Onnoghen and Our Crumbling Intelligence
Onnoghen and Our Crumbling Intelligence
We have arrived at a threshold in our nation-state where you wake up and expect something extraordinary, just out of the blues. Each week comes with it's menu - the good (rare), the bad (occasional), and the ugly (frequent).
Most worrisome is that our psyche as a people has become so used, so shockproof that nothing surprises us anymore. Wake up, witness some absurdities, shout, wail (not as in wailers, please), hail (not as in hailers, either), make noise and then go back to sleep. Only to wake up the next day to another round of absurdities, and then the vicious circle continues. I hate to ask the question, but who did this to us as a people?
I do not intend to dissipate unnecessary energy on the most trending event in our national life, the Onnoghen-saga. For, I know that just like previous similar national issues, this one too shall pass away, probably before this piece is published. Another trending (read as absurd) issue shall overtake it, and another after that. But just before it's transition, let me briefly examine the socio-political (and possibly legal) implications of the present situation.
The argument in the social circle has been the propriety of the present action against the CJN, at this time. Why now, some have asked? But why not now, I have asked? A crime, (where indeed one has truly been committed) remains just that, a crime: an offense against the Commonwealth. It has no harvest period nor expiry date. The State has a duty to institute it's machineries against any crime, even in it's infancy. That's probably why we have punishment against attempted, or even failed crimes. So, shall the Republic tarry while iniquities persist? I think not.
I support fully the taking of timeous legal actions against infringements of the law.
But some will argue that the speed at which the Onnoghen issue was handled suggest a premeditation, a plan contrived and hatched in the midnight upon which day must not break for it's execution. That we have countless (and continuing) similar allegations of impropriety against several other public holders. And that despite the hue and cry of the populace, the powers that be have seemingly indulged these malfeasances, or at worst only smacked the offender's bum with the hollow of the palm. So, why the haste in Onnoghen? Unfortunately, I have no defence against this line of argument. I hardly have any precedent to refer to. But then, again, sometime is always the first time.
Should Onnoghen resign? Why not! The honor of his exalted office demands that, like Caesar's wife, he must be seen to be above board. The honor of his position requires that where there is any credibility in an allegation, then he should not allow such a position to be desecrated. The honor of his role as an enforcer of law and punisher of legal omissions demands that he be judged by the same ordinance with which he has judged others.
But why should the CJN resign? Just because of yet-unproven allegations? Where is such precedence in Nigeria, nay Africa? Who has ever resigned from political office just because of allegations of even weightier offenses? If you refer me to Kemi Adeosun, then I will also refer you to tens of Babachir Lawals, of Mainas, of Gandujes, etc. Even the President did not resign when challenged about his lack of WAEC certificate. (Aaahhh.... thank God that, too, has passed away).
The bottom line is that, if this Administration, in it's fight against corruption, had previously acted with the same speed and diligence with which it has handled this Onnoghen matter, probably critics would have had less reasons to criticise. If the Administration had previously acted dispassionately against kith and kindreds accused of misdemeanors, then ethnic champions and arguers of selective treatment would have one less reason to bicker. If the government had chosen to follow the dictates of the law by referring this matter to the National Judicial Counsel for consideration and recommendation, the aroma of evil scheming would have been less attractive.
And of course, this singular event must convict the government on the need to add a large dosage of transparency, speed, vigour, honesty and sincerity of purpose to this anti-corruption fight. These are urgently necessary, if the government must be taken serious.
Manuel Akinshola (Lagos)