Sadly, one deficiency in our contemporary culture is that we hardly own up to our misdeeds. We always think of what lies could be concocted in order to sabotage the justice system or whatever is morally acceptable in a civilised society. The duty we owe to posterity is to find ways by which a new generation of Nigerians can be brought up on the path of truth and honesty, denouncing the very ways we ourselves have become accustomed to.
Sometime in 2011, precisely the time the United Nations office at Abuja was attacked, a Nigerian who had been absent from work without any permission from his boss claimed he had been traumatised because a very close relation of his was among the victims of the attack. Compare and contrast this blatant lie to the honesty of a Briton who was absent from work and apologised to his boss, blaming his absence on having had too much alcohol to drink the previous day.
Just recently, a Nigerian-born British lawmaker, Fiona Onasanya, was sentenced to three months in jail for lying about a speeding ticket in the UK. She could easily have paid the fine for exceeding the speed limit but, in an attempt to escape justice, she claimed her vehicle was at the time of the offence driven by someone else. The person she claimed drove her car was at the time of the offence on a visit to Russia. In jailing Fiona, the judge said, “You have simply let yourself down, you have let down those who look to you for inspiration, your party, your profession and parliament”. A solicitor by profession, Fiona has been expelled from the Labour Party and faces a recall from Parliament upon the receipt of a petition-10 per cent of registered voters-from her constituency.
Now, in the current controversy involving the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, I make bold to say that the eminent jurist “lied” in not fully declaring his assets. The claim that he “forgot” about some of his accounts is the typical Nigerian way of not wanting to own up to our misdeeds, always seeking an explanation that seeks to evoke sympathy from others. Justice Onnoghen should simply have honourably resigned his position and apologise to the nation for a behaviour that has fallen short of what is expected of someone of his exalted position. Except for the recent commendable example of Kemi Adeosun, former Minister of Finance, we sadly do not resign positions in Nigeria, always wanting to fight till the bitter end.
With President Muhammadu Buhari rather hastily suspending the former Chief Justice from office, it was always expected that there would be fireworks about the constitutionality or otherwise of his action, the facts of ethnic interpretation as well as the interpretations of those who would want to profit politically from an avoidable crisis situation.
One honestly had thought a prominent leader of the Peoples Democratic Party died on hearing that the party suspended its campaigns for 72 hours. Haba, the PDP needed not have suspended its campaigns because someone had been suspended from office. The party should have laundered its grudge in the market of public opinion, especially now that elections are around the corner and anything goes in seeking to exploit the failings of an opponent. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should not have been petitioning foreign nations, nations that have always held us in contempt, over issues that are purely domestic. The Azikiwes and Nkrumahs, who fought for our independence and emancipation, would be mightily disappointed that, more than 50 years after independence, contemporary African leaders cannot resist the temptation of begging former colonial powers to intervene in matters that are best resolved domestically.
Dr Anthony Akinola, Oxford, United Kingdom