Of henchmen, hired goons and underperforming maritime CEOs

Failed IMO council bid, piracy, Apapa gridlock, secure anchorage brouhaha and other sour grapes of Nigeria’s maritime sector in 2019


The verbose ad hominem reaction to my article Cronyism, nepotism as bane of Nigeria’s maritime development by one Olusegun Williams is – not unexpectedly – steeped in factual ignorance and replete with evidences of cognitive dissonance. The hasty and reckless recourse to the banal, rhetorical underhand tactics of attacking the character or motive of the person making an argument as opposed to addressing the substance of the argument itself instantly exposed the chicanery and desperation of a few to cling hopelessly to power.

No one knows Olusegun Williams. I have plied my trade in the maritime sector for more than 20 years; I never heard of that name. I asked around – I asked shipowners, seafarers, freight forwarders, educationists, dockworkers, maritime lawyers, maritime administrators, maritime journalists and many others about this person, but no one knows him. I bet he doesn’t know any of them either. I have, therefore, concluded that Olusegun Williams is a recondite furtively hired and handed a script to execute an odious hatchet job. Since Mr. Williams is not known to work in the maritime sector, he utterly lacks the competence to write an informed opinion about the sector.

My response to the jaundiced cut-and-paste titled Of Progress in Nigeria’s Maritime Sector and Akinola’s Ethnic Baiting is therefore addressed not to the clueless lackey – whose persecution complex I’ll excuse – but to his panic-stricken paymasters who have been indecorously running from pillar to post begging to be retained by the incoming government.

Williams and his sponsors made the futile effort of recycling clichéd arguments, which won’t pass the straight-face test. In their clouded narrow minds and superficial judgment, disagreeing with their prêt-à-l’emploi mantra of achievements is tantamount to pursing an ethnic agenda. It is rather unfortunate that over the past eight years, CEOs of government agencies in the maritime sector were not kept on their toes. Underperforming executives have been eulogised and sold all manners of awards rather than shown the way out.

For Mr. Williams’ information, I have known the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, for close to two decades. I like his person and admire his public persona. Indeed, he informed me of his impending appointment as NIMASA DG weeks before it was officially announced. Our closeness informed the reason why I teamed up with other respected well-meaning maritime stakeholders to host a dinner in his honour a week into his appointment at Eko Hotel. The dinner, held on 18 March 2020, had the crème-de-la-crème of our industry in attendance. Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, though very new to the sector, is also not unknown to me. I openly supported the advocacy for his confirmation as the substantive Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) when it appeared the government was slow in making that decision. I did what I did believing that the two gentlemen would make a difference in our sector, which had bled for decades. As it turned out, I was wrong on that score.

Managers that fail to see constructive criticisms as necessary feedback to improve performance are not worthy of the positions they hold. I am glad that highly respected industry stakeholders called and sent messages to commend my courage in laying bare the facts for the next government to act on. Without a doubt, my article was an approximation of the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of maritime stakeholders.

The inauguration of a new government on May 29, therefore, affords us a golden opportunity to push the reset button and do away with nepotism and incompetence in the maritime sector. It is time to allow leaders with development mindset, bold ideas and clear understanding of shipping and port development matters take charge of the sector to help the country make the most of its much-vaunted maritime potentials. I’ve never known a time when we needed that more. My familiarity with the gentlemen currently piloting the affairs of the sector from the government side won’t stop me from speaking or writing the truth as I see it – no matter how discomfiting that truth might be to Olusegun Williams and his ilk.