Nigeria Today

February 29, 2020

The heavy burden of simplicity


Nigerian Flag

Nigerian Flag

By Tonnie Iredia

Quite often people who are seen as having the quality of being easily understood, get praised for living simple lives.

They are seen as getting out of their way to simplify issues which are otherwise complicated. In schools for instance, some teachers are known for making it easy for students to quickly assimilate their teachings.

There are however other teachers and communicators who have a disposition of compounding everything including ordinary or what ought to pass for simple matters. As if unaware that effective communication means a situation where the sender and a receiver of a message have the same meaning for it, some people are notorious for using words that an average person can hardly understand without consulting a dictionary.

In a way therefore, simplicity can be a commendable trait. Another commendable feature of being simple is when a person is not fussy about issues or where a person is always simply dressed or adorned.  But like almost every phenomenon, simplicity can be a negative trait where a person is either too carefree or not bothered about details.

In developing societies in particular, the idea of resigning oneself to whatever fate can be a negative aspect of simplicity. Under this, we have people who hardly ever reason out a course of action before taking it on the ground that what they choose to do is always guided by how things are usually done around them. The exact aspect which captures the thrust of this piece concerns people who accept anything about which they are not immediately challenged.

A good example is where a person does not object to wrong spellings or pronunciation of his names just because the right and the wrong spellings are not too far apart. For many years, many Africans agreed with foreigners who abbreviated their names because such foreigners considered the names too long for them to pronounce. Unfortunately, in an attempt to be described as a simple fellow, the original owner of a name begins to write it in official documents exactly the way the foreigner prefers it to be.

One is tempted to believe that this may have been the fate of many Nigerians such as the disqualified deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress APC in the last governorship election in Bayelsa state. The man, Senator Biobarakuma Degi Eremienyo was disqualified for allegedly parading a multiplicity of names in his certificates – primary, secondary, degree, masters and NYSC. Interestingly, whereas it has become widely believed that the certificates are fake, especially after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court because of them, those who know the man, appear certain that he rightly studied and earned all his grades and titles.

A former official of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency FERMA told this writer that the Senator exhibited expert knowledge of personnel management when he served in the Agency as Executive Director Human Resources and Administration. A member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management CIPM, Senator Degi had also served as a member of Council of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Economics and Extension as well as a Master’s in Business Administration & Management all from the Rivers State University of Science & Technology Port Harcourt.

After his disqualification as Deputy Governor elect of Bayelsa State, Senator Degi addressed the media and vehemently denied the charge of certificate forgery just as he called on the law enforcement agencies to vet his credentials. He also named all the schools he attended and listed over a dozen names of his former teachers and classmates who would give testimony of his unblemished career. How come such a personality would just be so easily destroyed in politics for the wrong reasons especially after having at different times served as Chairman of Nembe Local Government as well Commissioner in several ministries in Bayelsa state? Was he not screened by the legislature and found worthy before being cleared to serve as Commissioner or was he given the now famous bow and go clearance? What about the schools he attended- does it mean no one noticed any discrepancies in his documents across board? Something is no doubt simplistic about him.

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One probable reason for his dilemma in the last few weeks may be because many people like him mix up simplicity and humility as though both terms are coterminous. In truth, there is a huge difference between a laissez faire/nonchalant attitude and a deliberate attempt to show modesty by presenting a low view of one’s importance. To give way to someone who is in a hurry or to not show off one’s worth or value may depict humility not simplicity. Indeed, while it is good for people in top offices or authority to humble themselves by listening to views of junior or younger colleagues, to be simplistic is a different ball game. Again, while it is commendable humility for people to never be boastful but rather, to without undue self-pride, attribute their successes to collective efforts, it is lethargic simplicity to undermine oneself by ignoring little things that matter. A person whose name is Degi for example should not wait a minute to correct the slip where ‘a’ is added to his name to read Adegi.

There is the rather puerile argument that the judiciary should have verified the genuineness of Senator Degi’s certificates from the issuing authorities before endorsing his disqualification. Of course, that is not the duty of the judiciary; everyone knows though that such a statement can only be made by members of a ruling political party in Nigeria who believe that they are in control of everything in the nation. Otherwise, when the charge was first raised at the High Court the APC should have taken steps to appropriately clear it. In earnest, the party itself from the very beginning should have done a proper screening of any person it decides to put forward as its flag bearer in an election. It is simplistic to assume his clearance in a previous election is sufficient.

Hopefully, the story of Senator Degi should be a lesson to everyone. Nigerians should know that organizations and individuals in their country are exceedingly simplistic changing peoples’ name without paying sufficient attention to what they do. A recent example from the same Bayelsa State is the revelation by the new Deputy Governor of the state, that the NYSC replaced the letter ‘o’ with letter ‘a’ in his name thereby inadvertently changing his name from Ewhrudjakpo to Ewhrujakpa.

So, even if one is described as fussy or difficult or unfriendly, errors or omissions no matter how tiny, must never be let go thus creating an enlightened citizenry that would become better positioned to positively participate in national development. On the other hand, a country that does not pay attention to details especially during this era of inexplicable diseases should expect to carry a huge burden on account of simplicity.