The name, Richard Nixon is one that resonates with any serious student of history or an adept observer or follower of the international political scene; more precisely, American politics. Well, for those whom it doesn’t, on the 8th of August, 1974, he became the first president of the United States of America to resign from office in controversial circumstances.
The irrepressible Nixon, a 2-term president of the US saw his second term engulfed by the now famous ‘WaterGate’ scandal. The scandal grew from a bungled break-in by five burglars who entered the Democratic National Committee offices at the WaterGate Complex in Washington on the night of 17th June 1972. Subsequent investigations, most famously by Washington Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, linked the break-in to President Nixon’s top aides, who were involved in an extensive cover-up of politically sanctioned illegal activities.
After a two year investigation by the News Media, government agencies, the US Senate, the House of Representatives and the US Supreme Court, the extent of the White House cover-up consumed Nixon’s presidency. Seeing the downward pace the whole scandal was spiraling, the beleaguered Nixon stunned Americans and indeed the world, by resigning from his position as the president of the United States, becoming the first person to so do.
In the famous “Farewell to the White House” speech, on the 8th of August 1974, at about 9:10 PM (Local Time), Nixon said:
“…I’d have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the personal agony it’d have involved, and my family unanimously urged me to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any personal considerations. From the discussions I’ve had with congress and the other leaders, I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter, I might not have support of the Congress that I’d consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the ways the interest of the Nation would require. I have never been a quitter. To leave the office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a fulltime president and a fulltime congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost certainly absorb the time and attention of both the president and the congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice president Ford will be sworn in as president at that hour in this office…”.
Anyone who expects such from our political office holders, the Ogas-at-the-top riding in cozy black Prado jeeps with long convoys at the speed of light like armed-robbers fleeing a crime scene, should do us the pleasure by presenting his head for examination at some medical lab for traces of logorrhea and first degree dementia. Those things don’t apply here.
Here, political office holders do not come in order to leave so soon. For where? Na craze worry you? Many, suffer from the syndrome of acute amnesia as not to know that the offices they hold is at the pleasure of the citizenry and ought to be vacated at once, in the event their character comes to question whether directly or indirectly.
But they had rather you save that gospel or beatitudes for the nza bird. As far as the Nigerian political-big-man is concerned, he can knock off a law abiding citizen on the highway and still refer to the victim as a “prostitute”. His aides and bootlickers feeding from the crumbs falling off his table can smash the gadgets of Law abiding citizens and ask them to “go to hell” if they please. As a matter of fact, they can insult helpless citizens and even ask them to “go and die” if they please, but yet get away with it. They are in some light, pseudo Lords of the manor. Here, “sit tightism” is the norm, if I’d be pardoned to infiltrate that term into the English lexicography. And even when it is constitutionally time to go, a morbid ambivalence sets in; as we saw in the failed third term gambit of the Chief Watcher of the Federation.
For the avoidance of doubt, political office holders view power as a platform to re-coop the hefty sums spent on inflationary campaign extravaganza and the loans collected from banks to pick up party nomination forms. That is, holding an elective office does not provide the opportunity to serve and leave indelible marks in the sands of time; on the contrary, it is a business. And like in every business, there is no morality. The only language the business world understands is hustle, hustle and more hustle. It is same for the Nigeria political big-man. And so even when it is crystal clear to ‘Blind Bartimaeus’ that they have messed up, resignation of their office is never in the menu. No way, those things don’t apply here.
Instead , politics is thrown to the matter and ill-gotten monies are shared to those Karl Max referred to as “Bribed tools of reactionary intrigue” or “Lumpen proletariats” who run to town with the message of political witch-hunt of their ‘criminal benefactors’ who suddenly become the best thing that ever happened to them. Paid advertorials deluge the national dailies at the instance of numerous existing and virtual town unions and corporate organizations who cry more than the bereaved, just to justify their payments. In the social media, compromised “overlords” in tweet storms and face book updates whine to the heavens in condemnation of the government of the day bringing charges of Financial misappropriation against their unscrupulous paymasters and shameless ‘yam eaters’ and wage war against those who offer a dissenting opinion to their positions.
At the end of the day, the political thief, with an obsession for ‘yam eating’, basking in the euphoria of the fraudulent ‘media support’, finds a scaffold large enough to stand on, and tell the world that he is being berated and reprimanded on political and other ridiculous grounds by persons who are envious of his office or those who ‘do not like his face’ (apologies to former president GEJ), instead of honorably resigning of his position for the impudence and disrepute he has brought to the office he occupies, as is seen in more serious climes.
For those who may think that Nixon’s offence was so grave and deserved his actions, as not to compare with any particular scenario in Nigeria, how about a little incursion into early history?
Last year, South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won amidst a ferry disaster which left 300 people dead or missing and resulted in widespread shame, fury and finger pointing by the citizens who blamed the government for “deep rooted evils” in the country for the tragedy. The then embattled Chung was heckled by victims’ relatives and his car was at the time blocked when he visited a shelter on an island near the site of the sinking ferry. Few days after, Chung resigned of his office, saying:
“…As I saw families suffering with the pain of losing their loved ones and the sadness and resentment of the public, I thought I should take all responsibility as prime minister. There have been so many varieties of irregularities that have continued in every corner of our society and practices that have gone wrong. I hope these deep-rooted evils get corrected this time and this kind of accident never happens again…”
Nobody blamed anything on the devil, neither was God indicted. Chung left office, accepting all the responsibility and bowed out in shame; allowing it to be sunk into the head of whoever takes over him, that ‘nansense’ will not be tolerated, thereby, raising the bar of governance higher in that country.
But let us come back to Nnamdi Kanu’s “Zoo”. On the 16th of March, 2014 was a day of national tragedy. What happened? The Nigerian immigration service recruitment exercise turned out to be a disaster as no fewer than 20 lives were lost due to stampedes across the various centres from Abuja to Jos to Benin to Minna (not Mina). It was a tales of sorrow, as fathers lost sons, wives lost husbands, brothers lost sisters, friends lost relations and fiancées lost fiancés.
The exercise it was told was badly organized as no fewer than 70,000 people turned up to fill 5,000 vacancies. Among the dead, were 5 pregnant women, while scores of people were injured. Reports had it that security operatives were overwhelmed with the crowd such that controlling them became a problem and this resulted in security operatives firing gunshots into the air which precipitated the stampede. When the dust settled, at least 19 persons had lost their lives.
You would think that the interior minister, Abba Moro would immediately resign from his office to take responsibility for the mis-managed exercise organized in collaboration with his office. But that was not seen. Moro went tangential instead, blaming the applicants for their ‘impatience’ and ‘failing to conduct themselves in an orderly manner’. Not even the barrage of calls for his sack from Civil Society organizations could bring the man within the pangs of his conscience to force him into resignation. Politics was instead set afoot and as the days went by, the issue was laid to rest as the families of the deceased were bribed or pacified in one way or the other. Had GEJ won a re-election, Moro would have continued to this day as the minister of interior. Who said Nigeria is not a land of the awkward?
We can go on and on to feed from the vine of history to bring to you dear reader, the numerous cases of resignation by public office holders who did so in utter respect for the offices they occupy and to ensure the elevation of societal morality in more serious nations, against what obtains here but for space constraints. Suffice it however, to bring to the fore the latest of such which directly informs the troubles of this column.
Last week, in the aftermath of the corruption and emission cheating scandal that has rocked Automobile Corporation Volkswagen, the embattled CEO of the company resigned. In his resignation statement released on the 23rd of September, 2015, winterkorn Martin said:
“I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen group. As CEO, I accept responsibility for the irregularity that have been found in the diesel engines and have therefore requested the supervisory board to agree on terminating my functions as CEO of the Volkswagen group. I am doing this in the interest of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part. Volkswagen needs a fresh start also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation. I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is, and will always be my life. The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen group and its team’ll overcome this grave crisis”.
Back home, it is no longer news that former governor of Kwara state, current bearer of the staff of the Saraki dynasty, two time senator, business man and the president of the 8th National Assembly is in the eye of the storm. The beleaguered senator is been tried on 13-count charges preferred against him by the federal government which included among other crimes, improperly using state funds to purchase private assets during his tenure as the governor of Kwara state while he was senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is also accused of declaring as part of his assets, a property that had not been sold to him, a maneuver known as “anticipatory looting” in Nigerian political lexicon.
After the controversy which initially trailed his appearance at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), the embattled senator finally appeared at the tribunal, took to the dock and took the plea which all expected to be in the negative and the matter has since been adjourned to the 21st of October for the continuation of hearing.
In the typical Nigerian style, the matter has been condemned as a ‘political trial’. A cancerous paradigm that you see in a society that politicizes everything and is never prepared to set new standards and narratives for socio-political engagement. I have always wondered where such reductionist and infantile diagnosis of issues takes a nation.
Ever since the news broke, I’ve refused to swim along in the murky waters of partisan analysts and commentators who with their mouth and pen, set the tone for the deterioration of this nation more than the Boko Haram militants.
It has been my opinionated stance, that politics should by all means come to marriage with morals against Niccolo Machiavelli’s mafian gospel that “politics have no relation to morals”; for a state whose leaders are bereft of morality too soon disintegrates from within and suffer a precipitous fall. Therefore, no matter what Saraki wants us to believe, no matter the political undertones of his trial which he alleges and tells anyone who would listen, it couldn’t have started from nowhere as there cannot be smoke without fire. Whether he likes it or not, in the legal context, there exists a prima facie case against him which for us, is enough to subject him to the test of morality barring when the long hurdles of litigation comes to an end.
This is my immediate concern in the whole drama. That he already has a prima facie case against him as a public official and the 3rd citizen of this nation is more than enough grounds for him to hand in his resignation letter, render an apology to Nigerians as we’ve always seen in the dealings of the nations we so much aspire to become someday. And the importance or significance of such a move, cannot be overemphasized. Not only does it present us as a serious nation in the international circles with zero tolerance for corruption; back home, it would create a precedent which subsequent erring officials would be judged by.
For a country struggling to destroy corruption before it destroys it, I do not think political pills thrown to the disease would come in good taste. Less of politics must be brought into trials of saraki nature. I think it is come for us to decide what we truly want out of our political leaders. Are we merely pretenders wanting to stamp out graft and political heist but go about patronizing it with our comments and utterances in cases of the saraki nature? It only beats my imagination that people who ought to know, have tacitly held brief for saraki; blaming his travails on Tinubu and Buhari who thy say, are peeved with the way the embattled senator came upon the presidency of the senate.
While this may be true, to those who play this card, we say: government is a continuum, and the measure we use in Saraki’s case, would be used in another potential victims’ case, the moment their ‘dirty linens’ get to be washed in the public scene as with Bukola Saraki.
Never should the collective good of Nigerians be slaughtered on the altar of unnecessary and energy sapping politicking. We repeat, never! Public offices should be reserved for men of impeccable character and who must be beyond reproach like Ceasar’s wife if possible. Those who fail this test, must be disgraced out of office at once.
It is in the light of the above, that one would have expected Saraki to draft his resignation statement that would go well to raise the bar of governmental modesty here, instead of making racy denials through his media office on account of the humiliating treatment meted to him at the hands of angry Kwarans who are visibly tired of the democratic slavery foisted on them by the Pharoahic hands of Saraki. What a shame!
Political office holders must be told that they hold offices at the instance of the citizenry, and such offices must be accorded the highest decency and courtesy which public service commands. For the Sarakis of this world, who cannot stand the heat, they could do themselves a whole lot of good by staying out of the kitchens of leadership.
Having a senate president who cannot come clean to the citizenry with regards to his finances, as well as a Revenue Chief who lies about his academic qualifications, to put it mildly, portends great danger for such a state. The least that could be done therefore, is to allow the subjectivity of politics to allow such monster to fester.
Nigerians are eagerly anticipating to see how this whole saga will pan out. Will Saraki rise to the demands of morality by tendering his resignation letter and sort himself out at the tribunal? Can he rise to become the Nixon of Nigerian, nay African politics and spurn a precedent never before seen, or would he play the political card as usual and continue to lead the 8th National Assembly like a mad man with no shame? To put it in a better perspective, would he prefer to etch his name in gold like GEJ, who drew victory from defeat at the last general election, or rather enlist his name in the unenviable list of infamy populated by men stricken with a paucity of character and who allowed the greed for holding on to power, corrupt them absolutely?
All these, as they say is impregnated in the womb of time, but Saraki would be doing himself and humanity a magnitude of good, by towing the path of honor which exclusively lies in his resignation.
Raymond Nkannebe is a Lawyer and Public Affairs commentator.
He is on twitter: @RayNkah