Public Morality, Patriotism and Public Office-seekers’ Integrity, By Onwe John Onu

Public office is a patrimony of the commonwealth. Being so regarded whoever aspires to occupy it is weighed on patriotism and moral gauge or index to know if such an aspirant is worthy to be trusted and considered for appointment or election to such an office of honour or reward. In any civilized society this consideration is premium desideratum because such public office is a property given in trust and whoever occupies it is taken to be the custodian of public authority and morality, and a compass of the society. This being so, in every civilized society the people as a compact organ examines the aspirant on its scales for moral rectitude and sense of fidelity to the law and constitution. It is in this way that every fabric of the aspirant’s human person and personality and his entire life is laid bare for the people to judge whether he measures up to the standards of conduct and behaviour that agrees with the people’s sense of moral rectitude and lawfulness. In the United States, very ‘good’ politicians have kicked the bucket at the threshold of their political career when they indicated interest to become governor or president of any of the States or the United States for seemingly minor faults such as fundamental lies, liaisons with harlots, or persons of questionable characters or evading military service or such other infractions of the law or public morality. The same standard cannot be said to obtain in Nigeria’s political culture as very many politicians have been accused of several infractions of the law and public morality and nothing adverse to them came out of such inquisitions against the offending politicians even where such allegations are proved. It is against the backdrop of this culture of ‘anything goes’ that the alleged ‘leaked chat’ between Senators Kunle Amosu and Kashim Shettima has to be weighed and judged by Nigerians as to his worthiness, politically, morally and loyally. In that chat which reeked with vitriol and vituperation against the Igbo ethnic group, Kashim Shettima raked up the 1950s/60s tribal chauvinism and religious bigotry which his dead fathers used against the Igbo to a devastating effect culminating in the July 29, 1966 Revenge Coup and pogroms of which over 50,000 Igbo people perished and resulted in Biafra Republic and Biafra War that consumed over two million people and trillion naira worth of property is uncharitable. And this is a man being primed to be the vice president of Nigeria and possibly after the eight year tenure could contest and assume the office of the President of the Federal Republic. In that chat between Senator Kunle Amosu and Senator Kashim Shettima, Kashim Shettima’s tantrum reeked with hatred for the Igbo. It is not to my knowledge that Senators Amosu and Shettima refuted this chat. In the ‘leaked chat’, Senator Shettima outlined his or his group’s agenda, working through the All Progressives Congress was a conspiracy to frustrate the Igbo in Nigeria and render them irrelevant in the political economy. For instance, he allegedly stated that their mission in APC is an alliance between the North (meaning the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri) and the Yoruba (West) to hijack the political economy of Nigeria by forming an economic commission that would benefit the two groups by developing the Far-Northern States’ agricultural potentials, set up industries to process the agricultural produce and export same through the Lagos ports while the Igbo will be left in the lurch to drink their oil. According to Shettima, after the successful implementation of this alliance, the Igbo will be rendered irrelevant. He also in the chat told Senator Amosu of what Kwankwaso did to the Igbo in Kano State when he was governor and also cited Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Lukman’s threat to drive the Igbo into the ocean if they fail to vote APC in 2015. Senator Shettima was not yet through with his schemes against the Igbo as he told Senator Amosu that APC government under Buhari will grant Lagos ‘Special Status’ which will enable Lagos State government to implement apartheid policies against the Igbo such as different and higher land processing fees and commercial tariffs against the Igbo and generally frustrate their business and commercial interests. Even though, the Lagos State Government has not implemented any of Senator Shettima’s counselled policies but the Federal Government headed by President Buhari has adopted policies which the Igbo consider injurious such as public service recruitments that tended to be skewed against the Igbo except for the constitutionally guaranteed ministerial appointments that must accommodate every state in the federation. Infact, at the inception of Buhari’s Presidency, he stated clearly that those that voted 5% against him could not expect to be treated fairly and equally with those constituencies that voted 97% in his favour. So, that shows that Senator Shettima must have been the originator of that vile policy of discrimination and nepotistic application of the public power and authority against disaffected constituencies, such as the Igbo that were not politically inclined to APC. To be related to the said chat between Senators Kunle Amosu and Kashim Shettima is the alleged fraternity he had with the Boko Haram. It was during Senator Kashim Shettima governororship of Borno State that Boko Haram sect graduated from being ANPP political-storm-troopers to an insurgent group. While Senator Shettima was the governor of Borno State, the Boko Haram flourished as a sect and even their leader, Mohammed Yusuf was considered good enough to be appointed an official of his government. And for one to be appointed an official of government in Nigeria’s prebendal system, you must be politically relevant by way of being useful in vote-catching during election. So, Mohammed Yusuf and his group, the Boko Haram must have been relevant to Senator Shettima politically to be part of the party, the defunct ANPP and its government to be trusted with public office. After the bombing of the Catholic Church in Niger-State in 2014, the suspected culprit was sited in Borno State Government Liaison office in Abuja before slipping away until he was captured. Humongous baggage being raked up now against Senator Shettima is quite substantial enough for him and his party proposing him for high office of vice president to answer the charges satisfactorily so as to put at rest the minds of Nigerians, especially the Igbo. In any case, in Nigeria politics where impunity reigns, it may not be surprising for APC and Senator Tinubu, the APC Presidential candidate to sweep these allegations under the carpet as being inconsequential especially as his assurance of the Northwestern and Northeastern votes will assail whatever electoral weight the Southeast may put forward in counterpoise. But let Asiwaju Tinubu take care, for the tiger may yet unfurl its fangs and claws when the chips are down, or let him take counsel from Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his lieutenant, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola who was so fiercely loyal to him and was rabidly anti-Igbo even to the discomfiture of Awolowo as recounted in his autobiography, ‘Awo’. Yes, the political disagreements between Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo from the Nigeria Youth Movement era and later when Awolowo set up the Egbe Omo Oduduwa was bad enough that Awo openly cried about the alleged habit of the Igbo to dominate others but Akintola took it to a higher level of concocting anti-Igbo rhetoric to impress his leader but when the crucibles of politics occasioned for him to support his leader, Awolowo, he switched camps by aligning with the Tafawa Balewa/Sardauna Bello-led North Peoples Congress to overthrow Awolowo as the leader of Action Group and Western Region. The documents used in the Coker Commission of Inquiry and the Bairamian Panel of Inquiry on National Bank were provided by Akintola without a thought for his tribe and his leader. The same way Awolowo chose Akintola for his loquacious loyalty and hatred for the Igbo is the same loyalty to Tinubu and hatred for the Southeast that Kashim Shettima has by his chat with Senator Amosu shown that earned him selection as vice presidential candidate in consumption of his talked-about alliance between the Southwest and Far-North to render the Igbo irrelevant. But all these unpatriotic posturing and moral turpitude do not seen to be congruent with politics that has as its objects the positive development, justice and peace of Nigeria. Recall that it was the same politics of religious bigotry and ethnic chauvinism between 1947 and 1966 that has made Nigeria a turbulent society wracked by violence, crimes, insurgency and separatism. At the Legislative Council in 1947, Tafawa Balewa had in contribution to the budget debate, veered off to warn his compatriots that “if the British quitted Nigeria now at this stage, the Northern people would continue their uninterrupted conquest to the sea.” This speech in the reckoning of Britain established Balewa as leader of the North.

The Balewa and Ahmadu Bello noxious speeches and indeed the Far-Northern political class against the South and in particular the Igbo created the bogey of ‘Igbo domination’ which was activated by Britain on 16th January 1966 after the Nzeogwu coup and latched upon by Northern political class to foster the false narrative that Igbo, as a group planned 1966 coup to seize government and dominate Nigeria. The blunders of executors of the January 15, 1966 coup and General Ironsi government accentuated the mistrust that led to the July 29, 1966 Revenge coup that consumed 50,000 Igbo military personnel and Igbo community resident in Northern Nigeria and culminated in the Biafra War that consumed two million Igbo lives and trillion naira worth of Igbo property. Inspite of the calamitous consequences incendiary and noxious political speeches have wrecked on Nigeria, particularly the Igbo, Nigerian politicians have not outgrown the primitive culture of religious bigotry and tribal chauvinism as eloquently portrayed by the Kashim Shettima’s chat with Kunle Amosu or even the Nasir el-Rufai’s boast of the Fulani as unforgiving race that resurrects and revenge decades-long wrongs or the Kwankwanso’s declaration that his Hausa/Fulani will never vote an Igbo as President of Nigeria. In saner climes, these noxious and incendiary statements by these politicians would be fatal enough to deform these politicians, and morally disqualify them from public offices but instead of disqualification such have served as badge of honour and certificate of qualification by their religious/ethnic groups to aspire for local and national offices in Nigeria. But if these politicians’ incendiary and noxious statement be acceptable to their religious and ethnic group, can it be tolerated by the other religious and ethnic groups being targeted without any form of stricture and electoral penalty? For instance, why should any Southerner vote Nasir el-Rufai for his vengeful Fulani or Kwankwaso and his bigoted and clannish tribe? It was this peculiar Southern incapacity to know and hold bad politicians to account that made southern politicians to exhume General Muhammadu Buhari who Nasir el-Rufai had written off as being not electable presidentially, from his political oblivion and hoisted him on the pedestal of democracy, patriotism and nationalism to be voted into power in 2015, despite his well-known autocratic tendencies, tribal chauvinism, religious bigotry and nepotistic inclinations.

Let politicians and political parties dig up the muck that surround the Nigerian politicians and confront them with the improprieties as being in compatible with Public morality and patriotism and educate the Nigerian publics and voters to shun them as being ineligible to see any office, of honour and reward in Nigeria as it is the practice in civilized countries. For most of these politicians with the mindsets to spill noxious speeches, their actions spring from bottomless well springs of ignorance. How much do they know of the over 250 ethnic-groups in Nigeria and do they know anything better than the gutters up or beer parlour gossips about the ethnic groups? For if Kashim Shettima knows the Igbo outside of the ethnic profiles he learnt from second-hand knowledge – which shows that he never attempted a sincere study of Nigeria rather he occupied himself with intrigues to hold a major ethnic group down and believes there could be no adverse consequences. So, ignorance is at the root of trouble with Nigeria and until this ignorance is extirpated from the body politic and replaced with knowledge the mischief makers and intrigues will continue to hold Nigeria down at their level of mediocrity.




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