Andy Akporugo Jr
I thought I worked for a big man a few years ago until I saw what a real big man looked like when as part of a team of five, comprised and led by my employer, perhaps one of the wealthiest men of the time, I visited Prince Abubakar Audu. Although standing only modestly high off the ground, he was the tallest man I saw during my visit to the government house, and this is why: while he measured from his feet, everyone else took their height from bended knees – his commissioners, special advisers, all!
Certainly, he enjoyed some special kicks from seeing short men, and ensured that only they surrounded him. His was a very large office where he sat alone in the company of a coat of arms crested in the middle of an immaculately white sofa made to match the resplendence of his clothing which length found better expression horizontally. There were however two other small seats in the room placed at each end of the sofa, and although he had a dining table at another end of the room, its distance suggested that it was not part of the furniture for the business of that office. And so if you were three or more guests of the Governor, not more than two of you sat, and only at the edge of their seats. No Commissioners or other government officials would find seat, and when they walked in to offer bended knees, it was with their backs raised higher than their heads. I was confused. Was all this grovelling a traditional due to a Prince or was it one of the demands of the high office of Governor?
I remember that this was so much trouble for my team which had been earlier excited about business possibilities (the reason for our visit) such that rather than focus majorly on final preparations for our scheduled discussions, our debate was about who was going to take the other seat after our own chairman. I was the most junior but my father had forgotten to teach me to kneel to government and I knew that if I stood erect, I would see the middle of the Governor’s head or its covering, perhaps a more grievous offence than requesting an extra seat to sit and so I ended up taking what I thought was a more honourable posture than the commissioners. I squatted, but rested my hands on the floor, struggling between attaining balance and recording the discussion. I had come in a “freeborn” but wasn’t quite sure what I had become, such that although I had been billed to speak at some point as lawyer, I didn’t trust that what law I would speak from that subservience would earn any believability or respect; and so I allowed the meeting run, devoid of the purpose of my inclusion on the team.
Today, Kogi State is once more in the news. And no, it is not just for the din of the self-celebrating rattle of its most prominent ambassador to Abuja or the drama of his imminent ouster or for that matter, the serial attempts to house bullets in his body. It is for the illiterate majesty of its current Governor in service of whom a few hours ago, another four Special Advisers have been approved by the House of Assembly, to join his college of Aides which already holds 63 members – and I am simply unable to shake off the feeling that the State House retains the culture of denudation of human and professional dignity that was scripted by the Prince in all his earthly glory!