we easily forgotten the senators of some past year or the other who were unable to say the national anthem? how were they crucified …that is if they were at all…The NSCDC PRO is only a scapegoat and though i reserve no empathy for his incompetency and its blatant and embarrassing exhibition on national television, I still believe suspending him is taking the case too far…was he not hired and promoted to the rank? what punishment has been served to his boss(es) who sanctioned his promotion despite the fact that he obviously never merited it? My opinion.

    1. @focus, at least we agree on something: the suspension was not necessary. About not meriting his promotion, I don’t know about that oh. Do you think they asked him of the organization’s website at the interview? Well, that’s why we all see differently, and that’s what makes life beautiful.

      1. He wasn’t suspended. That’s a rumour that has been laid to rest.

        1. Yes. That’s true.

  4. With the case of ‘ oga at the top’ I never xpect nigerians to look into this and be mocking the gentle and active patriotic Nigerian, when we are facing so many problem in Nigeria, I don’t think is the first blunder on media, eventhough first lady have done her own ‘ I rather commit suicide than to kill my self ‘ but we’v not heard anything about that! And he the NSCDC commandant that doesn’t know about the website is a great problem Nigerians are facing abotu internet, because even the NPF station they only have on computer in the DPO’s office, the case is just that our leaders have to wake up and increase the level of technological knowledge in NIGERIA cos we are in the era of technology, and they should prepare for any interview before attendind in order not to cause arrassment for their rep….

  5. So maybe it really doesn’t deserve all the attention it’s been given but I don’t think the journalists did anything wrong. Also, it’s not just about him not knowing the website; it’s the way he tried to get himself out of the situation. A simple “I don’t know” honestly would not have been half as bad. It doesn’t show integrity when a person goes about things like that.
    And tbh, it’s no excuse that he grew up in a different era; the world isn’t waiting on anyone. I believe that if you’re taking on a post, it’s your responsibility to know those type of things.
    People just don’t take their jobs seriously enough, that’s all.

    1. @yeniee I second you on that

    2. @yeniee, I agree that ‘I don’t know’ would have been a better response. But you also have to consider the kind of exposure the man is used to. He did not know better. He is in need of training, not suspension. Even the journalists make mistakes…

    3. @yeniee just said what went through my mind as I watched that video. Why couldn’t he say he didn’t know. That was my problem. This would not have gone viral if he admitted his ignorance.
      @febidel the journalists did absolutely nothing wrong. Their question was a simple one until he made a mountain about it like the website was supposed to be an important announcement from his oga at the top.

      1. @osakwe, I agree with you. He could have said that he wasn’t sure or he didn’t know, but he did neither. On the part of the journalists, an interview is not an examination, and journalists do not interview their guests to make them fail Journalists are not prosecutors. That’s where the journalists that interviewed the man got it wrong.

  6. All he should have said was, “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know”. Yes…it could have led to the same frontpage minus ‘my oga at the top’, but when faced with an interview, our government officials should always prepare well. the journalists have blown nothing out of proportion but I don’t think it should lead to suspension, that will be unnecessarily harsh.

    1. @ladman, I’m sure he has learnt that lesson, but remember, he was the journalists’ guest, and people should treat their guests decently. I don’t think those interviewers treated him as decently as they ought to. It might deter some other government officials from granting them interviews in the future.

  7. Lovely write up. However, inasmuch as i sympathize with Mr Shem for the embarrassment, this is something we all need to see and know. The incompetence in most of our government agencies are legendary and unbelievable. Any person who goes before a group of journalists on a fact-finding mission must prep himself properly or risk being torn to shreds. Like someone mentioned earlier, in America you cant go on Pierce Morgan, Christian Amanpour, Wolf Blitzer or Larry King without being prepared; they’ll have you for lunch! That’s what the Channel’s presenters did and they are absolutely blameless in that!

    That being said, it pains me that its men like Mr. Shem who determine the fates of many graduates who are looking for jobs. These people are dinosaurs and have become obsolete by choice. They deserve to be extinct if Nigeria is ever to move forward.

    This is my two pence on the issue.

    1. @saymalcom, I do not think Larry King or Christian Amanpour interview their guests to make them fail. I think our journalists were unnecessarily petty. Remember that they invited Shem as a guest; it’s not like he convened a press conference and then blundered. Besides, I do not think it is men like Mr. Shem who determine the fates of Nigerian graduates. I would hold a larger system responsible for the plight of the average Nigerian graduate. I would blame deficient education policies, imbalanced and malnourished curriculum and teaching from primary to tertiary levels, incompetent teachers and lazy students, corrupt governance, etc. Let’s not use Mr. Shem as a scapegoat for all our woes. The man is a security person, and his competence should not be measured by his memory of a website, but by our effectively and efficiently he delivers on his job.

  8. Am totally with you on this, @febidel. How many of us are truly free of the kind of ignorance Shem exhibited. I wonder how many of the man’s mockers even knew the full meaning of NSCDC before this whole thing.

    1. @shadiat, please tell them oh! They’ve forgotten that no one is beyond making mistakes. I even made some typographical mistakes in writing this article. lol.

      1. the problem was not his ignorance. it was how he handled it. it made him seem like a not so straight forward person. i personally did not see what nigerians were making a fuss about in the video. however, i still think he could have saved him self a whole lot by just saying ‘i dont know’ or ‘i cannot remember what it is right now.’

        1. @basseyperfecta, I just noted this embedded comment. We’re on the same page on the issue, I think.

  9. Was he actually the NSCDC P.R.O? Truth is, the fact that the man doesn’t know the website is definitely not enough reason to judge him as incompetent, except of course he is the P.R.O. It is sometimes better that we see the truth as it is, than where shrouded with flamboyant words, and exploited information.
    It could be fatally unfortunate when a less capable man heads a more capable and gifted person(s). Nonetheless a more honourable way to fight back and prove yourself a better alternative is not to go about broadcasting the other man’s obvious inabilities -that is cheap- it is rather to market an attractive product of yourself. That said, I had my share of laugh at the hilarious attempt at cover-up of ignorance, however, the continued comical trashing of the matter now appears childish, learn from it and move on.
    About this generation of social media proteges. The generation growing must watch it, as except they become selective and decisive on their use of the social media, we might end up with a generation, gullible, easily and easily manipulated, and lacking originality of mind. Of course platforms like NS, show the positive side of social media, but I fear only a few of the billion youths are drawn to such use of social media, and that is the perturbing fact. Let’s not have leaders tomorrow, whose hands are apt to tweet, with minds lacking sapience…

    1. @excellency, he is supposed to be the ‘Commandant’, not the ‘PRO’.

  10. @ efadel
    I think you have provided a refreshing perspective to the issue.Yes the commandant goofed by not knowing the website of the organization by heart but the thrust of the interview was the employment scams that have become common place in government agencies and which should be subject of urgent national action.

    1. Thank you, @writeman. We should not major on the minors and minor on the majors.

  11. ghandi (@laavidaalocaa)

    i swear this was the same stance i took when i saw the whole buzz being created by the “oga at the top video”. yes it was funny in the beginning and of course i laughed, but Nigerians took it too far. for those of you who think he should be crucified, how does that eventually help or improve the situation. For those shouting that he had no excuse as the commandant not to know the website of the NSCDC, where do you think you live? Jand? this is probably an organisation that still uses the filing system when the world has moved on to computers. Yes, it was funny; yes, he (the commandant) made it worse with his reaction, but in all honesty, how many of you would admit ignorance on a subject when placed in the same position. abi is it not this same 9ja dat everyone likes to form “na me sabi pass”? the fact that you are privileged to know what you know now about the Internet doesn’t mean someone else shud be dissected for his apparent ignorance. in fact, at this point, with all the joking and laughing going on, how many of you have actually found out time to discover what the real NSCDC website is? (www.nscdc.gov.ng) “yes i know it, and dis is 9ja, so na me sabi pass”. i saw an earlier comment with the individual saying we shouldn’t hide this things and that they should be publicized. one question mister, how has your knowing improved the situation at hand or the condition of the nation we live. lets face it, we live in a society of backbiters and back-stabbers when we ourselves are no better off than they. i could go on pouring out my disgust at a nation and people who have prided themselves in washing their dirty linen in public (i heard pierce morgan: the guy who replaced larry king live, even tweeted about it, though i don’t know how true this is) but i’d also be guilty of what i’m accusing people for presently. if you are still laughing at the video because it’s funny, i have no qualms with that. but if you are part of those calling out for his head, remove the log in you eyes before removing the speck in someone else’s. whose to say you wouldn’t have done worse if you were in his shoes. i rest my case.

  12. Please, tell them oh, @laavidaalocaa.

  13. hmnn, @efadel

    yes i agree with you efadel, we have mocked him, it is enough. no one is above mistakes, yet it would not have hurt for him to admit that he did not know what the website was and that he would get back to the public on that. What nigeria needs now are honest and forthright leaders. Though i do not know if he wouldn’t have gotten slammed as well for not knowing his website’s adress because come on, he is the Lagos commandant isn’t he?

    but to crucify the journalists! i do not agree, have you watched pierce morgan??? i agree with topazo. He uses every trick in his mind to get you to say something silly or trap you into saying something you don’t mean to say, even if you are right.

    Thats just the way the world is, but if you want to be visible and in a leadership position, then you have to be ready to be smart and sharp and thorough. The world does not care who you are or where you are coming from. You have to be confident, you have to know exactly what you are talking about, and you have to have your facts on hand. Watching american presidential aspirants debate gives you a clue what kind of people they have leading them, or even aspiring to lead them.

    We should stop covering up what is not right, but then, we as a nation, should also know when to stop. I think this mockery has gone on long enough. But perhaps any public office holder aspiring to be on a TV interview will prepare well in advance and be on top of every information regarding every single aspect of the organization they represent. it is a lesson to us all.

    1. This person all of you are calling Pierce Morgan, is he not the same Piers Morgan that I know? Now, here we are, on Naija Stories, with easy access to Google or any other search engine, and we are repeatedly making the same mistake, substituting Piers with Pierce! I’m not crucifying anyone; I mean, I made a blatant mistake in my article – I used ‘through’ where I meant ‘true’, and that’s one I’ve been able to spot (Topazo probably noticed a thousand more errors – right, @Topazo? lol). Have y’all noticed how we blame typos for our mistakes? How often do we own up and say, “I actually did not know the spelling?” We say it was a slip of tongue (if we’re speaking) or a typographical error.
      @funpen, I agree with you: we should not cover up rubbish, and we should know when to stop laughing. Yes, something good will come from this experience – anyone going for a TV interview will prepare in advance. But did the journalists go a length farther than they ought to? – I think they went even farther, and should be called to order!

      1. i will admit, i have only watched him 2ce when he tried to finish Pastor Rick Warren and Kirk Cameron. And I was like- this guy is going too far with his questions.

        I will not lie and say I know him that much, but those interviews showed me that you need to know your stuff, and you need God’s guidiance not to fall into traps with journalists.

        I still agree with you. The laughing really has gone too far.

  14. @efadel i must really say your piece is a beautiful one, and i tend to lean in favour of your argument. The truth is, as Nigerians, we tend to make everything larger than life so as to derive enough fun from it- and enough money too. On the other hand, I will also chip in, that if it is said that Nigerians are known for suffering and smiling, it won’t hurt when these ‘suffering and smiling people’ actually have something to smile about, and it seems to be helping their suffering too ( most people will buy any item with an ‘oga at the top’ inscription now). All in all, we should pick out the lessons from every circumstance quickly.

    1. @lordkel, you have a valid point there. Comic relief for Nigerians, eh? Not bad. But like you said, we also need to pick out the important lessons. Thank you.

  15. @Myne, you referred to this post in your blog, but I didn’t see your own ‘take’ on the matter. Would you please share with us here? What’s your stance? I hope I asked nicely enough.

    1. My take was on my blog too, lol…I think the joke went too far. #dazall :)

  16. Well, nice piece you’ve got there. I however differ on a couple of grounds. First, I agree the goof has been overflogged at the expense of more critical issues. Even folks who are grammatically challenged are the most outspoken in mocking and scoffing. Its sheer escapist…
    But then, I don’t think my ‘oga at the top’ is worth your laboured defense. My grouse isn’t that he did not know the website but he wasn’t prepared at all, yet he was putting up a ‘mr know all’ appearance. For crying out loud, he was to come and speak on their ‘website alleged scam.’ The first thing he ought to have got into his skull (or if you like his note) is the website! That is an affront on our intelligence and he deserves to be nailed to the cross!
    But beyond that, Government should force ‘the ancient’ to be ‘modernity compliant’ by making ICT, Leadership, management skills etc perequisites for promotion to checkmate this national embarassment.
    PS: Long time, Efadel. Hope you’re goodl?

    1. “My grouse isn’t that he did not know the website but he wasn’t prepared at all, yet he was putting up a ‘mr know all’ appearance. For crying out loud, he was to come and speak on their ‘website alleged scam.’ The first thing he ought to have got into his skull (or if you like his note) is the website! That is an affront on our intelligence and he deserves to be nailed to the cross!”

      Exactly @bamto!

    2. @bamto, I am good. Of course you know I’ll still stand by my defense. He doesn’t deserve to be crucified for his mistake. Let journalists do real investigative journalism, instead of fussing about small issues like that. I’ve stopped defending anyhow; events have overtaken the issue, and Nigerians have moved on.

  17. Well written @febidel. I couldn’t agree with you more. The matter was just unnecessarily blown out of proportion. I am very sure some of our so called literate (graduate) would have made the same mistake. I sincerely sympathize with the commandant but that wouldn’t stop me from getting my ‘MY OGA AT THE TOP’ customized T shirt.. :)

    1. @cereal_killer. Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from laughing at the matter, or even getting several customized shirts. I mean, it was really funny. Thank you for the compliment.

  18. The Oga at the top episode is just a clear expression of the generational gap that exist between the old and the young. He represents the old generation and the presenters, the new generation who derive pleasure in the folly of the old.That’s all… That’s my take.

    1. One more thing, we was not sacked but transferred to Ibadan.

  19. I am starting from the very last submission; to say it could as well
    happen to anyone, but differently, or in other context. “….we was not”

Leave a Reply