Only leaders regarded by their followers as caring are good enough. Leaders, whether in the private or public sector, must care about the larger society, and not just immediate profit and private acquisitions. Aristotle’s the common good is now a creed among social scientists. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has in the last few years become a major component of the curriculum in every management school around the world. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, who became an iconographic figure by writing on business competitiveness, has turned attention to CSR, writing furiously and prodigiously on it. Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winner in economics and the world’s most influential monetarist who argued that the only worthwhile CSR is that which increases shareholder value, is now considered a relic as far as the purpose of organizations is concerned.
Attention is now focused on stakeholders rather than stockholders. Stakeholders in an organization are not just investors but also workers, distributors, suppliers, the host community and the government which generates both personal and corporate income tax from the organization. It is a pity that most Nigerian universities have yet to adjust to the new thinking in management science.
Though CSR has such dimensions as environmental protection, ethical integrity and employee satisfaction, the most popular dimension in emerging nations is the dimension of giving back to society. This is probably because in some Third World communities such basic amenities as good roads and electricity are provided by multinational corporations in their operational areas as part of their CSR. As has frequently been stated by contemporary scholars, good neighborliness or being your brother’s keeper is good for business. Put succinctly, philanthropy by organizations and individuals is imperative in today’s world.
On Sunday, April 15, as the Public Policy Analysis and Research Centre in Lagos led by Jibril Aminu, a former senator, a former Minister of Health, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources and ex Nigeria’s ambassador to the United Nations, gives out its 2017 annual Zik Leadership Awards, one award will be for humanitarian service. And it will be conferred on the wife of the Anambra State governor. It is one prize which will be well received because of its winner’s antecedents.
Ebelechukwu Obiano, tall, elegant and vivacious, is a charmer. Her physical looks must have attracted her to the husband, a man of taste. But it is not her charming looks which have sustained, let alone deepened, their marriage over the decades. There is one thing she has in common with her husband: a deep concern for the needy. This shared attribute has made them one of the closest couples I have ever met anywhere. They are not just friends but soul mates, bonded to each other.
Her sobriquet of Osodieme, meaning the woman who walks in the footsteps of her husband for the public good, is well earned. They complement each other.
Authentic Christians, in the finest tradition of the expression, must reflect godliness in their social relationships. In an era when some religious leaders are obsessed with outdated dogmas, it is imperative to call attention to the primacy in Christian theology of what Pope John Paul the Second popularized as solidarity with the human family.
Jesus Christ says in Matthew 25: 41-45 “On the last day, many of you will ask: ‘Did we not preach in your name? Did we not perform miracles in your name?’ I will tell them to get behind me. I was in prison, you did not visit me; I was hungry, but you did not feed me; I was thirsty, but you did not give me water; I was naked, but you did not clothe me; I was homeless, but you did not provide me shelter. Not everyone who shouts ‘Father, father’ will inherit the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my father”.
What Christ is saying here, in other words, is that faith without good work is dead because the body without spirit is dead (James 2: 26). The Pharisees and Sadducees had faith, but did no good work. Jesus called them “a brood of vipers” (12: 34) because of their wickedness and hypocrisy. Christ asks, “If you hate your brother, how can you love whom you have never seen?” (1 John 4: 20).
It is truly strange that some Christian leaders approach the question of being our brother’s keeper rather cavalierly. Social relationships are as important as doctrines. The majority of the 10 commandments, for instance, deal with how to relate with fellow human beings.
Many of us feel that we practise the social teaching of the church when we sit in the comforts of our blackened SUVs and once in a while throw a few naira notes to street beggars, or when we manage to pay the school fee of a relative or two. We need to be challenged by the example of the First Lady of Anambra State and her spouse, Governor Willie Obiano. This couple does not just give to the needy; they work for them with passion. They are at home with lepers, orphans, the physically challenged, people with mental problems—in fact, the rejected and dejected in society. The physically challenged were understandably among the most committed campaigners for Obiano’s re-election last November.
On March 9, The Punch gave the touching account of how Mrs Obiano reunited a 72-year old woman from Umudioka, Awka, with her family 35 years after she was presumed dead because she disappeared completely from its radar. Mrs Rose Anene, a mother of five, was brought home from Lagos following mental health challenges and depression. She was later discovered in the streets and taken to the 77-bed Home for the Mentally Challenged at Nteje in Oyi Local Government Area which was established by Mrs Obiano’s Caring Family Enhancement (CAFE) in 2014.
On the day Mrs Anene was reunited with her family, Mrs Obiano, an expressive person, danced energetically for long with the poor widow and other members of the Anene family. She was obviously over the moon, probably her happiest day in life, as the television networks reported. It is worth noting that sixty two persons from such states as Oyo, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Oyo, among others, have also been treated and fully recovered in Mrs Obiano’s facility, which is largely maintained by Governor Obiano’s monthly salary.
It is not surprising that in the pantheon of Mrs Obiano’s heroes are such people as Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India, and Mary Slessor of Calabar, two women who gave up all the worldly pleasures to work tirelessly for the weakest in society, to dedicate themselves to victims of social, economic and cultural injustices, and to work totally for the emancipation of people in foreign lands. The Scripture says in 15:13: “… there is no love greater than the fact that a man should lay down his life for the benefit of others”.
As the 2017 annual Zik Leadership Prize for Humanitarian Service is given to Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, millions of Ndi Anambra and other Nigerians rejoice with the First Family of Anambra State on this honour. Truly, His banner over us is love (Song of Solomon 2: 4).
Adinuba is Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, Anambra State