Influential people in Nigeria and their quest for lordship

Police
One thing that endeared me to the late Senator Uche Chukwumerije was that he didn’t need any of his aides or a police orderly to carry his baggage, possessions or documents. The many times I saw him, he did them himself.

That reminds me of what I experienced in my Alma mater when I was a student. All through the five-year tenure of my vice-chancellor (VC), he had four official cars: A Peugeot 407, a Toyota Prado Land Cruiser SUV, a Lexus SUV and a Toyota Corolla. Then he had a back up Hilux van (Pilot vehicle) that accompanied him around. He had three personal assistants and a Professor whom he made his executive assistant. Also attached to him were two mobile policemen. I was close to him then as a student leader. Out of curiosity, when I sought to know why he was moving with an escort and policemen, one of his personal assistants said: “The National Universities Commission (NUC) advised them to be using police escorts in view of kidnapping in the country and growing cultism on the campuses.” The vice-chancellors, since then, were seen as politicians since they possess the attributes of the Nigerian politicians.

Whenever there was an unavoidable function for the VC, he was wont to first send his aides to go and survey the area to ensure that the environment was safe and that people were already seated. He preferred to be the last guest to pick a seat reserved by his entourage. The popular language they used was, “all (including staff and students, old professors and administrators, royal fathers of the university host communities) must be seated before the arrival of the vice-chancellor.” After the occasion, his aides would clear the way for him, pushing people out including lecturers (who would want to exchange pleasantries with the VC) for him to enter his car. They usually ended up idolizing the VC and his office.

Unless you are in the same status with most of our so-called rich men, they find it hard to relate with you. This can be observed after functions when you find people are being pushed away, dragged or even beaten to pave the way for an eminent person even when people line his route to exchange pleasantries or identify with him.

This is also found among our youths who have managed to attain a certain level of power. You see them bragging, snobbish and wanting to be worshipped. At Students’ Union level, some of them move with escorts, they hardly wash their clothes by themselves or walk into a restaurant to eat food. They prefer to be served. They have lists of personal assistants.

The same problem of ego was displayed when the Shiites movement blocked the road the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai was passing through.

Most clergymen enjoy this wrong service. Today, to meet some of our religious leaders for prayers or counseling is like an elephant passing through the eye of a needle. They surround themselves with too many aides and security helpers. You have to go through several protocols and clearance to see them. In some cases, you have to book an appointment two weeks or a month ahead no matter how serious the issue for which you come to seek prayers or counseling is. Some religious leaders move with convoys attached with policemen. You would hardly distinguish them from the politicians.

However, in some few cases not all leaders and public servants want to be served as if they are special species of human beings. Many in the society are to blame, those generally referred to sycophants, because they are not self-assured would do extraordinary things as proof that they are working. There is a difference between groveling and respect for the leader, for the elderly and those who are well-deserving of respect and recognition who do not carry any airs. I know, of course, when the word ‘respect’ is abused.

A friend of mine once said that he expected to get a political appointment from his state governor so that he would be moving with security aides, strongly believing that with that respect for him would be automatic.

We emulate the Western world virtually in everything. Why then can we not emulate their leadership styles?  Often, we see leaders of Western countries carry their own bags and even their own umbrellas under the rain. We have seen the Russian President, Vladimir Putin driving into a Petrol station to buy fuel on his own. In fact, there is an online video of President Barack Obama standing under an umbrella in the rain, and extending it to also cover two of his female aides as they exited Air Force One. So, why do Nigerian politicians and public servants want to be served at every single opportunity? Don’t they understand what “public servant” means?

On January 2016, many online news portal and newspapers including, Premium Times, published an amateur video showing an armed Department State Services official shining the shoes of a key minister, in public.

There were published pictures that showed a female policewoman attached to the wife of a governor carrying her handbag in public. A policewoman was sighted fanning the wife of a traditional ruler recently. A Nigerian policeman was spotted on a photo holding an umbrella over the head of an Asian while the man stood, making a phone call. There are other cases too many to mention.

If these security officials could abandon their primary duty of protecting these people, then it is clear, there services were not needed in the first place. It is an insult to the police. There was the case of a police detail escorting a lady winding down the glass and yelling at other drivers on a road to give way.

Banks and some other financial institutions are known to have misused the police support assigned to them. Banks should employ their own private security men to direct people to ATM machines or direct bank customers to queue up in banking halls. This is a common practice in the Southeast and Southsouth, taking policemen outside their primary tasks.

The Inspector General should address the issue of why too many people use policemen when they can hire private security guards although one is aware some policemen are happy when they are posted to guard a “rich man” who use them to carry bags or do menial work. This degrades the police as a major institution of state.

In public functions a great deal of time is spent on recognising the presence of dignitaries, thus massaging their egos. We should know that this is an aspect of corruption that is barely discussed.

The high rate of successful robberies and killings of many Nigerians currently may not be unconnected to the fewer number of policemen and security agents available to fight crimes. They have been assigned to service those we call big men. This must be checked and stopped if we must live in a descent society.

On the other hand, drinks consumed by some of our rich people like the Moet and Chandon costs nearly N40, 000.00. That is about a graduate’s monthly salary in most private firms in present day Nigeria. In Nigeria of today, he who does not have that is not considered a man of worth, yet most rich people treat their servants, housemaids and gatemen poorly.

Some jump queues at petrol filling stations, banks etc. What this proves is that some leaders don’t really know what leadership is all about. Until we understand that leadership is not all about being served but about serving others, we would be far from overcoming the challenges afflicting our nation.

In other words, unless political and public servants, as well as our rich men learn to carry their bags, and do some works themselves, sycophancy will continue to flourish, resources will be wasted and there would continue to be wolves among sheep.
• Nwokocha lives in Abuja. He is a young Nigerian writer and author of The Metamorphoses of Nigeria. Contact: 08032565094/ nwokochagerald@yahoo.com



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