By Femi Oyeyemi
Courage is not absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.” – Aristotle
As a student of Behavioral Sciences, I am aware that human beings react to things differently. I have learnt to modify my expectations from human beings because there are no certain and incontrovertible variables with which you can measure them or expectations from them.
Anything is possible when you deal with human beings and anything could happen. As a student of social sciences, I have also learnt that every society has certain rules and guidelines within which they expect their citizens to live and conduct their affairs. To this extent certain behaviors are deemed within such a society as acceptable and why some are deemed as not acceptable. Those who behave outside the stream of what society deems acceptable are considered non-conformists and a lot of negative adjectives are used to describe them.
As a student of politics and political science, I know that acceptable social science concepts for the administration of any particular polity are based on the idea of “social contract” between the rulers and the ruled. The purpose of this contract is to ensure “order” within the society by making everyone to subscribe to the agreed rules by surrendering certain individual rights for collective peace, progress and prosperity.
Thomas Hobbes, Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Jean Jack Rousseau, Aristotle, John Locke, Kant, Descartes, Diderot and several other philosophers have propounded several theories along this line to guide modern states on how best to do this. Since Nigeria is the subject matter, several scholars have propounded their own theories along this line too. But I am most fascinated by Obafemi Awolowo’s concept of man in relations to the factors of production within the framework of democratic socialism.
An adjunct to Awolowo’s concept is the idea of Rule of Law in modern societies to ensure that “all Animals are equal” and are treated the same. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a response to the blatant inequality before the law in an Europe just shaking off vestiges of feudalism as epitomized in divine rights of kings and the implications of such for social, economic and political instability for the polity. It has been a serious struggle to challenge the privileged within any society and bring them to justice when they break the law.
This is the issue with the privileged in Nigeria some of who are the real criminals within our society. They all preach peace every day without saying much for justice. This set of privileged in our society see themselves as George Orwell’s Napoleon who believes that “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” They loot our commonwealth and believe that they are entitled to do so. When they are challenged, they are always able to muster the temerity to frown at such. Their hang-ons are let out to create confusion and give the impression that they are popular. Where the critics remain consistent, they assassinate him or her and still get away with it because they believe they own the polity.
The last two to three years has been when Nigerians who have been living with corruption on daily basis have formed a majority opinion that the greatest threat to the survival of this country is corruption. President Mohammadu Buhari who has been deemed to be the “cleanest” of all those on our political landscape rode on the feelings to eradicate corruption to Aso Rock. President Buhari promised Nigerians to fight corruption. He promised to retrieve all our stolen money. He promised to set a good example by declaring his assets publicly, though he is yet to do that but he promised a deadline of 100 days in office. He promised that no corrupt person would serve in his cabinet. He promised to be fair, equitable, balance and sincere. He also promised not to witch-hunt anyone. Nigerians are anxiously looking forward to the delivery of these promises and more.
But the challenge here is that though Nigerians are clamouring for President Buhari to fight corruption, they are not sincere. Even, their insincerity borders on duplicity, hypocrisy and dishonesty. Nigerians only wanted their political enemies to be exposed and probed for corruption. Or they only want the enemies of their political godfathers to be exposed and probed for corruption. If it is someone they liked, they do not want President Buhari or the press/media to expose such a person. If it is someone they dislike, they would be shouting themselves hoarse as to why such person has to be exposed and probed.
As one’s experience has shown, when I criticized Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his supporters came after me and called me names. Some of them even threatened assassination. They were very upset that I criticized “a genius, master political strategist and the saviour of Nigeria.” They were so infuriated that some of the things they vomit were worse than that of a dog’s. They accused me of having been paid by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and wondered how soon I would finish the money that I have been paid.
When I criticized President Jonathan, his supporters were infuriated and came after me, calling me names. Almost all of them believed that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has paid me to criticize GEJ. Some of them were convinced without any evidence that Asiwaju Tinubu has paid me. When I complained about the brutalization of the people of Osun State workers by Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, what name was I not called? They believe that my position was influenced by the PDP and that I was a “hatchet man” for the PDP. Though, Aregbesola’s supporters never said that the PDP paid me when I was writing beautiful things about their man when I felt he was doing well!
When I took on the alleged “certified bank robber” Senator Bukola Saraki who manipulated the system and allegedly forged the rules to become the Senate President of Nigeria, all the Asiwaju Tinubu men were happy and praised me. Meanwhile all the supporters of Senator Saraki believed that Asiwaju Tinubu has paid me to write all the things I have written. They were so sure he has paid me millions, especially when I wrote the piece that some in the APC were betraying him. Rather than see issues and discuss them as they are, they always try to discredit the messenger with the hope of shifting focus from those real issues.
I have given the above examples to show that Nigerians have their minds and mentality corrupted. It has been so direly corrupted that they could not fathom a person who could be an equal opportunity critic and would call it as he sees it. The Nigerian mind is so corrupt to the extent that only corrupt opponents of those they like and admire could be exposed and be probed for corruption. How come some corrupt politicians ought to be given a break while we go after the others? Is everyone not supposed to be equal before the law? Does corruption have different definition depending on which party you belong? Or should corruption have different definition depending on your ethnic origin or religious beliefs? Shouldn’t corruption just be corruption no matter whose ox is gored?
One still remembers how former governor of Bayelsa State, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha dressed like a woman to escape justice in England but was welcomed by his people with drums, dance and songs! Then, there was the case of James Ibori, whom the EFCC could not arrest because he was being defended by over one thousand youths of his kinsmen who contended that he had only taken what belonged to his people. He was able to escape prosecution until he got to London where he is presently serving jail term.
During the last election, every crook that crossed over from the PDP into APC became an instant saint. Alleged rooks like Murtala Nyako, Rotimi Amaechi, Bukola Saraki, Rabiu Kwankwanso, Aminu Tambuwal and several others became instant saints. Now that Buhari is talking of fighting corruption, their supporters, foaming from all sides of their mouths, do not want other Nigerians to ask them to be probed. Now, they are talking of evidence, rule of law, fairness, lack of conviction in a court of law and whatever to shield the corrupt politicians they like. Shouldn’t this be the same standard for everyone regardless of their party affiliations, ethnic background or religious beliefs? This same set of people did not ask for all of the evidences when those not in their camp(s) were being asked to be probed so that the truth could be known to Nigerians.
If the war against corruption must succeed, Nigerian must allow equity, balance and fairness in it. Everyone against whom evidence of corruption could be produced should be allowed to have his or her days in the court. If any accused person is holding any high office, he should be asked to recuse himself until the determination of the allegations against him. We could not adopt the mentality of “my corrupt politician is better than yours” and “only your corrupt politicians must go to jail, not mine.” Such approach kills a country and would lead to unfathomable crisis. All corrupt politicians or civil servants must be probed regardless of their political affiliation, ethnic background or religious beliefs. There cannot be partiality in this situation. There should not be nepotism in this. Any perception of that would derail the war against corruption and eventually derail Nigeria.
It is possible that some of us writers might have our prejudices, but not all of us are commercial writers who help wash off the dirty linens of politicians with our pens. The most important thing as a writer is to be fair to each and everyone and call issues as they are. Even, the most loathed politician may have to be defended at times if he was treated unfairly. We do not want to throw mud on the clean linen of the innocent, but whosoever lives above his income, especially if he has occupied any public office in this country, has an explanation to give to Nigerians on the sources of his wealth and riches.
But those who are committed to this war on corruption should not be scared of attacks, blackmail, intimidation and threats of assassination. No one would die twice anyway. As for me, I write for History. I write for posterity. And I am not about to fold.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”- John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961.