Many of us have had reason to ask ourselves at one time or the other why people never resign from office in Nigeria. Before I attempt to answer this, let me digress a little. Ms Fiona Onasanya was a Nigerian born British Parliamentarian until December 2018, when she was recalled by members of her constituency (Peterborough) who got the requisite number of signatories to petition for her removal. What was her offence? Well, the initial offence for which she was charged was for driving 41 mph in a 30mph zone. She was also found to be texting on the phone at the same time. The second offence was that she lied in an attempt to escape justice. She claimed that she was not the one driving on that day. She was eventually found guilty by the courts for the initial driving offence and for perverting the course of justice. Now, the crux of the matter is that there were legal consequences for her actions and though she tried, she couldn’t escape them. She was handed a 3 months jail sentence out of which she served four weeks but that’s not all. Her constituency did not only remove her as their representative but she was also expelled from her Party, the Labour Party. Although this may not be an ideal reference point because the political offender in question didn’t resign on her own volition but there are lessons to be learned nevertheless; actions have consequences. First, Ms Onasanya faced the consequences for her actions and second, the society in which she lives enjoys the consequences of laws being upheld and applied blindly across board. Such a society will always work.
Britain, like many other advanced societies can boast of many instances where political appointees have agreed to take the fall, even if reluctantly, just to save their government further embarrassment. And in a system where you know investigations will always be taken to a logical conclusion and you will eventually be found culpable, what are you waiting for but to resign? It’s a far more honourable path to take when the end result is inevitable.
I read recently of a rape case here in Nigeria. The matter had already got to court when the father of the alleged victim, ever so disappointedly decided to withdraw the case. He said prominent members and elders of the community had approached him on behalf of the accused’s family and had pleaded that they drop the case. Upon informing the court of his decision, the Judge did the unusual. He refused to discontinue the case and went ahead to dress the alleged victim’s father down. He said he would consider the request only if it came from the mother’s mouth. I was so impressed with the Judge’s actions not because he did something that had never been done before but because he did it an environment where the right thing is seldom done. I put this simple question to you. What happens when parents repeatedly fail to reprimand or discipline their children for behaving badly? The children do more of the same and even worse because they know they won’t face any consequences for their actions.
The Nigerian society didn’t degenerate over night but gradually. Many little foxes running rampant over the years, and here we are. When wrong is not condemned it will not be corrected. When left like that and as time passes, the number of people who frown on it will dwindle to barely a pocketful. Eventually, the wrong will become normalized and the descent by that time would be complete. As an aside, what happened to the issue of the “Slapping Senator”? Or has it died a natural death like so many before and after it?
We live in a country where the government repeatedly flouts the rule of law with reckless abandon while not only preaching the sanctity of the law to the rest of us but comes down hard on those deemed to have broken it. I’m always mystified when I read report upon report in the media about our President traversing the continents of the world, soliciting foreign investment. Why does this confound me? Because investors are very smart people who don’t lose their heads at the prospect of making stupendous gain in relatively green fields like Nigeria. They always place far more premium on safety and the security of their proposed investment. No matter how attractive the potential returns might appear to be, they’re more concerned about not running the risk of losing their investment altogether. Other than the very pertinent issue of their personal safety, in a country where terrorists, armed robbers, supposed herdsmen, bandits, cultists and ritualists run amock, the ordinary man in real terms – not in theory – has little meaningful recourse when government decides to breach agreements. Try your luck and go to court; the case can be locked up there for the next 15 years! Lest I forget, and with the attendant costs. Whichever way you look at it, you lose.
And if the courts eventually rule in your favour, what makes you think government will pay? We are all aware of Sowore’s travails a few years ago. Like him or loathe him, the simple fact is that the body constitutionally empowered to establish whether there has been any infraction or not, gave a ruling that he be released once he satisfies the court’s bail conditions. He did so and yet he remained incarcerated until the noise from both within and outside the country became too loud for the government to ignore. It got to a point where various groups started demonstrating in the United Kingdom, yet again portraying us as a lawless nation where government unfortunately leads the way. And you expect investors to come? Come on. Unfortunately, when those who run foul of the law continue to enjoy their freedom and privileges, without facing what should be the logical consequences, that in itself will have consequences.
The general populace will demand the right to normalize wrong and will then logically expect to get away with it as well. After all, what’s good for the goose is equally good for the gander. And it doesn’t take a genius to guess that because of this, it will take forever for things to change for the better. Kindly permit me to end with this quote by Charles Reade which I know may sound a little cliché to many who have heard it many times over. It does however speak volumes to this discussion and it’s this: “Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” We would be deceiving ourselves to think we got to this point by mistake.
Changing the nation… one mind at a time.
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA and author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.