By Uche Nworah
My brother and colleague Emeka Ozumba, the Deputy Chief Press Secretary to The Governor of Anambra State, visited me in the office recently. As we were getting on with our usual banter on work, family, life, the 2020 Police Games holding in Anambra State then and other stuff, a relative of mine was ushered in.
His visit took me by surprise as it was late in the evening and past official hours. He told me that he had come earlier and was told I was out. He said he decided that he must wait to see me for an important discussion.
Emeka and I wanted him as witness to our discussion. This older relative of mine then went on with his demands without first enquiring after my welfare, family and so on. He was just after his own matter. He wanted me to help secure a piece of land for him somewhere in Awka for his business, saying that his business suffered a misfortune three years ago. He wanted me also to secure a job for his daughter who got married few years ago. I had helped this daughter of his through school and also supported her wedding.
As if these were not enough, he said he was recording our discussion on his phone and that should anything happen to him as a result of my not being able to fulfill his demands, he wanted the whole family to know that I was responsible as he had brought the demands to me and I failed to take any action.
At this point, Emeka, in bewilderment, wondered aloud how brazen and selfish one could be. Emeka accused him of trying to blackmail me emotionally but this relative of mine wouldn't have none of that. He continued by reminding me that I had now been at my job as a political appointee for five years and should be doing more for him and his family.
I couldn't take it anymore but was restrained by Emeka from kicking him out of my office. What guts! What nonsense! I asked him what right he had to be doing my political appointment countdown for me. Was he the one that got the appointment for me? Did he train me in school? Do I owe him anything?
This was a man that I had for years supported, as well as his family. I helped train some of his children in school. I must say that I was indeed disappointed. We didn't part on a good note and I marked him immediately as one ungrateful freeloader to be avoided. Such false sense of entitlement is very nauseating.
Thinking about this today, I couldn't help but pity some political office holders who are suffering from such huge weight of expectations from family, friends, associates and the larger society. That people see us wear red caps, wear 'peteli', hear our names being mentioned in the media, and being photographed with the chief executive of the state, does not mean that we have become 'made men'. As we say in Naija, 'all na packaging'.
If many people actually find out the true financial position of some political appointees they know, they will not only pity them, they will launch 'gofundme' appeal fund campaigns for them. Many are indeed struggling. The demand from friends, family, associates, constituents and 'stakeholders' can be unbearable. No wonder some people, whether elected or appointed, come out poorer than they were when they finally finish their tenure in politics, whether elected or appointed.
In Nigeria, once you are elected, appointed, or even are associated one way or the other with politics and politicians, society automatically labels you an 'Honourable'. You are expected to always 'defend' this title which you did not ask for and may not even understand what it means. Many cherish it, many others deride it.
At political and social gatherings, you are expected to 'perform' by donating money as an 'Honourable'. Weekly, you receive tons of invitation cards to various events from people you know and those you don't from the so-called 'stakeholders'. If you don't attend, you will be accused of feeling 'too big', and of not being 'on ground'. Others may accuse you of 'not being a grassroots person' and 'lack structure'.
When you do attend and are not able to donate or share money to the 'stakeholders', you will be chided for not 'carrying people along'. That is the life of a political office holder in Nigeria.
Everybody expects you to pay their house rent, hospital bill, children's school fees, etc. Some others expect you to start businesses for them, help complete their buildings in the village, buy them cars and so on. Due to the absence of social safety security in Nigeria, the 'Honourable' has become the social security provider of many people. I am not forgetting the hangers-on, retinue of aides that automatically build up and follow the 'Honourable' around. He or she has to look after all of them. No one bothers to ask where the money is coming from, it is assumed that the 'Honourable' has unrestricted access to the people's commonwealth, or maybe it is the people's own way of getting their 'share of the national cake'. Whatever be the case, you cannot have your cake and still eat it.
In Nigeria, it is as if it is a crime to walk around alone if you are an 'Honourable'. The more people you are able to muster to accompany you to events, the more important you are, or so it seems. All manner of able-bodied young men and women, including security officers, follow the 'Honourable' around. Many say this is 'job for the boys' and it helps reduce unemployment. I disagree.
Things are not as they seem. Forget the glamorous lifestyle former Senator Dino Melaye and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, portray in their Gucci suits, Dubai trips, fancy luxury apartments, wonder-on-wheels garages, etc; all that glitters, indeed, are not gold. The political office holder or honourable is indeed an endangered species.
I hope this relative of mine understands this. I hope he understands too that I don't owe him anything.
Nworah is a political appointee in Anambra State and wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org