Despising honour for honours
IT was the mercurial mind of the wordsmith, Abraham Lincoln that churned out the aphorism: Honour is better than honours. This timeless word of the 16th President of the USA bears greater relevance in Nigeria of today than in the United States of his time, where it was uttered. Perhaps, unlike the America of the era, ours is a nation with vanishing values, inordinate quest for success at the expense of honour and merit. Cheating is introduced to children quite early through examination malpractice, funded by parents/guardians and encouraged by school proprietors/tutorial operators (as a result, WAEC exams became a money-spinning venture for supervisors and other relevant officials of the West African Examinations Council); clerics inspire greed and covetousness in the name of prosperity message, which promotes get-rich-quick mentality and contempt for values; monarchs celebrate indicted/ fraudulent public officers and dubious business men; above all, politicians never abide by the rules of competitive engagement or accept defeat. Therefore, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and its predecessors, is subject to executive manipulation at both state and federal levels. Given that when the head is sick other parts of the body ail, failure of the religious and political class has etched the cancer of corruption on the societal fabric. The magnitude of impunity driven by moral depravity soon became a matter of competition between one administration and the other. Or, what do you expect in a nation where there’s an unwritten law that the head of state should never be held accountable.
Given such a fertile ground, the desperation for public office since 1999 has made nonsense of Lincoln’s time-tested definition of democracy as, government of the people for the people, by the people. In our clime, politicians form themselves into cults, which cut across geo-political zones and ethno-religious lines, for self-perpetuation and personal aggrandisement. Impoverished masses and unemployed youths are used as political fodders to advance the ungodly agenda of party chieftains: to entrench themselves, their children and acolytes in positions of power at the expense of merit and fair play. This has been our unflattering experience in the 16 years when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) maintained a stranglehold on power, with the active connivance of INEC (or its variants) which has proved itself a veritable ally in election-rigging. Again, given the widespread poverty and winner-takes-all philosophy of Nigerian politics, the pecuniary appeal before and during elections is usually so strong and irresistible. As a result, election results rarely reflect the opinion of the electorate. Once again, the recent Supreme Court verdict on governorship elections, usually celebrated by beneficiaries and their goons, has confirmed that ‘might is right’. After all, he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
Aside the high-level propaganda, pundits agree that the historic change occasioned by the March 28, 2015 poll could not be entirely attributed to masses’ verdict. Many believe the primary reason was the determination of the hegemonists to return power to the North. Next, was disenchantment with the poor performance and ineptitude of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the Southwest? Nevertheless, anyone who followed the brilliant exposes on INEC in the Sunday Vanguard, before the election proper, would have accurately predicted the magical outcome of the presidential poll in northern states.
However, despite the Machiavellian acquisitive tendency of past military and civilian leaders, public office was made very attractive by framers of the 1999 Constitution. Consider billions of naira security votes for the President and State Governors covered by immunity, plus freedom to spend without appropriation; self-regulating National Assembly that adjusts budgets to suit members’ pecuniary expectations; LGAs /State Assemblies that are extensions of governors’ lodge. Above all, we have a Bench and Bar that are lenient with men of power and material wealth, hence high-ranking public officials secure perpetual injunctions from being probed, or a court leave to travel overseas “for treatment “as soon as one is indicted or suspects the possibility of probe. In such a corruption-compliant polity, why would contests not be a do-or-die affair? Why would a governor who was smuggled into office through rigging and complicity of INEC officials, not spend the state’s last kobo on litigation to remain in office? Since post-election judicial pronouncements favour victories won by hook or crook, why bother about honour? And, by the way, which Senior Advocate of Nigeria or lawyer, after studying a brief, can sincerely tell a politician-client: you don’t have a case!
Surrounded by such a cloud of corrupt and dishonest influences, who will teach our children that honour is better than honours? Parents, teachers, clerics, politicians, judges and lawyers, among other social groups, should provide the answer to these questions by acting right rather than preaching what’s wrong or right.
Nwafo can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
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