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Budget oaths, procurement theatre

Published by Tribune on Sun, 25 May 2014

EZEH's reason for making a show of the hollow ritual is also as absurd as odious. 'To let the public know that we are committed to transparent procurement'' Because a charge-and-bail lawyer simply asked you to say after him, holding the constitution when those who even did theirs with Bible and Quran forgot about it immediately the ritual was completed and returned to their looting ways' If it is taken that those who did with the Holy Books are exploiting God's long-suffering and mercies, do people who swear by deities with immediate consequences even abide by such when money is involved'. How many political god-sons did not dump their god-fathers despite Okija shrine involvements, when contracts and loot-sharing came into the equation, let alone civil service of uncivilised looters, superintending the 'national cake''I remember a Director of Finance in the Aviation Ministry, who I investigated for an alleged contract scam in 2002. Armed with documents from disgruntled subordinates, I confronted him in his office one evening and he shocked me to the marrows with his response to my first question.Excited that I had got myself a major scoop, I shot directly at him, 'Sir, is it true you are using your unregistered companies to corner contracts'He shot back at me a straight look and said 'Yes'. I almost fell off the couch. Nigerian Tribune's correspondent in Niger, Oladipo Adelowo, who accompanied me, was equally stunned. Sensing that the momentum was on his side, he dazed us further 'I have a few months to my retirement.I had a medical challenge and I had no money for treatment. I had to do what I did to live. If you want to kill me, go ahead and write'. He then deliberately turned his challenged ear for us to see the hearing aid fixed on it. Still stunned, we muttered our goodbyes and left. It was the first time I would come across a confession, so brazen in public service at the top. His truthfulness in the face of imminent public embarrassment and career jeopardy also got me. Instead of accusing us of running errands for those who wanted to pull him down or offering brown envelopes as those engaging in this window-dressing of oaths are wont to do when caught, this Northern fellow decided to be forthright in sin and I had no choice than to forgive his sin. The story was dropped mainly to encourage him to keep speaking the truth. Not even blood oath would stop those who spend more time covering their sleazy tracks than doing their primary assignments. Only strict monitoring and deterring sanction can. But who will cast the first stone in a cult-like civil service' The on-going confab must restructure the public service fundamentally. I am suggesting remuneration per hourly and payment of such every fortnight, to curb 'I did it because I was broke and the end of the month is far'. Also, the Director's position should be cancelled and the top-most, fixed at managerial, to erase 'big-manism' and its attendant lootocracy. Duty-shifting can be brought in for more employment opportunities since those who are there now even spend greater part of their time gossiping and loitering (evidence abound). Unless Ezeh was simply being theatrical, he knew in his heart that such swearing would task nobody's conscience as was his declared expectation, except those who had purposed personally to be straight. How many of such abound in a society where money rules' Prayers of forgiveness are now preferable to not falling into temptation. If Ezeh is desirous of change in attitude, scapegoats that would be literally slaughtered are going to be needed. That is when publicly or secretly-taken oaths would either be needless or meaningful. Though that was the first and last time I saw the confessing Director, even in his sin, I admire his courage and will score him higher on transparency oath than Ezeh and his co-comedians.Reclaiming LASUA triangular war is on in the Lagos State University. At the converging top-edge is media-sweetheart, Babatunde Fashola. At the diverging down-edges are the lecturers and students of the institution. However, those on the diverging edges are converging to diverge against the one at converging edge. During portal closure saga, lecturers did not hide where their sympathy lay, though subtly, because violence was involved. A few days from now, lecturers said they are embarking on 'mother-of-all-strikes'. Apart from their welfare issues, the obnoxious increase in school fees is a major feature. They claimed it had affected enrolment. Students are running away from LASU in their thousands because of the nearly half-a-million naira per semester fee. Even if lecturers are using the students' issue as a facade, no brilliant argument would justify those ludicrous fees in a public school funded by tax-paying public. The reported move by government that the student union of the school should also go and deliberate on payable-fees by students is also a moral blackmail. The state government appears to be tapping into an obstinacy founded on conceit and conviction. The lecturers seem determined to bring it to its knees. Fashola is on the valedictory lap of his tenure. He might not be too bothered. But parents whose wards' education would be affected should be. Instead of protesting APC's congresses with placards, the injustice of closure should be protested even half-naked. Such would be a worthier cause.
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