“As far as the President is concerned, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and not Amaechi.”-Ahmed Gulak, Special Adviser On Political Matters To President Jonathan (November, 2013).
I do not know Mr. Ahmed Gulak. Hypothetically, if asked to, for purely ethical reasons, I will not want to meet him. In the Diaspora where we live, as best as we can my family and I tend to recoil quietly and seamlessly from the un-ethical in life for we believe the foundation of life is ethical and everything in the world is ethical.
We believe the ethical has a material body we humans need to pay attention to. That ethical material body exhibits the indivisible unity of everything in life, in the world and the unity of the private and the public as a moral truth.
However, though I do not know Mr. Gulak in person, I know that Mr. Gulak is the special adviser on political matters to President Jonathan. Hence, I paid attention to what Mr. Gulak said last week about the position of President Jonathan on a serious democratic and moral issue. That issue is: who is the democratically elected Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and by extension, who is morally qualified to be so designated?
Last week I called the attention of readers to what President Jonathan could learn from the exceptional manner President Obama is handling the challenges he has to contend with in some domestic policies. I called that instruction “the burden of leadership and the moral obligation a leader has towards his/her people”. Part of the substance of that moral obligation is credibility which a president, or leader must work hard to earn. Ethics is at the core of that credibility-both in private and public lives. With Mr. Gulak’s open declaration, I am not sure the Nigerian presidency understands this basic truth.
Given, the notion of moral truth which is very strong in African ethics, one wonders if President Jonathan’s advisers care about credibility or whether the president himself does because his advisers may just be reading his lips and body language. I say “African ethics” justifiably because there are countless things to say about “ethics”. Just google the word “ethics” you will see what I mean. Begin to show conscious interest in ethics and ethical discourse and see where it leads you.
But let me caution. Being moral has nothing to do with religion. But being religious has everything to do with being moral. For example, a Christian who is corrupt is a fundamental contradiction. Also, a muslim who is corrupt is a fundamentl contradiction. You cannot be Christian or muslim and be corrupt at the same time. You have to choose. The ethical stands at the foundation of religion. No amount of visit, “pilgrimage” or so-called “holy trip” to Israel and Mecca will ever make you a Christian or muslim if you are corrupt.
In talking about moral truth especially in African ethics, I do not own the concept of “moral truth” in the affairs of women and men even when I accept it. I am only reporting the best and finest minds in African Ethics. With “moral truth” we are called upon to do the following. We are called to check what has been said and the moral character of the person. So I will repeat what Mr. Ahmed Gulak said which shocked and scared my moral veins.
Mr. Gulak said: “As far as the President is concerned, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and not Amaechi.”(Nigerian Punch, November 18, 2013).
Mr. Gulak did not appeal to democratic principles in Nigeria’s public life. Mr. Gulak did not appeal to moral principles. He appealed to a human being called President of Nigeria. Therefore a human being is the measure of Nigeria’s democracy and not moral and democratic principles. Consistent with African ethics-I take my face and body away from Mr. Gulak’s statement. My moral justification for turning my face and body away from Mr. Gulak is the African Yoruba variant of it which says: “Kò bójúmu” which means it ethically violates our being, our essence, our moral space. Thus, we strongly recoil from it with a measure of civility and candour.
Before now we do not have in print the official position of President Jonathan on who he thinks is the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, though that does not matter in a democracy for in sane democracy a president has just one vote like any other voter. But with Mr. Gulak’s public disclosure, it is now official that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes the loser of the NGF election as the chairman of NGF! And the measure for that is not democratic and moral principles, but the president himself.
Let us go back to the records. An election held in the year 2013 in a place on earth called Nigeria. 35 Governors voted. Two governors-Mr. Amaechi and Mr. Jang- contested the election. Mr. Amaechi got 19 votes. Mr. Jang got 16 votes. President Jonathan, our President is calling the person that got 16 votes the winner and the person that got 19 votes the loser.
Please let us set aside the airs about who and what we are and talk as common folks in the living rooms and on the streets. I am talking here like a common folk, a parent. I do not know how many of our ministers, presidential advisers, legislators, president, etc are parents who take seriously the moral act of parenting. I do precisely because the home is the first moral port of socializing the human child before we send them to society to play their role. So, I do not know if ministers, aides, of Mr. Jonathan’s presidency think what they say have any impact on their own children, on other Nigerian children both at home and in the Diaspora. I do not know what they tell their children in their homes about moral truth and the moral conduct of women and men in private and public lives.
Friends, what Mr. Gulak has just said is a serious matter. It has grave impact on our children. Parents must not stand reason on its head before their children the way Mr. Gulak has just done, otherwise we morally lose these children. And to be honest we are losing them. Is there a difference between the 419 ethics that underline the presidency’s position on the NGF election and yahoo yahoo boys’ 419 ethics?
The questions my own children have asked me since Mr. Gulak’s confirmation of the official position of the President of Nigeria are as follows. Is there a special Nigerian mathematics that makes 16 greater than 19? Is number 16 greater than number 19 in Nigeria? Does President Jonathan think that 16 is greater than 19? How will he prove it?
If this moral wretchedness is all what we have in the Nigerian presidency, then there must be something wrong with this presidency and perhaps us as a people. Mr. Gulak, you remind me of the moral wretchedness of the old Soviet Union “Gulag”- a physical and moral prison where morality and truth were the first casualty towards the capture, domination and termination of the human spirit.
Thus Mr. Gulak, with your disclosure of the official position of President Jonathan on who the chairman of the Nigerian Governors forum is, a disclosure which turned 16 into majority against 19, the Nigerian Presidency has dealt a major blow against the human spirit, against ethics, against reason, against our children and their minds, it has violated the ethical in us and in the world, the Nigerian Presidency has appealed to what does not endure in life, it has appealed to the temporary in the affairs of men and women.
But I believe that there must be more to life than all these. For this reason, for this presidency, and for Nigeria under this presidency, ethically, this is the beginning of the end. Only the deep can call to the deep. It is a moral call.
Adeolu Ademoyo email@example.com is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.