One of the biggest problems in Nigeria is that many powerful people mistake themselves for the state. In the hands of leaders like Saraki, Nigeria will remain unfortunate unless Nigerians rise against religious, ethnic and monetary considerations when electing public office holders.
Things happen very fast when the Nigerian political or business elite are threatened. Last week, the Senate amended the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act (CCB/CCT Act) and tinkered with Section 18(1) & (2) of the existing law by transferring the president’s regulatory power over the bureau and tribunal to the National Assembly. In our system of government, political representation laws are supposed to be enacted for the common good not to favour one man or a privileged few. Political ethics determine how we live and organise ourselves through a collegial legislature that is popularly elected. Our country gives us our laws. We expect those who represents us to have a personal morality that seeks the common good. We did not elect them to create laws that they know to be harmful to the common good because their personal or partisan interests are threatened.
The amended Act, substituted “President” with the “National Assembly” in section 18(2). They whittled the president’s power on appointment of the tribunal chairman and members by subjecting their appointments to confirmation by the Senate. With the passage, CCB and CCT heads will now be reporting to the National Assembly. If the president signs the amendment into law, the CCB will henceforth inform a defaulter before going to CCT. Another major amendment to the Act resolves non-compliance or breaches of the provisions between the CCB and the defaulter without going to the tribunal. Without a shred of doubt, this act makes the Saraki-led Eighth Senate the rubber stamp of corruption. With this amendment, the law of a country was amended as it seemed to threaten the fortunes of a single man and his corrupt band.
The Saraki-led Senate has violated the established unity of ethics based on dimensions of personal and political morality. It is a pity that they lack the knowledge and sufficient understanding that it is impossible for any behaviour to have double moral standards. There can be no separate moral standard for personal ethics and another for political ethics. Stealing is illegal for individuals and it cannot be legal because a government steals. Saraki was governor in Kwara State and was alleged to have stolen massively from the public purse! He is also said to have organised the stealing and made it look like he was doing it for government. Laws are made with personal and political ethics in mind. When examined, personal and political ethics have a close relationship with one another because the duties of justice subject the person to the the laws of the state. That is why just laws promote personal moral obligation, while unjust laws can only breed anarchy.
The question we need to ask is this: How can the Senate create a law that gives approval to ethically negative personal behaviour? Until the moral and ethically challenged Eighth Senate was inaugurated, I had belived that the political society is ordered toward the good of the people. The CCB amendment stands logic on its head and violates the established rule that political ethics depends on personal ethics. It runs foul of the Nigerian constitution. We cannot have a law that approves an ethically negative personal behaviour. We cannot afford a law that prohibits an ethically mandatory personal behaviour. We cannot allow corruption to govern our lives by having a law that mandates a behaviour that incurs moral guilt.
It is painful seeing how Bishop Kukah has devalued himself through the Jonathan years till date by becoming openly partisan and graduating to become a staunch supporter of corruption. His actions reminds us why the Church underwent reformation because the clergy sold the Catholic Church short by their corrupt practices.
False declaration of asset is unacceptable! It accessorises stealing. It is a behaviour that should not be glamorised. It must be prohibited and punished by the state. False declaration of asset promotes anticipatory stealing and consolidates consummatory stealing. Stealing, attempts to hide it and lying, by any definition, are negative behaviours from the perspective of personal ethics and they are detrimental to the common good. There is no reason to advise tolerance by calling the person to amend his declaration when he was mentally competent when he made the declaration and it wasn’t done on his behalf.
One of the biggest problems in Nigeria is that many powerful people mistake themselves for the state. In the hands of leaders like Saraki, Nigeria will remain unfortunate unless Nigerians rise against religious, ethnic and monetary considerations when electing public office holders. In concrete terms, the political ethics that is appropriate to Nigeria’s circumstances and characteristics must cater to the common political good. We must give form and organisation to Nigeria with our laws and sound social norms. Unless we adopt the formal object of political ethics, we will continue to face significant problems within the polity. Nigeria will encounter more political problems that cannot be subject to civil laws because they are unjust, leaving only political solutions on the table. Unfortunately, political solutions often support arguments with personal ethics where personal interests prevail. Political solutions turn good people away from politics and undermines the development of genuine ethical-political competency among the citizens.
While writing this, news filtered in that the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah, visited the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in Abuja to see Femi Fani-Kayode, Musiliu Obanikoro and Reuben Abati. It is painful seeing how Bishop Kukah has devalued himself through the Jonathan years till date by becoming openly partisan and graduating to become a staunch supporter of corruption. His actions reminds us why the Church underwent reformation because the clergy sold the Catholic Church short by their corrupt practices. What message is Bishop Kukah sending to Catholic faithfuls and Christians in Nigeria? That it is ok to steal and misappropriate funds? The acts of Femi Fani-Kayode, Musiliu Obanikoro and Reuben Abati are acts of corruption, social injustice and economic sabotage. Corruption and social injustice in Nigeria has created a class of rich and poor leading to high incidents of deprivation. What happens to social justice and equality in the treatment of the poor and the rich? Has Bishop Kukah visited those in prison awaiting trial for petty offenses and misdemeanours? In these interesting times, he who pays the big tithes dictates to the church.
Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for the PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo