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Twice Bitten, Thrice Culpable (A Nation in Ruins)

By Dr Anthony Chuka Konwea, PE
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The sad image I cannot delete from my brain. Try as I may, this image keeps coming back, again and again into my consciousness. It is the haunting image of the Saudi exile, the late Jamal Khashoggi walking very confidently and most purposefully to make a final rendezvous with his doomed fate.

As I replay this image again and again in my mind, I remind myself that in a very poignant way, we are all like Jamal Khashoggi walking. Some confidently, some fearfully. Some proudly, some timidly. Some boastfully, some bashfully. All trotting to our unknown destiny.

Had he known!
Taken together, three of the most terrible words in any language. Had Jamal known the fate that lay in wait for him behind the front door of the Saudi Embassy in Ankara, he would not have crossed that door.

I can imagine somebody grabbing him by the throat immediately the door closed behind him. Another by the hands, another by the legs, yet another by the waist. 15 murderers who flew in from one of the richest countries in the world to decapitate and dismember their own compatriot in a foreign land.Power without the fear of God is truly a curse to everybody, wielder and subject alike.

Rest assured that the Turks have every detail of what went on within the Saudi Embassy, even though they have not proffered any public proof. I suspect that Turkish intelligence are in a dilemma. If they provide surveillance video evidence of the murder and dismemberment, it would endanger the life (or lives) of their spy (or spies) within the Saudi embassy who possibly planted the cameras. This itself is like a death sentence passed on all Saudis working in the Saudi Arabian Embassy at Ankara as the Saudi Crown Prince moving forward will not know who among them to trust.

It is reported that the Turks have replayed the audio tapes of Khashoggi’s murder to CIA Director Gina Haspel who recently visited Ankara. This apparently because remote audio surveillance can theoretically be conducted from off-site locations and canbe credibly explained away without posing danger to human intelligence (humint). Video surveillance is a different matter entirely and represents absolute proof of penetration by foreign spies through their internal agents.

I wonder if Khashoggi prayed before embarking on his journey of no return. But then how could he have been able to surmise beforehand that he would be at deadly danger in his own country’s embassy. A place which ought to have been his safest sanctuary in a foreign land. As Proverbs states (in 14:12): ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death.’

The only antidote for uncertainty is prayer. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God Himself, prayed constantly. And he taught us how to pray. The closing words of Our Father’s Prayer,‘… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ are quite instructive.By going to the Saudi embassy, Khashoggi evidently had residual belief in his country. He paid for this misplaced trust with his life.

There are many people of course who have no such belief in their country. The Latin American caravan of asylum seekers slowly windingits way to the Mexico – United States border comprises thousands of migrants and refugees who have lost faith in their countries of origin. They are literally voting with their feet and are walking thousands of miles to the United States.

When citizens are so desperate to leave a country, that country has failed. Invariably countries fail not when their leaders fail, but especially when their institutions fail. Failed leaders do not always make failed countries, but failed institutions always do.

When critical State institutions like the Judiciary, the Legislature, the Police, the Armed Forces and the Media become compromised, nations fall.People vote with their feet believing that life as “slaves” in foreign lands is better than one extra minute spent in their land of birth.

Observe that in the height of the partisan divisions over the confirmation of US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh not one single American, Democrat or Republican even to this day disputes the competence and ability of the FBI to establish the truth concerning allegations of sexual misconduct against the then nominee. Their only bone of contention was and still is the scope of the FBI investigation expressly authorized by the Trump Administration.

Americans to a man or woman believe unflinchingly in the impartiality and professionalism of their institutions, regardless of who occupies the White House. Indeed the minute public trust in theirnational institutions unravels, America as we know it today will cease to exist.

And it may never happen all things being equal. In the United States, trust and credibility is everything. You can lose your entire fortune in the US and still hope to rebound someday in the future. Once you lose your credibility however, you are literally toast. It is far less consequential to confess to a misdemeanor in the United States than to be caught-out telling lies.

The entire American edifice is built on trust and truthfulness. An honest mistake if admitted to, may be forgiven no matter the severity of its consequence on the system. But the simplest lie no matter how innocuous is unforgivable once proven.

American wealth was built on the back of professionalism and it is sponsored daily by specialization and competition. Americans shrewdly calculated that the system works optimallyfor the benefit of all when there is focused specialization and unrelenting competition.

Almost everyone has a narrow professional niche within which they operate and where they are expected to operate at their maximum capability to survive. In deed the governing mantra for survival in the United States is ‘specialize or perish.’

You must be on top of your A-game, every hour of every day. You just cannot rest on your laurels. When Americans thank God it is Friday, believe me, they really mean it. For at last they can rest over the weekend.There is no room for ‘jacks of all trades’.To be a ‘jack of all trades’ in America, you must be ‘a master of all’. How many people can do that?

It is easy to see why the American system works. Everybody is a master of his own craft. Everybody is a well-honed professional in their own trade. Take note of the celerity with which the American FBI apprehended the alleged culprit behind the pipe bombs mailed to the Clintons, the Obamas and other leading Democrats this week. In Nigeria the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the late Chief Bola Ige was assassinated almost two decades ago, and we are none the wiser about who did it.

Owing to competition and the pressure to deliver the goods, the American system affords no second chance to failures. The self-renewing American system organically trashes dead wood. If you fail at something, the system ruthlessly forces you out to try your hands at some other trade. It might seem harsh at first, but it is not wickedness. It is the system, organically cleansing itself, stripping away and shipping off dead wood to other areas of the economy where they might be more efficiently deployed.

To survive you must be a master of your own niche, and trust that your neighbors are masters and mistresses of theirs too. That is why Americans do not joke with trust. A simple lie, inability to keep your word, inability to deliver on your promise, inability to accept responsibility etc. leads to mistrust and mistrust in the American system is a death sentence. You are literally toast. Finished. Kaput.

As Nigeria marches fitfully towards next year’s election, all voters must bear this in mind. Who do you trust more? A man who invested (buried) the nation’s resources in the feudal past and spends all his wake hours apportioning blames and spinning excuses.Or the one who has invested his own resources,even if alleged to be questionable (let the courts decide) in the future,by providing education for the next generation and providing jobs for Nigerians in Nigeria?

Regardless of who you trust however, if we want Nigeria to grow, we must learn something from Americans. Failure must always have consequences, no matter who is involved. Once bitten,blame neitherdog nor blame man. Twice bitten,blame the dog. Thrice bitten,we must blame ourselves fordaftness.

Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Dr Anthony Chuka Konwea, PE and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."