Did Ruquyatu, The Sacked Govt Lawyer Cross The Line?

The sack of Ruquyatu Usman, a female lawyer in the State Ministry of Justice appears to have stirred a storm with mixed reactions trailing it. According to her account, she was summoned to the governor’s office and queried about posts on her Facebook page, whereupon she explained that she did not mean to offend the government. She said that she even sent a text message to the governor, apologising. But the sack letter came afterwards, nonetheless. Still going by her own narration, Ruquyatu stated that when she had wind of her pending sack, she was advised by someone to contact her father who in turn got in touch with the Emir, apparently, for intercession. That the government still did not bulge means that it took serious exception to Ruquyatu’s posts because in this part of the country, Emirs are highly respected.
Then, the question arises, how offensive were her posts? Her last post apparently was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In it she commented on protests staged on the last days of the suspended 24-day strike action, writing thus, “…I can only see political thugs”. On the surface you could argue that this is a harmless comment. Indeed, not a few side with her, insisting that she was only exercising her freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. But this freedom is not a blanket one. It comes with responsibility. If everybody were to write or voice out whatever crosses his/her mind every second on first thought, there shall be wild confusion with our country turned into a Jungle society where there are no rules and regulations to ensure responsible behaviour. Your freedom ends where the other person’s freedom begins. This is even by the way.
The important point here is that Ruquyatu is/was a civil servant and there are rules and regulations guiding conduct of civil servants. One of them is that they should not engage in partisan politics. Of course, you may have your own political views for we are all political animals. But to be involved in partisan politics whilst still in the service is forbidden. As the saying goes, you cannot serve two masters at the same time. Should you be interested in politics, then you should honourably resign to enable you devote your time and energy to your first love – politics.
Second is the fundamental issue of loyalty. Every employer demands loyalty from his/her employee(s). Absolutely, and it goes without saying. Loyalty is tantamount to love for the cause, they go hand in hand. If you have love for the cause/job then you must automatically be loyal. These days, however, many of us take up a job solely to butter our bread, to get some money and not essentially because we love the cause/ job. This brings about a conflict between our inner self which does not fully align itself with the job/cause and our outward ‘obligation’ to satisfy our stomach. The result in this case is that we do our jobs perfunctorily with complaints and fault-finding. But where we have love for the cause/job, our inner self harmonises with it and work becomes joy no matter how much we are paid and, loyalty flows out of us automatically.
Loyalty is a variant of love. And love in its true sense, means doing only those things that will BENEFIT (emphasis mine) the one or the thing we profess to love. It follows therefore, that civil servants or any worker for that matter should not criticise for the sake of criticising or to hurt(which is evidence that he/she does not have LOVE for the cause/job) but should criticize constructively, pointing the way forward, with suggestions to make things better, etc. Now, I gathered that Raquyatu had made false allegation against government previously in her facebook comment about Lassa fever. She is reported to have written that government ‘abandoned’ the nurse that died whilst treating a Lassa fever patient at the Dalhatu Specialist hospital and that government was not doing enough to sensitise the people on the disease. Government denies this, saying that it gave one million naira to the nurse’s relations and that there are public announcements on state media sensitising the citizenry on the causes and prevention of Lassa fever.
I am also told that Ruquyatu has been bypassing the hierarchical line of communication, to literally talk down on her superiors. No matter what, even if your superior in the office is 20 years your junior in age, you are duty bound to respect him/her in all ramifications during official working hours and on official duties. Outside of the office, for unofficial matters, the roles may be reversed. Talking about hierarchical official line of communication, Governor Umar Tanko Al-makura is wrong to have called Raquyatu into his office to personally question her over her misconduct. He has no direct dealings with her per se, she being an officer in the Ministry of Justice. Whatever questions/queries the governor had for her should have been routed through the Commissioner of Justice who will then query the Permanent Secretary, who will in turn direct it to Raquyatu’s head of department until it gets down to her.
As for the issue of whether due process was followed in terminating her appointment, after listening to the Justice Commissioner’s long explanation to me in a telephone chat, it is doubtful whether she has any chance in court should she or others acting on her behalf, decide to sue for wrongful termination. Labour says it has written a letter to the governor asking for a reversal of her sack letter. In a chat with me, however, NLC’s State Chairman, Abdullahi Adeka was harping more on pleading with government to have a change of heart.
I sympathise with Ruquyatu on gender basis. On this basis I urge government to temper justice with mercy and recall her. She can be redeployed to another office or somewhere else. I do hope she has learnt her lesson these past few days though.


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