A Presidential Handshake and the Metaphor of Competence in CRSG —by Efio-Ita Nyok

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The tall, fair, finely-cut face, lissom-frame and clad in flowing, seemingly pink shade gown diva whom you spot smilingly shaking hands with a similarly tall, elderly man donned in white flowing outfit is addressed as Dr Inyang Asibong, she’s a member of the Cross River State Executive Council being the Honourable Commissioner for Health under the leadership of Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade as governor of the state.

The man with whom she’s having a hand shake is Mr Muhammadu Buhari, Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She’s introduced to Mr President by her immediate principal, the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Mr Ayade Benedict. The event is the official Commissioning of the first automated Rice Seeds and Seedlings Factory in Calabar, Cross River last week… they just received Mr President at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport.

Why does Dr Asibong having a handshake with Mr President requires this preamble? To be fair to you, I am already asking myself and I think you may be too —she’s a ranking appointee in the present State EXCO of Cross River State Government and as such, it’s official protocol for her to be introduced to His Excellency the President as a matter of courtesy. I was almost content with this perception when almost immediately something struck me and I started having a different perspective to the picture starring I and you in the face.

This ensuing orientation is inspired by the African proverb which is rendered thus: ‘When a child washes his/her hands clean (s)he’ll dine with the elders’. Preliminarily, I hold the opinion that Africa is a continent for elders because of the troubling emphasis we place on the attainment of wisdom through advances in age. Again this is also premised on the culture of communalism as opposed to western individualism, where in the latter the community takes preeminence over the individual. But, in this community, there’s this preference we have for the elder. So, why we objectify the wholly-community more than the unitary-individual, and because of the value of respect for elders, the continent simmers into a social conclave for elderly people against the youth, or so I think. Philosophically, it could go to assert that we objectify the intellectual tradition called empiricism over rationalism per se.

If you disagree with me, how do you explain the recent mild altercation between 56 year old Mr Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State and 47 years old Mr Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of SaharaReporters during a democracy day debate organised by Christ Embassy, Lagos when he dismissed him as being unfit for office of President of Nigeria because he’s lacking in experience? For Duke, a 47 years old man who’s run a successful new media outfit and is currently teaching in an American university lacks experience! Or, how do you make meaning where Prof Shittu Adebayo the Honourable Minister of Communication asked the same Sowore to go contest as Councillor while marking time to be president!? A statistics suggest that there are over 33 million youths in Nigeria and yet you have citizens of a mean age of 60/75 administering the country politically and in other spheres of government/ governance. How do you explain that? This is not one argument I am ready to go into today, especially here and now. However, the point still remains that in Nigeria, nay Africa we equate capacity with age!

Given this backdrop one would immediately appreciate from where I am coming in respect of Dr Asibong who’s obviously in her early 30s. I am not saying that at her age, she is too young to be Commissioner, there have been younger ones —I am rather contending that, at her age in comparison to others more elderly in that State EXCO, she’s made nonsense of the ‘Africa-for-the-elderly perception. Besides, one would have initially and naturally thought that appointing ‘a lady’ this young as Commissioner particularly where we had numerous ‘grey hairs’ wasn’t a smart decision, but, Dr Asibong has proved us all wrong.

Let’s make a tour of some of Dr Asibong’s achievement in Ministry of Health and the health sector in the state at large. In no particular order:

*She guided the State to emerging State with the best child survival indices in the country in a survey carried out by UNICEF;

*Successfully organized the first ever State Health Summit;

*Developed first toll-free Mobile phones for Health facilities across the State;

*Guided Calabar Municipality to becoming first city in the world close to achieving the 90:90:90 HIV/AIDS target;

*The only south-south state in the country to winning bidding rights of MTN Foundation support project to renovate maternal wards of the General Hospital, Calabar;

*Drastically reduced maternal mortality rate in the State;

*Accreditation of schools of nursing in the State;

*Developed LAMIS software for Health information management system;

*Established the first adolescent and youth friendly center in the General Hospital.

*Counselled, treated and reintegrated over 1000 VVF patients in the 2017 pool.

*Guided the State to the official launch of the State Health Insurance Scheme; AYADECARE

*Guided Obanliku LGA to becoming the first LGA in West Africa to be certified Open Defecation Free;

And I can go on and on! However, could we deny the fact that Dr Asibong has washed her hands clean, according to the proverbial expression, and is therefore dining with the elders?

Efio-Ita Nyok
Is a social commentator

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