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City Guards
Opinion

City Guards 

CITY GUARDS

By Onochie Igwesi

 

In May 2015, the country had, few months back, concluded and announced the results of her general elections. Incumbents were already de-dusting their shelves and files, preparing documents to hand over to the Elects come May 29, 2015. Most elects, with the exception of the President-Elect, as we would later come to find out six months after he assumed office, had already made a list of their intended appointees and presumably notified them of their selection and the offices they would be appointed into in the coming weeks after the swearing in.

In the midst of this atmosphere, in that month, I was driving home one sunny afternoon through the Zik Avenue-Agbani road axis; it was those days when all the traffic lights on the roads of Enugu were operational-it seemed it was a matter of policy then for a faulty traffic or street light in Enugu to be fixed within ten days. Oh! Those good old days when Enugu had begun emerging as, arguably, one of the fastest developing cities in Africa. People domiciled in Enugu South LGC would recall that then, there was a body responsible for enforcing traffic rules especially apprehending defaulters, known as City Guards. To drag more persons into their net, they had a traffic rule, a very obnoxious one at that, that barred road users from driving on Amber light. It was this rule that I unknowingly flouted at the Zik Avenue-Depot-Agbani road axis traffic light and they quickly gave me a hot pursuit, unknown to me, with their power bikes, finally catching up with me at Eso Bus Stop. They impounded my car and we proceeded to their office at Enugu South LGC headquarters to pay a ludicrous fine of fifty thousand naira. Did I mention that the moment we got to the council’s headquarters they unscrewed my number plates? Argh! It was a terrible experience. While I waited to speak with their boss, he received a phone call. At the end of the call, he began to laugh and told a friend of his in his office that a certain Commissioner in Barr. Sullivan Chime’s cabinet just called him to quickly release his younger brother’s car that was also impounded by City Guards for breaking a traffic rule. He said he blatantly told the commissioner that he won’t release the car until the fine was paid. At this point, he was laughing uncontrollably. He said the commissioner tried raising his voice at him and he hung up on him. He then dropped the bombshell “it’s like this commissioner thinks he still has powers. He doesn’t know he has few days left to the end of his office”.

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You see, no one ever rises to political power by openly affirming his importance or his need to want to enjoy the perks that come with political power. And once you rise, like cubes or grains of sugar, you attract people or you attract ants; none of these is the problem. The problem is why people in power suddenly become so disconnected from reality, pretending that all is well, refusing to tolerate objections, even the mildest and best-intentioned reprimand, censure and dissidence. They will at first, preach to love the truth, then mid-way, keep at armlength all those who can speak truth to power. They become so puffed up that they ingloriously assume they have attained perfection. The crude power holders snuff out in pitch darkness these noble ones and the less crude ones buy them over with appointments, monies, contracts and what have you. And when those whose critical voices would have helped shape their government understand the tradition, they hush their tones or criticize loudly to get the attention of the power holders and be rewarded-then all voices die down. They now forget that the dearth and death of democracy is the lack of naysayers. Any government that publicly celebrates the absence of opposition need not seek a soothsayer to tell her that she is in comatose, for some of those they have surrounding them at that point are what someone has referred to as friends of office. Nna, no one steps on burning coals with a bare foot, stop killing yourself by yourself, don’t shut up opposition. The reality of what you are doing now may begin to dawn on you, like that commissioner, days just before you leave office. When you leave office and suddenly people begin to publicly say things about you which they couldn’t say to you while you were in office, probably, you caused it. You shut their mouths up for too long and your exit from office has opened it. You think you’re using them, right? Lol! You don’t know they’re actually using you to further their own agenda. Doubt this at your risk. The billboards, newspaper felicitations, jingles and support groups may not be a true reflection of public opinion. They are merely giving you what you want.

To save yourself, you had better assemble a small group of courageous, wise and truthful men and women to routinely tell you where you’re getting it wrong. If possible, please don’t give them appointments. You can pay them from your overhead or security vote but if you must give them appointments for reasons you know best, then give them the leeway to speak truthfully to you. In addition, find yourself one whom an American Journalist, Louis McHenry Howe, once called a toe holder- a grounding confidant that de-elevates leaders from the isolated and dizzying heights of power. I hope you find this useful.

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2 Comments

  1. Emmanuel Patrick Moses

    This is a true reenforcement of the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” (Sun Tzu)

    Realistically speaking, it takes gusto to swallow the bitter pills of truth especially coming from close friends and confidants you are expecting to be your praise singers.

    It often said that the true nature of a man is revealed when given power. Power corrupts the best, power brings out the worse in the best.

    Finding people that still lock eyes with you and spew the truth irrespective of the office you occupy is Golden.

    Such people are rare, and should be held in high esteem.

  2. Janeswanky

    A man who is less principled can easily compromise his values. He doesn’t have to be in power to show such frivolities at certain occasions. It is very vital for someone to understand what he stands for and work towards it. Even when the tides of power come, you will hold on to those values which are your life saving jackets that will keep you afloat from being drowned.

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