By Emmanuel Ugwu
If President Muhammadu Buhari has heard of the recently exposed employment racket at the Central Bank of Nigeria (alias the Central Bank of Nepotism), he has not shown it. He has yet to find it in his heart to acknowledge the subject personally. He has not caused any of his spokesmen to issue a response on his behalf. He has not asked for the resignation of the governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele.
Of course, Buhari is cognizant of this affair. He has simply elected to react with inaction. He considers CBN’s through-the-backdoor recruitment of children of the Nigerian political establishment a non-news. The clandestine hiring of children of his aides, relatives, political associates, and friends is not a proper scandal. He would not expend his precious presidential anger on a triviality.
It’s Buhari’s tacit approval of this scam that gave a certain CBN official the temerity to come out to rationalize the illegal, unethical and prejudiced hiring as ‘’targeted recruitment’’ of ‘’specialists.’’ The oracle of the Emefiele syndicate came forward to rebrand their corporate criminality because they could afford to. Buhari declined to fire them. The man with the figurative power to kill and make alive is as pleased with them now as he has ever been!
Daily Trust reports that, over the course of two years, the Emefiele mafia has hired almost a thousand people through this man-know-man referral method. And that the impunity that drove the absorption, month after month, has soured the ergonomic atmosphere of the CBN and sowed the seed of internal rebellion among staffers. The workers fear that the sham recruitment, done without the scantiest regard for professionalism, has destroyed the pattern of respect for the apex bank’s hiring culture and diluted the ability of CBN to function at its natural level.
The CBN ‘explained’ that it had secured a ‘’waiver’’ from the Jonathan presidency to hire without advertising. And so it made its recruitment the equivalent of an initiation into a secret cult. CBN stretched that ‘’waiver’’ regime into the incumbent administration. And the preponderance of the names of scions of the current powers-that-be bears that out.
It’s interesting that the Emefiele syndicate invoked some ‘’waiver’’ as the license that empowered them to abandon their obligation to adhere to the procedure of advertising vacancies, administering aptitude tests, and conducting interviews.
‘’Waiver’’ is that uniquely Nigerian, tested operational permit that privileges you to exploit the system in the name of doing the country a favor. This is the lesson we have gleaned from the massive fraud that characterized the use of cement and rice importation ‘’waivers.’’
It must be a smart crook that thought up this idea of adapting the ‘’waiver’’ to the recruitment process of a federal government establishment. And it’s telling that the recruitment ‘’waiver’’ survived as a secret for this long. Nobody outside the CBN knew the bank had shut its front doors to Nigerians who may able to prove themselves worthy of a work role.
And so, they got the ‘’waiver’’ –a pleasant-sounding onomatopoeic moniker for a license to wave aside competitive bidding for the job vacancies – the credible excuse to make it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the competent son of an anonymous Enugu-Ezike farmer to win a CBN job offer.
We must recognize that, with this recruitment ‘’waiver’’, this normalization of apartheid hiring, we have reached a new milestone on the road of nepotism.
It used to be the norm to advertise federal government job vacancies as a sort of inconsequential formality. We are familiar with that. Government agencies would announce the availability of openings, go through the motions of vetting applicants, and… then wind up taking favorites that had been penciled down long before the vacancy was published.
To be fair, though, the jobs were not almost always given away in advance. There was a percentage of openings reserved for nobodies. The token slots were covenanted to merit. Any wildcard, by showing extraordinary brilliance, could win.
But we have arrived at a place of total blockade. Ordinary kids can’t gatecrash. They can’t get a chance to go through their paces. They can’t get a fair crack of the whip.
It’s a place of total blackout too. The poor kids can’t know there is a job somewhere they are qualified to apply for. They remain jobless because they can’t see job openings around them. Their country has imposed on them a functional blindness they are even blissfully ignorant of. They grope in the game of finders keepers.
They can’t compete for jobs they didn’t know existed. They keep looking for jobs…as a full time job!
The conceivable rationale for the use of the ‘’waiver’’ is that it saves CBN the trouble of organizing the huge logistics operation that an open recruitment entails. Clandestine hiring saves the CBN money. It saves the CBN time.
It’s easier for the insiders to huddle together behind an iron curtain and nominate folks they like. They call up their siblings. And bribe VIPs with job slots for their rich kids!
I wager, also, that intellectual snobbery featured in this scam. For many years now, modern graduates of Nigerian schools have endured a vicious, discriminatory profiling. They are summarily insulted as useless and good-for-nothing. They are unemployable. They can’t write a formal letter. They can’t do simple sums.
It’s this proposition that the Emefiele gang latched on to claim that, faute de mieux, there was no need for them to the pains to invite a mob and search for the more tolerable dullards among them. They would rather undertake the surreptitious selection of ’’specialists.’’
Specialists that turned out to be mostly rich kids. Rich kids who, in all probability, had schooled abroad.
The exoticism of their varnished diplomas plus the weight of their parents’ influence made them ‘’specialists’’.
As the makeup of the list shows, the field of vision of the recruiters was too narrow. They constrained themselves to seeing only those who were nobly born. They didn’t look beyond. They didn’t bother to explore the embarrassment of human resource riches that this country of 175 million people boasts.
The import of this illegal CBN hire, which is fairly similar to what is obtainable in many other government organizations, is that Nigeria has officially deteriorated to an animated Animal Farm. A place where citizens are classified according to their birth. A caste society where the poor are denied the opportunity to escape the prison of their background: and their children are fated to live as surrendered victims of their parents’ history. They are not at liberty to dream of riding an escalator to their office someday.
In this affair, you can see the outlines of the plot of dynastic domination. The Emefiele syndicate and their VIP collaborators have mapped the future of their children. They have orchestrated the rulership of their kids in the next generation. They have strategically positioned their sons… above their age mates!
Under this dubious arrangement, their kids are spared the rigor of sweating to prove that they command proficiency in the requisite skills. They have the right daddies. They are feted instead of being subjected to any meaningful exercise that would require them to acquit themselves as people who are up to the mark.
All that matters is that the kids are interested. Once they indicate that they would love a career at the CBN, a letter of offer of employment rolls out of the printer…with their door-opening surname on it!
A leader largely defines himself by what he endorses. Buhari has done quite some endorsements in the nine months of his nascent presidency. He endorsed the massacre of 700 Shiite muslims in Zaria. He endorsed the shootings of pro-Biafran protesters in the South East. He winked at the butchery of Agatu people by Fulani herdsmen. And he has decided to endorse this current recruitment scam…by ignoring it.
Every of these appears to be a scandal with a short shelf life. Nigerians won’t emote over them forever. The people will rage and cavil and weary. But each of this accumulating mess Buhari has embraced will abide forever in folk memory.
If Buhari doesn’t move fast to confirm that he is for an equal opportunity country, that he is in power to make Nigeria a fairer state, that some Nigerians are not less human than others, he would have emptied himself of the moral authority that gave him gravitas as a candidate.
His coming to power was supposed to usher in a philosophical revolution. The unlearning of prebendalism. The exorcism of rank patronage. A return to order, due process, probity.
If he sides with the ruling caste on this, if he vetoes the longevity of this paradigm of manipulated inequality; if he sustains an opaque, corrupt system that marginalizes ordinary people and grooms the children of aristocrats, he will have exposed himself as a hypocrite.
Buhari has already said he cares only for his kids studying abroad. He would be generous only to states that voted him. His appointments are for the disciples who kept faith with him through his years of unsuccessful runs for the presidency. But if he lets this recruitment scam stand, he will have completely demystified himself.
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