Monday, 23 January 2012

Whither Intergrity?

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji.

I often get amused whenever I see people; especially those that I hold in high esteem belie my high expectation and perception of them through their low behavior and utterances. I have come to observe these so frequently that I shudder to inquire how many of our people really bother to know how the next fellow feels about their character. This ugly situation cascades down all over the place with little or no exception.

The consequence is that I hardly trust people anymore. But even if you accuse me of being too moralistic, then tell me who actually you can trust between a politician and a banker; a policeman and a motorist ;a civil servant and a trader ; a lawyer and a teacher ; a social worker and a journalist; a nurse and a driver; and; a student and a medical personnel ? Etc. Each of them has a basketful of tricks upon which they seem contented to live in Nigeria of today.

The irony is that many of these people have like the proverbial dog eaten the bone hanged on their necks. Lucid examples to buttress all these are not in short supply. In our society of today, a lecturer sees amorous dealings with his female student as part of the gains of his profession. A journalist sees bribery as a compass that could determine what actually to write. A politician sees deceit, fraud and violence as a footpath to relevance. The civil servant sees graft as a guaranty for happy service. A medical doctor exploits the ignorance and weakness of the sick. Same for a trader who must tell lies as a prelude to making profit etc. Nobody really seems to care anymore!

Recently I was in Abuja on a one week vacation. Throughout the one week I had put up with a friend, an erstwhile schoolmate who presently works in the office of the Auditor General of the federation. Naturally, we had cause to talk over a whole lot of issues ranging from old school events/gist and most importantly his present job. My friend was effusive in telling me how he makes extra money besides his salary.

As a junior auditor he works under seniors who inducted him into the process of making extra money on the job. Going round government establishment for audits was part of their job and it is this assignment that makes the difference. All that mattered wherever or whenever they come around for audit was ‘settlement’. When this happens as was often the case, then the books will be given a clean bill of good health. All short comings and queries are then overlooked. He saw absolutely nothing wrong in these skewed approach to work that enables him to earn extra twenty thousand naira or more on top of his monthly salary. His boss and others who inducted him into the trade for sure earn more!

Some time in the succeeding years, a federal government ministry in the FCT advertised for some senior and mid-level positions for a World Bank sponsored project. Applications came in torrents, as the legions of the unemployed struggled to try their luck. Aptitude test was staged by those concerned not necessarily to whittle down the lot and select the best, No! From the way the way the whole thing evolved much later, it showed that it was done to please the financiers whose conditions prescribed such.

What emerged at the end was a selection of those who never wrote the test. But a collection of mediocre and cheats whose edge was that they had God Fathers in senior ministry officials such as directors, permanent secretaries and ministers only. Those who had none were never considered. Yet most of them are fellow country men who risked the travails of our sullen death trap roads to keep faith with the process that seemed a glimmer of hope.

When Chuba Okadigbo died, accusing fingers were pointed at certain quarters. To buttress the truth, an inquest was made by the federal government for an autopsy. The bereaved family turned it down. Why? They probably reasoned that previous exercises in other similar cases stirred more controversy than resolve any problem. It was overt that they have no confidence in any outcome from such a process. That matter demonstrated the high level of distrust in the polity especially between the citizens and their government.

I love reading Rtd. Justice Chukwudifo Oputa interviews. One of such in a national newspaper few years ago lamented the decay of morality in our society. He had always cautioned various strata of the country on integrity especially the judiciary at all levels.. Juxtaposing the words of this erudite judge you will no doubt cry at the disgraceful conduct displayed during the kangaroo impeachment of some governors by the chief judges of Ekiti, Plateau and Anambra states in 2006.

Enmeshed in this roll of pervasive deficiency in integrity of our day is Justice Okoli of the Anambra State Judiciary who has seemingly opted to play politics than interpret the law. Justice Egbo Egbo and Justice Opene , both of whom have long been dismissed from the bench believed and practiced ‘Ghana must go’ legal erudition. Justice Okoli is happy dancing to the music of the Anambra State house of Assembly who are encouraging him to misbehave and shun the disciplinary directives of the National Judiciary Commission (NJC). On the same pedestal is Mr. Bayo Ojo the attorney general of the federation who has become an alternate court with omnibus powers to interpret judicial verdicts.

Reasons for all these display of perfidy among many professionals in Nigeria speaks volumes of our non preparedness to progress. The way it stands we seem fixated and destined for atrophy. Integrity is a meaningful attribute that must be restored and secured before we talk about nation building and national development. Without it ‘enweghi ebe anyi ji azu aga’ (we are making no progress) and ‘anyi na egbu oge’ (we are wasting our time).

The list is endless. Was accusing fingers not pointed at some graft imbued professionals when, some storey buildings collapsed in Lagos and Port Harcourt last year killing our fellow countrymen?; Was it not FCT personnel who signed out spaces for development knowing fully well that it was not in tandem with the master-plan? Where was integrity when some of these properties were eventually demolished for being out of order with the master-plan? Where is integrity when the Joint Admission Matriculation Board was suspected of compromising its statutory responsibilities?

I am interested to find where integrity still reigns in my country. A look at the top of the pyramid i.e. the presidency shows a behemoth of deceit and chicanery. Was it not Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who conceived but veiled the third term agenda? Is their any integrity in the naked dance of Mr. President and his vice on the PTDF? Where is integrity in the PDP presidential primaries that deceived and coaxed genuine aspirants for a favored stooge?

Where is integrity in the ‘rub my back I rub yours’ relationship existing between state governors and their houses of assembly? I am also searching for integrity in the conduct of local council chairmen who merely wait for monthly allocation without bothering to make impact on their people? The result is bad governance and mal-administration. The poor suffers it most. But must it continue this way? Perhaps a food for thought as we look ahead in the year ahead

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