Group Managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, has cut short his trip to London as queues returned to the country’s filling stations. Baru was due to receive the Forbes Oil & Gas Man of the Year Award 2017, on Tuesday, but had to fly back to the country because of what he called…
We were chatting and one of us was a lawyer. He was repeating the usual rap that president Mohammed Buhari and the vice president Yemi Osinbajo are men of special integrity. I asked how? And he spoke of how the one was governor and never did this or that. And the other is a pastor with tales of how he never bought a new car, till vultures started to grow hairs on their bald patches.
On the face of it, these are well received myths. But they are all wrong. The point is clear. In a democracy no persons are taken as especially innocent or of extraordinary integrity. That would have been the negation of the very fundamentals of democracy.
Perhaps we as a people never lived historically or heroically to achieve democracy. It came to us as a strange inheritance? Thus our understanding of democracy is too legalistic, even for our own good. Yet democracy has political and logical essences that are not captured fully by law. One of those is the political fiction that men are equal. That is for democracy to hold, men must be considered the equals of one another. Operationally, no countries have ever fully achieved it, not even America. But the direction must be towards the practical equality of all men. And the fact of this equality it is well to state is not legal. It is a philosophical-political manufacture. Many of us may not recall that in the beginning of things, all men didn’t have equal votes. Equality of votes is a political achievement.
Now if all men are equal, none may be presumed more integrity possessing or innocent by virtue of his being. That is anti-democratic. Without stretching matters, it is this fundamental fact that led the great constructors of states, including the incomparable Machiavelli, to generate checks and balances, separation of powers etc.
The defining idea is not whether the elected man be of high or no integrity. The definitive idea is that he could at any hour become corrupt or co-opted. So in democratic dispensations men don’t lack integrity save as proven by the law. That is politically all men are assumed to be men of integrity. So integrity actually does not reside in the man. It is actually a social construct, not a personal bestowal or asset. The concept is harvested from the historical experience: of saints who turned monsters on their acquisition of unchecked powers.
Perhaps one has to agree that Barack Obama “If you had pictures of everything I had done when I was in high school, I probably wouldn’t have been president of the United states.’’ And he was not being modest. He was being truthful.
In part that is how America was built. It is on the magic of common men, common sinners, if you liked doing extraordinary things. And the fact of this comes from building a fecund political habitat. And if one successfully did, there will be no desperation in looking out for madmen or specialists to run shop. Just the next guy would do. Immediately he gets into office, he is held accountable in spite of himself. This is thanks to systems, not his personae. Anyway for working purposes, one can still take both Buhari and Osinbajo as no more, no less, than regular dudes. To add or subtract from this is to undermine a value system that is greater than them.
And what about that he asked. So I let him into the following facts. It is a matter of public record that Osinbajo worked as the special assistance expert, legal, to Bola Ajibola, SAN. That was while Ajibola was minister and attorney general, to the General Ibrahim Babangida dictatorship. Now according to most South-westerners, Babangida is the dictator who made corruption a Nigerian way of life. Whatever the truth of the conjecture, one fact is that Babangida was a hijacker of state powers. It therefore follows that Osinbajo was one of the brainboxes powering the Babangida theatre. That is while the mask bore the face of Ajibola, Osinbajo was the spirit that prompted the masquerade.
So Osinbajo is one of the tinkerers who stabilized and pushed forward the fortunes of dictatorships and the corruptions that go with them in Nigeria. And certainly he was adequately compensated for his ingenuity. And that reminds one of an old Arab saw. ‘’If you want to be best remunerated, work for a bandit or a dictator.’’ Osinbajo may not have taken a penny that belongs to another, but that is not our worry. The fact is that he put a leg in a game that is evil – dictatorship.
So it serves best we avoid special pleading and just let things be. That must lead us to the conclusion that everybody is as innocent as the other till the law, not the church, mosque or myth says otherwise. That is the only way we can sustain democracy. Otherwise we are going down the road of dictatorship by claiming that some men have integrity implanted in them.
Finally, it will be undemocratic to hold that brave and good men like us, who have neither done coups nor serviced dictatorships, are of lower integrity. In fact, if the come comes to become, those of us who are dictatorship and coup free, are the highest integrity persons. Yet that would be anti-democratic. And we counsel against it. In democracy only the law and voters hold the ace.
Are things this disorderly?
In the United States it is called the Presidency, as we do in Nigeria. In Britain they call it the Cabinet Office. By whatever name it goes, out there in the developed world one thing is common. It is that they are centres of administrative excellences. And the success or otherwise of these high offices, reflects the economic and political wellbeing of their societies. In fact, to have had a career history spanning the presidency or the cabinet office is to have been tagged one of your nation’s best and brightest.
But is Nigeria’s presidency matching the world’s best practice standards? With the weirdness of Alhaji Bashir Abubakar, the president’s Chief Security Officer, CSO, one begins to mourn for Nigeria. The CSO, power drunk, was basking in his powers. And he wanted Olalekan Adetayo, a Punch reporter who covers the presidency roasted alive.
The matter is not just about what happened. It is more about the impression the CSO gives that the presidency runs disorderly. Nothing else indicates this condition than the ways of the CSO and the justifications he is putting up.
The details are as follows. Because the presidency is the seat of immense powers it is operationally scheduled to work as smoothly as heavens run. So turfs are clearly delineated. And in matters of overlapping briefs there are inter-departmental units to smoothen nerves, rein in egos and have the processes go on. It ordinarily follows that the CSO has no schedules overlapping those of the media and the presidency.
In the first instance he is not trained to have competence in the area. And the presidency is not to be run by bleeding hearts or do-gooders. If it is not your brief you stay off. If you were concerned at all, you report, informally, to the relevant authorities and stop at that. You are not Atlas. The world or its sky does not rest on your shoulders.
That the CSO crossed administrative boundaries is bad enough. And for him to dispense and enforce extra-jurisdictional decrees is sign the presidency may be disorderly. And the matter has nothing to do with the poor CSO. It is just that no one expects the president’s media hand, Shehu Garba, say, to call up a security detail, sanction him on alleged derelictions. And as if that was not silly enough, impose administrative penalties, perhaps even withdraw his commission.
But to worsen matters the CSO begins to justify his ignorance via a Premium Times leak. And he belabours to teach journalists patriotisms, as if he himself knows what patriotism is. For instance, is the fact of the president of a country, 99.999% of his security chiefs, the Senate President, the Speaker, the CSO, the dean of presidency reporters, SSS literally hiring almost only northerners into its operations, etc., patriotism? And if the cattish CSO cannot remove the log in his eyes why is he bothered about the speck in the eyes of the innocent?
And the CSO won’t let matters lie. He begins to claim the Punch reporter apologised to him. As what? Who is he? Does he not know that it is obnoxious to summon an unarmed journalist to your armoured dungeon? Does that not amount to administrative kidnap, ransom and all? And next the CSO claimed he was apologized to. So what is that supposed to mean? You administratively kidnapped a man, you claim he apologized to you, sorry he paid up apology-ransom for his freedom? Only in Nigerian presidency. Nothing similar to this criminal absurdity would have happened in Israel, USA or Britain. God is great.
Our advice. Mr. CSO, this country is chaotic enough. Nearly all has fallen apart. The CSO should help his principal by keeping only within his turf. There is no point punching above his weight just because he carries Kalashnikovs. His job is not any more productive or important than those of his mates in the media or just anywhere else. Yes, not all of us need be soldiers. Even at that some of us once were. Yes, I fought in Biafra. And even if I have lost my epaulets, I still possess my scars. And I am very proud of those. Perhaps, this is not the place to recall a Pentagon saying. ‘’A General’s best epaulets are his scars.’’ Ahiazuwa.