VIVIAN OTTIH: Between the Civil Service Rule And Union Activism

VIVIAN OTTIH: Between the Civil Service Rule And Union Activism

By Chinedu Max Egere

I was confronted with a question by a curious notable chief in Imo. A simple but direct question that can attract a complex answer. Here he goes: Did the lady, Vivian Ottih act rightly by her media outburst over the ordeal of IBC Personnel resulting from non- payment of salaries?

One of my early encounters with Vivian, a journalist cum lawyer was sometime in 2012 when she joined my team to do a biographic project. I will always be tempted to recall the words of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he reacted to the crisis in the West sometime ago when he said “We do not deal with effects in order to cure the cause, we should rather tap the cause in order to deal with the effects.” It is only when the factors that give room to crisis are effectively punctured, that such crisis will disappear to the thin air.

Having a strong belief in the saying that “drastic times call for drastic measures” would only engage me in a search for solution to problems and not to be overwhelmed by such problems. How do I mean?

On the issue of Vivian Ottih, there are indeed many ‘‘ifs” in the matter. …if the salaries of IBC workers were paid accordingly, … If Vivian had toed the line within the ambit of civil service prescriptions, … If the Imo state government had viewed her media outburst from the point of unionism alone, since she is currently the chairperson of NAWOJ,Imo state wing which is an affiliate body of the NUJ … If the state government had played down on her viral comments in line with damage- control mechanism…. If Vivian had adopted a confidential approach like Sam Onwuemeodo would hint in his article … If the Imo state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC had made a stronger intervention before Vivian generated the loud outburst from the public, all would have been well.

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Prof. Wole Soyinka would ask “if there is a need to get the aid of a mountain to break a walnut?” Civil service in my view, going by its rules and procedures seems to be a ‘’dignified slavery” where one chooses via oath to die in silence even in the face of odds and where the only door that is left ajar is the union they belong to and worse still, when such a union or unions where they solemnly perch for protection of their common interests and rights become weary and cold, then the game is over for bad.

In the days of the late Sam Mbakwe as old Imo governor, he had running battles with the teachers. My father, the late Sir Maxwell Egere was a school Principal then. As a child, I remember vividly that the Conference of School Principals and

their mother union, the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT mounted pressure on Mbakwe to pay their arrears of salaries. No one came out as a person to do the fight for rights. It was collectively done on the platform of their strong unions. The weeping governor was eventually drawn back to the right track. The rest is history.

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Ray Ekpu, would tell you that many people who manage people or advise leaders often mislead them for their selfish agenda. I concur with the report that the state government is on a corrective mission as it concerns what it dictated as twists, irregularities and flaws in the salary payment records and now wants to resort to E-payment, but it is possible to avoid a second chance for a first impression in this matter. Such investigations and findings can be in the process while prompt payment of salaries synchronizes with the action. Where there is lockdown as a result of Covid-19 pandemic and where curfew follows suit from 6pm to 6am, the situation of an unpaid IBC worker cannot be hidden. An outburst from such a person should be seen as a display of anger and not to subject the government to odium.

The lady, Vivian might have cried out with her last strength after their mother union NLC has brought no result to them. She acted as a unionist in her capacity as the NAWOJ chairperson but it was unacceptable going viral with the copy of the query if she was the source .The Imo government should therefore view it from the seat of mercy and not on point of administrative procedure. Let us not allow the matter linger further.

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Vivian is an Imo daughter and the state governor is an Imo son and Imo is our state. Let the key item on the agenda be to clear the arrears of salaries of the workers of IBC and so the state government can face other inherent problems in the state. We are all Imolites and we want our state to move forward through the 3R mantra of Senator Hope Uzodinma.

During the 2018 annual conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors NGE hosted by governor Wike, I can also remember that Nduka Obaegbena, the Publisher of This Day Newspaper in anger I guess, told us how he would sack one of his correspondents who was far away in his news bit for reason he considered suitable for his actions but some colleagues approached him to temper justice with mercy. They might have waved aside the professional failures of his worker.

Let us avoid the push and pull factors and let one lady cease to be the problem of the entire state since the issue does not concern her alone. I so submit
Chinedu Egere is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).

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