By: Deji Yesufu
I received a call from a friend yesterday. Someone I had referred to him for employment, whom he had trained and had worked for him for three years, had left work abruptly after he was paid his September salary. The normal thing was to have at least given his employer a month’s notice so that adequate replacement could be sourced. The gentleman vanished and the company must find a replacement for him in the middle of production. I apologized to my friend and I explained to him that I would no longer be putting my name and reputation on the line to secure jobs for Nigerians; my friend replied by saying that we cannot cease to do the right thing, despite people taking advantage of us. I agreed with him, except that I am a lot wiser in dealing with people now. It is not enough that you come crying to me that you need a job; I want to know more about you; I want to know whether you have a modicum of integrity and some commitment to some life principles that will engender loyalty on your part when the chips are down. It is this incident that has led me to think more about what loyalty consists of.
It was Babatunde Raji Fashola, former Lagos State governor, who remarked “May your loyalty not be tested”. He made this statement as he stood before the Nigerian Senate in 2015 after he had been nominated by former President Buhari for ministerial appointment, and as he underwent the usual senate screening for ministers. The senators had asked Fashola a question that bordered on his relationship with both Bola Tinubu, his political benefactor, and Buhari, his present employer. Fashola, seeking to take a middle line, so as not to tarnish his relationship with the two political heavyweights, told the senators in veiled terms that he would not want to enter into the nitty-gritty of the political machinations between Buhari and Tinubu. He would rather stay in the middle and do his job; the question before him was testing whom he was supposed to be loyal to. One can understand Fashola’s vacillation; it had a lot to do with the political climate of that time. The problem is not with our loyalty being tested; the problem is with people switching loyalty based essentially on pecuniary reasons alone. I want to argue in this essay that money should be the last reason for anyone to be loyal to a course. Rather, proven principles of life should inform our loyalty.
The reason why children are loyal to their parents is because most children observe the love and sacrifices those parents make for them when they are young, and it makes sense for them to seek to reciprocate the same to their parents when they are older. For us Christians, we take our commitment to parents a step further: we honour our parents by being loyal to them. A husband and a wife are loyal and committed to one another because of a marriage covenant. An employee is loyal to his employer because he understands that the wages he receives pay his bills. He wants to do everything to better the lot of the place where he works because if the company prospers, he will be in a position to have better wages. Church members are loyal to the church and its leadership because the Bible commands them to do so. Their commitment to the church must be a lot more than the physical benefits they get from the church; it is even more than the spiritual benefits they are getting. A commitment to a local church is a commitment to Jesus Christ and because one is loyal to the Lord, you must be loyal to his body. There are times while belonging to a local church, you do not get that so-called “edification”; but you remain because your presence in the assembly is service to the Master. God is faithful to ensure that whatever may be hindering the edification is removed. If, however, you leave, you will not be part of the system when God brings about a change.
We must drum the matter of loyalty to ourselves because life is in seasons. The biblical admonition states it this way: today you may be the one supplying my want, tomorrow I will be the one meeting your needs. How we treat each other in the days of our needs is a test of how loyal we all can be. And while loyalty can be initiated by some physical gains that one can earn, it must not continue like this. Our loyalty to a person or system must be founded upon stated principles. If anything were to affect those principles, then we leave – but never because of some gain we seek to get out of the system. Pastor Tunde Bakare tells the story of how he left the chambers of the late Gani Fawhemhi. He had risen in Gani’s employment to become one of his leading lawyers. One day, he learnt that Gani was going to take a second wife. Bakare told his boss that if he did it, he would leave. Gani married the second woman and Bakare left. The principle here is that life demands that one stick with those who were with us when we were down and out. If you are someone who easily ditches the boat the moment the grass looks greener on the other side, you are not a dependable person. Gani’s first wife deserved to remain the only wife – at least as far as the Christian faith was concerned. Gani was a Muslim and did not need to stick with such a principle. Bakare is a Christian and he not only upholds such a high standard for himself, he feels that even his close associates at work should have it too. If not, they are not worth staying with.
Someone said that you have not yet begun to pastor until you have members whom you will serve wholeheartedly, seek to meet their needs, and then they suddenly leave the church because they were offended by just one statement you made. While it is painful for the minister to see this happen, one should be thankful to be rid of such immature individuals. The mature person in spirit is the loyal person. Loyalty does not have to be towards an individual alone; loyalty is better towards a system, a confession, or a principle. When such systems or principles are time-tested, one can be sure that one loyalty is worth it. You may not get much out of it now, but in time your profiting will be obvious to all. Every leader of a system needs loyal people around him. A company head needs loyal employees. A pastor needs loyal members (not attending one church and going to another church for some spiritual fill-up). A nation’s leader needs loyal citizens.
My friend, whose employee left abruptly, told me that to encourage loyalty to the company he ensures that workers who give him a month’s notice are given two months’ salary when leaving. Whatever allowance or bonuses owed them will be paid and they will remain a friend of the company forever. Such people will also be given priority if they wish to return to work in that company. But those who leave unceremoniously are declared persona non grata. They will simply never be trusted within the company and no one will do business with them from that company again. A long time ago, I developed the principle of leaving anything I meet better than I met it. The reason is that life is structured in such a way that things almost always come around: you will encounter that boss you left unceremoniously and you will be dodging him.
A lot of things in this life do not require high-sounding spirituality to do them. They are just basic common sense. If a system has benefitted you, the least you can do is to be loyal to that system both when you are within it and after you have left. It is the reason footballers, who once played for a club, never celebrate after scoring against that club. The bane of the Nigerian nation is that the deep poverty that is engrained within our national psyche has left most of her citizens seeking survival first in all their endeavours. Money informs much of the decisions we make in this country. We forget there are many things in life more important than money. One of them is basic loyalty.