Should emotions play any part in a faceless and impersonal organ like government and private business? I want to believe the answer should depend on the character and orientation of the operators along with the vision/mission of the operative system public or private. But whichever way one looks at it, any agency which deals with human beings should apply humanness in its dealings till the Creator makes human beings lose their capacity to think and to feel.
Empathy implies show of understanding as well as application of degrees of emotion in relationships with people. If human beings want dogs and cats to be well treated and computers and cars to be handled with care it taxes the imagination when same human beings reject the need to treat people and in particular persons of low estate with understanding. One or two persons who read this post will know one- or two-persons including self who treat domestic servants with the crudest methods they keep away from animals in the wild. The de facto service personnel eat left over food lower than what Alsatians in the pens consume. They sleep in airless rooms with several others when dogs have their separate spaces. They are flogged, abused, labelled, and treated as if they had no food or minimum comfort before they reached the age they became house helps. Any man or woman who maltreats domestic servants has no empathy in his or her DNA and should stay away from civilized society and religious groups.
Of recent the need for empathy in execution of official functions hit hard when a pensioner received a one-way SMS from an insurance company which pays annuity to subscribers under pension arrangement. The crisp message said the company’s bankers were on systems upgrade and had to withhold the monthly pittance expected by the long suffering pensioners who by personal choice enrolled with the insurance company.
Who would blame the operators of the ‘reliable’ insurance company? The operators are certain of their salaries and in a country where impunity reigns, they knew none of the subscribers would lift a finger.
Assume some worst-case scenario from a pessimist in which some subscribers are hypertensive or require surgery which the expected money would cover. What happens when the payer gives no date when the systems upgrade would be through? And why should the bankers to the company embark on the action just when pensions are to be paid? Why should the bankers and their wonderful insurance customer ignore the existential nature of the payments despite the smallness? Systems repairs and maintenance may be accidental, but upgrade are deliberate and planned. The case in question can be seen across Nigeria in different organizations and situations. No one can say when Nigerians lost what we were taught in primary school as “milk of human kindness.” Maybe the Civil War or the military regimes?
What can the insurance company gain from the pain of its helpless clients? Consider a scenario of a good treasury staff in the insurance company who knows what bulk sum can do. And assume total amount payable by the company to annuity subscribers stands at N10 million a month. At 5% annual interest for 7-day call, earnings will amount to N34,500. Small, someone will say but the amount goes higher with total due for payment and anyone with skill in basic arithmetic can multiply the amount by any sum due.
Above scenario excludes the abracadabra Nigeria witnessed courtesy of the relentless drive for a cashless economy. Someone close to bulk sellers of manufactured goods such as foods, cosmetics, and other goods noticed bulk sellers of goods sold in cash gave such cash to POS operators. Did the insurance company and the bank use the bulk cash to trade for one week?
The reason people soak their conscience in iced blocks goes beyond economics of swift financial gain. The major reason can be found in the word impunity which pervades the Nigerian landscape like carpet grass. Impunity implies freedom from punishment or some negative consequences as a result of a negative action by someone. As a ‘minor’ example, how many drivers in government vehicles are punished by law enforcement officers more so the so-called very important persons they carry are in a hurry to nowhere?
In Nigeria operators of public and private organizations know from history the unlikelihood of sanctions from anyone. Watch the helplessness of policemen on the roads when big men and women in SUVs with tinted glasses zoom in. Criminals do the same in their way. And how many Nigerians raise a voice when electricity and water companies generate bills in their offices without the services, they claim they provide? To draw attention of the public makes less impact given the nonexistence or low level of competition in every sector. If public outcry has any meaning bank customers would have screamed their pain because intra/interbank transfers as a routine lock up peoples’ monies each day of the weeklong before the cashless regime rolled in.
Nigerian citizens are decades away from freedom from the scourge of impunity in both private and public sectors. The nearest solution would have been litigation but neither the judicial system nor cost of litigation have helped. If one company found itself forced to liquidate by way of a court order others would sit up. If a government agency paid millions to an aggrieved person and the officers lost their jobs others would scrutinize actions before they cause discomfort to those they are expected to serve. But Nigeria will remain under litigated for decades to come as I had noted in an earlier post.
Maybe the current wave of postelection litigations will make a difference? They may if the Judiciary will use the opportunity to launder its image soiled by the several preelection litigations.
On a sad note, impunity reigns in non-corporate relationships and situations as well. For instance, wife and husband battering go on daily but no neighbor or family member issues a protest. Victims suffer in silence while the abusers enjoy institutionalized impunity.
Several Nigerians including this writer have faced faceless persons who sell land and other assets to multiple buyers. Victims who make contact with law enforcement agents, courts, and traditional rulers may find themselves in the infamous situation of complainant who becomes the accused. Deceit, profiteering, copyright infringements, plagiarism, and several interpersonal infractions are the old normal to the point one case of trustworthiness attracts press attention.
And, just when I thought online money lenders had all folded up, last week my phone played host to one of those destructive text messages aimed at a borrower and her family. But in the case of online borrowers versus the online lenders some of the borrowers had impunity in mind. They woke from sleep to find their images imperiled by operators who have impunity as their backbone and basic item in their play book.
Enter the dragon: no one can describe immunity and impunity as homonyms but in Nigeria the two words are cousins which have been institutionalized via the 1999 Federal Constitution as amended. Chapter 8 Part 2 Section 308 of the document grants immunity to the President, Vice President, Governor, and Deputy Governor with respect arrest and prosecution for whatever act other than civil ones. Anyone in any of those offices can kill without the law on their backs till they leave office. Who will go after them after they have left office more, so the judicial system has a question mark which citizens from the ordinary to those in the bar continue to hope for answers?
Immunity which means protection implies persons in the four categories can do what meets their will and pleasure without punishment or loss of anything other than image which they have no reason to worry about. Thank God the framers of the Constitution forgot the Governor of the Central Bank otherwise we would have experienced hell by this time.
Can we see why persons convicted of criminal offences are desperate to enter those high offices? The Constitution has no provision for past offences and convictions till they are brought after the offenders leave office. Those desperate to stop people from being sworn in should try the courts rather than social media or calls for popular uprising.
The lesser mortals in the legislatures are protected, can, and do flaunt their access to impunity. They can be arrested and prosecuted but the easiest way should have been recall. The American system provides for recall but constituencies appear to let it be more, so legislators there do their jobs.
In Nigeria Chapter 5 Part 2 Section 110 of the 1999 Constitution details the process of recall of a legislator who has lost the confidence of his/her constituency. But who would dream of such exercise which starts with more than 50% signatures of the registered voters in the constituency? Imagine such proportion in the case of a Senate seat! If such effort succeeded, ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission (INEC) would organize a referendum (!) to rake enough votes to get the legislator out. Nigerians can say much about INEC and such dream project. Should anyone be surprised at the level of impunity the legislators display? In Nigeria what exists should be seen as a lose-lose situation for citizens.
Where impunity flourishes in public and private organizations as well as in interpersonal relationships, the future should be seen as bleak because no substance binds people, facilitates, and catalyzes transactions like trust. In the Nigeria of today trust hangs like a ripe apple beyond the reach of people the way Nigeria’s new currencies hang.