As I hit the ground, I went straight to a governmental department to establish an offline relationship and to obtain approval and preliminary consent of the authorities and/or gatekeepers, as well as ‘respondents’, in fulfilment of the requirements to conduct ethical research.
This governmental department is just a typical civil service establishment. It is not one of those inordinately loud ministires, departments and agencies (MDAs) who claim to be world class and reputable national institutions, and who have funds to orchestrate media spins about what they are not really doing – I refer to MDAs or organisations that have largely derailed from the fulfilment of their mandates to the people of Nigeria but yet receive awards – many of which they do not deserve.
Suffice it to say that the office I visited manages to survive on whatever may be left of ‘misappropriation’. In fact, as at the time I visited, there was a power outage. I learnt the office had run its operations on power generated from what has largely been the alternate source of energy for the majority of our people across the country. The organisation’s two energy generating sets were not even functional when I arrived and until I was about to leave.
After ground-breaking courtesies, I went for the brass tack. I spoke about my correspondence with the officers I met, which they acknowledged. The officers handling the matter I sought out demanded for certain information to be sure I was the person relating with them online and through a proxy (an amazing sister). I supplied the information and the most senior person, who had been directed by the CEO to act on my matter, immediately instructed another officer that approval should be granted to my request.
I waited with my sister as everybody involved swung into action. I thought I would be told to come back another day to collect the letter but the man to issue the letter told me to wait. He sent for the file. The clerk couldn’t find it immediately. He asked me for an acknowledgement copy of the letter I had earlier sent to the organisation and I showed him. He requested for a copy while assuring me the original file would be located. However, he acted on the basis of the acknowledged copy because he insisted he knew all the facts about my request since the first trajectory of my letter had terminated in his office.
So, he proceeded to write me an approval letter as he was directed to. When he asked his secretary to type the letter so he could endorse it, he was told there was ‘no light’. We had discussed the energy challenge with him earlier but he didn’t remember when he spoke with the secretary. Then he gave his money to the clerk to get some litres of fuel to power one of the energy-generating sets. As my sister and I waited, the man kept apologising for the delay. Then, the approval letter was produced; he proofread and endorsed it. It is one of the most charitable and well-written letters ever authored by any government establishment I had interacted with.
Importantly, I had no special relationship with anyone in the organisation. None of the those who treated my request is Yoruba. None is from my state of origin (I hate that phrase), and no one asked me for a dime, either directly or by patronage. Everybody worked beyond official hours to get me served properly. In fact, I left the place at 5.45p.m. and they were still working, although they do not receive ‘overtime’ payments in that organisation. Those involved acted so kindly and with great knowledge that is scarce in many organisations that are supposedly world-class and national models. They are not paid extraordinary wages. They are Christians and Muslims (perhaps atheists) who didn’t have to propitiate any God to enquire whether my motive was genuine before they performed their duties. Everyone simply acted in good conscience and in keeping with their respective oaths.
I have never seen an advertisement of the organisation’s trade nor that of its accomplishments. This explains why the people there represent my heroes, heroines and patriots in the bastion of establishment practices. They are the perfect exemplar of the oases of good conducts in our troubled desert of injustice, misgovernance and “authority stealing”. Yet, they remain unsung neither in Nigeria nor in other parts of the world where other lazy tie-knoting and cap-dotting elitist bureaucrats frolic regularly to seek recognition and approval. Therefore, those I met at that agency represent a unique measure of hope. They are a metaphor that speak to the fact that Nigeria will rise again.
MAY GOD BLESS NIGERIA!
Omoniyi Ibietan is a doctoral researcher at North-West University, South Africa.