Ogaism is derived from the word ‘Oga’.
Oga is the term loosely used by the Yoruba [one of the larger nationalities that make up the Nigerian federation], to describe a ‘boss’, the person ‘in charge’, ‘the GOC ‘, the ‘foreman’ , the ‘CEO’, the’ managing director’ or ’ head’ in charge of any enterprise or organization. It can be used positively but it can also be a term of derision, like an incompetent Oga. The term is also gender neutral.
In the socio-political usage and application of this term, in ANY society, ogaism is problematic. This is because there exists the constitution or the body of rules to be followed in a society or an organisation and then there is ‘ogaism’, that is, what oga SAYS or WANTS. That is to say what the Oga wants or says and what the law or constitution says are often NOT the same, in fact they are quite often mutually exclusive. Oga will willfully disregard laid down regulations, the ‘General Orders’ the G. O’ of an organization and pursue a line of action of his own, even when he KNOWS that he is only a temporary holder of office. He has willful disregard and contempt for the law, and believes that being an oga entitles him/her to disregard the law, to violate it with impunity, the law or due process be damned!
‘I am THE oga, and this very fact ENTITLES me to do whatever I Iike’ he says to himself. According to the theory of ogaism, the constitution or body of rules is IRRELEVANT or subordinate to oga’s wish, infact the constitution is regarded as a nuisance, or at best an inconvenience. In a society or an organization, the body of rules, regulations or the constitution exists to act as a RESTRAINT on the impulsive and capricious tendencies of ANY individual in that society or organization. And there are often stiff penalties, attending the contravention of the rules, regulations and the constitution. Individuals within an organization can be verbally reprimanded, employment terminated, a prison term can result, an elected official can be removed from office, or even jailed for contravening the rules.
In spite of all the above, WHY then does Ogaism exist in any society? Ogaism, in its worst manifestation, is a function of the underdevelopment of the jurisprudential basis of a society, when the laws or the instruments of the law are weak or the entities that are SUPPOSED to uphold the law are badly vitiated or compromised. Ogaism also flourishes when a society is in transition from the arbitrariness and caprice of long years of military rule. In such a society, the laws may be untested in practice in court, and there will be individuals so taken by positions and accoutrement of office that they believe the law does NOT apply to them, that they are ABOVE the law and the legal RESTRAINT which the law really is, does NOT apply to them. It is NOT just the delusions of office that drive such behaviour, it is also the nature of that society. A society that is so driven by dissension, conflict, fissures and cleavages, that a clear path to legality is tortuous. The culture of robust defence of the rule of law is weak or, nonexistent. Judges rather than uphold the law may be intimidated by the aura of office of the offending official, justice can also be purchased. As counselors and aides, oga avoids the independent minded type, who could avail him/her the benefit of honest opinion. The craven type, in search of access and lucre is preferred.
The Ogaists. There will ALWAYS be those who support a decision made by an Oga, even when the oga’s action is PATENTLY unconstitutional, illegal, underhanded and even DOWNRIGHT CRIMINAL, not to talk of being repugnant to morality or ethics. This kind of individual often OWE his/her position in the hierarchy or scheme of things to the Oga, hence they constitute the army of yes-men/women that surround him/her. To these people, it is of little or no concern of theirs, if Oga’s decision is erratic, arbitrary, and capricious, they might chuckle behind him or her, but they feel the need to put up a public support, they will even carry out and execute this decision even when they KNOW it is criminal and CANNOT be justified on ANY ground, MORALLY, LEGALLY OR CONSTITUTIONALLY. Of course, this kind of travesty is dominant in societies where the rule of law is so badly vitiated as to constitute almost a joke. This is not to suggest that Ogaism is absent in societies that consider themselves rule or law-based. Indeed, a law can be totally unjust, inhumane, discriminatory and offensive to ordinary human dignity and there will be those who will reconcile themselves to denial of basic human dignity to others….as long as they are NOT the victim of an obnoxious law.
Even in societies where ogaism is NOT perceived to be the dominant practice, the Oga can ALWAYS find individuals steeped in the law to INTERPRETE his/her decisions as being within the ambit of the law. After all, what is LEGAL can always be argued…..AFTER the fact. Endless, archane, legalistic disputations can ensue on WHAT the MEANING of ‘is’ REALLY is or what the framers of the law ‘meant ‘or were ‘supposed’ to mean…………but no matter, the horse had ALREADY left the barn….and oga had HAD his way.
Oga has almost total contempt for the application of the rule of law as a compulsory restraint on his IMPULSES, and his cronies could always be relied upon to find ways to skirt the outer limits of what constitutes legality. The oga and cronies have taken a gamble and can worry about consequences later, even if one or some of the cronies can later be sacrificed as the fall guy with jail term as a possibility. Oga will act NOW and worry about the law LATER, when his society has been presented with a fait accompli. Of course we can see the trap he has set here, because having ALREADY taken the action; he is in NO mood to back down once the matter becomes public even in the face of stiff opposition from those who do NOT subscribe to Ogaism.
I submit that Ogaism is the DOMINANT impulse that characterizes public practice and policy execution in our country. Its brazenness and impunity is so wide spread, aided and abetted by the seeming docility of the many to challenge it. And ogaism exists because the Oga believes WHATEVER his action is, is the THE law, regardless of what the constitution says. His accomplices in the various illegalities simply look the other way. Oga’s cronies and hangers on encourage him in this delusion by aiding, abetting and acting as enablers in the whole sordid process. That does not stop them from writing a tell-all book, after their ‘meritorious’ service to oga. They will then regale the public with the dirty shenanigans of their time in the service of oga, all the dark secrets, the lies, the circumventions of the laid down rules they engaged in, the laws that were brazenly broken while they kept quiet, while they claim to be serving the society, when in actual fact they were serving the interests of the oga, while they were getting rich themselves in the process. That does not mean these former ogaists and their stories do not serve a purpose, because indeed they do. Otherwise, ordinary people in the society will never know about the level of depravity of these characters, the oga and his enablers. And because of the nature of the society where ogaism reigns, they are hardly held accountable. Indeed, it is because oga and the ogaists believe that they are hardly likely to be ever held accountable that they act with such brazen impunity.
The defining moment of ogaism, in my estimation, in the extant experiment with democracy in our country was the abduction of former governor Nwabueze Ngige of Anambra state, by a contingent of Nigeria police led by an assistant inspector general [AIG] Ralph Ige in July 2003. Ige stated he was acting on ‘orders from above’….that is from Oga. There was NO other oga, except the president of Nigeria, the police powers are his, to order, as deemed fit. This is the height of ogaism, in that ALL niceties and pretensions about criminality, legality are brusquely dispensed with, to be replaced by brigandage and thuggery as instruments of state policy. A decade now that this occurred, I confess I still find it hard to fathom its sheer brazenness and impunity. I am unable to wrap it around in my mind, HOW a citizen we dub our president, in a supposedly democratic Nigeria can CONCEIVE of an idea to ORDER a contingent of our country’s police officers to go KIDNAP a governor of a state because the governor refused to effect an illegal so-called irrevocable standing order to pay the president cronies and operatives, Chris Uba et al.
As Americans would say ‘what was Ige thinking?’ giving effect to, and executing this unlawful and brazen illegality? But that is the thing about the enablers/executors of ogaism, they seem totally unreflecting about the consequences of effecting a patently illegal order. Hauled before the national assembly, a profusely sweating Ige offered some banalities, was allowed to go, retired a month before his due date and sadly passed on shortly thereafter.
Generally, what we have in our country is civilian rule with a thin layer of the tenets and attributes of democracy. But we must thank God for the small victories on our way to a democratic Nigeria. The third term gambit failed. Its principal figure, his dissembling notwithstanding, awaits the judgment of history. Some of the judgments of our judiciary are cheering, our civil society is not dormant, but ogaism writ large still mostly defines governance in our country. Now in the middle of the second decade of the extant democratic experiment, ordinary people, the civil society, all who believe in the hope and promise of democratic Nigeria, must gird our loins for the struggle be rid our society of ogaism for one based on the rule of law.