If you hold an office, you’ll never know your true estimation until you leave that office. I learnt that lesson many years after I graduated from the University. I was back in town for my MBA exams that weekend (almost 6 years after my first degree). I dropped at Takie in Ogbomoso and took a taxi to Sabo. I sat in front but noticed the taxi driver kept staring at me. I became a bit uncomfortable.
Then, he cleared his throat and said I resembled a former Student Union President in Lautech. He asked if I was the same person. I answered in the affirmative. The man was excited. By then, I was at Sabo and needed to come down. I brought out money to pay but the taxi driver refused. I thanked him profusely.
He dropped me in front of what used to be a very popular hotel owned by a man who is my name sake. My plan was to lodge there for the duration of the exams that weekend. Unfortunately, I forgot to make reservations earlier as I didn’t take into cognisance the fact that thousands of students will be in town for the same exam. The receptionist told me the hotel was fully booked. I scratched my head and made to leave. I needed a place to bunk that night.
As I stepped out from the reception to the parking lot, I saw the hotelier seated with a few people. I decided to say hello to him before leaving. I approached him and prostrated as is our custom. The man looked at me and said, ‘Is this not my name sake?’ I responded and he asked what I came to do. I explained and informed him I was told the hotel was fully booked. He summoned the hotel manager who confirmed there was no available room. He asked him to make one available for me immediately even if it meant that they have to refund the payment made by another customer. He also directed that my room was free and no payment should be received from me.
I was truly humbled and I thanked him profusely. I was given a room and I checked in though I ended up not sleeping there that night because a friend of mine who learnt I was in town came to check me out of the hotel. He insisted I had to sleep at his own place. That particular event made me reflect on how I conducted myself while I held that office on behalf of thousands of students.
If all political office holders- elected and appointed- understood that the office will outlive the office holder, maybe they will behave better. People are showing you respect today because of your office and not because of your person. It is when that office leaves you or you leave that office (whichever comes first) that you will know your true worth and what people think about you. That is why you should never be carried away by accolades. Be careful when people praise you too much. Be careful of your coterie of aides. You’re their pot of soup and they’ll do anything to keep you.
Don’t confuse their loyalty to their own personal interests with loyalty to you. A man in public office does not make new friends. Power allures. Power attracts. But power is fluid. The pictures of previous office-holders adorning the walls of your office should tell you a story. Someone was there yesterday. You’re there today. Another person will be there tomorrow. Nothing, really, lasts forever.
If you’re appointed as a personal aide or assistant, learn from those who just left. Defend your principal responsibly. Do your work with discretion. When you’re sent on a slavish errand, discharge your responsibility like a freeborn. Don’t inherit the enemies of your principal. When they make up, you’ll most likely not be there. We, the people, will continue to criticize your principal.
Don’t turn your boss into a demi-god. And don’t turn critics to demons. Remember there is life after office. Be careful how you climb your horse because you will come down someday. Enjoy the perks of office but don’t get too used to them. Be true to your conscience.
May the God of creation guide you aright.