18th March, 2013
By Osuolale Alalade
It has not come as a surprise that the presidency, through its senior combative and loquacious mouthpiece, has sought to validate the pardon granted the internationally acknowledged felon, Diepriye Alamiesiegha, by reference to the Council of State’s primary role in this odious affair. Yes, the buck often stops at the desk of the Commander-in-Chief. The Council of State, in other climes, is the trusted final arbiter of the grand national ethic. The Council therefore is expected to rise beyond the mundane, even above treacherous legality and as well transcend the pronouncements of the Judiciary from the elevated podium of their most hallowed chambers. Collectively as an institution, the members of the Council of State are the protectors of the sanctity of national ethic and values, transcending the fickleness of subjective sensibilities of stakeholders who are often mobilized in the inane struggle for partisan appropriation of material values. In Nigeria, this challenge often confronts the imperative of money and what dollar and naira can buy. This undergirds the national repudiation of the ethical and the enthronement of the unethical and public immorality as the essence of national striving at all levels of society and state. The Council normally should mediate this crisis of national value definition and their implications for the moral tone of society. In this manner, the Council as well is implicated in resolving the rough and tumble of the crisis of material value distribution on rare occasions. With a clearly defined ideational and moral orientation as a compass, the Council would help the final political authority to navigate the seas on matters of life and death, sometimes including sanctioning war.
When the Council conscientiously attends to these almost sacrosanct obligations to the nation, the Council of State (or more familiarly the Council of Elders) can be expected to define and articulate the substantive contents and the ethical contours of the national civic theology – the unquestioning axiomatic underpinnings of life in national society and state. In our circumstances with dubious and unreliable national institutions, the Council can play a stabilizing role. The Council of State is thus a truly formidable institution for us to rely on to use its mighty discretionary powers, though conferred constitutionally but mainly sustained by a legitimizing public approbation, at all times in advancing the national ethic and value. To consolidate the confidence of the people who infuse so much legitimacy through their confidence in its judgments, the Council is required to inflexibly defend the cause of the permanent well being of society and, ultimately, the health of the polity. It is the unwritten charge of the Council of State to protect the integrity of the embodiments of the sovereignty of the society and state institutions by ensuring, through its advice, that the Commander in Chief, in responding to the buffeting waves of partisan politicking, is not transformed into a Commander-in Thief. In this way, the moral buck may be said to stop at the foot of the Council of State. The Council of State can neither validate the national unethical nor be perceived to be undermining the frail foundation of the residual ethical regime in place without serious consequences for social harmony.
This is what Okupe tries to exploit in his pitiable attempt at a throated validation of the pardon of a universally acknowledged felon. The Yoruba emphasize the invaluable role of the presence elders by affirming that “Agba ki wa l’oja, ko’ri omo titun wo”. A baby cannot be given the wrong orientation in the presence of elders. It is unpardonable to exploit an institution of this magnitude to try to extricate the president from the political doghouse he has sentenced himself to. When an institution as the Council of State begins to be associated with a patently insensitive attack on the moral sensibility of a nation, it reflects more than just the beginnings of the end of a decadent state of affairs. A people begin to flounder. A people are diminished. In this state of reductionist logic for political conveniences, the person of the president is irrelevant. He does not matter anymore. He would be always confined to the parlous doghouse to which he has consigned the days of his presidency and his legacy. Yet, the matter goes beyond the president.
The saga of Alamieyesiega and its handling by the Council of State as narrated by Okupe impose on us the sad challenge of confronting our mirror image as a nation. Okupe’s shunting of the responsibility for the Alamieyesiega’s affair to the Council of State, naturally forces on us a painful unprecedented course. This is the route of interrogating the construction and the very character of a Council of State that would so assault the sensibility of a nation with almost a reckless wanton disregard. Is our Council of State overwhelmed by the rot in society? Our nation, we all know as a national secret, is imperiled on all fronts. And I am not referring to Boko Haram. Boko Haram pales into insignificance in the face of the mammoth assault on the ethics and morality in the public sphere. We know what the mirror reflects back to us in our sober moments. Who have been our leaders in the past? Who are our leaders now? And who would lead this imperiled nation tomorrow? Definitely, our children’s children would not labour in vain under the burden of the scions of yesterday’s state robbers. Hopefully.
Meanwhile, the mirror image is damning. Who defines for us the values and codes that would validate our aspirations as individual participants in the lives of our communities and society and in making our modest contributions to the betterment of the lives of coming generations. What can a Nigerian die for to win the universal and unstinting applause of the people? Perhaps our deconstruction of the Council of State may serve as the Opele to direct these critical explorations. The operations of the Council are so far removed from the daily struggles of common citizens. So, one can be forgiven if one failed a simple test on its full membership. Yet, watching the implosive dynamic of the super heated Nigerian public realm and the dizzying gyrations and activities of the minuscule proportion of our compatriots who constitute the movers and shakers of the Nigerian space provides a glimpse of the tragedy unfolding in this country. The Nigerian public space is highly toxic and the more you move to the higher echelons of this odious realm, the more you feel the coming crumbling of the cookie. The Council of State-approved pardon of Alamieyesiegha is symptomatic of this gathering dark cumulus.
The manifestations of the toxicity of the Nigerian public sphere are legion. The current Global Financial Integrity indicators reveal that Nigerian leaders have been responsible for the hemorrhage of the national treasury to the tune of $182 billion in less than a decade. Internally, we are all aware of the names of those held responsible for the scandal of the phantom oil subsidy. It reads like who is who of Nigeria’s high-voltage brigand families. They are mostly the children of those who are candidates for the highest offices in the land. Significant numbers of them had in the past bestrode the country like a curse. In fact, it is striking that one is the son of a military man who vindicated the 1977 official murder of over 300 Nigerian students for demonstrating against an unjustifiable hike in university fees. And his principal, who was imposed as a fake democrat in the post-Abacha incubus by his fellow military adventurers in power, returned to order the military to massacre innocent citizens in Odi and Zaki Biam. I like to contrast these characters from another universe with the dignified reverence of the children of, let’s say, Nigeria’s true national hero: Murtala Mohammed. Compare the pedigree of the Murtala Mohammeds or the Ransome/ Anikulapo Kutis with the background of most of those calling the shots in the so-called contemporary progressive camp in the West and even across the nation. What is the pedigree of some of the leaders of the so-called progressive camp in Nigeria’s contemporary politics? The universe of the Nigerian public sphere is populated by 419ers, outright junk heads, dealers and wheelers and former state armed robbers that have all successfully laundered the loot and image. They are complemented by handmaidens of the dark days of the dark goggled kleptomaniac Sani Abacha, who now occupy commanding heights of politics and the economy, and dominate the affairs of state and society. Even Sani Abacha has been rehabilitated- pardoned by society’s complicity- with monuments to his name and revered in some circuits. Society’s willful amnesia or criminal indifference amounts to tacit amnesty and consequentially imply a pardon of sorts. The ongoing controversy over the structure of indigenous ownership of oil blocs has also been revealing of corruption. Nigerians know the names of their leaders who have stolen state money, willfully appropriated to build hill-top mansions, private palatial resorts and literally joined the jet sets. The exclusive club of jet sets is now dominated by the lords and entrepreneurs of commodified spirituality discounting bogus material salvation in Pentecostal malls. They compete for more and more dollar with the stinking political buccaneer society in the temporal realm. We have seen how an Attorney General of this land brazenly defended the Alamieyesieghas and the felon James Ibori now cooling his heels after a global fugitive run with the British. In time, Ibori would return to his assured state pardon. He would have no apologies for the British tax payer for the costly prosecution.
The simple reason is that the Alamiesieghas and the Iboris are in the good company of those we have allowed to acquire the rights to define and distort the foundational principles that undergird national life. The emergent organic immorality and the consolidation of the unethical have so distorted our lives at all levels that this illogicality would seem, tragically, to have gained the acquiescence of even our Council of State. Or is the Council a motivator instead of a victim of this decay of public morality? In the process, all Nigerians are diminished. There is no hiding place before this threatening deluge of the moral equivalent of a combined force of Boko Haram and Ansar dine on the rampage. In the advance of this decay of public morality, no one, no matter his place in the firmament, is spared. The presidency and its errands men rummage for every rationalization that they can adduce for what has been described as a criminal and nonsensical judgment. In the desperation of the perpetrators of the unethical and public immorality in the land, they desecrate every national icon they can lay their polluted minds on. In this tragic context, Okupe sees convergences in the state pardon granted Chief Obafemi Awolowo by General Yakubu Gowon and that offered Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu by President Shehu Shagari. It is clear to every discerning mind that the two cases were related to a defining and monumental event with inestimable implication for the health, sanity and the continued longevity of the republic. So, not only are we, the living, all diminished to moral liliputs just to save the skin of a renowned sinner, even our national icons and the glorious dead must be desecrated to launder the image, resuscitate the carrier and cover the shame of internationally certified rogue barons in the land. No one is immune from the leprous touch of these vermin class. Every Nigerian, living or dead, whatever his estate in life or in the world beyond, must be diminished. The idea is that Nigeria and Nigerians must be diminished to feed the ambition of president Goodluck Jonathan to be reelected in 2015. It makes a lot of sense if your calculus is premised on the warped and disorienting logic of the Nigeria establishment.
Finally, Okupe, in his warped understandings, seeks to validate the shameful Alamieyesiegha saga by suggesting that America provides a model to build our national morality on. America definitely is doing something right. But America is still struggling to get some things right. Of all the good things that America can offer Nigeria, how many has the administration or the collectivity of sanctioned rogues in charge of the Nigerian state emulated to improve the lives of Nigeria. One key reason manifest in the diminishing national existence of Nigeria is that the country is not getting anything right. It is the reason that the reported implication of the Council of State in this massive assault on public morality and morale is infinitely regrettable, whatever their rationalizations.