ONE with power is the person in charge or control of affairs in public or private settings. A power holder has the capacity to influence the actions, beliefs, or even the behavior of others. Power can be acquired legitimately, forcefully or even naturally bestowed upon. Power may be of political, physical or social type. Whatever type it is, the holder of power must bear in mind that the power in his possession is transient and it is like a whistle. These are the two important points this article will dwell on; power as a whistle in the hand of the holder and the ephemerality of power. Local security men who use whistle do so to alarm residents of their presence and coverage of the area for protection of lives and properties. Whistle blowing by the security men at night to also warn criminals to steer clear of the environment. The one who wields the whistle in an open or quiet place commands a kind of control and attracts attention. When a whistle is blown, it signals the kickoff or an end to a contest or event. Anytime the sound of a whistle is heard, it shows an order or directive to do something has been issued. It therefore shows that a whistle holder is a power holder.
If the wielder of power regards it as a whistle which when blown, may either make or mar the future of his fellow human, then he would do well with conscious and constant view of an after-power life and living. What does a whistle do? Why, when, where and how is a whistle used? Answers to these questions are not farfetched in relating a whistle to power. The holder of a whistle can blow death or life to the person or people he is overseeing or appointed to be judge over with the power bestowed on him. For instance, a football referee or any sports game umpire has the ultimate power to decide who wins on grounds of fair judgement. The referee can book a contestant with his whistle with the issuance of a card; yellow to warn and red for send-off. The moment a referee blows his whistle marks the end of a contest. That’s it; no appeal or reversal! Hope is dashed and lost for the loser, while victory is confirmed and sealed for the winner. It is exactly same with the holder of power in any capacity or at any level. As a power holder, are you blowing the whistle of death or life in people? Are you intimidating and oppressing people with that power in your possession? Have you thought deeply about how many lives that must have been ruined from the judgement your whistle has delivered so far through the power you possess?
The judges are also another class of whistle holders carrying power to seize one’s freedom or even end life on grounds of conviction. They have the power to imprison or sentence an accused person to death when he gives a verdict and the gavel is hit on the table. Dear power holder, what type of whistle is in your hands? Whistle of discomfort or comfort? Is it the whistle that will dash people’s hope and bring their life’s efforts to nought or the one that brings hope and assurance of a bright future? When are you blowing that whistle? A popular maxim in Yoruba says: “Bi egun ba ronu pe ohunn pada bo wa di eyan lasan, iwonba ni yio roro mo”. This means if a masquerade thinks deeply that he will someday become an ordinary person, he will tread with caution when in his masquerade toga. If the man in the masquerade garment thinks deeply that he would become ordinary when he pulls off his covering, he would soft-pedal in riding. Secondly, the other part of this piece as mentioned earlier will centre on the transient attribute of power. When a power holder bears in mind that he would someday disembark from the horse he rides presently and walk barefoot with ordinary citizens, he would be humble. Power and position should be used to better the lives of the led for long-lasting impact. Most power holders forget easily and very quickly their sense of worthlessness as human beings upon ascension of power because they get drunk and drowned in it. They realise it only when power deserts them.
Power changes hands; no one stays in power forever. If every power holder remembers always and considers their position as borrowed cloth that would be returned to the giver, then they will tread softly in using it. It is how they trod when in power that would determine how they would be treated by the people when they are out of power. For the power holder who used the borrowed cloth well, he won’t become naked after returning it when his time is up; the reverse would be for the one who abused the cloth when in power. When they vacate the seat of power, the honour or dishonor they get from people is a reflection of what they did when in control. On our way home from work one day, one of my bosses at work once told me something about power and position when he gave me a lift in his Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) branded car. Each time we passed through road intersections or junctions where LASTMA officers were positioned, they greeted him with salutations and he replied their greetings. As we moved on, the boss told me that it was the branded car they were respecting, not him. He said they won’t do so if he drives in his personal car except for those who know him in person. That is very true as people only accord honor, respect and dignity to the office and position one holds, not to the holder in the real sense. So the moment a power holder leaves his power seat, the respect and honor accorded that position also desert him immediately.
This piece isn’t directed at political office holders alone; it speaks to everyone in leadership position at any level or setting. Religious leaders, bosses at work, heads of business units, academic instructors, even parents and others in any leading role are all power holders in their respective corners. Every leader is also a power holder and must lead with a mind that power will desert them someday.
So whatever position we find ourselves as human beings, we must bear in mind the brevity of life and time, and always strive to leave impacts that would outlive our stay. Let everyone in position of authority be regularly reminded that, they are their own memories. Memories of power holders – positive or negative – would live on after they leave their position of power. In closing, do good when in power; leave good memories!
- Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA
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