OATH OF OFFICE IN GOVERNANCE; NECESSITY OR NONSENSICAL?
The administration of oath is usually accompanied with what in general term is called swearing –in ceremony. Both oath and swearing in of a personage to public office connote a sacred initiatory process and a public utterance of sacred obligation to the yearnings and aspirations of the people involved.
From time immemorial, the use of oath has been to formally and legally make a pledge that should be binding and with the invocation of God or any other deity considered sacred to the individual or personality, the administration of oath is thus a very serious business. An oath is word(s) of promise recited in a conventional formula when taking up an official position.
It is usually, if not always accompanied with “swearing” which again is intended to affirm truth of something with or without the use of offensive words. Significantly, swearing –in of a personage to a public office through administration of oath of office is constitutional and also has the upholding of a nation’s constitution as the major plank and crux of social contract between the rulers and the ruled.
In a democratic system which Nigeria is equally operating as part of civilised society, the electoral provision provides that certain categories of the populace could be voted for to assume offices that could and should provide for the aspirations and needs of the entire citizenry of that nation, whether or not they vote for the occupants of such offices.
After elections be they free and fair or even when rigged, a number of people must come on board to govern and tread the corridor of power. To be fully initiated and entrusted with power and authority to divine the omen of the people, the winners or riggers who now assume mantle of authority must make public their readiness to serve the people with all strength and vigour.
It is in respect to this need of public confession to obligations to public service that have brought about the administration of oath of office through and during swearing-in ceremony.
Oath, oath taking and its administration are a very sacred human phenomena. They are sacred because they have the underlining of spirituality brought to the fore of material or physical realm. First is the pledge of self, the individual to uphold the constitution of the country, serve with all resolve and then the affirmation and conviction in the utmost help of God of the understanding of that individual being sworn in or on whom oath of office is being administered.
The first inkling of such in Nigeria was at the time of Nigeria’s independence and its attainment of a republic.
The 1963 Constitution of Nigeria authorised the late Dr. Chief Nnamdi Azikwe to become the first President of Federal Republic of Nigeria and on 1st October 1963, at the swearing –in ceremony, Mr President had two oaths of office administered to him. The first was the Oath of Allegiance enjoining him to be loyal to the country of his birth, by preserving, protecting and defending the constitution. The second was the Oath of Office binding him to serve the country as a faithful functionary according to law
According to Zik after being sworn in, his new person as Mr. President made mandatory his loyalty to Nigeria expected of his exalted office. He said, “loyalty to one’s country is the most precious tribute a patriot can pay to his fatherland, faithfulness to duty the most acceptable service expected from conscientious servant while loyalty and faithfulness express the idea of steadfastness to a common purpose.”
This common purpose is what the constitution encapsulates as “ the organic law of the land which delimits the territories of Nigeria’s federation, defines Nigerian citizenship, guarantees fundamental rights and provides for the maintenance of law and order by distributing powers among the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the state.”.
At inception, the constitution of Nigeria was intended to ensure liberty, equality and justice both in Nigeria and all over the world where true democracy is in place.
To one’s dismay, many occupants of exalted offices of Mr President, Executive Governors and their deputies in Nigeria most times obliterate the spiritual import of oaths from their memories and only navigate, relish and swim in opulence attendant to being in corridor of power. They simply forget that being sworn in and having the oath of office administered on one is an initiatory process with lots of karmic rewards either pleasant or painful in one’s life now and also in the hereafter.
Why initiatory? Because it is intended to intimate the spiritual and physical phases of man with new and higher realities of enlightenment and concomitant submission of self to service to the people with least expectation of selfish rewards nor taking advantages of people to be served meritoriously and creditably too. Since there is no art to find mind’s construction on the face, it would not matter what covenant the individual had reached with the God of his or her understanding but the swearing in has to be done publicly as a commitment and barometer for man and God to take to measure the sincerity of the individual concerned.
All that is required is the submission of self to the dictates of officers legitimately charged to call the individual to recite an already prepared, written or printed oath which content he or she reads to the hearing of all and sundry while holding whatever is regarded as the most sacred object of his religious or other faith.
In Nigeria, many of such individuals hold on either to the Holy Bible or the Koran. The constitution of the country is at hand and the invocation of God rounds up the submission of self to the higher responsibilities attendant to the exalted office.
Whereas Nigerians have been living witnesses to a number of highly placed individuals being sworn in as heads of state, presidents, administrators and governors or even chairmen, the abysmal failure of many in the performance of their duties tend to make one be tempted to think that the administration of oath of office is more of foolery, waste of public funds on the elaborate preparations and mere gathering of friends and well wishers. In the same token, it constitutes an avenue for entertainment and showbiz without noble products to market.
Beyond the mundane perception of oath of office, it is a sacred moment necessitating a pilgrimage into self and spiritual visitation to every point of one’s being where the Creator can be met and approached in humility for the purpose of divine wisdom and cosmic afflatus. It is a moment of being enriched, empowered and strengthened in the way of God, piloted in His grace and guided by His thoughts so one can richly say like Henry Carpenter, “God I am thinking Your thoughts after Thee.”
As a mystical student, I know and I am convinced that the American presidents do not ever trivialise the spiritual import of such auspicious moment as a very sacred obligation to the Americans and to the American nation. If for no other time, the invocation of God’s presence and assistance is usually publicly sought. Little wonder President Barak Obama’s request for the Holy Bible which his forebear, a mystic philosopher, Abraham Lincoln once used at his own inauguration and swearing in ceremony several years back.
The constitution of America remains cherished as supreme authority to be defended at all costs, here in Nigeria, it seems more of product of dictates and fancies of individuals and caucuses at the peril of national unity. The unity which should jealously be guarded and pursued without iota of zoning, party leanings, religious, ethnic and other divisive tendencies.
Because of unfulfilled promises, due to paucity of living according to the dictates and expectations of the words and their meanings inherent in oath of office in Nigeria, many of such initiates are only remembered by names and not by what they have achieved nor the use of the best of their abilities to serve God and man.
Another cycle has come as it will also soon go in the life of individuals now privileged to be also sworn- in, in the annals of Nigeria nation. To such, I plead for a reflection on Benjamin Franklin’s admonition, “ If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worthy of reading, or do things worth the writing.”
I will neither cry nor laugh keke taking cognizance that many of those, now, or again privileged to swear to another oath of office must have started shopping for the best of clothes and arranging for one-in-town kind of inauguration ceremony that would make the day or days after another loud in Nigeria.
Rather, I submit to the service impression of The saint, Mother Teresa when she opines: “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature, trees, flowers, grass grow in silence, see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence- we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
My congratulations to all, but?
Taiye Olaniyi can be reached on [email protected]