Getting hold of a public office could happen in a twinkle of an eye; sometimes luckily or with requisite connections and with or without any form of knowledge in public administration. Just here in 2015, Volodymyr Zelensky who starred as Vasiliy Petrovich Goloborodko in the “servant of the people” TV show as a high school teacher whose video on denouncing official corruption went viral actually rose to becoming the president of Ukraine when he won with a popular vote April 21st, 2019.

In other cases, some individuals, out of previous records could easily garner enough interest to pull them through in any public contest. As a result of this, not many persons have passed through courses, short/formal training and familiarity with activities involved in being a public office holder.

Consequent upon the above, it is very possible that public officials come out publicly to make statements that disrupt public order. Sometimes, their statements may be justified or even necessary. However, owing to their position, several persons who share different school of thought may pick offense with their statements. In many cases, unbridled public statements have caused chaos in society, sometimes bringing a whole community to a halt.

Instances of (Near) Unbridle Statements

There has been several instances in the past where public official almost or made statements that resulted in chaos or public criticism. In this material however, we shall take three (3) instances.

1. President Joe Biden

Immediately the Russians attacked Ukraine, President Joe Biden of the United States of America was set to address the international community on the state of affairs. The Russian attacked started on February 24th while President Joe Biden addressed the international community on the 25th of February, 2022.

On completion of his speech, Biden was already fielding questions from the public when a journalist asked Biden “did you underestimated Putin and would you still describe him the way you did last summer a worthy adversary?”

It was here president Biden showed discretion when he replied: “at the time he was, I made it clear. He was an adversary, I didn’t underestimate him. And I have read most of everything he has written. Did you read…. I am sorry. I should have been a wise guy”

Perceiving that throwing the question back at the journalist might sound a kind of offensive to the journalist, Biden immediately bridled his statement and corrected himself by saying “I should have been a wise guy”. He took another path by saying “you read the speech he made, he is a lot more ambitious…”

Despite being a World power, Biden was able to talk to journalist with the highest level of courtesy. Nevertheless, not all public officials have that grace of speech. Many take pride in explaining themselves, being overt and expressive, always ready to defend themselves. Let’s take another example.

2. Prof. Samuel Gowon Edoumiekumor

It was on the 6th of July, 2021 when the Vice Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Prof. Samuel Gowon Edoumiekumor visited the Faculty of Engineering on his scheduled visit to inform Faculty members on new regulation concerning dress codes, school fees portal deadline amongst others. At first, the atmosphere was already tensed as issues of school fees portal closure surfaced online, pushing students towards riots plans.

Cause of the NDU July 6th 2021 School Fees Portal Closure Protest

On top of the tensed atmosphere, where clusters of students have been planning protests, the Vice Chancellor, according to eyewitnesses whose reports collaborated with our reporters who were present to follow up the meeting with the Engine Boys stated that “even if heaven falls, the school fees portal will not be re-opened”. Rioters reported that this was the spark plug that lighted the protest spirit. This statement degenerated into a protest that lasted for 3 good days in the Niger Delta University from July 6th-8th, 2022 with additional weeks of total school shutdown that followed.

NDU Students Protest against Closure of School Fees Portal and Uniform Identification

After the event, I tried to follow up on what actually led the VC to make such an unbridled statement. This is the same man that despite personal shortcomings, maintains courtesy when speaking in public. His presentations and speeches has always been a selling point to grow the University. But why this time around? According to reports from the VC’s office, the VC made the statement as he always does just to make students pay up. It is a general knowledge that without such threats of deadline, many students don’t just pay their fees. Rather, many students are found using their fees for other purposes. However, it seems that Sammy pushed the game up a little bit by raising the bar higher this time around.

I also got to realize that the statement was made under pressure. We all are familiar with statements made under pressure – it is possible to make a statement without a careful thought, the level of your maturity notwithstanding. In fact, the atmosphere at the Engine block that morning was highly tensed. Prior to the statement, there has been series of arguments and statements of disrespect for the VC. It was reported by our staff who were eyewitnesses that the VC already urged the students to calm down all to no avail.

3. Mr. Joseph Omoro

Joseph Omoro is the Dean of Students, Federal University, Otuoke. Haven been told to pay school fees and register courses before deadline, many students who failed to meet up with the deadline were asked to go back home. The students reportedly beseeched the Dean of Students for amicable resolution. However, instead of handle the issue amicably, or at least, turn the students down maturely, he resorted to telling the students to “go and commit suicide and die if they do not want to go home”.

This was the beginning of the FUO October 29th-30th school fees protest. The protest lasted until the Students Union and the Vice Chancellor himself meddled in the matter until students were given extra time to register.

4. Hon. Charles Aniagwu

Hon. Charles Aniagwu is the commissioner for information, Delta State. In mid February, 2022, Hon. Charles Aniagwu made a statement that parents should reduce their alcohol intake to be able to pay their children’s DELSU fees. Hon. Charles Aniagwu even went further to defend his statement by arguing that no one can use the social media to pressure him to change his position.

Hon. Charles Aniagwu’s argument was in response to public outcry to the increment in the fees of Delta State University, Abraka and Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro. However, to underlie how unnecessary Aniagwu’s statement was, I was wondering if all parents actually drinks alcohol? Even if, how much is alcohol that expenditure on it would amount to N200,000 per year for a parent?

Aniagwu’s statement shows how shallow public official can be in their reasoning. Despite his careless statement, Aniagwu showed no remorse as he stood on his ground, claiming no amount of social media attacks can change his mind. I am no supporter of cheap school fees as it brings along it, the attendant challenges of poor education. However, issues like this must be treated with utmost care.

5. Chris Rock

While this material was being constructed, the saga between Chris Rock and Will Smith ensued. Chris Rock made a light joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada. The joke related to Jada’s medical condition that saw her hair diminishing and got it all cutoff. Reacting to the joke, Smith went upstage and hit Chris Rock on the face.

Jokes can be expensive and there is an extent to which we can go when it comes to public utterances. I would prefer to believe that Chris did not see the other side of the joke and how it will affect Jada before he pulled it off, otherwise, he would have been more careful. I guess this is a special occurrence in the life of Chris as events like this seldom happens. Despite having such a successful career in comedy and acting, Chris couldn’t evade the challenges of unbridled statements.

Importance of Checking Through

Utterances made in anger, haste or not carefully thought out oftentimes carries element of overstated impressions or statements that one would later consider to be inappropriate. To avoid this, public office holders must check their utterances in private and public before presenting them.

A major reason for checking through utterances before presenting them to members of the public is the possible consequences of breakdown of law and order. In the case of the Niger Delta University’s July, 2021 school fees portal/uniform-dresscode protest, the riots started from the hall immediately after the VC’s utterances provoked the students to action. It was such a provocation that no one could have stopped. Although it was intended to push students to pay their fees on time as the VC had no intention of locking school fees portal ‘permanently’, the impression has been given and it did not seat well with the students’ community.

In the case of Mr. Joseph Omoro of the Federal University, Otuoke asking students to go and commit suicide and die, such utterances is very unlikely of a public official. These are important indicators why public officials/servants holding key offices have to undergo people and stress management skills before being appointed. This helps to minimize incidences that results to public commotion.

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