Osinbajo’s unique Christmas, New Year gifts for ministers by Olalekan Adetayo

Some of those who are waiting to receive cash, hampers, bags of rice, electronic gadgets and other more expensive items from Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as their Christmas and New Year gifts this year may be in for a big surprise if what I saw on Wednesday is anything to go by.

Wednesday was the day Osinbajo decided to present his Christmas and New Year gifts to ministers and that was done shortly before the commencement of a meeting of the Federal Executive Council.

I am sure that if he had announced earlier that he would present them with gifts that day, some of them would have put their aides on standby so that they could quickly ferry the gifts away to their houses or offices.

But that was not necessary because the Vice-President decided to give them handy gifts: books! He presented three books to each of the ministers. He did not hand the books over to them personally. Before the commencement of the meeting, protocol officials had placed small white paper bags containing the books on the ministers’ tables. The bags were customised to show that they were from the Vice-President. As they started arriving, ministers were seen bringing out the books apparently to confirm the contents of the bags and the source.

In deciding the books to present to the ministers, Osinbajo chose three books from the same author. His choice of author was an English-born Canadian journalist and speaker, Malcom Gladwell. The author who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996 has written five books but Osinbajo chose these three for the ministers: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000); Outliers: The Story of Success (2008); as well as David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013). All the three books and the two others by the author are said to be on The New York Times Best Seller list.

I was very curious. I made attempts to get the titles of the books. I also wanted to have an idea of the theme of the books in order to know what informed the Vice-President’s decision that they are good for our ministers. Since a bloody reporter like me cannot borrow the books from any of the ministers, I decided to do an Internet search on them. My findings are quite revealing.

My research revealed that The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, seeks to explain and describe the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life. Examples of such changes in the book include the rise in popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the steep drop in New York City’s crime rate after 1990. The author defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

For the second book, Outliers: The Story of Success, I discovered that Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. To support his thesis, he examines why majority of Canadian ice hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year; how Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates achieved his extreme wealth; how The Beatles became one of the most successful musical acts in human history; how Joseph Flom built Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom into one of the most successful law firms in the world; how cultural differences play a large part in perceived intelligence and rational decision-making; and how two people with exceptional intelligence, Christopher Langan and J. Robert Oppenheimer end up with such vastly different fortunes. The author was said to have claimed that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practising the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.

In the case of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, the book focuses on the probability of improbable events occurring in situations where one outcome is greatly favoured over the other. The book contains many different stories of these underdogs who wind up beating the odds, the most famous being the story of David and Goliath. The book employs individual case studies and comparison to provide a wide range of examples. In these, perceived major disadvantages turn out to be the keys to the underdog, Davids’ triumph against Goliath-like opponents or situations.

As our ministers proceed for Christmas and New Year break with the books, it is hoped that they will read them and become better public officials in 2017, at least for those of them who will still remain in the cabinet.

A private wedding and a military birthday

Last Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari gave his daughter, Zahra, out in marriage to Ahmed Indimi. The media hype that heralded the wedding was too much, though it was expected. What was unexpected was the decision by the President that the event which had attracted such wide publicity should be made a private affair.

After the wedding Fatiha was held at the National Mosque, Abuja, the President hosted some dignitaries to a lunch at the old Banquet Hall of the Villa. It was mostly men’s affair. Apart from the wife of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who accompanied her husband and the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, I am not sure I saw any other woman at the event.

Journalists were told in clear terms that the lunch was not for press coverage. Authorities only allowed photojournalists to take a few shots at the beginning of the event before they were politely asked to leave.

I was in a dilemma. How could the who-is-who in Nigeria gather with the President inside the Villa and I would be comfortable somewhere else? For me, if the President had wanted a private ceremony as we were made to believe, he should have ensured that the ceremony was held in his private residence in Daura, Katsina State. So we stayed back to monitor events from a far and safe distance.

In the evening, the President’s wife, Aisha, also gathered guests who were mainly women for a dinner inside the same venue. That event too was strictly private devoid of media presence. What a private wedding indeed!

The following day, Buhari had another reason to celebrate again as he clocked 74. To mark it, a few presidential aides gathered at his official residence early in the morning to rejoice with him.

The Presidential Brigade of Guards saddled with the responsibility of protecting the seat of power also decided to honour him with a military parade. The parade was attended by only a few government officials. Even the President’s wife and the Vice-President were not present.

Giant birthday cards that were as tall as the President were presented to him. He cut the birthday cake, signed the register and released some white pigeons before the parade ended.

He thereafter proceeded to the venue of a meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of Economic Community of West African States which was held in Abuja.

Merry Christmas and enjoy your long holiday.

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