ELIZABETH Akande was singled out as ‘Heroine of Democracy’ by The Sun Man of the Year Awards organized by Sun Publishing Limited. Akande, a part-time staffer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was paid N15,000 monthly but rejected a bribe of N500,000 from politicians during the April governorship elections in Oyo State. As a result she was beaten to stupor which landed her in the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Ibadan. Few days ago, the agony turned into booty, as she was rewarded with N7,850,000, as given by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, pledged N5 million, the wife of the executive governor of Akwa Ibom, Mrs. Ekaette Unoma Akpabio promised her N2 million, the executive chairman of Chisco Nigeria Transport Ltd., Mr. Chidi Anyaegbu, N500,000 while Sun Newspaper awarded her N350,000.
In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, the woman gave an expose of the events on the election day and how she had lived with it.
How do you feel on a day like this?
I feel excited but at the same time I am surprised that I was awarded a huge cash price for doing my job. So, I feel good and I thank God for putting me amongst those given The Sun Award and also the financial benefits. May God in His infinite mercies bless their own labour too and enrich them in multiple folds.
Did you imagine something like this will happen the day you rejected the N500,000 bribe?
No, I never imagined a day like this, I was just doing my job as an officer assigned to that polling unit. It was one of the things we were told when we underwent a training before the elections. We were taught how to handle issues like this during elections. I was basically sticking to the directive, it’s all about justice and righteousness. If I had collected the N500,000 offered that day, I am sure my conscience would prick me till I die. I don’t want to be found wanting like that. So, I didn’t even consider the offer and I am happy for it today. It is related to the saying that he who does one good, has multiple good waiting for him in the closest future. It was an act that I carried out as a law enforcement officer, see how God has blessed me for that today.
How did you feel when people attacked you for doing the right thing?
I felt quite bad, I felt very powerless because I didn’t expect that the result of being steadfast would be battery. I was slapped by two men who approached me with five packets of N1,000 denomination which they said was N500,000, but I refused, soon after some others joined them in beating me with sticks. Eventually, the whole situation turned into a commotion and the election in that polling unit was disrupted by the palaver. I was taken to a private clinic, Adeoye Hospital at Ekotedo. Afterwards, I was threatened by phone calls. These anonymous calls kept on coming, for months. I had to vacate my residence for fear of fresh attacks. Since the event, I really felt bad that people could unleash this type of terror on me for standing upright. They actually knew I was powerless and they took advantage of me.
Why did you reject the bribe?
Nothing specially made me to refuse the bribe than the fact that it was not supposed to be. I was not supposed to collect any money from anybody in the polling unit. So, when they offered me the money in order to allow a dubious INEC official who brought in a black bag filled with thumb printed ballot papers to carry on his nefarious activities unabated, I had no option than to stand for what is right. They felt they could easily charm me with money, but they were surprised. At first, people around condemn the dubious INEC official but as soon as those thugs came around to beat me up, the whole place turned rowdy and people scampered for safety. They left me, they were still beating me while I was on the floor, they fled as soon as they heard the siren of police blaring from afar and I was rushed to the hospital as I earlier stated. Though I didn’t wish them to have beaten me up, but I am very happy I didn’t allow them succeed. Though my salary is as low as N15,000, I’m just glad that the whole plan to influence me with huge money did not work. They felt because I am a woman I can easily fall prey to them or even feel intimidated but I wasn’t and I am happy for that.
How has the Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) reacted to your situation?
The NSCDC has promised me full employment, they have also given me N100,000 and a Blackberry phone. The N100,000 is meant to cover the medical bills, while the phone is a replacement for the damaged one. There are even some of my phones which I can’t use again because of calls I was receiving from people threatening me and even those calls from unknown people. They might just call to praise you but you can’t confirm their genuineness. The most important thing to me now is to clinch the job. I want to urge the NSCDC authority to consider me.
How did your family react to the whole event?
They were sad that I was beaten up for doing my job, they were very supportive at the initial stage but later when nothing happened concerning my job, some of my children started rebuking me for not collecting the N500,000. I know it might be as a result of the way they felt the NSCDC is treating the matter, but I used to calm them, and I have no regrets for what I did. There was no way I could take such dirty money. Money can only serve a particular purpose, but it doesn’t purify your conscience. I would really appreciate if they can give me the job and I am happy to be part of NSCDC.
What is your advise to other officials who find themselves in the same situation?
They should be straight forward with whatever they do, you might not get your reward immediately but somewhere, some day, God would allow your reward to supersede the graft offered to you. We need to keep the image of the law enforcement agency so that people can have faith in us. We might even get attacked during the course of our duty, it shouldn’t deter us from doing what is right. During elections, I will advise that more security personnel should be attached to each polling unit to beef up the security situation there. Then INEC too has a responsibility to ensure that those they assign responsibilities should not be people that can easily fall prey to monetary inducement because that can mar any election or even lead to violence, as was seen in my own case.
Tell us about your husband and children.
My husband retired as an Assistant Chief Technical Officer from the Oyo State civil service. His name is Oladiji Akande. We have five children, Kola, Morakinyo, Olaitan, Ola, Fiyinfoluwa. Kola is the one who has been able to further his education beyond secondary school. He is a student of the University of Ibadan and has been managing himself through school.
- March 06, 2012