By Emmanuel Aziken
The two major contenders to be Chairman of the company were out of town when the elders’ council commenced deliberations on the petition over who was to be Chairman of the company.
Alhaji Ahmadu Harri, the incumbent Chairman, had fought off a serious battle from Atik Habuba, a former vice-chairman of the company at the recent AGM.
Habuba claimed he won the poll and had petitioned the elders alleging that the incumbent Chairman used his authority to cheat.
According to him, he had insight into the hi-tech computer software that was part of the configuration that helped Chairman Harri to defeat his soft-minded predecessor four years ago at the 2015 AGM.
The fate of the two contenders depended on the elders’ council, whose decision was final on anything concerning the company.
The elders were supposed to dispense wisdom and justice at all times. However, many shareholders and staff knew that the elders had overtime devalued the esteem with which they were looked upon.
Shareholders remembered the days of yore when men like Elders Chukwudife Okuta, Kayode Osho, Otutuu Opaseki, and such served as elders. That era when the words of elders were laced with the wisdom of the gods was long gone. Many elders were now known to be more inclined towards filthy lucre.
It was on the basis of that that the incumbent Chairman of the company in a move that shook the company to its foundations removed the immediate past chairman of the elders’ council, Elder Iceblock Onne.
Chairman Harri was generally believed to have received the short end of the stick from the elders in the past. On three previous occasions, when he sought the chairmanship of the company and was denied, he appealed to the elders who denied him. Only two considered his appeal with favour, but the majority looked the other way.
When he became Chairman of the company four years ago, he remembered to thank the two elders. One of them now frail on account of old age was sent by Chairman Harri to be the company’s salesman in the United States. The other retired elder who was also old was sent to be the company’s salesman in the United Kingdom.
Chairman Harri believed they were about the only two elders that were not corrupt.
Chairman Harri had won a reputation among shareholders as opposed to corruption, which many saw as the cause of the erosion of the company’s shareholder’s value. Many shareholders remember when as sole administrator in earlier times, Chairman Harri preached to shareholders to keep faith with the company.
No one believed him now, especially when shareholders saw him using medical equipment produced by rival companies.
But Chairman Harri believed in himself and had recently begun the purging of the company by bringing a few elders before disciplinary panels to explain how huge amounts of money got into their custody.
It was sacrilege. Never before had the revered elders been so humiliated the way Harri did to them.
So as they prepared to sit on the dispute between Habuba and Harri over the chairmanship poll, the elders with unanimity resolved to give judgment in favour of Habuba.
“If Harri could do this when he had no term limit, imagine what he would do to us when he doesn’t need us again,” the elders mused.
So, when last Wednesday the elders got information that Chairman Harri was out of the town, they quickly called their agents to give their verdict on the dispute over the chairmanship.
The oldest in the elder council read the brief ruling that Habuba was the genuine winner based on what they said was their insight into the backend of the computers.
Once the decision was given, bedlam fell across the company.
The shock for many was how many of those who the day earlier were praising Chairman Harri as the best thing to have happened to the country turned around to be praising Habuba.
Two collaborators of Harri were particularly distressed.
President of the dominant shareholders association, a former labour leader, Comrade Adamu Osho was one. Not only was he going to lose face in the top hierarchy of the company, he was also going to have more difficulty in a personal battle in one of the units of the company from where he retired three years ago.
Though he appointed Opaseki as the new unit head, Opaseki had now rebelled and was fighting and pushing away all the staff aligned to Osho in the unit. Osho had wanted to use his closeness to Harri to shove Opaseki aside during a scheduled unit meeting next year.
Another distressed man was Hammid Binubu. Binubu did not hold any office in the company but was regarded as the incoming Chairman. On account of his aspiration he had closed his eyes to what many saw as the excesses of Chairman Harri. What would become of his quest especially given that the new Chairman was a former ally who he had openly criticized in his bid to remain in Harri’s good books.
One man who was also preparing to contest against Binubu within the ruling Progressive Shareholders Group was Tasir El-Bufai, a technocrat who had drifted from Habibu’s Democratic Shareholders Group to Harri’s camp some few years ago.
Though he came into reckoning through Habuba, when he was vice-chairman, he did not spare any word to hit his former mentor. Once the elders spoke, he vowed he would not speak again outside his unit.
Meanwhile, real political discourse on this page will resume next week as Nigerians distill the judgment of the Supreme Court that has positioned President Muhammadu Buhari to stamp his legacy.