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I thought I was doing the right thing – VP UNIUYO SUG who appointed 18 special assistants

Blessing Jaja, a final year student, Communication Arts Department, University of Uyo caused a stir on the social media when she appointed 18 special advisers soon after she was sworn in as the vice president of the institution’s Students Union Government. In this interview with Aniefiok Udonquak, she explained what went through her mind while making the appointments and the lesson she has learnt from the flurry of criticisms that greeted her action. Excerpts:

Your recent appointment of 18 SAs has caused a lot of controversy and uproar on the social media. Were you actually following what the politicians are doing in making the appointment?

I don’t really understand when you say I followed what the politicians are doing, but then, I was actually doing what I felt was right. Those 18 people were people who worked closely with me even before the elections, during the elections, and after the elections. Most of them contributed their funds for me, printed flyers, and done publicity for free. I had lots of contributions and help from them. So, I kept them as my close friends, and people I could talk to anytime. This politics here in school, you cannot actually get people to yourself without using the payback policy, but these are people who put in so much effort without being paid for it to make sure that I’m in office. I just felt okay, that I can keep them not necessarily a form of compensation, but still keep them as teammates that I can work together with to achieve a whole lot.

These appointees are not entitled to any form of payment or salary. They are actually working for free. Most times, I can call upon them to do a particular task, and it will be done without seeking for payment.

Did you discuss this with the SUG president before making the appointment?

Yes, before the inauguration, we had a meeting, and I asked how many heads he wants to have, and he mentioned that he has about 30 of them as at then, but he will see how he can adjust it. I told him okay, that I have 18 already. So, on the day of the inauguration, his list of heads was about 28, so I was like, I can go ahead with the number I had.

You have two SAs on media, and a chief of staff; what were you going to do with two SAs on media and a Chief Press Secretary?

We have about 300, 000 students and above; so, I was looking at a situation where I can reach out to students on the three campuses which include the town campus, annex, and the permanent site. So, I have one there at the permanent site, and I have one at the town campus, because like the project I have coming up, we need them to go to the hostels to inform the students.

Many people believe that the university should be the signpost for good governance, and good leadership in the country, so if this happens in the university, SUG vice president appointing 18 SAs, the country is completely lost, no redemption. What do you think?

I really do not understand when they say, the country is completely lost, I feel you should always keep your supporters close even when you have achieved what you actually wanted. Instead of short-changing them, you could still work with these persons who brought in contributions, and ideas. They really played core roles; so, I felt it will look so bad to keep them aside, maybe, I’m wrong to have thought that I should keep working with these people. So, I’m open for correction, though it seems right to me as a way to show them that I still care about them even when I’m in office.

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Are they going to be paid in terms of monthly salary?

No. There is no payment attached. It is actually free. It is also serving as a platform for them to have a phase in the school, and add their quota which will make them relevant in the school society.

How are people within the school community reacting to this, starting from the Department to the Students’ Affairs, and others?

The school generally, when a student is appointed they tend to see them as being deemed fit, they tend to have that respect from the people, they see them deem fit. The school called me, and I actually apologised because I have dragged my school out to the space for a bad impression, and I wish to see more ways to handle this situation to bring a good name to the school.

Do you intend to reduce the number of the appointees?

I don’t intend to reduce the number of appointees. Formally, I have deleted the post. So, I’m making a rejoinder which will focus on making apology to my school for dragging it into the space for a bad impression. I wish to correct the impression that it is not copying from politicians outside, but it is a way of appreciating people who stood by me, and I believe we could achieve more together. I’m going to make it clear that there is no form of payment of any kind because I believe that’s what people really have issues with. They are just working for free, whether from the union’s purse or my personal purse, there’s no form of payment or reward, I will make that very clear. Also apologise to my school, the public at large.

Do you see the school management coming hard on you, maybe to the extent of asking you to resign?

No actually. In my school, is somewhat normal for them to appoint heads, but the mistake I made was to use my letterhead to publish these names, took it to social media. I would have just mentioned their names, and allow them work. So, the school is angry at the fact that I took it to the online space, but they were aware that I had people working for me. While they are trying to point out my wrongs, they are also correcting me at the same vain. I mean it is my school.

What about your parents’ reactions to this?

That’s my family though; when my mother heard of it as someone that has been there from the pre-elections time, praying, and giving me all her support. She just asked that I should be calm, and handle things right.

What lesson have you learnt?

This is the first time I have received a hit in the political office, truth is I tried to maintain as much calmness as I could to give detailed explanations to all the media houses that actually called. So, I have learnt to be very calm while attending to issues that might hit me very hard. I have learnt to always ask questions before doing things because if I had done so, I wouldn’t have made that mistake.

So, you agree that it was a mistake?

Yes.

After your programme here, what do you intend to pursue as a career?

I want to go into photojournalism. I have loved photography. I don’t feel this is going to stop my carrier in any way. Why other people are saying I did wrong, some actually commend me for appreciating my teammates. So, I feel some still have good opinions about it; so, no one is above mistake. So, I’m still fine, and ready to move on.

Has there been any reaction from your department?

Yes, most of my lecturers are not really interested in politics, but a few others who are, are quite disappointed. So, they called, and advised me on what to do, after the scolding.

Was there no other way to appreciate your top 18, other than bringing them forth to the public space as newly appointed SAs?

First, it was a platform to say I’m grateful before any other thing. As opportunities come, I could still find more ways to appreciate them as we go.

So, it was a way of rewarding them for supporting you?

As I said, I am making a rejoinder to explain issues and a kind of a quit to the appointment letter. It doesn’t mean an appointment does not exist. But it means, it doesn’t exist in my letterhead, does not exist to the public, does not exist in any official form, but it means that this people are always there to work with me.

Does that mean you are going to cancel the appointment?

Probably, I can say we have cancelled it officially to the public, and in my letterhead, so they are now existing as my appointees and teammates.

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