By ETIM ETIM
It is quite notable that in the midst of our national crisis, some eminent Nigerians are coming out of their comfort zones to lend a helping hand to underprivileged citizens. In communities across the country, ordinary folks are reaching out to neighbours, friends and families to share, comfort and encourage. It is so uplifting to see the true Nigerian spirit of loving one another on display; and this has helped to provide succor to the weak. In the top tier category, corporate organisations and some wealthy individuals have set up foundations through which they invest huge resources in various social enterprises.
Although we have heard of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Dangote Foundation, the philanthropic activities of Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, who retired as the Chief Executive of Access Bank six years ago, have been quite outstanding and inspiring. Soon after retirement, Aigboje established Africa Initiative for Governance (“AIG”), an NGO that serves as a catalyst for the transformation of Africa’s public sector, with the appreciation that an effective public sector is instrumental to the attainment of a country’s developmental goals. AIG began to inject talent and resources to stimulate a revolutionary transformation from within the public sector, by identifying, training and mentoring people who will serve in the public sector and make significant difference.
AIG currently runs two programmes – the AIG Scholarships program and AIG Fellowship program operated through a partnership agreement with the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. These Scholarships are awarded to graduate students who have demonstrated exceptional academic and leadership merit, passion to service in the public sector and have shown potential as change agents in their country’s public sector. While the AIG Fellowship is awarded to senior public officials who have made outstanding contribution to the development and implementation of policies that have yielded meaningful impact on the public good and have demonstrated a commitment to public service in their country, region and globally.
A son of a career civil servant, Aig, as Aigboje is fondly called by friends and associates, has realized in the course of his long and successful banking career that governments across Africa typically fail in delivering good governance to the citizens, mainly due to the poorly trained workforce in the public sector. In Nigeria, for example, the civil service left behind by the British were filled with men and women of excellence in learning and character. They were first-class technocrats like Philip Asiodu, Ufot Ekaete, Jerome Udoji, Alison Ayida and many others who abounded in the civil service of those days that helped rebuild the country after the devastating civil war. With their hard work, commitment and loyalty, Nigeria built four refineries, petrochemical plants, power plants, airports, highways and bridges in just a decade after the war. These infrastructures were encapsulated in the National Development Plans that guided our post-war development agenda. It is so sad that the mass purge of the civil service in the ’70s and the subsequent replacement of meritocracy with federal character have led to the steady decline of that institution. We can only hope that AIG will help to restore its past glory.
With the fourth cohort of AIG scholars set to leave Oxford this year, that is. 20 Africans who have benefited from the highest standard of training available globally to public servants, Aigboje believes that he can do more to help humanity. He has been invited to join a renowned international advocacy group, Global Citizen, whose vision is to end extreme poverty by 2030. Global Citizen is a community that mobilizes governments, private sector and citizens to take action on the world’s biggest challenges, such as: global warming, extreme poverty and lack of access to education. In Global Citizen, Aigboje is in the good company of eminent and well achieved persons from across the globe. Together, they raise funds from the public to tackle various challenges. Nigeria has a good share of these problems, no thanks to years of corruption, terrorism and incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats and political leaders.
I am sure that Nigerians greatly appreciate Aigboje for his initiatives and investments in philanthropy. As an African proverb goes, a good fruit does not fall far from the parent tree! Well done, Aig!