“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them” -Washington Irving
The Man – Dr. Yemi KALE
Dr. Oyeyemi Kale, Statistician-General of the Federation (SGF), is a rare personality, a man of multiple emotional and intellectual universes, and a scion of excellence. He is a champion of the workspace with a work culture only the most ardent and rigorous can match. He is a man of few words but prodigious talent, a strange throwback to an era when men counted commitment and personal productivity more excitedly than they counted the money in their wallet or the food in their belly.
Kale has passed through personal pains, emotional distress, and physical exhaustion such that at different times he has come across as a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders or an Atlas reborn.
The statistician has over the last decade shown a superhuman capacity for hard work, doggedness, and the deliberate pursuit of world-class national data standards. He has by sheer force of personality brought a new culture of data integrity, timeliness, credibility and accuracy to the once error-prone business of national statistics. As a person, Kale has been selfless and as a professional, he has been resolute, responsible, and remarkable. Kale, the statistician, has shaped a team of national data managers that have created an indelible legacy. This is our take of his stewardship as he nears the end of his tenure.
The Hour– 10 Years of New Thinking
Dr. Yemi Kale’s tenure at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has been a tonic that has invigorated an institution that was hitherto known for lethargy and poor imagination in the execution of its mandate. The former Federal Office of Statistics (FOS), the precursor to the NBS was known for its large bureaucracy but weak data quality and the website was virtually, never updated on a timely basis. The former FOS was a beehive of activity that produced little data of worth on a regular timeline. The transformation in output is thus worthy of note as an exemplar for public sector reform templates that can be improved upon.
The Kale era reversed the lack of energy and data gathering, processing, review, and analysis by the bureau. The new managers of the bureau under Kale’s direction expanded the scope of the agency’s activities and set annual timelines for data release through a calendar. Before the Kale era, the NBS produced three main annual reports, namely; GDP, Inflation, and Unemployment. However, with the advent of Kale as SGF, the agency broke into an explosion of time-sensitive statistical data that included the three previous annual reports with 22 new reports added in the first five years ending in 2016. By the second term, the reports had been expanded/extended to 52 reports.
Innovations within the first five years included but were not limited to the following:
- Annual Calander of reports and activities;
- NBS e-Library;
- NBS mobile app;
- Introduction of PMS/Petrol price watch and the Diesel price watch;
- Covid-19 quarterly impact assessment and update;
- Infographics on data released;
- NBS newsletter;
- Social media engagements;
- Public forums and interactive knowledge sharing sessions with publics;
- Template for tracking Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and
- Data request form.
Proshare Nigeria Limited has had a professional relationship with the NBS for five years. The relationship has been governed by professionalism, global best practices, high governance standards and technical integrity, accountability, mutual respect, and good faith.
The relationship has been a unique demonstration of how the public and private sectors can partner to achieve world-class results if the leadership of both sectors commits to best practices, is willing and able to learn from each other, and deploy the highest standards of professionalism. Over the years the NBS has grown in leaps and bounds as the Kale-led leadership of the agency continued to make professionalism, consistency, timeliness, and accuracy a code and culture.
The high-grade work ethic of NBS and Proshare has been reflected in the several awards won by the agency over the last five years and even within the first five years of the Kale leadership.
The Future Beckons
After a decade of world-class administration of a public sector agency such as the NBS Dr. Yemi Kale would understandably desire a deserved break and quieter life. Unfortunately, the reward for hard work is more hard work. Still in his prime, it would be a tragedy if Nigeria allowed Kale to walk off into the sunset. With the country in need of its best men and women to pull together to find a path out of the current economic challenges. One of the economy’s finest economic and statistical minds cannot be allowed to raise his legs in solemn retirement.
Kale’s experience and knowledge are needed to guide a Marshall-like plan for the country’s economic renaissance. Nigeria owes this to its future. It is the expectation that Kale should be encouraged to serve the nation as a technical subject matter expert in the president’s economic team, indeed it would make great sense for the London School of Economics (LSE) doctoral graduate to be appointed to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. The next President would be investing in sustainable human development by having Kale put in charge of national planning, an oft-overlooked aspect of the national development priority for the country. Playing with its ‘first eleven’ minds is the only way the country would attain economic redemption and progress.