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Allergy to excellence

By Donu Kogbara

I HAVE needed, at various points in my life, to hire people to help me with administrative tasks and professional or business projects. And I’m always happy and grateful when I get a chance to work closely with well-spoken brainboxes because, in addition to enabling me to perform more efficiently, they enhance my image, reduce my stress levels and make it possible for me to have more spare time for my family and leisure activities.

I feel so relieved whenever I am in the fortunate position of having smart staff who can handle important chores on my behalf and represent me at meetings I can’t personally attend. And I particularly appreciate employees who possess talents and knowledge that I don’t possess because they provide very useful support in areas where I am weak (and make me look better than I really am!).

Some senior government officials share my preference for intelligent and articulate staff because they realise that they will serve the nation more competently and boost their reputations and endure fewer pressures in their workplaces if they recruit and encourage effective subordinates.

But it has to be said that such perfectionism is rare within our corridors of power and that too many of the big boys and girls who run the show are  so criminally undutiful and so tragically uncommitted to excellence that they hire and elevate mediocre or daft people for tribalistic reasons…or simply because these inadequate individuals happen to be cronies or relatives or bedmates.

I’d even go one step further and say that a depressingly large percentage of our VIPs suffer from chronic inferiority complexes and enviously resent and actively avoid any potential or existing employee who comes across as special.

Because our education sector has been messed up for so long, it isn’t easy to find personnel who can perform at a high level here; and you’d think that the few who stand out from the crowd would be taken very seriously and rewarded.

But rational responses to work-related challenges are not our forte in this corner of the globe; and instead of regarding those who sound good and are especially clever as assets who should be snapped up and promoted, many VIPs view them with intense suspicion, treat them like threats and go out of their way to undermine them, ignore them, impoverish them and crush their spirits.

I know quite a few above-average folks who could have added a lot of value to our ailing, underdeveloped system but are sitting at home doing little or nothing – or stuck in jobs that are beneath them – because various ministers, governors, DGs, etc, have flatly refused to give them the recognition they deserve.

This widespread allergy to excellence is holding Nigeria back and preventing our leaders from performing as well as their counterparts in the Western world.

Are you de only one?!

THE other day, I went to Abuja airport to catch a flight. Our departure was delayed and the airconditioners weren’t working, so I grumbled to an airline official. He displayed no interest in my discomfort, so I lost my temper.

But, instead of apologising for not being sufficiently respectful towards a paying customer, he said: “ARE YOU DE ONLY ONE?”, meaning that since other equally inconvenienced passengers weren’t complaining, I should shut up!

This mentality is very commonplace in this country. I noticed it when I wrote about the hell I went through when there was no electricity in my compound.

Some Vanguard readers were sympathetic, but most felt that I had no right to bellyache because I wasn’t the only Nigerian who was suffering power outages.
OK, so maybe I’m a spoiled brat. But I honestly think that we will never achieve high standards until more of us complain bitterly about various inconveniences!

My Postbag

IN response to last week’s column, in which I said that the President and governors of Lagos and Rivers states struck me as sincere leaders who will avoid the mistakes of the past and provide us with brighter futures).

From Ayoola: Donu, I totally agree with you that Jonathan, Amaechi, and Fashola are tomorrow men. They are still simple and humble in spite of the high offices they hold and exhibit sincerity and commitment for the betterment of the everyday lives of the people they rule over. They are really my heroes.

From Torkuma: Jonathan is my man, the rest are no different from their former colleagues. Jonathan is the messiah of our time.

From Ojoboh: Check out Jonathan’s performance and record as Bayelsa Governor before you continue to hope in hopelessness! As for Amaechi: It is too early to start praise-singing for him.  Wait, my dear, wait.

In response to a short tribute to Rejoice, my househelp who died after a recent operation. I complained about the fact that  three different doctors provided three totally different diagnoses when she fell ill…and hinted that Nigerian medics are partly responsible for the ridiculously high death rate in this country.

From  Enaruna: So sorry about the death of Rejoice, May she now rest in peace. The state of our health care system is alarming. I know because I have also been a victim of wrong diagnosis. Please join me in prayers for those of us who can’t afford to go abroad for treatment.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.