In the case of Nunieh vs Akpabio, majority of Nigerians I believe to see the former as the victim that must be protected more so the weaker sex argument has been invoked via sexual harassment accusation. The man is seen as the bear whose paws must be restrained more so he is guilty ab initio and supposedly has records of infractions. This piece looks at another angle – that of the burden imposed by an office in line with public service rules and expectations. This brief takes no position on the propriety or otherwise of actions and inactions of the major dramatic personae and passes no judgment. The relevant MDAs are expected to handle that. The thrust is to warn public officers generally and Chief Executive Officers, in particular, to be extra careful because as I had argued in an earlier brief, public office the world over is more of a minefield than a gold mine.
Why has Madame Nunieh kept quiet? I don’t think it is because of her successor, a man, fainted after a few hours of grilling. I think it is because she has been given expert and excellent pieces of advice and unlike her opponent, she has adopted silence as wisdom.
In the public service, CEOs know that they bear 100% responsibility for EVERY action or inaction in their organizations during their tenure and sometimes before they assumed office. Where things go right, the CEOs (including President, Governors, LGA Chairpersons, Group MDs, Executive Chairmen, Directors General, GMs, VCs, Provosts, Rectors, Principals, religious and political leaders including Village Heads and others) are not given ANY credit. When things go wrong irrespective of who masterminded it, the CEO takes all the blame. It is the responsibility of an incumbent in high office to devise means to parry attacks, discriminate and meet legitimate demands, and confront unreasonably but hire wire demands that can mean losing office. Because most CEOs do not want to miss the perks of high office, they easily fall victim to overbearing bosses who sometimes work through surrogates. Aside from the rewards of office, anyone dropped before the programmed end of tenure requires extra energy to explain what happened. In fact, such persons are often tainted sometimes for life. It has been most common in the US in the past three years and lesser so in other countries. The situation is the same in the UK, North Korea, Iran, Shell, Facebook, and others.
Madam Nunieh must by now have realized her vulnerability. If it were ever possible to talk of jail, she will secure bed space long before Godswill Akpabio. Each time she makes a revelation she is exposing her mistakes and unsuitability for the office, one reason her successor probably fainted. How would she agree that certain actions were taken after budget approval because she was under pressure? This piece is therefore directed at serving CEOs to be careful of the overbearing attitude of their Supervisors and other powerful people. Three life cases I want to share with those who listen:
- During a workshop for Provosts, Rectors, and Vice-Chancellors, a resource person from the Federal Character Commission (FCC) presented an analogy. A member of House of Reps swaggered into the office of a Rector with his retinue of assistants and security escorts. He dropped a list of names for employment. The Rector promptly issued appointment letters. When FCC reacted, the Rector referred them to the Hon Member who agreed he gave the list but stated that he did not direct the CEO to breach procedures. Who took the beating?
- A CEO of a Federal agency caved in to demands and threats of union leaders. While the leaders went out celebrating their victory, the CEO was left to divine out the way to fill the gap in his operational budget.
3) Staff or visiting audit teams or monitoring teams from the supervising Ministries and legislators on ‘oversight’ duties can compel a CEO to take funds from one sub-head to meet the new ’emergency’ listed for another sub-head. The likely fallout is ‘virement’ which attracts a jail term of two years. Meanwhile, those who were ‘pacified’ are home with their families and eating three-course meals.
I reiterate – the public office is a minefield rather than a gold mine. Did a former State Governor in the West not drive to EFCC the day after he left office recently and on the same day former EFCC Chair lost his job? This is why I get baffled when I see folks jostling for vacant positions and in some cases taking human lives to get there. It is easy to say “not my portion” but no one is free or shielded from the dangers of high office immediately or in the future.
A) For those David McClelland places in the group of persons with high need for achievement and who therefore work for legacy, the public office should be avoided. But if they accept the appointment, let them develop a mindset of using even personal resources to make a difference. Self-enrichment must not be factored into the calculus. And they must be suspicious of the intention of everyone; stick to due process, and be close to their Deity. They must never take verbal instruction but even with a written note (a copy to be taken out of the office) they must go for due diligence. It has the potential to lead to loss of office but consider the option of a tarnished image/prison term to loss of office. Bear in mind that in some cases high office holders become impoverished and scorned by the society for losing a ‘golden opportunity’ and for being a fool.
b) For those who see the high office as a ‘God-given’ opportunity for self-enrichment, just struggle to avoid as much as is possible the dozens of traps at every turn. If you have the muscle to withstand negative publicity and threats to your freedom, we wish you luck. It is just that the wisdom of ancients does come into play: nine days for the thief; one day for the owner of the farm.
In the ongoing saga at NDDC, I sustain my advice – the warring parties should watch their utterances and their moves. This is like a game of checkers (draft) or better still Chess. Every move has the potential to win or to lose so each player must be determined and deliberate. Where possible a zero-sum game may result in which case whatever one person wins means a loss for the other player. And there is another option: non-zero-sum game in which wins and losses are aggregated. Ears must be wide enough to pick up subtle vibrations such as the ominous word karma making the rounds.
I rest my case.