By Prof Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

There are times when one’s workplace is akin to a war front. That is, there are always battles to be fought, won or lost. With each loss or victory, enemies are created. It does not matter that the victor was right. Once he wins a battle, he creates enemies. And makes a few friends perhaps. Most of the battles are not necessary. They are often petty. Divisive. Deadly. They are not always strictly in the line of duty. They are not on principles such as what suits the organization best or what approach would be less challenging for the group. The battles emanate from petty jealousy, self-aggrandizement, inflated ego, and envy. Such battles affect both men and women. They are often deadly. They sometimes result in backbiting, planting evil stories, spreading false rumours, backstabbing, gossiping to the Chief Executive, and outright lies against persons. In African countries, sometimes the use of juju and other diabolic means such as enchantment and witchcraft are not ruled out. Ask pastors what their ears hear from adherents!

Sadly, it is not only in workplaces that envy exists. It exists in any group of persons assembled or related for any cause- familial, political, religious or commercial. Sometimes, in a church or mosque, petty jealousy snowballs into a conflagration and people change the location of worship. A pastor or a member becomes casualty sometimes. Faith is undermined. When petty jealousy creeps into church administration, God and His benevolent guiding principles are forgotten by the combatants- they fight to finish. In a family, the man who is the only successful person in life needs divine help to save him from wicked arrows from siblings or cousins. Have you witnessed some deadly intra-family fights resulting from jealousy and greed and small-mindedness? Sometimes it is so bad that even in death enmity continues! Truly, Jesus Christ, the Righteous declared: a man’s foes shall be they of his own household!

Sometimes envy and petty jealousy also creep into relationships among friends. It is often said that twenty friends cannot play together for twenty years! This saying becomes meaningful when you see a friend gradually become an enemy through word and deed. Except you are perceptive, you may not realize the slide or degeneration or transmutation in time. It slips through snippets of statements attributed to supposed friends which filter into your ears through third parties. For example, it was at the wedding ceremony of my son that I realized that one of such fellows, a crafty, wily devil, was a friend no more! Other manifestations followed. But it’s better that one knows his enemies, what the Pentecostals call ‘friendly enemies’ and decide on how to relate with them!

Envy of one for the other is as old as man on earth. It accounts for the first recorded murder on earth if the Bible is our guide. Cain killed his brother Abel. Abel, we are told, had offered a better sacrifice than that of Abel. God accepted Abel’s. Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because it was ill-conceived. In the Abel-Cain case, there was sibling rivalry. And as we know, sibling rivalry still exists in families across the world. It manifests in different ways especially when one or some are more successful in life than others. It is in poor families. It is in rich families. Some siblings have sworn never to set eyes on each other forever! Can you beat that? Children from the same womb? Indeed, that desire to maim, destroy or kill a rival is still very much with man.

In the office, it gets worse as people rise in their career. The top is usually slim. In an organization only one person gets the top job. But before you get there, there are battles. There are many people who could get the plum job. Sometimes, the set criteria point in the direction of one person. In Nigeria, if that person is not from the favoured group, there is no guarantee that they would get the job. As a result, there is intense jostling. For example, where there are five deputy directors, seniority is decided by date of first engagement or promotion. The person who is second in line may have vaulting ambition and may resort to elimination means to clear the path for himself. This could be dangerous. There have been too many mysterious and sudden deaths when there is a struggle for a position.

Sometimes envy arises not from what a target had done or said. It arises from the evil heart of the other man. It is involuntary sometimes. Why you? Why not me? They seem to ask no one in particular. It can also be planned and schemed over a period of time. If we remember that not everyone is happy with our success in life, perhaps we would be more circumspect in revealing plans to so-called associates and friends. In some instances, small-minded friends or associates would simply be interested in embarrassing or maiming you once they think or perceive or see that you are ahead socially and financially. Nollywood Films often depict aspects of envy and jealousy among friends, families and associates. Although often presented in a melodramatic style, the incident of a successful man dying in mysterious circumstances after extended family meetings or a man falling ill just when it is time to climb the final step of the ladder is as common as it is as scary in typical African settings. This by way no way suggest that there are no good friends!

As much as possible, one must be conscious of people around them as they make career growth. Too much disclosure could be deadly. Plans should be kept to oneself. Sharing food or drinking office tea are opportunities for some wicked actions. Our people say that food that has been ingested is difficult to vomit. So, as much as possible, rising persons should be careful of their drinks and food. In extreme cases, rivals, known and unknown, resort to physical elimination. For this reason, travel plans should be kept close to the chest. Above all, prayers of protection are essential in a country as ours in which God is worshipped on Sundays and ignored during the week by millions. When a workplace or church environment becomes toxic, if we can let us move to another branch. If it is in church of course there are laid down principles about inviting the person for a discussion, getting a third party involved and treating the person like a gentile. But a change of environment or avoiding proximity is a practical way of reducing danger.

The final point to be made is that nemesis awaits anyone who schemes evil against an innocent person, whether at the workplace or in the family, in church, mosque or business premises. Sadly, workers in the universities, including some professors, are not excluded from this penchant for destroying people through all kinds of evil schemes, means and shenanigans. Indeed, one professor was once reported to have said to a colleague during a squabble: ‘remember that you have only one child!

In all of this, we all must remember Emerson’s observation, made popular by Thriller Writer James Hadley Chase, that ‘nemesis, is that recoil of nature, never to be guided against, that ever surprises the most wary transgressor! Anybody who destroys another will pay for it ultimately.

PROFESSOR HOPE EHGHAGHA write from the University of Lagos