Yesterday on my Twitter handle, I announced that my response on the disengagement from Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) shall be the subject of discussion in my column today. So, where we are! Tuesday, December 10, 2019, my tenure as the chairman of AMCON would seem to have expired upon the nomination of Mr. Edward Adamu as the new chairman of the bad loan vehicle. News about this development came to me while in London in the middle of a crash education programme.
The negatively interesting aspect of it is the lamentations that trailed the announcement by some friends and associates who, in my view, had a disconnect between purpose of service and the relief that naturally accompanies the disengagement of an appointee with an alternative contact address. Barely 24 hours before the presidential nomination of a new chairman for AMCON over which I presided, Mr. Tunde Fowler was replaced in his chairmanship of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) office by another appointee of Mr. President. Interestingly, I was disturbed with complaints and murmurs by some people who read lots of insinuations into the development and were apparently in a mourning mood, as if disengagement from a political appointment was tantamount to bereavement.
My position on the Fowler issue was simply appreciation of his service and contributions to the nation. In my view, he cannot and must not have any regrets once he is convinced of having discharged his duty meritoriously. The grumbling from the supposed well-wishers underscores the problematic aspect of Nigerians as a people who see appointments into political offices as open sesame to riches and an opportunity for self-enrichment.
Whereas, in saner climes, political offices are seen as opportunities to serve humanity, to the glory of God, in Nigeria, it is seen as an opportunity for self-enrichment. It is only in Nigeria that friends and “well-wishers” roll out the drums, make uniforms (aso ebi) and rent newspaper pages congratulating a new appointee or a newly elected public servant on his “rare achievement.”
The purpose of this outlandish display of craziness is just to ingratiate themselves with the appointee for him to remember each and every one of them in his “father’s kingdom,” which they consider political appointments to represent.
Representatives from his village, religious congregation, in-laws and several newly self-discovered relatives would bombard his doorstep in celebration of his new status and achievement. No one thinks of challenges the appointee is likely to meet in office or whether he would succeed in his responsibilities or not. At times, such nominees do not even know how to navigate the new terrain.
From this unfortunate moment, demands would start piling up on his back; those whose children and wards have been sent away from school for failing to pay school fees would appoint him an emergency Rockefeller. Those who want to celebrate birthdays, those who want to pay hospital bills and so many more would turn his doorstep to a Father Christmas yard where goodies from public coffers are meant to be shared in unrestrained generousity. The tap of public resources in his care must flow like water from Niagara Falls without care for accountability or any sense of responsibility. Some believe that their search for job over the years has come to a terminal point with their relative having been appointed into a public office.
This belief does not realise that the office into which their kinsman is entering has its fair share of the national workforce, the burden of which probably has been openly calling for downsizing. This is why election or appointment into public office is seen as an opportunity to share the national cake. It is evident and incontestable that, for a people with this kind of mentality, termination of appointment, loss of political office or disengagement from public office in whatever manner is a terrible disaster worse than loss of a child. And that is why many go so fetish and inhuman as to engage in all manner of sacrifices and disorientating mortgage of their spiritual existence to the Devil.
Once an appointee is relieved of his appointment, mournful glares compete on burrowed foreheads, languid expressions of personal losses dominate discussions among beneficiaries or intended beneficiaries of loot from a public office recently lost. Lots of motives, from ethnicity to religion, to personal scores and political intrigues are adduced as reasons why the appointor must have terminated the appointment or disengaged the public office holder. In my situation, messages of consolation and clear condemnation oozed from some mouths the moment it was announced that a new nomination had been made.
It was a terrible distraction as I was struggling to imbibe as much as possible from the highly intellectually resourceful lecturer that was handling the on-going session. Calls came into my phone in torrents. Loads of messages poured into my phone with the constant flashes of light from the mobile gadget constituting a needless distraction until I had to switch it off. I contemplated what could be the problem with my people sympathizing disengagement from office as if it was a deprivation of valuables by armed robbers or loss of an edifice to a raging inferno. What mentality dictated the somber and lugubrious feelings being expressed by some friends save for a few others whose dignifying understanding of political appointment is superb enough to appreciate that it is merely an opportunity to serve and no more? That you were considered worthy to serve the public in an elective or appointive office is an opportunity to give your best to the community to the benefit of the living and in preparation of a decent living for the yet unborn generations. It must not be regarded as a kingship on which someone should expect life tenure. It is a temporary occupation of office that must terminate one day, either scheduled statutorily or otherwise. It is only when we realise this that the humanity in us shall radiate to the uplifting of our society.
It is at such point that our sense of uprightness can compete with that of people of other climes. This can only be guaranteed when politicians and political appointees prepare themselves for self-sustenance in and out of office with what I call an “alternative address.” The concept of alternative address is a legitimate business or vocation from which one can pay one’s bills conveniently without expecting loot from a public office. It is a platform, the proceeds from which can sustain you and your family needs whether you are in office or out of office. This has been my advocacy in the last decade and the earlier the voters appreciate this, the better for our nation.
In fact, as may be recalled, during the resistance to my nomination at inception, I clearly made this point that “I am not jobless and, therefore, not in search of any appointment.” I only owe the nation my service whenever called upon and I have the capacity to deliver.
Having alternative contact address is the only thing that will make you comfortable as not to pander to enticing suggestions of unscrupulous elements who would justify their greed with you-profit-from-where-you-serve mentality and disposition.
It is only this that can shield you from the rapacious tendency to dip fingers of larceny into the public cashbox. You must have an alternative address so that you do not join those you condemned before you had the opportunity to saunter into public office.
My days in AMCON as chairman were dominated by pressure I gladly entertained with all sense of responsibility in order to be able to serve my people. While it had its enticing pomp of “Mr. Chairman” appellation, it was a part-time service with only mandatory nine days of service in a whole year.
Muiz Banire SAN