2 August 2014

Nigeria: Between Oshiomhole and the Late-Comers


A colleague asked me recently while discussing the subject if I believed in the existence and powers of witches and wizards. I told him I may not doubt their existence but still harboured doubts concerning their powers.

My doubt is fuelled by two incidents I personally witnessed several years ago. While in the primary school in my home town our school bell suddenly got missing. All efforts made to trace the bell were fruitless for a few months until a pupil confessed to a witch doctor that he was in possession of the missing bell. According to him, he usually announced his arrival at the coven with the bell and promised to return it. A few days after, the bell resurfaced in the Headmaster's office and everyone believed the said pupil, a wizard, had the powers to do just anything including causing the death of men and women. This for me represented a first experience of witchcraft.

A few years after the school bell incident, a telegram was delivered to a family not far from my family compound announcing the death of a prominent son resident in Benin City. A relation was said to have confessed earlier that day that the man had been killed in the coven. The telegram seemed to have confirmed the death. An angry mob descended on the self-confessed witch and had almost killed her when someone advised that a delegation be sent to Benin City to confirm if actually the man had died. The delegation found him hale and hearty and brought him home to the village to the amazement of all. The family members had seen their son before they started asking how the telegram arrived, who delivered or received it or even how the witch came about making such a false or fake confession. It was obvious the witch had lied. However, the witch died and the man lived and died several years after he was declared dead by the witch.

Last week, Edo Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, approved the appointment of 20 new Permanent Secretaries for the state civil service. The appointments, no doubt, were well deserved as the appointees had served in the position of Director for quite some time. Some had been acting as permanent secretaries in their various ministries. For many nearing retirement it was a dream fulfilled and a fitting end to a glorious carrier. And as Comrade Oshiomhole noted while swearing-in 18 of the new permanent secretaries, government took time announcing the appointments so as to ensure that only the best got appointed.

It was, however, not a happy day for two of the appointees (both females) as they were sanctioned by the Comrade Governor for coming late to their swearing-in ceremony. Comrade Oshiomhole said he wondered what time the two directors get to work if they could arrive late for their own swearing-in. "Your punishment is that you will return to your offices as directors and be sworn-in with the next batch of Permanent Secretaries".

The plight of the two directors immediately reminded me of the stories told us by moonlight while growing up of the powers exercised by witches and wizards. I told myself the two directors were stopped from attaining the zenith of their carrier by the witches and wizards either in their families or in their offices. Destiny destroyers were very active in their case. This is not to confirm my belief in the acclaimed magical powers of witches particularly, but how else do you explain it that a person asked to be seated at 12.30pm for her own swearing-in as a Permanent Secretary, a position she had been labouring to attain for close to 35 years, would show up when her mates where already subscribing to relevant oaths? If the witches are not to blame I wonder who else takes the blame. Certainly, not Comrade Oshiomhole!

The humanity in the Comrade Governor was on display barely 24 hours after when he swore-in one of the affected permanent secretary-designate. According to Comrade Oshiomhole, he had become aware that the appointee had arrived early but excused herself to use the restroom when the governor arrived and the ceremony kicked off. The Comrade Governor said he investigated and found the late arrival of the appointee pardonable. He has also admitted that as a mortal he can and do make mistakes, but would not be ashamed to reverse himself when he discovers his errors. This is as it should be.

On this issue of the sanction placed on the remaining permanent secretary-designate, it is only fair that Comrade Oshiomhole should be commended first for making the appointment and also for enforcing discipline in the service. It is duty of the permanent secretary to give administrative direction to the staff under them. Late coming is not a habit that should be encouraged in the service. However, I appeal to Oshiomhole to temper justice with mercy and swear-in the only appointee now under sanction. She may suffer double jeopardy if, as the governor said, she has to wait to be sworn-in when the next batch is due.

This is because one cannot tell when that will be. Aside the psychological trauma she may undergo, it is also possible that her retirement may be due before then. No doubt, she would have learnt her lesson and it would not be too much next time for her to be seated for her occasion twenty four hours to the event.

-Jacobson writes from Benin City.


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