Just days ago, it was reported that over 10,000 ghost teachers and 80 fully staffed ghost schools were discovered during the ongoing screening/verification of local government staff in Benue State. This news was greeted with several emotions. Some people were impressed, others indifferent, while some questioned why the Governor chose to subject workers to such a tedious and time consuming exercise over immediate payment of what is truly theirs. There is, however, a category of people whom these discoveries
have opened old wounds of grief and frustration.
Mr Steven Ikpanor, a teacher, was a brilliant and hard working man by all standards. From a family with a rich genealogy of teachers, he was brought up to be a teacher and that became his dream and passion. It was therefore not surprising when he got married to Doosuur who was also a teacher. Together, they rose through the academic ranks to become headteachers; Mr Ikpanor at LGEA Primary School Adev and his wife at LGEA Primary School Chenge, both located in the same district in Vandeikya local government, Benue State.
This couple worked very hard to sustain a large family even though they had just one child. The burden of raising and catering for children of relatives was upon them like every typical Tiv family and amidst all the challenges, they gave their best to their profession and were loved by the pupils and community alike.
After many years of service, Mr Ikpanor passed on. It was a typical workday. He woke up early, took his bath and headed for school as usual. Just after the pupils dispersed from the assembly ground, news circulated that their beloved headmaster had slumped and died. The whole community broke into tears for this great loss.
Most heartbroken was his wife. If not for anything, the financial burden of aged parents and a legion of relations would naturally fall on her weak shoulders. She hoped that her late husbands gratuity would ameliorate the burden but after 9 years of letter writing and signing numerous papers to no avail, she was overwhelmed. A protracted illness followed and Mrs Ikpanor joined her husband in the land of no return.
It will surprise you that after 10 years of passing away with no gratuity, it was discovered during the ongoing staff screening that some people have been collecting salaries using Late Mr Ikpanor’s name as headmaster of a ghost school in Vandeikya local government area with 17 ghost teachers under his care. This evil system that couldn’t guarantee that the family of a man who died at his duty post is taken care of, had the effrontery to exploit him even in death.
As I write, the Ikpanor family who have given so much to education in their locality are wrench with anger and frustration, and considering their options.
Many of such stories abound. Another is told of people who had been stagnant on a particular salary scale for donkey years only to discover that they had been promoted years ago and some blokes had been smiling to the bank on their behalf.
For all these stories and many other instances, Benue has a duty to change because there is no other way around than the hard way. Personally, I’m encouraged about the screening exercise and other apparently hard decisions taken lately to ensure our departure from the status quo to a new Benue. According to President Muhammadu Buhari, “order is more profitable than speed” and where else needed order, after 8 years of perfidy and pilfering?
That is why I agree with Alan Cohen when he said, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in CHANGE there is power.”
Benue people already demonstrated that power with their votes in the last election which is just part of the deal. The other part which is the most difficult, is the courage to embrace and endure the apparently slow but thorough mill of change, for therein lies our hopes and aspirations for the Benue of our dreams.