Quick tales on 8 August
I was back on Freshly Pressed this morning with Shopsy and two of the stories we talked about were that of the reaction to the 50-year age limit that state governors are requesting for civil servants, and the return of the Bini bronzes by a museum in the UK.
A professor from BUK has condemned the suggestion by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum that President Buhari should retire all civil servants above 50 years. Prof Shuaibu is right that the idea to retire all civil servants above 50 is hare-brained. The political class need to cut down their own costs, but so far, they seem to be adding more to their costs and telling the rest of us to tighten our belts, which is daft. Also, we have been here before, where we retired an entire generation of civil servants. This was in 1975 when Murtala Mohammed wiped out everyone from I think level 12 and up with immediate effect. The damage that singular action did, we have still not recovered. Doing such damage now would probably be worse.
But, like many other people I’ve discussed this with, Prof Shuaibu misses something fundamental, which is that the idea is coming up simply because the governors can no longer cope with payments. Nigeria is bankrupt and these payments cost a fortune, so the governors making this suggestion is actually a cry for help.
Meanwhile, Horniman Museum and Gardens in South East London has agreed to return 72 Benin Bronzes looted from the former British colony now known as Nigeria.
I honestly don’t know where to stand on this. Especially as someone who comes from Benin, I understand the hurt that many Edo people of a certain generation feel over the loss of those treasures 125 years ago now. But having said that, some facts on the ground: Nigerians of the modern age do not appreciate art and given our prevailing poverty, we are likely to see one “big man” or the other pilfer these treasures and sell them off. Heck, back in 1973 when Gowon as head of state, visited the UK, he gave a priceless artefact to Queen Liz.
Guess what the artefact was?
An original, 400-year-old Benin bronze.
This is what happened: Gowon had an invitation to Buckingham Palace and wanted to give the Queen something priceless. One Saturday morning, he called Ekpo Eyo, who at the time was head of the antiquities department at the Lagos Museum, and simply said he was coming to the museum to choose a gift for the Queen. Dr Eyo got to the museum first, removed some of the finest items, and put them in storage an hour before Gowon arrived. And as Eyo suspected, the moment Gowon arrived, he went straight for the best item on display and removed it. That is what he gave the Queen.
Do you know how many export licence regulations he broke in doing that? Could Dr Eyo have stopped him?
Can Zainab Ahmed stop Buhari from dashing overinflated SUVs to the Niger Republic?