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“My Oga at the Top”: A Culture of Rewarding Incompetence

“My Oga at the Top” is a familiar slang in Nigeria that was made popular by  Shem Obafiaye, the newly promoted Deputy Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).

The slang came into being when he was interviewed in 2013 as the then Lagos State Commandant and asked a simple question he had no answer to. Instead of admitting to his ignorance, he attempted to dribble his interviewers. He gave Nigerians the slang that took on a life of its own and became a comedy skit, meme, and club banger when beats were added. The question was, “What is the website of the NSCDC’, his hilarious answer: “…the one that we are going to use is going to be made known by my oga at the top, yes.  I can’t announce one now, and my oga says it’s another one…”. He then went on to echo a lot more gibberish with plenty of charisma that he probably thought would distract people.

The entire interview was the stuff of a stand-up comedian’s dreams and is highly recommended for anyone who wants to relax and laugh. But beyond the laughs, it was one of the many examples of the gross incompetence of the Nigerian civil service, particularly top management, that one would have expected to be more knowledgeable. It is a very painful picture of why the country is retrogressing, the deep systemic rot and the absolute buffoonery one encounters when one walks into almost every government agency and public institution.

Like the Minister of Trade, who was recently asked what the balance of trade between Nigeria and other countries is, to which she had no answer, Shem was the 2013 poster boy of institutional incompetence. What is more heartbreaking is that people like this rise through the ranks, that they are not exceptions in the system but actually the norm. This is probably the reason why he was redeployed from Lagos in the interview instead of a better-fitting disciplinary action.

Ten years later, Obafiaye was promoted alongside two of his colleagues, a former Kwara commandant and a former Imo commandant. They were decorated on Wednesday, 13th of December, by the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, in his capacity as Chairman of the Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board (CDCFIB).

Whether by merit or not, the “My Oga at the Top” crooner is now Oga at the Top.

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