IT’S nothing new that Nigerians in positions of leadership are found out of depth of critical information relating to the offices they occupy or are designated for. It was in this country that a serving diplomat, who was nominated for ambassadorial posting mid-2016, called the wrong tune when asked by legislators to sing the national anthem at her confirmation hearing. Also at that hearing, another nominee mangled the lines from same anthem despite helpful hints by the legislative panelists, while another nominee couldn’t recite the national pledge even with supportive co-recitation by the lawmakers. You wondered what less those proposed envoys could project abroad about their native countries.
But it was altogether a new high for leadership disconnect when the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Commodity Exchange (NCX), Zaheera Baba-Ari, last week faltered on providing estimated market prices of the country’s major commodities. Responding to a request to indicate the going rates for cocoa, soya and cashew, among others, at her defense of the Exchange’s 2021 budget before the Senate Committee on Public Procurement, Baba-Ari drew a blank. Yet, these were commodities outlined in the proposed budget for the Exchange’s revenue projections.
During a question-and-answer session, Senator Tolu Odebiyi (Ogun West) asked Baba-Ari to give an idea or price range of the commodities cited in the budget document. To this, Baba-Ari said she could not give the costs because the prices changed daily. She further explained that data on commodity prices across the country were usually delivered to her on a weekly basis, and she sought assistance from an aide present with her at the budget defense to provide the required information. Odebiyi, however, was not persuaded, saying: “I’m talking to you madam, I’m telling you to give me an idea. As MD of the commodity exchange, you should have an idea. You may not have today’s figures, but you should be able to say this is the price of cocoa. The feeling I am getting is that you don’t even know, and you’re the MD of the company…(Leadership) is not just running the administrative functions of a place, it is about being informed.”
It is easy to single out the NCX boss for censure, only that what she betrayed is a pervasive syndrome of leadership in this country. She is the helmsperson of the commodities exchange, who apparently doesn’t readily know the going market rates of commodities. But you could ask: how much of Nigerians’ grassroots realities do our leaders know? Truth is that there is such widespread insulation from practical experience that fosters leadership disconnect in this country. Baba-Ari is by no means alone.