A Ministry for Aides, By Udeme Nana
Barely two months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari rejigged his government by creating five new ministries. Of that number, three: Power, Aviation and Police Affairs were not entirely new like the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the Federal Ministry Special Duties and International Affairs, although there used to be a Federal Ministry of Special Duties in the Sani Abacha era. This means that the Ministries of Police Affairs and Aviation have only been resuscitated having existed previously.
I am advocating for the establishment of a Ministry for Aides to bring all aides in our dear country into one big canopy, a Federal Ministry.
The numbers are ample: councillors in the 774 local government councils in Nigeria have more than one, supervisors at the same tier have “employed” one or two, other top functionaries at that level are not left out and the chairmen, elected or appointed have a coterie of aides.
At the state level, legislators are in competition for the number of this category of “workers”, I know one who has more than 20 on his payroll, imagine the number of legislators in the 36 states of Nigeria with these sets of staff!
Members of the state Executive Council, special advisers, ordinary or honorary, senior special assistants, special assistants and personal assistants also have their own aides!
The governors as chief executives have a large contingent. In the history of Akwa Ibom State, a particular governor had not more than nine aides for eight years but his successor had more than 500! Imagine the jam and confusion on the major roads to the Airport when that leader went on a trip or was returning from one. It used to be carnival like both on the streets and at the airport with aides struggling to undo one another in cheers, songs, shouts – noise levels which resonated like sustained thunder clap around the capital city. And such days were many. There was even a big ben (bell) wielding aide. The joke then was than it was a strategy in “empowerment”! No office space, empty job specifications, except regular sights and sounds of able bodied youth – boys and girls who danced on the streets during events or trips, in sunshine or in the rain! In Cross River State, Governor Ayade got more than 1000 such operatives whose monthly wages was about twenty thousand naira.
Still at the states’ level, chairmen of and members of boards and commissions, extra-ministerial departments, permanent secretaries, directors, etc. all have aides.
At the National Assembly, each senator, each member of the House of Representatives, each minister, minister of state, head of service, secretary to the federal government etc., have quadrupled the number of aides at the State level , afterall, their pay cheques are bigger than that of others.
Political party officials are not to be denied this eppaulet which signifies their level of importance in the scheme of things and the higher the status, power wielded and access to funds, the more the number of aides recruited into the service at this level.
Men and women of “God” who have “made it” in life are not left out in the craze for Aides.They have those who see to schedules, those who carry Bibles, those who carry hymn books, those who carry handkerchiefs, those who carry bottled water , those who carry their jackets, those who stand as “guards” in front, at the back and on both sides during ministrations.
This category of employees hit the road at day break and could be seen wasting precious time outside the gates, inside gate houses, inside Hillux vans, around other several vehicles while the more important ones stay in ante – rooms to ” monitor ” the situation.
The job specification of this segment of service boys and girls is not clear-cut. There are a whole lot whose responsibilities add much needed value to overall service delivery, there are a whole lot who contribute to policy making and programme implementation but majority are just waste pipes wasting their youthful energy, their years and productive capacities on menial chores and self depreciating and denigrating errands including pimping or clutching cigarette lighters for those very very important persons who still smoke.
Women Executives are not to be undone, the job specification of some of their aides range from those who do their nails , hair, eye lashes whether fixing or scrapping, those in charge of powder, lip gloss, shoes, slippers, tissue paper, handbags, headgear and what have you!
Recruitment into this workforce is at best confusing as the Executives who recruit do it at whim, most Aides are not certificated and the judgement by the Supreme Court in the matter of posession of certificates for qualification to occupy even the highest office in the land has further reduced the importance of the certificate as a pre requisite for consideration for employment. In the case of Aides, the basic meal ticket seems to be physical size, large biceps, a large chest, a menacing look – sheer brawn even without brain. A capacity for ameboism, blackmail, subterfuge, pitching one against the other are added advantages. Nevertheless, this group humour themselves by forming unions where their leaders assume such amusing titles as chancellor, vice chancellor, provost, rector, dean or chair – chair etc…
In a country where the productive capacities and energy of youths are so misdirected, methinks it would amount to much if a Ministry is created for this category of employees. As at now, there is no wage structure for these hirelings. Some “big men and women” treat their aides like slaves. Such a Ministry would have a responsibility to fix the wages, determine leave, housing, medical, lay off and retirement packages for these level of workers.
The Ministry would, at the first instance, receive complaints concerning abuses, harrassments, non payment of wages and other fall-outs.
The Ministry would prepare an Administrative Organogram so each aide knows his/her appropriate status, exact roles in the scheme of things and mobilty pathway. The Ministry would streamline the cadre and set standards of discipline and minimum wage apart from determining a dress code so these group could also access wardrobe allowances, afterall aides have become the new role models in town. Great countries are those which mobilise and harness the potentials and creative capacity of their youth population to quicken growth through various productive sectors, but since Nigeria is one country which eats and wastes its youths, a Ministry for Aides could help.
Udeme Nana is a mass communication lecturer at the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua.