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Between Oshiomhole, the fumbling school teacher and the petty trader widow

By Nelson Dafe, Benin City on 03/12/2013

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It is certainly possible for someone to be a fine leader overall – one who works with great passion for the betterment of the generality of his people – but still capable of some moments of indiscretion which could sour people’s opinions of him. Adams Oshiomhole, the governor of Edo State, is one who is generally perceived as a hardworking leader. Unfortunately, however, he has shown human weaknesses on a couple of occasions which threaten to soil his well-earned public image.

When some months ago the Edo State Governor was seen grilling a female primary school teacher, Augusta Odemwingie, about her bizarre inability to pronounce the simplest of words during a screening exercise for teachers, there was a widespread air of disbelief among the Edo citizenry that a teacher entrusted with the task of moulding tomorrow’s leaders could be so daft.

As I watched the visuals on state TV, I couldn’t help but twitch as the lady teacher fumbled in her attempts to pronounce simple words that a school instructor should blurt out without any difficulty whatsoever. She horribly could not read a sworn affidavit she had brought to the certificate validation centre! Though she tried to mask her lack of basic knowledge of phonetics with a puerile smile, the governor was clearly not impressed, and the teacher has gone down in the lane of infamy in the minds of Edos as a part reflection of the rot and fallen standard of education.

However, equally cringe worthy for me was seeing the ‘comrade governor’ seemingly enjoying the show of shame as he continued to press the woman to pronounce words. Finally, Oshiomhole wondered aloud to the teacher: “Am I supposed to be your teacher, or you should be my teacher?”

This looked a tad petty for me, coming from the number one citizen of the state. There was this air of overzealous lack of empathy displayed by the governor. “Why continue publicly driving the screw on a hapless woman who is simply a product of the corruption that has bedeviled education since the beginning of time, when it was crystal clear that she was inept?” I thought. Sure, someone who can’t read or write should have no place in the classroom as teacher. However, I just felt the more statesmanly and empathic approach towards the teacher could have been devoid of that ego-massaging public rebuke. It was certainly not the grace and tact I was expecting from a leader.

I thought then that the governor should have just let the teachers’ screening committee do their job by privately weeding out unqualified teachers without subjecting them to public humiliation of the sort you see on Festus Alekhe’s Crime Watch.

When U.S. President Barrack Obama suspected some serious flaws in the national security system of the United States in the wake of the Farouk Mutallab terrorist bomb scare some few years ago, he was deeply appalled but he did not stoop to the point of individually questioning and humiliating in public glare the security officers who failed in their duties; that would have been an unnecessary move unbecoming of a number one citizen. Oshiomhole should have shown similar tact in dealing with the teacher like I believe Obama or any other empathic leader would have done.

If people were not ready to be too critical of Oshiomhole then, they certainly were after his recent gaffe, when he asked a woman trader who had flouted traffic rules to “go and die” after she pleaded with her widow status to the governor to spare her justice. The governor must have thought he was on the side of the people by personally supervising the enforcement of traffic laws, but his vulgar language on the woman was wrong and plainly inexcusable. The widespread condemnation the ‘comrade governor’ has received is justifiable.

Perhaps now that he has apologised for that, we should draw a line on the matter, not the least because we all struggle with using the most proper phrasing in dealing with situations at times.

The fact that modern technology (reflected in the many number of persons with gadgets to air their views publicly) had a role to play in necessitating the governor to backtrack must be acknowledged. Our continuous vigilance in calling public officers to order is the hope our democracy clings to. 

•Nelson Dafe is the Edo Correspondent of News Express and Business Express. Photo shows Oshiomhole making up with the widow.

Source News Express

Posted 03/12/2013 3:24:59 PM


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