The viral video that captured where the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, said he “strongly” believes that coronavirus disease is caused by corruption has yet pointed out another problem with Nigeria – employment of unsmart personal assistants (PA’s) and special assistants (SA’s) by top public officers.
I know the word “unsmart” may not be found in English dictionaries but that is the only polite way I could describe this set of people. These are people who failed to understand what their jobs are and the implications of their mistakes. They are those who were put in office because of their political affiliations and not because they are experts. They are the ones who refuse to develop themselves professionally because, as my people say, “ncha gbo, ncha agboghi, a ga na-asa ahu” (literally means “whether the soap foams or not, we must take our bath” meaning that whether they do their jobs well or not, they will be paid).
I discussed that video with someone and she expressed her disappointment and shock towards Magu’s ignorance on coronavirus disease. She insisted that everybody in the world knows about COVID-19 and so no one has an excuse for not knowing that it’s an infectious disease. Despite her insistence on Magu being at fault, I see that grave and embarrassing blunder as the fault of his PA.
I wasn’t being petty by apportioning blames to both the EFCC acting chairman and his PA. I understand that Magu, being a public figure, is supposed to be well informed on the happenings around the world, but I also understand that he must have trusted his PA to prepare that speech expertly. By preparing that speech expertly, it is believed that the PA must have consulted authorities that would provide him with scholarly details on the causes of the virus. Well, let’s say he consulted those that told him the disease came because of corruption (remember there is a speculation related to that right now).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Magu is ignorant of the deadly disease (though he might be), I’m only trying to point out the fact that he didn’t prepare that speech by himself (obviously) and that he didn’t have time to examine it until the delivery period. I can never exonerate him from such a blunder but I’m trying to find out why it has to happen in the first place despite the fact that the country pays someone to make sure it never happened. In other words, the person that drafted, edited and handed over those sheets of papers to him should also be held responsible for this embarrassing video. That’s why I insist that Magu’s PA should be crucified alongside him.
The problem with our top government officials is that they do not hire their personal and special assistants from a pool of smart experts. They pick those presented to them by their godfathers, sponsors and political affiliates (according to speculations, anyway, since there’s no tangible evidence to prove this). The effect of this is outcomes such as the one seen in the video – public embarrassment.
Public office holders are not the only ones that need personal assistants. But fortunately, those in the private sector already know that and maintain good ones. However, the essence of directing this article to public office holders is because they are yet to learn how to utilise their employees very well.
Why Public Office Holders should Employ Smart PA’s
If these public officers remember that their PA’s are more like their shadows, they will always attune to the advice of Steve Jobs: we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. These officers are busy people, who barely have time to rest. The least they can do to make life easier for themselves as they do their work is to surround themselves with intelligent people.
Should they imbibe this, they stand to enjoy the following advantages for having well-groomed PA’s:
- having their daily activities overseen by their PA’s; this ensures efficiency and effectiveness.
- their PA’s planning and organising their public appearances; this includes preparing their speeches and reports (of course the one that prepared this controversial speech is still a PA, but obviously not a smart one).
- enjoying the benefits of having extra eyes and heads; this means that the PA’s lookout for errors that their bosses might overlook (this is where I blame the PA of Magu mostly because he failed to find the errors his boss missed).
- enjoying easy access to feedback. I don’t know if the PA’s of Nigerian public office holders search for and present feedback to their bosses. Why I’m saying this is because I don’t see why there wouldn’t be changes in the way things are going around the country if these officers know how people lament about the policies they enacted.
- enjoying easy access to information. It is possible that these public office holders are too busy to read up every news article on things happening around the world. It is expected that a good PA supplies his boss with the information he needed to do his job very well. For instance, if Magu’s PA bothered giving him updates on COVID-19, we wouldn’t be discussing this video right now.
The consequences of hiring the wrong set of staff can never be overemphasised. Reminiscing on this, I remembered a popular quote attributed to Malcom Forbes, which says, “Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.” I believe this says it all. Employing unsmart PA’s can cost an employer a lot. Our top public figures should consider this when bringing in their next sets of PA’s and SA’s.
But then, a question was posed to me which I couldn’t honestly answer. That question is, “What if Magu wrote his speech and rejected any corrections made by his PA?” Well, my answer is, “I believe he now knows why he should surround himself with smart experts”.