Letter from America (2)

Source: George A. Adebiyi, (Ph.D)
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George A. AdebiyiProfessor of Mechanical Engineering
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“Pass no judgement, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt back to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye, with never a thought for the great plank in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye', when all the time there is that plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's.” Jesus said this to his disciples.

The religious authorities brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and said, “Master, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the Law Moses has laid down that such women are to be stoned. What do you say about it?” At first, Jesus did not answer them. When they continued asking him, he responded: “That one of you who is faultless shall throw the first stone.” What happened after that? “One by one they went away, the eldest first…” Jesus said to the woman, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She answered, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Nor do I condemn you. You may go; do not sin again.”

There is a Yoruba (I think) saying that when you point an accusing finger at someone, there are three and a half fingers pointing back at you!

What do all these have to do with my letter from America? Let me try making the connection.

Between June 18 and June 24 this year, the whereabouts of South Carolina Governor were a mystery to the public at large. On June 24 the Governor arrived back in the U.S.A. on a flight from Argentina. The mystery was solved, after much prodding the Governor admitted he had been unfaithful to his wife. He developed a relationship with an Argentinean woman that he met a little over eight years ago, “very innocently”, and that the relationship turned romantic about a year ago... the rest is in the public domain. Jesus said, “If a man looks on a woman with a lustful eye, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Who am I to judge another man?

The reason I cite this very recent turn of events is because of what the South Carolina Governor did a little over ten years ago when he was a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives. Three articles of impeachment were passed against President Bill Clinton in December 1998. The whole world knew of the Monica Lewinsky Affair, and the South Carolina Governor not only voted for the Clinton impeachment, but declared then that Clinton's behavior was “reprehensible”. There was at that time a House Speaker-designate Bob Livingston who admitted having engaged in extra-marital affair(s), but who went on to vote for Clinton's impeachment. The South Carolina Governor said of the House Speaker-designate, “The bottom line is Livingston lied. … He lied to his wife.” (Ironically, the Congressman that was elected in place of Livingston ended up resigning for alleged relationship with a prostitute.) That was not all. Henry Hyde who spearheaded the Clinton impeachment hearings admitted to an extramarital sexual affair with a married woman from 1965 to 1969. The affair cost the woman her marriage. Hyde described it as “youthful indiscretion”!

I often say to my friends that there is an eleventh commandment, which is “Thou shall not be caught!” Folks here in America are basically like folks anywhere else in the world. However, I am proud of a people that affirm the principle of justice and fairness, and equality before the law. As far as is possible, people are held accountable for what they do. Who would dare expose a Governor, a Minister, a Vice-Chancellor, a Head of Department, a Lecturer for moral turpitude without getting into trouble in Nigeria today? I was in Nigeria this past May and I was shocked to learn that some Lecturers forced their students to hand over flash drives that contained project reports and then refuse to return the flash drives to them (the students). I know from my past experience in Nigerian Universities and Polytechnics of lecturers who defraud their students by getting to class late and leaving early. Institutions cheat students by not providing congenial facilities for their students to learn. I have seen overcrowded classrooms with students standing in passage way, or sitting so far behind they do not learn anything in the class. Ironically, many of the Lecturers and top Administrators have studied in developed countries and profited from the orderliness and tranquility in their institutions of learning. I have worked in a university here in the U.S.A. for over 24 years now, and not once did we close down either because of student unrest, or staff grievances. Nigeria cannot afford all the chaos and confusion that characterizes our institutions of higher learning.

I remember the time I was Rector of a polytechnic in Nigeria. We had a Governing Council. The Council chairman was a political appointee. My chairman confided in me along the following lines: “I was given this appointment by virtue of being a local Party Chief. My people expect returns for the appointment. Where do you expect me to produce results if not from being the chairman of your Governing Council?” Regrettably many heads of institutions will gladly “collaborate” with their Governing Council, first to safeguard their job, as well as to enrich themselves. When money designated for educating students gets diverted to the chairman and his constituents, the students get deprived of the education they need? One member of the Governing Council I had, by the way, was a Senior Lecturer from one of the premier Universities in Nigeria. He was one of those that would lament corruption in Nigeria's institutions and then turn round to practice the very things he was critical of! This reminds me of a story told by a preacher.

There was this man who woke up each day to lament his plight by blaming our first parents (Adam and Eve). He would start the day by moaning “Bosi Adam!” One day, a ruler offered the man the freedom of the palace while the Kabiyesi was away on a long journey. The man could help himself to anything he wanted except a small room that was under lock and key. The man accepted the conditions gladly. Not long after Kabiyesi's absence the man felt bad at having everything and yet not allowed to check out the small room. Finally, one day he succumbed to the curiosity about the room and went in not knowing that a tiny mouse got out of the room. When the Kabiyesi returned, it did not take him long to discover that his man had broken the rule.

Sorry to say this, a lot of people complaining about corruption will do a lot worse if you ever put them in a position to be corrupt. This unfortunately is human nature. It is sin, and sad to say, that is the way we all are, and but for the grace of God, that is the way we remain throughout this earthly life. I believe we need to strive to make people accountable. For example, when money is appropriated to our universities and other institutions of learning, there ought to be mechanism for proper accounting for the money appropriated. Apply this to other government institutions, and hold people accountable for whatever has been entrusted to them.

We used to hail the soldiers as heroes and liberators when they intervened in the nation's political life. We found out the hard way that they too are human, and they were glad to use the gun to keep the people muzzled and compliant. I believe in Democracy. Winston Churchill is credited with this statement on Democracy: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” How I wish Nigeria had stayed the course with Democracy all these years since independence! People should be held accountable. Society cannot catch all thieves, but be sure to mete out justice to those you catch. Rather than keep complaining about how bad everybody is, how about making sure you do the right thing to help a neighbor, to improve the lives of others? That way, Nigeria will rise to true greatness.

George A. Adebiyi
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
June 30, 2009
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