Category Archives: Ethic

Kitchen Recruitment

In the days and weeks following disengagement leave granted former Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mrs. Rosemary Uzoma, there has been a media buzz about corruption in recruitment process into many government establishments in the country. The Minister of Interior added to the news when he informed the public that the CG had to be sacked over allegations of recruitment fraud, poor management of promotion procedures among other misdeeds in the NIS. I can imagine how the Minister for Interior would have called and offered her opportunity to voluntarily retire or be embarrassingly kicked out. In Nigeria, many people don’t get kicked out of responsibilities for corruption, except the person has done something “substantially” offensive to the powers that be or is too powerless within the social circles that matter. Given my experience with how government institutions work, the Immigration boss did not recruit people who had no one to back their applications. She probably recruited people recommended from the National Assembly, the Presidency, Heads of sister establishments and related institutions. For this singular reason, she deserves the fate that befell her, because I’m sure in handling such recruitment she would have bypassed a graduate from poor and non-influential background, but without any political patronage. So, I will not mourn her exit. I only wish same decisions would have been extended to all other heads of government agencies because they are very much in same boat. In fact, the retirement of the CG as against dismissal could have been made possible by those whose children and relatives she favoured. So, to that extent, she is still a beneficiary.

Following the sack of the CG, there have been allegations by many who complain that they had been asked to pay the sum of N500,000 to secure jobs in Immigration and other government establishments. These accusations are not false. Last year, during the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps recruitment, a family member who had applied for placement was asked to pay N200,000 or obtain a letter from a National Assembly member representing us. Since I couldn’t settle for paying the required sum, I tried to secure appointment with the National Assembly member but it proved quite cumbersome. The aides to the parliamentarian clearly asked me to pay to obtain the letter. Needless to say, I drove away and informed the family member to forget about the job. Before then, I had another experience with the Federal Civil Service Commission concerning their issuance of forms for prospective employees to fill out and return for possible placement. The procedure for obtaining the form was punitive as one was expected to queue outside the gate under the scorching sun for hours before being called in. If you didn’t want to do that, you needed to pay a retinue of people from the security men to the office clerks to get the form, and it was no guarantee that you will ever get called for test. People have filled out the forms for up to ten years without being called, yet the Commission keeps issuing appointment letters to others on some criteria, mainly through patronage. In fact, when I succeeded in seeing one of the commissioners to get the form, I was asked to backdate the date of reception since the form was not for public issuance as of the time I was being given one. By that experience, I knew chances of the family member being called for a test was highly unlikely.

I once asked a friend whose aunt was well-placed in Government why she hadn’t secured a good -paying job using the aunt’s connection. She revealed that the aunt actually do help people from their community to get employment, but demands and collects a fraction of their salary for the first one to two years as reward. She revealed that she had done it to her brother and she wasn’t ready to submit to such slavery. Such cases are not uncommon. There is another which involved a family member who was rounding off her Masters degree in the UK. She flew into the country upon being shortlisted for an aptitude test into a government agency. After successfully scaling through the two stages of test and oral interview, she was asked to get a member of the corporation’s Board of Directors to support her application. That was after spending non-reimbursable expenses on flight to come to Nigeria. Needless to say, she lost the job and though it was in the public domain that the recruitment process in the organization was fraudulent, the head of the institution is still serving.

The corruption which has characterized recruitment into public service is endemic and is the seed that breeds the future of the country. Unfortunately, I can say without mincing words that the future is bleak, except people resent the system and revolt against it. I don’t believe getting a job should be seen as a miracle if merit is allowed to work. Sadly, it has become a miracle, especially for those from low socio-economic background. I have seen Nigerians pay several amounts or use unwholesome means to secure a job and the next Sunday, they are jumping up in the church to give testimony of a miracle. They are no different from those who cheat in exams and thereafter boast about their academic credentials. I have seen situations where ministers, parliamentarians and well-placed public officers use their influence to get placement for their wards and these wards come into the organization and display arrogance. In fact, some have been placed on positions they do not have requisite qualifications and experience to handle, thereby dragging competence in the mud.

There are numerous tales of recruitment corruption in Nigeria perpetrated by heads of public corporations. It is going to continue because the parliamentarians have failed to do their jobs of oversight function and rather settle to use their political clout to garner those positions for their cronies. They sell these slots through their cronies to third parties. I know of recruitments into watchdog organisations, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which were done mainly through political patronage, thereby making it impossible for total allegiance to the mandate of the respective organizations. When I talk about recruitment, I am not referring to executive positions only, but lower cadre and mid-level grades. There has been talk about slots for the President and First Lady in many government institutions. I know people who have utilized these slots and from the way it has been arranged, they have been slots controlled by the aides of these public officers, from the special advisers, special assistants, “personal assistants to special assistants to the special advisers,” etc. The slots range from recruitment to scholarship awards, whether it is direct Federal Government Scholarship or those awarded by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) or Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).

Over the years, I have come to accept the valid reasoning that the process of recruitment into an organization determines the organization’s resilience and ethical culture. I have told friends and relatives who care to listen that when you notice that the process of recruitment into an organization is fraudulent, know that in the course of working for such organization you will be faced with ethical dilemmas. Being prepared for such moments helps one in making choices and taking responsibility for those choices. I have interacted with many organizations and people and I’m yet to be proven wrong. Organizations that have had established history of ethical resilience have fallen in standards because a chief executive officer, along the history of the organization, greatly compromised in the recruitment process, and entrenched a culture of issuing letters of appointment to people in the kitchen based on expected benefits or political, ethnic or religious affiliations, without test or interview. In fact many are done without any meaningful background profiling to determine suitability for employment on certain positions of trust or claims of credentials. The change in culture has remarkably been validated by incidence of fraud and drop in work standards in many organizations in Nigeria. We should express worry about this state of affairs. If the people who hold the country’s future are being subjected to riding on the back of fraudulent recruitment process or, put more nicely, on political or socio-economic patronage, we cannot expect their future decisions to be free of ethical flaws. It will be a real miracle if it happens otherwise.

Viewed from a vantage point I want to assume that most of the best hands may be drifting into the private sector, where there is more appreciable level of merit-based competitiveness and diverse skill sets are recognized and encouraged. This leaves the public sector to be incrementally dominated by children of the powerfully connected, who happen to be indolent at best since they have hardly worked hard to get to where they are. Unfortunately, these are the people the future demand for development and growth would saddle with the responsibility of championing government reforms. It is clear that with the increasing entrenchment of oligarchic-aristocracy in public sector recruitment, the future of this country has been mortgaged as the circle is bound to continue. Change has often been successfully driven most times by those who have become fed up with the system on the throes of exclusivity, which beneficiaries of the fraudulent process clearly lack. This is not a task to be left to the corrupt and clueless leadership of modern day bureaucracy. People must put pressure at every point on institutions to be open in their processes. We must use every means available to bring attention of this problem to public knowledge and develop a social conscience, voice and engagement platforms that would wage war against this impending danger.

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Beyond the Choices

I love happy endings, be such in relationships, lessons or activities. I’ve been a student of the past one year, opening my heart, eyes and ears to every anecdote, word, idea, gesture and unaltered silence that came my way. From each of these I’ve learnt a lot, enough to prove the maxim that “some things in life are caught, not taught.” I’ve felt deep emotions about things and people and I’ve kept my eyes focused on seeing the beauty life has blessed me with. I’ve been worried about the sprawling poverty around – poverty of basic needs, of commitment to service and also poverty of values. I still remember the most popular axiom while growing up: “children are the leaders of tomorrow.” I took this literarily and reasoned that, if this must come true, one must weigh the consequences of each action as deeply as possible before deciding on a course of action. Now, what I hear is complaint from the elderly ones: “children of these days are too ambitious,” as though being ambitious makes one a misfit.

I write this post out of concern about the values that seem to be pervasive in our society, values that are worrisome and anti-developmental. I have been blessed to know and work with wonderful people with strong values, ideas, leadership potentials and love for humanity. In spite of this, I feel saddened when I come across an outstanding breach committed by a young person. It’s as if such has not generated enough anger against the disappointments of the elderly ones who have plundered our collective resources. When that happens, I know the person has been an unfortunate mentee. One fortunate thing in our world today is that it is suffused with positive mentors with commitment to values that are timeless and priceless. One unfortunate thing in our world today is that there is also copious supply of negative mentors. The difference then lies in the choices we make. Making the right choice is never an easy task. You have to constantly fight against yourself, and sometimes against a group you belong. The self-deceit lies in telling yourself you have to be better than someone else or meet a certain ideal set by someone else. In the race towards the Truth and the Best in human existence, we run against ourselves. Some choices bring about immediate consequences while others have deferred consequences. Positive choices are like deferred gratification, but they yield immediate peace and lasting reward.

Following on the heels of all that I’ve said above, it’s time to bring the illustrative case which informed this post. I recently came by a young man, under thirty, who lost an opportunity of an interesting career in one of the prime institutions in the country. He joined the organisation a few years back on a comfortable income and good working conditions, but decided to exploit the trust of his colleagues and got caught up in a series of fraudulent activities. He spent the yields from the fraudulent actions on “financial terrorism” – living ostentatious lifestyle, intimidating others and employing personal chauffeur under claims of being financed by his “wealthy parents.” When his cover was blown and investigators pored through the books and his background, he became an inmate of a police detention cell. As he confessed to the numerous frauds he committed, investigators wanted to know what moved him to such ignominious end. He admitted it was caused by greed and when he saw that he was trusted by his colleagues, he abused the trust.

As I watched his broken family struggle to come to terms with the son they thought they knew, it was clear his choices didn’t affect him only. The casualties were many; among them were his parents, siblings, pregnant wife, and most importantly, the expected child who might come forth from the womb to find the father in jail. I’ve been deeply saddened by this incident, trying to understand the weight of the greed that drove him. Was he ambitious? I can’t say. I would think ambition is guided by a well thought-out set of priorities, guided by values that engender their full realization. I’m wont to think this was a case of misplaced priorities. Unfortunately, he is not alone. I’ve heard and read about young people who have expressed readiness to seize similar opportunity and walk same path, with same choices. In most cases, they stop at the choices, not on the consequences, often rationalizing ethical dilemmas to avoid a feeling of cognitive dissonance. Even when the world is replete with stories of unwholesome consequences from bad choices, they rationalize themselves away as being smarter. It is the reasoning adopted by those who believe they can buy their freedom from the law, should they be caught. It’s a saddening reality.

In spite of the fact that in our country, we may have some bad people, be sickened by hate and divisions, squashed by poverty and hemmed in by corruption from all sides, our spirit can still aspire towards purity. It has been proven timelessly that the man who strives against greater opposition obtains greater victory. I’m thankful for those who have chosen to act wisely and with the consciousness that every negative act or thought breathes negative energy into our lives. They have taught us to believe in the best, work for the best and expect the best. I’m ending the year with a reinforced lesson: making the right choice brings about positive consequences in the short, medium and long term. Having watched how the mighty have fallen in spite of their wealth, making the right choices sure gives peace of mind. They keep the police away too; and when the police do come, they come for the right choices one has made. Making the right choice builds our mentoring integrity as well as a worthy heritage, solid and unassailable.

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The Mockery of Leadership

During my national youth service, I came upon Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, from a friend. He had a photocopied version of the book and after going through it, I made a copy for myself. I had since had various versions of the book, in digital as well as paperback forms. Nigerians fight too many wars in their lives, so I’m not going to teach you how to fight a war. The wars we contend with daily, the war against diseases, insecurity, laziness, hunger, unemployment, despondency, victimization, corruption, theft, lies, darkness, materialism, clueless leadership, and all sorts are enough to keep one busy and educated on the art of war. So, I’m only making reference to Sun Tzu for allegorical purpose while exploring an aspect of our security management in Nigeria.

One of the intriguing portions of Sun Tzu’s book is the introduction. In the introduction, the book documents how Sun Tzu was recruited by Ho Lu, the King of Wu, to be the general of his army. Reading this portion highlights the importance of recruitment for any assignment that is considered worthwhile, especially recruitment into leadership positions. A general has his job cut out for him. I will not bore you about the details of what is documented in the book, but when you reflect on the lesson inherent in that portion of the book, you will come to appreciate the fact that when people are recruited into critical positions of leadership based on merit, chances are that they will perform more meritoriously. I have decided to provide you with a link to a free copy of the book (here). As you read the book further, you will also come across another portion where Sun Tzu declared that when you know yourself and know your enemy you can fight a thousand battles without losing. I like that.

A general is known by his strategy, how resilient and successful his strategies are in quelling the oppositions he faces in the course of his daily engagements. The questions, therefore, that we as Nigerians need to answer in the face of this reality are manifold: Given the plethora of security challenges plaguing our country, what kind of general do we have? Are we clothing the presidency with the title of Commander-in-Chief to mock our sensibilities? How should we recruit a C-in-C in Nigeria and what strategic endowment is he expected to possess? I’m wondering which general will sit in a palace peacefully while there is an expansionist bid against his territory by insurgents? Put more directly, which general will be so fearful to visit the battle front and witness firsthand the plunder and pillage of his depleting ranks?

I am yet to hear that the present Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces has visited the battle fronts. Neither have I even heard that the so-called Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum who is, by positional allusion, the putative Commander-in-Chief of the “North” has visited the hotspots? What kind of generals do we have in Nigeria? Are the generals’ ears so insulated to the rhythm of bullets? Of course, I do know that should they attempt to visit, they would have the best of military arsenal to support their movement, decked in goliath’s attire. But would the C-in-C trust the intelligence of the security forces enough to let them coordinate his movement? I have a feeling that the present President does not trust the intelligence of the security apparatuses, no matter how thick the bullet-proof vest he wears is. There is so much information leakage among top government functionaries to warrant them being educated on the criticality of information management.

In considering Sun Tzu’s second point I noted earlier, I wonder how much of the enemies of the state our military forces know. There has been a lot of hype about the presidency knowing the people behind the insurgency in the country. That is quite a simplistic award of intelligence. The corollary to that would be, isn’t “knowing” a verb and shouldn’t it, therefore, consist in action? Well, perhaps, it is the act of not acting that is the derivative of the knowledge. If the presidency knows the perpetrators of the acts of insurgency so well, why haven’t the war been won? I’m adopting Sun Tzu’s spectacles here, alluding that he who knows himself and knows his enemies can fight a thousand battles without losing. So, I want to follow my fellow citizens and believe that the federal government knows the insurgents very well. After all, hasn’t the presidency, through its various media engagements, noted that it knows the sponsors? What this implies is that the other leg of knowing – in the idea of Sun Tzu – is lacking; that is, the federal government does not know itself.

One disturbing point to note in our governance approach is the security strategy of fighting insurgency through the media. Not only are the media releases by the government distorted and unbelievable, they are, many times, not necessary. I note with concern government agencies going into details to narrate security operations which led to arrest of an insurgent or a kidnapper. I note the conflicting reports on many incidents by different security agencies. The desire to be noticed often distorts the ability to be objective, for an individual; more so for a government. Fighting insurgency through the media is ineffectual and a shameful indictment of our strategic thinking. But in a country where those who have a duty to protect others cannot protect themselves, it is not out of place to notice a drowning man struggling to hold on to a floating straw.

The presidency recently revealed that over seventy percent of planned acts of insurgency in the country have been botched. I like the theatrical way we generate statistics in this country, but I will leave that matter to an opportune time. A look at our security governance in the country reveals the contradictions in our leadership mentality. It is a case of us being promised cake, when all we need is bread, being promised three-course meal three times a day, when all we need is a single course meal, being promised power when all we need is electric light. It is a situation of being promised transformation, when all we need is a functional means of transportation, being promised bottled water, when all we need is pipe-borne water. As I’m pondering all that we need in the face of the promises we have been made, Sun Tzu disturbs my meditational peace with his whispering: “The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.”

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Advice to My Lecturer Friend

On a sunny Sunday, not too long ago, I hosted a friend at my residence. I hadn’t seen him for quite a while and when he arrived, he revealed that his mission was to achieve three things. The first was to return some books he had borrowed from my private library; the second was to personally inform me that he had decided to resign his job to take up tenure with a federal university in the country. The third, which turned out to be the most important, was to ask for my advice on how best to approach the new job. I laughed off his request and told him I hadn’t been a lecturer before to know how best to advise him. I was quick to add that I could give an advice, if he wanted me to give it from the standpoint of a student, having spent eighty-two percent of my years on earth as one. He conceded, noting that it was exactly for that reason he was seeking my advice.

The visit reminded me of my introductory class in sociology of education where we explored the banking and dialogical models of education and settled for the latter as a better approach to knowledge-sharing. However much love I have for teaching, I have always seen myself as a student. So, I told him to write down my advice. The first was that he should never give out a handout, except it was to be given for free. Handouts, I emphasized, are meant to be handed out. I explained that he could prepare lecture notes and then email it to the students. The second advice was that he must mainstream the use of information technology into his engagements with the students. I explained that this would require his making sure the students all have functional email addresses which they could use to communicate with him and he could push global notes or information he needed to share beyond the classroom. I even proposed that he should start a blog where he would use as a means to interact with his students. The third advice was that he should become an active member of some professional associations and explore their resources and opportunities as much as possible, giving more time to academic research than teaching. The fourth advice was that he should adopt a life-building-skill approach to teaching, letting the students learn something worthwhile for their lives outside academic engagements. I added a final one, that he should be ready to face opposition from the established system.

It wasn’t quite a month after the visit when we met again and he shared a situation he was confronted with. He informed me that upon resumption he was assigned a course which was formerly handled by another lecturer who had a text book on the course and was requesting him to use the text for his class so that the students would be required to buy it. He expressed reservations about the text, noting that he didn’t think it was adequate in meeting the current needs of the students and course objectives. My observations on the textbook were twofold: the textbook was narrowly conceptualized, clearly written to beat the university’s ban on sale of handouts. It was a decorated handout. The second observation was that it was not a published text, but printed. You know the way you go to the printing press and place order for a funeral programme of events? The text fitted that mold perfectly, not minding the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) printed on it. After we discussed the matter, it was settled that he should politely wave aside the request on the grounds that he intended to use a number of reference texts for the course and would need time to study the present one as possible inclusion among the list. He was to add that the text would not be imposed on students, should it be considered for inclusion. In fact, I suggested that he should note his intention to come up with his own text as one of the grounds for putting the request aside.

As I go through the above scenarios, I am moved with great pity at the educational system in this country. Through my various engagements with lecturers, teachers and students, I have come to the conclusion that the educational system has been hijacked and no amount of funding would salvage it. I’m speaking from experience. I know many lecturers who should have no business being lecturers, but have found themselves there due to unemployment situation in the country. I know ones who obtained their magna cum laude class of degree through questionable circumstances and have found themselves into the university system as lecturers. I recall sitting in a post-graduate class as an MSc student to write exam alongside a lecturer who was studying for a doctorate then. He was an elderly man lecturing in a different department but studying for a doctorate in mine. When I observed that he had extraneous material that aided cheating in the exam, I called the invigilator to inform him. Unfortunately, the doctorate student was a senior colleague to the invigilator who was an assistant lecturer then, and all the invigilator could do was to walk up to him and plead with him to put the material away and pretended as though nothing happened. I have watched both grow through the academic ladder to senior positions in the universities, producing graduates for the Nigerian society.

I must tell you the truth: the academic system in Nigeria sucks, so terribly that the few good lecturers are overshadowed by the bad and indolent ones. It is only in Nigeria that people are awarded professorship on quota basis, and there are so many of them. I see lecturers come together to start a journal that is forced on students and can’t sell outside the confines of their faculties; yet these journals are used as a basis for award of academic promotion. Many times you don’t get to see the second volume of the journals. On a few occasions, I have shared opportunities for professional development with lecturers where the only condition to obtain full sponsorship to make the presentation abroad was to write a good abstract. I have been disappointed many times, with fear to make an attempt. In fact one told me that he was yet to check his mail after about a week of my forwarding the correspondence. I will avoid talking about the corruption that plagues the university system, given that the university is microcosm of the entire Nigerian society and whatever obtains in the wider society is very much entrenched there too.

Inter-university engagements are critical means of intellectual development. I believe lecturers should have exposure within and outside Nigeria to polish their perspectives on academic demands. The idea of a lecturer leaving one state university to a close one for sabbatical leave doesn’t show enough exposure. Our education system is rated one of the poorest in the world. It therefore implies that if we do not attract some exposures outside our shores, we are engaging in intellectual in-breeding which brings about net reduction in the quality of our knowledge production over time. Many young lecturers are still afraid to befriend the computer and modern information technologies. It is imperative that we mainstream these technologies and encourage lecturers to have websites where they can use as a means to interface with students. Students must be naturally encouraged to use modern technologies of communication and lecturers must drive this persuasively. The news that the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) has digitized its academic transcripts dating back to twenty years ago is one of the most commendable news to come out of our educational system in recent years. All other higher institutions of learning should emulate this and pioneer their own peculiar initiatives. The idea of the university is hinged more on research than on teaching and this consciousness should drive Nigerian higher institutions of learning. Without this singular drive, the university loses its relevance to social, political and economic interventions.

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A Culture of Waste

It was Labour Day. His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, was hosting labour leaders in the State at Creek Haven to mark the day. It turned out to be a sumptuous evening with gregarious tastes as varied delicacies paraded the vast expanse of His Excellency’s dinner hall. It was a buffet and you could get as much helpings as your appetite inspired. Leading the roughly thirty labour leaders, His Excellency, accompanied by an assistant carrying a tray holding a flat plate, scooped a splash of rice, then added a piece of fish, a meal that would hardly satisfy a four-year old who is truly hungry. Among us, someone caught my attention. Someone always does. My eyes trailed him as he picked from virtually every bowl until his plate overflowed and then accompanied him to where he sat. My eyes were fixated upon “doing sociology.” He had actually taken more than he could consume, because when some of us were done with the appetizer, main course and dessert, he was still battling to level the single course he had settled for. When the dinner was done and we were ready to go, my eyes couldn’t help being awed by the mounts of food still sitting on bowls untouched, enough to feed two more of our numbers.

That was food. I’ve seen a lot more. I’ve been to a public officer’s house where I saw fleet of cars and wondered if each room was an estate housing a family of adults each driving a car, only to realize that there were no kids in the house as they were grown up and on their own. I’ve entered houses with over ten bedrooms with no one resident there, except that once in a long while people occupied a few of the rooms. I’ve walked into government offices, where there are so many empty spaces that you could run a school in them. I’ve seen government offices where spaces left unused could be rented out and the money used in paying salaries of their staff. I’ve seen public funds expended to train people to the highest levels of competence, but such people are hardly given opportunity to use the knowledge. I’ve seen events where public funds were used to rent rooms in luxury hotels far beyond the number of genuine participants expected and then the excess rooms converted to house commercial sex workers to service the participants.

Nigeria is a country of waste. This is stating the obvious. Government start projects they know they will never get around to use or see to conclusion. People award contracts for the sake of awarding contracts, not necessarily for the sake of completing a project. It is in Nigeria you hear that four companies are each awarded a contract to supply a model of generator to a particular address at the same time and these are processed and paid for. It is in Nigeria that public officers are given monetized cars they keep in their houses while using pool cars, and after four years new ones are brought in while the older ones given out to them virtually free, to resell at much higher amount. It is in Nigeria that someone would hire a commercial aircraft for over four million naira ($25,000) to attend a few hours meeting, even after knowing about the meeting days and weeks ahead. The unfortunate thing in Nigeria is that public and individual wastes are symmetrically bonded, one feeding the other. It’s this intricate relationship that entrenches the resilience of waste in our society.

The relationship between the culture of waste and corruption in Nigeria is too obvious. There is a psychotic rationale among many Nigerians which fuels the culture of waste. It’s the reasoning that waste, or ostentatious display of affluence, is a sign of material success. People steal public funds by committing all manner of fraud because they want to feed a particular life style. I’ve heard of a statement credited to a public official years ago, that Nigerians steal more than they need and that if they only stole what they needed, the resources would have been enough to go round. This is a pathetic comment on our collective psyche as a nation. Why should they even steal? My knowledge of how government works is that those who steal public funds most are the ones who should not steal at all – presidents, governors, senators, assembly members, ministers, commissioners and heads of government institutions. The legitimate perquisites of their offices are so enough for them, if they are not wasteful or avaricious. Sadly, I have also found out that public officers are in silent competition with each other on who can steal most and buy more assets. I know of public officers at both state and federal government levels who are in mad rush to build hotels because one of their kind has built one, or in mad rush to secure a plot of land at a particular location because one of their kind has secured one. They feed on collective financial hysteria, driven by shared wasteful dementia.

It’s the same demented reasoning that is given by people who claim to build a future for their children to the point of buying certificates for them. It’s the same reasoning that claims to secure children’s future by stealing government money. It’s the same reasoning that underlies claim by people who seek to secure their children’s future by building houses with rooms enough to house a community. It’s the mindset of waste, a mindset that feeds on one’s ego and personal appetites in disguise. Unfortunately, this mindset is pervasive among public officials as well as private citizens. While growing up, there was a story of a federal public official who stole so much money to keep in store for his children, and when the law was about catching up with him, he poisoned himself. What a distorted sense of altruistic legacy to leave behind! History has shown that whatever legacy we leave for our children, we deceive ourselves if such legacy does not comprise values of respect, love, hard work and integrity. These values will outlast the value of materialism or any other driven by culture of waste or avarice.

Recently, I had a chat with some friends on constructing personal homes. As the discussion progressed, I asked which of them was still living in the house their parents built. There was none. All had moved away, even within the same town with the parents, some preferring to live on rentage. I went further to ask why they thought that their children would live in the ones they are building. I even went ahead to share a story I’m very familiar with which is fitting to reproduce here. It’s the story of a retired professor from the South-west, an outstanding gentleman and academician, who owned a hotel I have stayed in a few times. It is always a delight to stay at his hotel, as he is often around for a lively chat about life and goings-on. During one of those chats, he mentioned that he was selling off the hotel so that he wouldn’t bother about running it as he was aging. Prompted to know why he wouldn’t leave it as a legacy to his children, he revealed that he had called each of the children to come and take over, but they were all settled abroad and none accepted his entreaties. He then added that the one he was most hopeful of taking the offer was the one that told him “Dad, sell the hotel while you are alive and enjoy the money or else, I will sell it when you’re gone.”

Well, you might shudder at the story of the professor, but it is the reality. I have followed the man’s life story and the hotel was painstakingly built through his sweat, without stealing any public funds. He is relieved to sell off his investment, without having any headache. But, would he have been relieved if he had stolen public funds to build the hotel with the hope that his children would inherit it? It’s our introspective response to this question that can give us a candid view of the culture of waste we are enmeshed in.

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Safer Onboard

It was a scorching afternoon as I stood there, at the lanai of the Accident and Emergency Unit of the hospital. Like an ambulatory patient, my eyes were taking in spectral glimpses of multiple faces interacting deeply with the atmosphere. Over there was a man being lifted out of a car onto a wheelchair. He was frail and elderly. There was another man by a pillar supporting the covered porch, seated on a stone on the ground. His head was bent in deep recollection, supported by his two palms. Closer by, was a woman on the phone. She was telling the other party that her son had gone to the bank to pay the required money and would thereafter bring the teller. Not far away a lady circled with a child dressed with only diaper in her arms, trying to pacify her to stop screaming. Close by was a group of four, three women and a man. They had questioning eyes that sought answers from each other. Just about where I stood, a young man was assisting another to offload cartons of Parazone® bleach being supplied to the hospital.

I stood and sipped the flurry of movements, people going in and out, with eyes and hearts ached by varied pains in search of unknown reliefs. It was in the midst of this thoughtful repose that a young man approached me. He, without asking to know if I was familiar with the environment, enquired where a bank was close by. I pointed to a microfinance bank I could see in sight, but he declined and said the hospital sent him specifically to a particular commercial bank. I pointed to a security operative some distance away, advising him to seek his answer there. I was left to return to my conscious engagement with my surrounding.

I had gone to the hospital to see a friend who was coming also to see a friend whose child was admitted at the hospital. We had agreed to meet at the hospital and I arrived earlier than her. It was while waiting for her arrival that I took in the above snippets of my environment. As I stood there, one thing that came so strongly to my senses was the hospital smell. I don’t know whether to call it a stench or a scent. Well, I don’t think it was a stench, though it had a choking sensation on me. But there is a strong impression the hospital environment leaves on the olfactory senses. Something uniquely hospital-like, though hardly hospitable. May be it was my mind, but I sensed it as a child, about thirty years ago. I grew up, without being taught, to identify it as the smell of death. Yes, the smell of death.

If you have been to Nigeria’s hospitals, you would have, no doubt, perceived the smell that distinguishes the hospitals, something that hovers between dearth and death. I’m referring to the dearth of healthy medical facilities, of committed and competent medical personnel whose primary drive is service over money, the dearth of needed equipment to forestall increasing deaths. Many Nigerians have lost family members and friends to the dearth of good medical facilities, lack of electricity, poor recruitment process, bureaucratic bottlenecks in hospitals among other causes. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t abating. With increasing polarization of socio-economic status and inequality, little commitment is shown towards empowering healthcare facilities in the country. Many medical personnel are recruited through personal contacts, sometimes with a history of doctored competences, rather than on merit.

As a child, there were two inviting professions that stood out as being at the service of the individual, with a twin commitment to salvage man disease of the body and the mind. They were the medical and teaching professions. Both existed to complement each other in treating the somatic and psychic ills of human existence. They delighted in helping you live healthy life and enjoy the delight of study in building the mind, the reservoir of human well-being. But the times have changed. Though I have met a few doctors who are driven with a commitment to save lives, I have met many who are presently brazen-faced in their drive for money over service.

The smell of death that enmeshes the hospital is so pervasive that you can visit the hospital healthy and return ill, either by just being in the hospital ward or using the toilet facilities. It is the vicious circle of medical care and it probably accounts for bouts of in-patient/out-patient interaction that characterizes the medical treatment process. I’ve been to tertiary hospitals, as well as private ones, where water does not run, and you have to use bucket to fetch water and flush the toilets. I’ve been to ones where medical personnel are lackadaisical in responding to patients, no matter how obvious the patient’s health condition might be. I’ve sat before a doctor who had to google symptoms and prescribe medication without running tests. I have lost family and friends because of the negligence of medical personnel.

I must admit, I have met wonderful doctors who are selfless in their practice, but they are getting fewer by the day. The work ethic of the medical professionals is dwindling by the day and no matter how much money is injected into the health sector in building hospitals, providing equipment and paying emoluments, if the work ethic is not addressed, death will always lurk in the atmosphere of the medical facilities. If truth must be told, I feel closer to death being at the hospitals than being onboard an aircraft in Nigeria.

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