Seeing Resignation Over Allegation Of Failures Or Corruption As A Moral Act

Estonian Prime Minister, Juri Ratas
Estonian Prime Minister, Juri Ratas

There is no denying the fact that the resignation of Prime Minister Juri Ratas of European Union member Estonia, did not in any way jolt political observers as leaders in his ilk have in the past taken similar action as a way of safeguarding their integrity. As widely reported in the media on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, Ratas resigned after an inquiry into a property development project in the capital.

As gathered, Ratas informed President Kersti Kaljulaid of his resignation, and has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, and will need to formally announce his resignation at a government session on Thursday, January 14, 2021 and also notify parliament.

It was also gathered that the president will have to propose the next leader of the government to parliament within two weeks.

At this juncture, it would be recalled that Richard Nixon, who was elected the 37th President of the United States (1969-1974) after previously serving as a U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator from California, after successfully ending American fighting in Vietnam and improving international relations with the U.S.S.R. and China, became the only President to ever resign the office, as a result of the Watergate scandal.

It is expedient to say in this context that for decades that the world has not being bereft of the resignations of world political big wigs. Instances of resignation amid allegation of corruption can be seen in that of Hassan Diab who resigned as Prime Minister of Lebanon during the wake of the 2020 Beirut explosions after political pressure and fury of the Lebanese government and population for failing to prevent the disaster from happening, causing heavy destruction of half of the country's capital. Permit me to ask at this juncture whether it is possible in Nigeria to compel a political leader to resign for failure to stop the Boko Haram onslaught, not to talk of resigning on his own.

In the same vein, in 2019, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O'Neill announced his resignation over disputes of him holding dual citizenship and after weeks of defections from his coalition government. Also, in 2018, Al Franken, resigned as United States Senator of Minnesota after accusations of sexual misconduct during a period of political sexual scandals, and in the same year, Jacob Zuma, resigned as President of South Africa.

Against the foregoing backdrop, one can opinionate that while leaders in other part of the world sees resignation over allegation of failures or corruption as a moral act, leaders in Nigeria paradoxically see it as weakness. One would not in any way be wrong to say that they have given it a theatric pigmentation as recent events show that they are quick to faint whenever they are been probed over allegation of corruption or failure.

Just last year, social media platforms were agog with the video of Dr. Kemebradikumo Pondei that showed he fainted, and which circulated on the internet. Aptly put, the acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was under interrogation by the House of Representatives committee over the alleged mismanagement of N81.5 billion under his tenure when he fainted. Pondei was testifying when all of a sudden his eyes started to bulge out and somehow he had collapsed and was earnestly being revived. The allegation leveled against him as believed in some quarters, might have necessitated his removal from office as President Buhari in December 2020 approved the appointment of an interim administrator for the NDDC. The newly appointed administrator, Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa, was the acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Commission. He was charged to head the NDDC till the completion of the forensic audit.

Similarly, in May 2018, the former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisah Metuh, gave one of the best fainting performances in Nigeria’s political history. He had collapsed at a federal high court hearing; after his arraignment on the grounds of money laundering charges.

Still in the same nexus, the former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, was also reported in the media to have fainted when he was being probed on allegation of money laundering to the tune of N2 billion. He once jumped bail and tried circumventing the law but was rearrested and brought down to Nigeria from Niger Republic. During his court trial, the ex-pension chairman had slumped, compelling the judge to suspend the hearing.

At this juncture, this piece cannot be said to be thorough without recalling that in January 2019 that Senator Dino Melaye displayed his proclivity for the theatrics. He had been accused of culpable homicide and had finally surrendered to the police after a week-long siege at his Abuja residence. While he was leaving his residence to enter the police vehicle, Melaye’s body went limp as he slumped.

It is germane to ask, “What pushes an individual to maintain a public office against multiple failures and scandals that accompany their work, particularly in Nigeria whereas in other part of the world leaders that are accused of corruption do not hesitate to tender their resignation letter?

To answer the foregoing question, it is expedient to say that leaders in other part of the world are cognizant of the fact that moral responsibility in exercising a public duty is sacrosanct, especially when the position occupied, means that one takes responsibility not only for actions, but also inactions. Moral responsibility means being held responsible for actions and inactions of your subordinates which are under your management, and not only the direct actions of the official in the managerial role. Furthermore, a resignation should be offered even in cases when the policies of the department or government one serves contradict the moral principles one upholds as an individual.

Patrick Dobel, a professor of the Evans School, in his essay “The Ethics of Resigning” lists three main categories of reasons for resigning: personal conviction, official responsibilities, and effectiveness. According to Dobel, a public official should resign in the case when he or she notices that the enthusiasm for exercising that public function has decreased. Official responsibility covers all those reasons for resigning that are related to the unfulfilment of promises or obligations of the office. A public official needs to resign even in cases when his or her personal abilities are not sufficient for the fulfilment of the obligations of the office he or she holds. According to Dobel, one should also resign when one is not effective due to the impossibility of garnering political and public support, even if one is professional apt and has ethical integrity.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor