Abiola Solanke: Resignation – a strange path for Nigerian public officials

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Mar 25th, 2014
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On November 27, 2013, the world received with shock the news that the Latvian Prime Minister, Valdis Dombrovskis had resigned his position. He resigned after accepting political responsibility for the collapse of a super-market roof that killed 54 people. According to news report, possible causes of the collapse include flawed design of the building, use of substandard construction materials and corruption. Dombrovskis achieved unprecedented success as Latvia’s Prime-minister especially lifting the Baltic Nation out of economic recession and positioning it as the fastest growing in the European Union for two consecutive years. This and many feats of his earned him re-appointment twice, but when the National tragedy occurred,he threw in the towel and stepped out.

On 24th February, 2014, Egyptian Prime minister, Hazem El-Beblawi and his entire cabinet resigned from office following widespread criticism of his Government. The criticisms peaked following large strikes in industrial cities and widespread electricity black-outs leading to his resignation. His resignation was in response to popular demand having failed to meet the expectations of the people. Mr El-Beblawi summed up the courage and together with his entire cabinet resigned from office.

On February 26, 2014, Indian Chief of Naval staff, Admiral DK Joshi resigned from office following a submarine accident off the Mumbai coast. The accident which was the 10th mishap involving an Indian navy asset and the third submarine accident in seven months resulted in seven sailors being injured while two officers were declared missing. The military chief who as at that time had more than a year to spend in service promptly took responsibility and resigned from office.

Back to Nigeria, Saturday, 16th March, 2014 was a day of National Tragedy. The Nigerian Immigration service’ recruitment exercise turned out to be a disaster as no fewer than 20 lives were lost due to stampedes across the various centres. From Abuja to Jos to Benin to Minna, it was tales of sorrows as fathers lost their sons, wives lost their husbands, brothers lost their sisters and friends lost their relations. The exercise was badly organised as no fewer than 700,000 people turned up to fill less than 5,000 vacancies. Among the dead included 5 pregnant women while scores of people were injured. It was learnt that the security officials were over-whelmed by the crowd such that controlling them became a problem and this resulted in security operatives firing gunshots into the air which many witnesses said precipitated the stampede as people began to run for safety. By the time the dust settled, no fewer than 19 lives had been lost.

Ever since then, there have been growing outrage and calls on the Nigerian Minister of Interior, who supervises the Immigration service, Comrade Abba Moro to take responsibility and resign his appointment, but he has refused bluntly and insisted he won’t resign unless investigations found him culpable. In a statement credited to him, he blamed the applicants for their ‘impatience’ and ‘failing to conduct themselves in an orderly manner’. According to Mr Moro, ‘’the applicants lost their lives due to impatience, they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise. Many of them jumped through the fences of affected centres and did not conduct themselves in an orderly exercise to make the exercise a smooth one. This caused stampede and made the environment insecure’’

Outrage followed the statement credited to the Minister with many civil societies and individuals calling for his sack, but typical of the Nigerian public official, he has refused to throw in the towel neither has he been fired! Tragedies are occurrences which at times, we don’t have control over especially the natural disasters like earthquake, ocean surges, land-slides etc. However, for man-made tragedies, people should learn to take responsibility. Just the same way a Government inherits both assets and liabilities, the Head of an agency takes the credit for the success or otherwise of his/her organisation. But then, the reverse is the situation in Nigeria. Just like the popular saying that ‘the good child belongs to the father, while the bad one belongs to the mother’. Nigerian public office holders take credits for the success of their Organisation/Agency and push the blame of failures on their subordinate staffs. During the Stella Oduah case,
the burden of blame for the over-inflated vehicles was pushed on the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation agency (NCAA) while the Minister took accolades for the remodelling and infrastructural uplift in the Nation’s airports. What an aberration!

The comments credited to the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro are at best adding salt to injury of family members who were grieving over the loss of their relations. That someone, how much more a public official will come out to blame the dead for causing their own deaths is not only bizarre but unbecoming of a public official of his standing. In saner climes, Mr Moro won’t have spent 24 hours more at his job because if he didn’t resign, he would have been fired. But then, this is Nigeria where the feelings of the people are not respected, their voices ignored and their cries fall on deaf ears.

One wonders the rationale for inviting over half a million youths to partake in a screening exercise for less than 5,000 vacancies. Could it be because of the illicit 1,000 to be collected from each and every candidate who applied? Lots of questions are begging for answers due to the controversy surrounding the unfortunate incident; who appointed the recruitment firm for the exercise, what is the share of the Immigration Service in the 1,000 booty? Is it true that the Senate President’s wife has links with the firm? Is it true that the Minister did not carry the Immigration agency along in the ill-fated recruitment exercise? These and many more are begging for answers.

Not a few people have opined that President Jonathan is not likely to sack Abba Moro because the Minister is a political ally of the Nigerian Senate President, David Mark who is seen as a loyalist of Jonathan. The case of Moro is not surprising as it took several calls, protests and sustained pressure before the President could muster the needed political will to sack former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah who was enmeshed in a #255Million Bullet proof car scandal. At the height of the Stella Oduah bullet proof car scandal, many civil society organisation, anti-corruption crusaders, youth groups and several individuals took to the streets to protest against her continued stay in office, but then akin to begging a Nigerian policeman not to extort you, the cries fell on deaf ears. Many have therefore opined that if it took the President almost forever to sack a Minister who had corruption charges on her neck, how much more Moro who is believed to be a
strong member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Nigerian public officials see their offices as a big hit and as such questions of morality of their continued stay in office are usually thrown to the trash bin. Ours is a country where even if the masses say the services of a public official are no longer needed, once the ‘ogas at the top’ do not feel or see it that way, such calls fall on deaf ears and the status quo is sustained. Public service should be seen as an opportunity to serve the people. It is a position of trust and so when people lose such trust and no longer wants such an official in office on account of corruption or gross under-performance, such officials should eat the humble pie and bow out.

For the umpteenth time, it is high time the Government addressed the growing rate of unemployment ravaging the country. It is a ticking time bomb which if not detonated, can light up the country in the next few years. The Immigration recruitment exercise has rubbished the sanctimonious platitudes of Government officials who kept misinforming us that Unemployment rate was reducing daily when in actual fact, the opposite is the case. Nigerians are eagerly anticipating how this whole saga will end. Will Jonathan muster the political will to fire Moro? Will Senator Mark save his friends face? Will Mr Moro take the honourable path of resignation? Only time will tell.

It is my prayer that God will grant the families of those who lost relations to the unfortunate incident the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

Abiola Solanke wrote in from Abeokuta, Ogun state. Follow me on Twitter @abinistyy or abinistyy@yahoo.com

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