1. A Matter of Principle

A quick study and a brilliant scholar, he had joined the colonial development organisation straight from the university. In quick time, his abundant talents were recognised and he was being deployed to relieve regional managers whilst technically still in training. Still in his late twenties, he had even been given delicate diplomatic assignments that involved meeting with and influencing top regional political leaders. His already princely remuneration was growing in tandem with his fast tracked trajectory to the top. And this was his first “permanent”, substantive posting.


Gently, he closed the General Manager’s door behind him and stood outside the door for what must have seemed an eternity. His young, under-thirtyish face revealed that he was indeed very pained. The cool indifference to his suggestion had greatly perturbed him.


The way he saw it, it was not only an obvious logical suggestion, it was very beneficial to the company and also to the customer base and therefore to society at large. A building society that extended housing loans to its customers but did not mobilise savings from the same customer base was operating an unbalanced, self-restrictive and therefore, ultimately unsustainable business model. At the very least, he expected that his suggestion would be assessed on its own merits, rather than being dismissed with casual contempt. His next step was as clear as day to him.


He tendered his resignation and quit the organisation, turning down all serious attempts to get him to reverse his decision.


***

His academic progress was swift. In no time at all, he gained admission into Government Middle School, Warri. For the first time, he had to live away from home. There, he acquired a regime of discipline, intellectualism, moral integrity, and sportsmanship.

He revered the Principal, the legendary Villiers B. V. Powell, a Cambridge graduate and a committed educator, who ensured his students conformed to the highest standards, and constantly demanded excellence from him and the other students. He never wanted to disappoint the Principal.


But he did. Once.


When he was being sworn in as the School Library Prefect, he was asked by the Principal, “Do you promise to serve diligently as a school prefect?”

“I do promise to serve”, he replied.


Too late. The word ‘serve’ had rolled out as ‘sarve’ when he pronounced it.


The Principal broke down in tears, lamenting his poor diction.


He resolved from then on to master the English Language, and perfect his diction. He would never, ever, make a mistake like this one again.