By Stanley Nkwocha
The mood at the Vice President’s wing of the Presidential Villa on Friday December 22, 2023, was different from what it used to be during preparations for festivities in the yuletide. On the faces of the aides and staff working in the VP’s office was a concatenation of excitement and incredulity. Even an amateur telepath would effortlessly sense the relief and exhilaration coursing through them as they discussed among themselves.
What was the excitement all about? The Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, had just directed that all his aides and staff who are Christians should proceed on Christmas holidays and resume after the New Year celebrations. It was a big relief for them, especially those who had already been slated for advanced movements ahead of the VP’s official visits to some states.
The thrilling sensation in the VP’s office that weekend was however not unexpected. Such a gesture from a leader pertaining to the welfare of his workers is quite rare in this part of the globe, especially in Nigeria where aides and staff of Aso Rock Villa would have to work round the clock to maintain and sustain presidential schedules.
As an aide or staff in the seat of power, your life is no longer your own. Work-life balance doesn’t exist. You hardly have a weekend planned, entailing that you must have to cope with events of close friends and family members you will have to miss. This is apart from not seeing them more often, as you would not be at liberty to frequently take a vacation.
However, it was a completely different ball game for the 2023 yuletide, as the workers were asked to go home and celebrate the Christmas holiday with their families, courtesy of the VP’s human side of officialdom and bureaucracy. That is Vice President Shettima for you – a boss who takes the welfare of his workers seriously. He cares about life outside of work and is conscious about the things that are important to those working with him, irrespective of class and religious affiliations. He would check in to see how things are going for them.
A true example of what it means to be a servant leader, the Vice President is one of the most humble, compassionate leaders that I have personally met. He is a man who leads by example and is committed to creating a better future for the next generation.
His approach to work and style of leadership which treats the ‘ordinary’ man with the same delight as those of the ruling class are fundamentally both humane and democratic. At work, he gives you ample time to explain your expectations, as he patiently answers your questions, and he is available if you need help. He also encourages all his staff to work together, help one another and be a true team.
Yet, for himself, state governors and other top government officials, Vice President Shettima did not see the need to go on vacation when, according to him, a lot needed to be done to save the nation’s economy. At the 138th meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) which was held on December 21, 2023, he told council members to shelve the idea of vacation and concentrate on issues of governance with a view to easing the burden of the citizens.
“As the year draws to a close, none of us in this chamber should anticipate a vacation. I tend to think so because upon our shoulders rests the weight of responsibilities from which we cannot escape. We are returning to be judged by the promises we made to be here,” he told the NEC members suggestively.
The message here was simple and direct: as public office holders, members of NEC should realise that there is no time for revelries and merriment because ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’
At the national level alongside his principal, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a seasoned democrat, Kashim Shettima is replicating the same leadership direction required by his Boss as manifested during his visit to Bende in Abia State last Friday where he unveiled the Peace in South East Project (PISE-P) initiated by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu.
The VP declared the readiness of the Tinubu administration to put an end to the reign of terror in the South East region by those he designated as self-serving criminals working in cahoots with certain persons taking advantage of the security situation to foster their dangerous political agenda. He vowed that the administration will deploy all available resources to eliminate the purveyors of falsehoods and propaganda that have become weapons against Nigeria’s unity.
And to confirm the confidence the people of the South East have in the VP and his boss, the duo were given traditional titles. President Tinubu was conferred with Omeziri Igbo 1, while VP Shettima got the traditional title of Enyioma Ndigbo by the Chairman of the Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Linus Mbah.
Tacitly justifying the traditional titles conferred on the VP and his principal, chairman of the South East Governor’s Forum, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, said Senator Shettima has demonstrated sufficient goodwill to the people of the region. “Our Vice President has shown sufficient goodwill to the people of the South East. From this part of the country, we will continue to work with the rest of Nigeria to make the country a prosperous nation for the interest of all of us for service to God and humanity,” the governor stated.
Indeed, in a country where religion, tribalism and regionalism are often used to divide and conquer, Vice President Shettima remains a staunch believer in the unity and progress of Nigeria. He has consistently demonstrated his commitment to a united Nigeria where every citizen is treated equally, regardless of their religion, tribe or ethnicity.
As we return to work following his ‘henlele dey go’ directive, one cannot but see the freshness amongst fellow colleagues who clearly are more invigorated and focused to support the Vice President in achieving the monumental set goals, targets and visions of the Tinubu administration.
May God bless us with a most prosperous new year.
- Nkwocha is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Communications (Office of The Vice President).