By DAN AMOR
We all know the original story of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ( NDLEA). It would be repetitive going through it again. But the summary of it all is that the NDLEA was a stagnant institution which allowed drug cartels, barons, traders, users and abusers to carry on their excesses as “business as usual” while Nigeria was being laid in ruins. It was so until Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (retd.), a man born before his time became its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Call it whatever you will. But I call it Marwa’s Magic. It did not just start now. It has been there from time immemorial. In fact, from ancient times there have been men whose vision in whatever they did extended beyond the age in which they lived. Their mental faculties operated wave-lengths outside the range of comprehension of their contemporaries. Marwa is one of such men in human history.
God knows why He created M.B. Marwa a Nigerian but certainly many Nigerians have not bothered any hoot to ask why. Marwa remains a perfect blend of wisdom, compassion and practical experience. If you follow closely the trajectory of our subject matter, you will realise that he centres his life and leadership around such timeless principles as fairness, commitment, equity, justice and integrity that constitute the roots of every family or institution that has ever prospered. It is these same principles that Marwa teaches people around him including his family members. It is therefore not a surprise to me when one of his sons made a First Class honour degree in Engineering at Coventry University, an Ivy League university in the United Kingdom in 2018.
In fact, in 2005, when there were spikes from the rumour mills that Marwa was a decoy for Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd.) over the 2007 presidential tango, yours sincerely did a piece entitled: “2007: Marwa, Stand To Be Counted.” We all saw his move, but, unfortunately, the powers that be sent their goons after him. The rest is now history. But, again, like Franz Kafka, the great writer of the absurd genre, has remarked, the reality is that it is not realistic enough. Yet, the success or failure of any given organisation either in Nigeria or abroad, is centred on leadership. Ineffective people try to manage their time around priorities, whereas effective people lead their lives and manage their relationships according to natural laws that are universally valid and constant.
Marwa’s strategic trajectory in running the affairs of the NDLEA and its ensuing success in just four (4) months, is his ability to apply these laws to the challenges or problems of the organisation. It is also his ability to centre life on the correct principles as the key to personal fulfillment and professional success. It takes a dynamic and charismatic, people-oriented leader to boost the morale and confidence of officers and men of his organisation through practical steps to address their welfare and career stagnation issues. Officers and men who had remained on the same locations without promotion are beginning to smile with the emergence of Marwa in the saddle.
This has thus brought out the best in them as the NDLEA has woken up from its deep slumber to its core mandate and values. People-centred leaders don’t overreact to negative behaviours, criticism or human weaknesses. Because they know that behaviour and potential are two different things, they believe in the unseen potential of all people. They feel grateful for their blessings and feel naturally to compassionately forgive and forget the offenses of others. They don’t carry grudges. They refuse to label other people, to stereotype, categorise, and prejudge. Rather, they see the oak tree in the acorn and understand the process of helping the acorn become a great oak. Marwa has thus restored the visibility of the NDLEA to critical acclaim for local and international partnerships. To be candid, Marwa radiates positive energy. Because he is a principle-centred leader, his countenance is always simple, cheerful, pleasant, happy. His attitude is optimistic, positive, upbeat. And his spirit, enthusiastic, hopeful, believing. This has attracted international support such as the donation of operational equipment, and technical assistance by the UNODC, European Union, the United States, the United Nations, the United Kingdom, France and others.
Marwa therefore, seeks to believe in the unseen potential. He has instituted a bi-monthly assessment and cash-backed award for Best Performing Command to motivate officers and men. He has revived and strengthened the Agency’s Directorate of Assets and Financial Investigations to go after all assets and funds linked to drug trafficking. This department has in four months obtained interim and final forfeiture orders on assets and funds worth billions of Naira linked to drug traffickers/barons being prosecuted or investigated including a N30billion currently being trailed.
Undoubtedly, Marwa has launched non-stop actions against drug cartels across the country with the new maxim: “offensive action” which has in less than three months yielded positive results, including, as it were: (1). The arrest of 2,175 drug traffickers. (2). The seizure of 2,050, 766.33 kilogrammes of assorted illicit drugs. (3). The filing of about 2,100 drug cases in court with over 500 convictions and 1,549 pending cases in court. (4). Cash and drug seizures valued at over N90 billion. Indeed, the Agency has set up a Special Purpose Committee to involve all stakeholders in the war against illicit drugs in the country. It is heartwarming to emphasize that under Marwa, the Agency has established a well armed and trained Strike Force to beef up the Agency’s enforcement capabilities.
One of Marwa’s strategic templates for success is that he is continually learning. He is constantly educated by his experiences. He reads, he seeks training, he takes classes, he listens to others and he learns through his eyes and ears. Marwa reminds me of Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM). Despite his vast knowledge of the word of God, Bishop Okonkwo would ask a young Pastor to preach to or teach the large congregation of over 20,000 members. He would be sitting in front, learning, taking notes. That is what Marwa does. He picks his calls directly and responds to his text messages or WhatsApp chats immediately. As people become increasingly principled-centred, they love to share recognition and power. Why? It is not a limited pie. It is an ever-enlarging pie. The basic paradigm and assumption about limited resources is flawed. The great capabilities of a people are hardly even tapped. The abundance mentality produces more profit, power, and recognition for everybody.
On the continuum, you go from a scarcity to an abundance mentality through feelings of intrinsic self-worth and a benevolent desire for mutual benefit. Every successful enterprise is leadership-centred; and that leadership must be based on principles. When I was a lecturer in Leadership Development at the Leaving Bread Leadership School in Lagos, I used to tell my students that Marwa was a bundle of humour. This is because humour always speaks for itself. Like him or hate him. But you will like his result. The NDLEA has changed in just four months. Nigerian leaders have a lot to learn from this man.
Amor, critic and journalist, writes from Abuja via [email protected]