Nigerian Politicians and Integrity deficit
I have this habit of engaging in early morning light debate.
This is in keeping with my admiration for a certain philosopher of Ancient Greece who gained reputation for always going to the market square every other morning to engage his admirers in intellectual philosophizing.
Infact, another great Greek Philosopher that has won my undying discipleship is the man who often go to the market square in the hot afternoon with a lighted lantern and when confronted by shocked members of the audience will tell them that 'I am searching for a MAN". His listeners will wonder why the search for a man in the midst of hundreds of men.
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who were the earliest proponents of comprehensively unassailable philosophical themes that influenced the formadatoons and spread of diverse schools of thoughts were reported by historians as also cultivating this sort of habit of early morning philosophical debates similar to what is predominantly done in newspaper selling points in Lagos, Aba, Port Harcourt and manly other media flashpants by persons identified commonly as “free readers’ club”.
The only distinction between the incoherent chatterings done in free readers' clubs in Nigeria and what our fathers in philosophy did was that, whereas the Greeks engaged in problems solving debates, the contemporary Nigerian free readers of Newspapers spend valuable times discussing irrelevances such as which of the political parties are better than the rest.
I must say that my early morning debate or philosophizing with a coterie of like -minds, usually centers around critical governance issues and contemporary events that shape our political horizons.
So in that usual tradition of following the footsteps of early philosophers of Ancient Greece, I had this morning engaged in the philosophical reflection on what I have chosen to call the virus of severe integrity deficits amongst the clear majority of persons parading around in the corridors of power in Nigeria as politicians. My close pals were of the opinion that in political campaigns, pragmatic integrity isn't necessarily and that what is important is to market the candidate even if he is dressed in 'borrowed robes'. I beg to disagree.
This is for the logical read on that integrity deficit has become a menace that may mar the credibility of the coming general elections unless Nigerian voters chose today to identify with only those political office seekers who are worshippers’ in the temple of political and ethical integrity. Will the electorate be wise enough to decipher between propaganda and reality?
I have often wondered in the last three years of the inception of the current administration headed by the erstwhile military ruler Major General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was), why political actors have increasingly become paranoid and are engaged in the sickening past time of always blaming the immediate past government for all the ills afflicting Nigeria.
It is indeed laughable that from President Buhari to his loquacious ministers, all of them have come to deny the relevance of the essence of accepting that the bulk stops at the table of the man who currently calls the shots as the elected President of Nigeria. Integrity in political leadership means taking ownership of the governance process and delivering the goals which will justify the confidence the voters reposed in you.
The holder of the office of President of Nigeria is expected to hit the ground running from inception and to implement blue prints for transformational change of the society.
Again, I have observed that on several occasions, these cabinet level officials have been caught saying one thing and ended up doing the direct opposite.
It is a notorious fact that hypocrisy has gradually become an acceptable modus operandi for political office holders in the current political milieu to an extent that the ‘loyal’ supporters who slavishly support every evil policies of the government are behaving like zombies whose thinking faculty is missing.
I begin with the President who made several campaign promises which he has conveniently reneged. The President has failed his first major credibility and integrity test by playing nepotism in the appointment of security chiefs which are dominated by his kinsmen as against the tenets of the constitution which stipulates federal character but he has chosen Hausa/Fulani character in the place of federal character.
Speaking about breach of solemn promises, such campaign promises like employment generation, affordable housing, economic transformation, the environmental clean up of the oil rich Niger Delta region and the respect for equality of rights have all disappeared with the winds of phantom change that heralded their arrival in the political stage.
In three years time, the nation’s economy rather than growing went into recession and in the place of employment generation, what we have witnessed is the rapid loss of employment by Nigerians hitherto engaged in both the public and private sector. Now Nigerian youth are fleeing in their millions and are dying in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of lawless Libya and some are sold into modern day slavery. The Nigerian citizens who out of fear for their lives due to widespread insecurity and settled in South Africa are today being killed by black South Africans who accused them of taking over their jobs. The government of Buhari can't protect Nigerians from callous attacks both at home and abroad. Where then is the integrity if someone fails such a fundamental test of leadership and still clings on to power?
The manufacturing industry is also facing one of the toughest times due to the rapidly collapsing basic infrastructures.
To compound the situation of joblessness that has enveloped the nation, are the false claims made by some ministers who inspite of contrary official figures from the National Bureau of statistics, have claimed that the current government has created millions of job. These false claimants of employment creation have not shown us one Nigerian who benefitted from these phantom employment slots.
The Agriculture and Labour ministers recently released unverifiable claims of the millions of jobs created by the current government even when the bureau of statistics recently stated that the economy is experiencing job loses.
Speaking about integrity and the lack of it amongst the political class, brings the sad reminder of the propaganda about integrity that sold the candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari to the electorate who gave him about fifteen million votes to the twelve million votes garnered by the then incumbent Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Only yesterday, the minister of Trade and investments who was interviewed from Davos, Switzerland by the British television known as skynews also repeated the over used clitche of Mr Integrity for his boss the current Nigerian President.
But in that same interview he was caught playing on hard facts when he was economical with the truth on the question thrown to him about the postponement of the National monetary committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria because of the lack of confirmation of the newly composed board members by the National Assembly. Currently, the Senate and the Presidency are having running battles similar to the disagreements that snowballed into the closure of government offices in the USA because of the discord between the US congress and the one year old Presidency of the Republican maverick President, the Billionaire Donald Trump.
Because the skynews business presenter is not at home with political developments in Nigeria, the minister of Trade concealed the fact that the Senate and the Presidency are having crisis because of the failure of President Buhari to drop the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial crimes Commission Ibrahim Magu who failed mandatory confirmation hearings twice.
The minister of trade told skynews that there was really no frosty relations between the executive and the legislative arms of government which has delayed the confirmation of certain top level presidential appointments such as the members of the Central Bank’s monetary policy committee and also the Deputy Governor of CBN.
Still on this issue of integrity, Babatunde Fashola who was the logos State Governor and a member of the then All Progressives Congress had told Nigerians that if his party wins office in 2015, that it will take the government six months to fix the perpetually inefficient electricity power sector. But his party won election, he was made power minister and for three years, situation of electricity power has deteriorated.
Also under the current government, the private distributors of electricity who collected billions of soft credit facilities from the Central Bank have still not performed optimally.
To cap it up, the power minister had directed these companies to provide readable meters to all their customers to avoid exploitations but three years after, this same minister has recanted. I have counted over a thousand things the current government has promised to do but shamefully told lies to cover their tracks.
The current government is known for always verbally attacking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party but the truth is that over sixty percent of those who throw these darts and tantrums on PDP were made politically relevant as card carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled Nigeria for 16 years before conceding victory to the current party in power in 2015.
Take for instance the just ended meeting between President Buhari and the South East caucus of his political family.
The top level delegation now masquerading as APC big wigs in the South East were either Senators, Ministers or governors produced by the PDP. Where then is integrity in Nigerian brand of politics? The spokesman of APC was a minister under PDP. The Senate President and Speaker were made by PDP before they crossed over to APC to unseat the Bayelsa born Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Integrity in politics is all about probity and honesty which should mean that what you do should correspond with what you say.
For instance, President Buhari’s top level appointments especially in the key national security positions are dominated by his fellow Hausa/Fulani persons but the other day the President said he was fair to all Nigerians in matters of appointments and even listed ministerial positions he gave to South East as a favour since the people gave him fewer votes which he bandied around.
This claim is wrong because by the provisions of the constitution, every state of the federation is entitled as of right to one ministerial member of the federal executive council and the constitution does not recognize anything like junior or senior ministers.
Where is integrity in these claims that are obviously far from reality?
Now, politicians have jumped the gun and have started mounting pressure on President Buhari who in three years has only spread mass poverty, to seek re-election in 2019, just days after the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said ban on political campaign will only take effect in August.
But the political class affiliated to the President don’t respect the rule book and infact a minister recently opened a campaign office for Buhari.
Integrity deficit is a big issue. The panel constitutionally empowered to conduct national election lacks unassailable integrity to an extent that whereas the chairman of INEC Alhaji Mahmood Yakubu a Fulani openly reprimanded Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state (PDP) to stop campaigning for Presidency before the ban on campaign is lifted.
But the same INEC has maintained sealed lips even when a minister opened a campaign office in Ibadan for Buhari.
There is also a huge deficit of integrity in the National Assembly.
In the Federal House of Representatives, for instance, the speaker Yakubu Dogara, a lawyer, is pushing through an undemocratic legislation for the gagging of freedom of association in the guise of setting up another body to regulate non-governmental organizations including an obnoxious provision to make President Buhari the register-in-chief of NGOS. Imagine where the chief noise maker in a typical class in the school is appointed the class monitor.
This same young man who is speaker of the National legislature was quoted in the media as canvassing media and democratic freedoms as if he has the power to approbate and reprobate.
This is the basic issue of integrity which must become a national debate just before we select new set of politicians to govern us next year.
I give you another instance of a grave deficit of integrity amongst the political class.
In this same Federal House of Representatives, some PDP legislators violated extant provision of the constitution on decampment or cross carpeting by abandoning their party which brought them into offices to go chasing for greener pastures or immunity from persecution by EFCC by moving over to the party that produced Buhari who is the alpha and omega in matters of the charade called anti-grafy crusade which Ibrahim Magu the other day rechristianed as a JIHAD. .
The constitution says unless the political party you won election has leadership factions and the crisis is in court, you can only quit your seat if you must abandon ship.
But even after the Supreme Court has ruled on the rightful leadership of PDP, the speaker of the Federal House who is a lawyer, has on many occasions violated the constitution by permitting such cross carpeting.
Writing on the real meaning of integrity, So-Young Kang say integrity stems from the Latin word ‘integer’ which means whole and complete.
So integrity requires an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of character.
The writer argues that when you are in integrity, people should be able to visibly see it through your actions, words, decisions, methods, and outcomes.
When you are ‘whole’ and consistent, there is only one you, the writer says.
"You bring that same you wherever you are, regardless of the circumstance. You don’t leave parts of yourself behind. You don’t have a ‘work you,’ a ‘family you,’ and a ‘social you.’ You are YOU all the time."
The writer says that given the real definition of integrity, we recognize that it is actually extremely difficult to be in integrity 100% of the time..
"We aspire to be in integrity with what we believe but sometimes, we mess up. Sometimes, our emotions get the best of us and we are unable to intentionally manage our behavior and actions".
"Sometimes, we don’t give ourselves permission to be our true selves out of fear of what others may think or due to an inability to truly ‘integrate’ the various parts of ourselves into ONE, complete WHOLE person."
The writer then asked, "So, what does it take to be someone who leads with integrity? Consciousness and choice.
The writer responded thus: "I believe that there are at least 6 things that great leaders choose to do to be on a journey towards greater integrity: 1) Understands the true definition of integrity; 2) Intentionally reflects on what to say, how to behave, how to make decisions in a way that is reflective of his/her values and beliefs; 3) Is the same authentic person regardless of the situation. You can meet this leader with their family, friends, church, or at a boardroom, and you will see a consistency in behavior, actions, and words. You will recognize this person no matter what environment he/she is in; 4) Recognizes the impact that he/she has on others. This leader is conscious of how his/her behavior and words impacts those around them intentionally and often times, unintentionally. So when this leader behaves in a way that is out of integrity, he/she stops, acknowledges, apologizes, and corrects course. This requires humility, authenticity, and ‘others-centeredness as you need to ‘see’ how others are responding to you; 5) Actively focuses on the development of character and wholeness. This leader spends time intentionally on this area through various areas, such as reading, getting coached, listening to the counsel of others, going to leadership development courses, and reflecting on how to develop character; and 6) Enrolls others to be on the same journey. This leader aims to walk in integrity and as others see that, they are drawn to this. They can have confidence in this leader with the belief that this leader will do what he/she says and believes. They are able to inspire others to be on the same journey of lifelong pursuit of ‘wholeness’ and ultimately, INTEGRITY.
The writer when I see people who really have integrity, I recognize it. Don’t you? I hope that I can enroll you to join me on this journey by starting with understanding the true definition of integrity.
Those who cling on to the phantom claim of integrity in this government have not told why billions of tax payers' money have disappeared. They have not told us why it is that when someone politically exposed as corrupt under the past dispensation in PDP become politically canonised once they move over to APC from the opposition PDP. They have not told us why they lied that government of Buhari ended payment of subsidy to fuel importers only for the last artificial scarcity of fuel in December to lead to the disclosure that indeed the government has all along been paying subsidy. They haven't told us why NNPC under the ministerial control of President Buhari awarded illegal $25 billion contracts without due process.
Nigerians should endeavour to ask critical question and stop the sentimental following of politicians who lie between their legs as if lies were going out of fashion.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com ; www.huriwanigeria.com , www.huriwa.blogspot.com .