Ribadu oil panel, Tai Solarin and a Jonathan presidency bereft of morals, By Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

As a Nigerian, and one who is part of a generation who saw, believed and still believe in the potentials of the greatness of our dear country as one united country, one is always looking for that X factor that explains our now lethal inability to break into greatness –a greatness that is always within our reach at great moments, but which we often manage to undermine and bungle. It is a kind of collective self-immolation that passeth my understanding.

Many commentators point to the failure to resolve the “national question” as the cause of our problems. While the “national question” is an issue, I strongly disagree with this as the fundamental factor, for prior to everything in life is the ethical factor. Our failure is the failure of the ethical in the public domain. Societies often use the result of the resolution of the ethical to resolve other problems.

Readers should permit me a flash back to a moral source.  My brother and I –Toyin Ademoyo – served in the 70s as the first set of court clerks in the first Federal Court of Appeal in the city of Ibadan, western Nigeria. Then, our office was in the old Western House in the secretariat. It was the same House of Assembly that was used by the old political gladiators of the Action Group period. Far behind our building, but in the same secretariat, was Dr. Tai Solarin’s office as Nigeria’s first Public Complaints Commissioner—the Ombudsman whose job was to breathe ethics into our public lives.

Pronto, 7:30 a.m. every smiling morning, Monday through Friday, as the sun rose lazily to begin its sluggish peep into the world, my brother and I as court clerks used to have an early morning office routine before work started. We would pat  the window blind in our office as the  person who  first saw HIM would whisper to the other “Àwọn  nì yẹn, wá wò wọ́n , wọ́n  tún ti kọjá.” This means “eh that is him, come and look at him, he has passed again” This “HIM” was Tai Solarin. The time? Exactly 7:45a.m. every Monday through Friday. Tai Solarin became the symbol with which my brother  and I would set and reset  our wristwatches for HE has just passed.

In his famous khaki knicker, and short sleeve shirt,  a brown old-fashioned office bag and a bowler hat on, when Tai Solarin on his way to work  passed by the window  of our office at western House in the city of Ibadan, Nigeria –Monday through Friday— we knew it was 7:45a.m.  Not  once did he fail to pass. And that Spartan ethics was  unobtrusive and  eternally inscribed in the subconscious of my brother and I. In other words, unknown to Tai Solarin, he was teaching us youths by example. DO YOUR WORK DILIGENTLY AND HONESTLY, and leave the rest. In him we have a hero who lives eternally. So when I heard that one time Nigerian No.1 public servant, Mr. Orosanye, worked for one day in a 90-day Ribadu Panel work, it must jar a moral chord in me while I recall Dr. Tai Solarin and the work ethics he taught us youths then. I wonder what Tai Solarin would say to our president especially when our President, President Jonathan by implication passed a vote of confidence on Mr. Orosanye’ work ethics on the Ribadu Panel.

Flashback to the town of Konigsberg in the Southeast shore of the Baltic Sea in Germany. Immanuel Kant the German thinker was like Tai Solarin the Nigerian thinker and ethicist. Kant was another ethicist like Tai Solarin. Like Tai Solarin,  it was said that people set their watches by Kant’s daily walks in the town of Konigsberg.  It was about work ethics.

Thus it is not surprising that Kant argued from a moral standpoint that the correct moral act is that act which you can universalize. He wanted to illustrate and practice the ethics he theorized. In other words, a moral act will work practically morally if you can apply it to yourself. That what is morally correct is what one can universalize  is a test of moral objectivity both in private and public affairs such as governing a people.

For example, on this view of private and public ethics, the evil of  rape will be morally okay if we accept  that our siblings or even mothers should be raped. The African Yoruba thought has it as “fi  ọ̀rọ̀ lọra ẹ.” In other words in a moral situation put yourself in the position of the  other person. The Bible has it as the Moral Golden Rule.

Thus in view of Solarin and Kant, my question to President Jonathan is: In the Ribadu Oil Panel case-when  you my President  defended the work ethics of Mr. Orosanye, when you said there was nothing wrong in Mr. Orosanye being given and accepting a job from the NNPC during his  service as the deputy chair of a panel that was to look into the workings of an Industry NNPC is part of—do you my president have a Moral Golden Rule? If  you have one, what is that Moral Golden Rule? Is my president aware of the works of ethicists like Tai Solarin, (Ikenne and Ibadan, Nigeria) and Immanuel Kant (Konigsberg, Germany)?  Mr. President, I will just  like to know.

These questions are relevant because the  intense lack of the ethical in the presidency was visibly seen when the presidency deployed Messers Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe to go after Nigerians who object to the immorality displayed by Mr. Orosanye as the moral fault line of the presidency in the Ribadu Oil Panel. Those who object to this explanation should tell Nigerians why a government agency – NNPC-which is   being examined  by a panel  will during the life span of the body examining it give a job to the deputy chair of that panel?

So when Reuben Abati  asserts as follows : “it is so unfortunate that there has been so much ignorant carping and malicious tittle-tattling about the report of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force chaired by Malam Nuhu Ribadu, both failings arising from a deliberate attempt to individualize what was actually group work, a mischievous attempt to politicize one report out of three, and to smuggle into an emergent grand web of conspiracy, elements of blackmail, mischief and outright opportunism…” the point is that Reuben Abati and the presidency  lost the ethical in our public  lives completely and perhaps irreversibly  at that point.

We will ignore Mr.  Reuben Abati’s uncivil language on Nigerian taxpayers. We will also ignore the attack as the defense style of  Mr. Abati—a style which by act of conscious omission ignore the visible moral burden the Presidency has inflicted on itself with his tacit defense of Mr. Orosanye’s public ethics. This is because the presidency,  by implication, validated Mr. Orosanye’s work ethics on the Ribadu Panel in Mr. Abati’s uncalled-for attack on Nigerians  who feel morally assaulted by Mr. Orosanye’s work ethics while in the same vein Mr. Abati was deliberately blinded (as if it does not exist) to   this work ethics in his attack.    That such language will ooze out of my country’s presidency, which ought to have a halo around  and be respectful of Nigerians,  is instructive. Here,  I am talking about the presidency and not Mr. Abati, Mr. Okupe  or Mr. Jonathan as persons.

So my questions to President Jonathan as he engages Nigerians today in a TV Chat  are as follow:  Do you have a Moral Golden Rule? If you have,  what  is your Moral Golden Rule? For example if and when you leave office and suppose you set up a private  company, will you allow the Managing Director of your company to also work for a rival company or a company whose account your company is looking into? Mr. President, will you allow your Managing Director to work for a  third of a day in a month work period and one day in a 90-day work period?

Mr. President,  as an external auditor, if you are asked to review an academic department, will you also take a job from that department which you are supposed to objectively look into?  Mr. president, will you allow a rapist to be a judge in his case? If yes, why? If no why did you say there is nothing wrong in  Mr. Orosanye being given and taking an NNPC job  during the life of his service as the Deputy Chair of the Ribadu Panel  that was examining the NNPC operations?  Why did you by that act ignore or vicariously legitimize Mr. Orosanye’s work ethics on the Ribadu Panel?

Finally, Mr. President, I am aware that the wives of Nigerian presidents and Nigerian presidents themselves  often do quick ones  to Germany  for medical attention, so you know Germany, but you do not need to go to Germany to seek for  Kant the ethicist for help to answer these  questions about public ethics. Why? Nigeria has his Tai Solarins who can turn Nigeria to the greatest nation on earth. Look within Nigeria our dear country. Let the work ethics of Tai Solarin breathe life to your public service to we Nigerians. Tai Solarin’s public work ethics is accessible, it is not costly,  it is here right before you. Do not dump the moral work of  the Ribadu  Panel. Do not “white paper it.” Rather, access it. Use it. That is the moral  and ethical path that comes before the so-called “national question”. That is  the honourable path.

Adeolu Ademoyo (aaa54@cornell.edu) is  Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA.


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  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    you are simply out of touch.you believe in the ‘greatness’ of Nigeria and guess what? You ran away! yet you have the effrontery to insult people who are doing their best to end the institutional corruption erected by decades of corrupt military dictatorship. You are better than Jonathan because…? Very easy to sound all moral when you have never been in a position to prove it.

    • muraina

      don’t you think it is better for you to fault the writer’s claim if you are mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa and your paymasters at the presidency are serious about ending corruption? Or don’t you think the best way to fault corruption is to fault the writer’s claim and prove him wrong? If you cannot do this, and you cannot fault the essay( as you have shown that you cannot) and you do not have an argument, don’t you think readers deserve some respect for you to say so? Or must you earn your pay by just saying anything? I do not think you are doing justice to those who sent you from the presidency if the only agenda you have is to count the number of posts you make in online papers to earn your pay.

      • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

        ok. he can criticise jonathan and we can’t criticise him, abi? this is getting a bit silly. By the way, who is paying you? CPC?

        • muraina

          I do hope you understand English language. The writer looked at the immoral content of President Jonathan’s “fight” against corruption and criticized that content. Luckily, the writer said this: ” Here, I am talking about the presidency and not Mr. Abati, Mr. Okupe or Mr. Jonathan as persons.”. This is from his write up. It is an English language sentence. And does this sound like Greek or Latin to you? Now if you cannot understand this simple English language sentence which separates the person from the content, then those of us who come to this paltform for news now understand you better. We now understand that it is either that you do not understand English language and that may be your problem or that you understand English language but that you must deliberately misunderstand what is written, and sometimes insert a tribalist spin(as you do in other posts in other areas) on it to sow seeds of discord among Nigerians -all in order for you to post silly things in order to justify your pay. It is either of the two.
          Now I called on you to fault the writer. That is another English language sentence. if you have challenges with English language let people know. But that sentence”fault the writer” does not bar you from criticizing him. It does not say that you should not criticize him. It only says criticize the content of the writer’s essay just as the writer has taken on the content of President Jonathan’s “efforts” at fighting corruption. Just in case you do not understand the English word “content”-if you need more help with English language let us know. So the task to you is: Criticize the content of the essay and let us see what you come up with. Tell us it is correct for a rapist to be a judge in his case( that is the writer’s example of immoral act)-make your point and let us see. That will be criticizing content. I just hope that your paymasters at the Presidency do not read this-otherwise they may have to suspend your pay for a while given your basic challenges with English language which you are supposed to use to defend them at the Presidency.

          • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

            I hate to do this with a lady but you gave me no choice. Since you are obviously too thick as a brick to understand that the whole point of the article above was to criticise Jonathan’s moral judgement on the Ribadu distraction. Let me give you this advice: next time, read the meaning not just sentences in an article. I think you are an utter deprivation to your parentage, since you think that anybody who disagrees with the anti-jonathan mob must have been paid. Have you not heard about the ‘ freedom of speech’ before? The problem with people like you is that they like hearing their own voice only. Grow up!

          • muraina

            Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa, Yes the point of the article by the writer was to criticize the IMMORAL CONTENT of Jonathan’s “policies” against corruption. That is the meaning the SENTENCES in the article by the author carried!!! Do not run away from your limitation with English language and basic capacity to think clearly. When you LEFT the CONTENT AND MEANING IN THE SENTENCES in the essay of the author in your own “criticism” of the author, I reminded you that YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON THE CONTENT WHICH MEANS THE MEANING IN THE SENTENCES USED TO CARRY THE CONTENT AND MEANING in the essay!!!! But you FAILED TO DO THAT. I will not let you confuse issues by your distractions because you are an errand boy and online post courier from President Jonathan. So you failed to LOOK INTO THE CONTENT AND MEANING OF THE SENTENCES THE AUTHOR USED TO WRITE HIS ESSAY. But you cannot LOOK INTO THEM because of of what you will SEE because THE CONTENT AND MEANING IN THE SENTENCES ARE TRUE. However, since you cannot, you took a different turn, you went for the irrelevant, you must evoke a straw man!!!!! in your so-called paid for posts.That is it boy, mpitikwelu! . Again you went bunkers and bananas with your language. Too bad that you can’t even conduct a basic conversation without abuse and foul language. Too bad. It shows some type of manners. That is not a civilized conduct. Everyone who visits this platform knows you and your tribalist sponsors , so do not worry. We only take time to humor you so that we let your sponsors know you are not doing a good job. Boy, FOCUS ON THE CONTENT AND MEANING IN THE SENTENCES IN THE ESSAY, and let us see what you come up with. You have not done that. You need to do that before we can take you and President Jonathan seriously. And do you know why I like this conversation? It helps readers see that you and your sponsors in the Presidency and President Jonathan are not serious about anything in this country, you are not serious about fighting any corruption. So write more and show us your true colours in the Presidency. Your writeups help a lot!!!! Please do not go away. We need to hear from President Jonathan through you(it used to be through KenMani, but now we have you). Taaaaannnnks a lot for helping the President in his “moral” crusade!!!!