Parable of a Conference


Appendix A:

Culled From The Guardian [Lagos, Nigeria] Of Sunday 26/12/93

WE are widely agreed that our Nigeria is pervasively corrupt from the highest authority to the meanest such as the gateman. The lower authority is answerable to the higher. Hence the buck of why Nigeria is corrupt ends, as of today, with the Provisional Ruling Council, and ultimately with its Chairman, general Sani Abacha, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The logical presumption is that corruption has grown and subsists in the land because the leaders in varying degrees both practised and abetted corruption.

 The public outcry for an end to corruption thus raises a fundamental question relative to the proposals for change. For instance, who can trust the leadership to resolve questions by honest thought and commitment at a national conference? High office, elective or otherwise, does not make men holy. The hood does not make the monk.

 If the recent National Assembly is any pointer, will not a national conference be a stock exchange of ‘419 traders who will have been licensed through purchased election results? In other words, the credibility of the assemblage at the conference is the first real problem to be tackled before other questions can be determined and solved.

 Chief Obafemi Awolowo (not a saint himself) had asked the serious question Quis custos custodiet? before the 1983 federal and governorship elections. But Alhaji Shehu Shagari ridiculed him when he quipped whether Chief Awolowo was still quoting Latin at that time and day. Latin may be a dead language. For good reason, it is not dead in our courts of justice. Even much more actively alive are the problems of probity, lip-service and non-existent patriotism among leaders to which the Chief was drawing attention. But with even greater levity, Shagari levied his broadside against Chief Awolowo and his Unity Party at the launching of the NPN campaign in Port Harcourt when he sang, “Three blind mice…” As he turned out, Shagari’s own NPN mice had their eyes too wide open. In a Jiffy, the national treasury fainted.

 Generals Buhari and Idiagbon came to the rescue. The tempo, of their Daura/Kwara march, not adorned with toothy smiles was too much. We were like Easop’s frogs who wanted a king. So Buhari fell and we have since had more than our fair share of poisoned smiles.

 Now those who know say, our answer lies in a national conference, not in the effective implementation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution 1979 with its Fundamental Objectives and Directive principles of State Policy. A rolling stone gathers no moss. How many constitutions every decade or less?

Jerry Gana’s renamed MAMSER is another red herring. He should scrap it forthwith and save our money. The idea of a MAMSER was Profeessor Cookey’s. What did he say in his Political Bureau Report? MAMSER did away with the pith and treated us to the bark by way of slogans as unconvincing as a sermon on chastity by a lecherous priest.

Some have identified justice as what Nigeria needs. Some think the means to this is a new Constitution or structure of government. This is to put the cart before the horse. Without honest purpose, a useful structure may not be achieved. And indeed, if it were achieved the questieons returns; where are the men to implement it justly rather than corruptly? The few good men will very likely be overwhelmed by the many corrupt who will soon find a sinning Iyorchia Ayu for persecution, after which it would be business as usual. Minority problems will remain unsolved simply because unity and nationhood demand that the ultimate minority is the individual for whom hardly a thought is spared today.

The issue we should be debating therefore is not a national sovereign conference by whatever name called, but how to eradicate corruption from the entire population as a condition precedent. The need for this should be accepted by the government not in the manner it is now being shown as if number one and his men are excluded and are the police or Archangel Michael to pursue other with the sword. The should quite distinct from their routine oath of office, publicly and individually declare through the media that they abhor and abjure corruption, and that they give free rein to the public to publish their corrupt deeds, if any, past and present as part of their leadership drive towards a chastened Nigeria. Those who do not fill the bill should step aside with honour in dishonour.

When the crusade against corruption has been established, say within three months, in the nation’s consciousness, as the ideology and credo of all government institutions viz. the Military, the Police, the Electoral Commission, the NNPC, Customs & Excise, NITEL, NEPA, the Banks etc. With every one in the nation marshalled to take his cue from the government by strictlly enforced reformation, we should become sober enough to be entrusted, even if doubtfully, with the patriotic revival of the nation through a Sovereign National Conference. The aim is to create a climate in which probity is endemic rather than corruption as at present.

We cannot remain immersed in the present mire and pretend to be cleaning the nation. New committees are not required to investigate afresh what has been investigated already at great expense. Instead, Professor Cookey should be summoned to set up MAMSER of the character he had recommended to Babangida to make every dick and harry in the nation aware that the leaders have renounced corruption by word and deed and all are enjoined willy-nilly to toe the line be personally upright and be an equal partner in policing others. We shall then not have the moral but untutored to clog the National Conference to discuss and write our Constitution. Conversely, we shall have the tutored and technically qualified but hitherto without morality to be reformed to debate and write us a reliable Constitution in the true interest of the country, not in the self-serving interest of their private thieving agenda.


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