Immanuel Kant the German 18th century Enlightenment, and modernist, thinker summed up his account of ethics as worship in the “Kingdom of Morals.” Given the serial evil our world inherited from the Stone Age, through the medieval periods in Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe, Middle East etc, ethics has come to define, in part, the meaning of a “modern” world, or the reality of the “modern” that is in us.
The ethical component of the modern prevents humanity from returning to its evil past. But Nigeria’s Boko Haram and their visible and invisible sponsors both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria are calling to question that fundamental ethical step of the modern which humanity took centuries back to break away from a common barbaric past.
Thus, in a pan-African sense, the abduction and daily violation of the humanity of the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram has raised three questions about evolution of African states. They are: the political, the economic and the ethical. Perhaps consistent with what negatively characterizes African states, President Jonathan and his government, members of the political class in PDP and APC have failed to show a correct understanding of the pre-eminent role of public ethics in governance. This has affected their responses to the Boko Haramic evil which is inexorably re-defining the country. The data are telling, but they have a history in African independence struggle.
Two traditions defined the independence struggle and evolution of African states. They are the political and the economic. The political is summarized in Nkrumah’s freedom slogan “Seek first the political Kingdom and everything else will follow…” This partly explains the dominance of the political over the economic in the evolution of African states. Also, it partly explains the virtual absence of the ethical in that evolution.
Except in sprinkled form in the moral thought of one or two African statesmen such as in Obafemi Awolowo’s Metaphysics, the ethical, and how this is to be worked out as an independent component of state building-like the political and the economic- never systematically formed part of how African states would evolve and evolved.
This failure even among the most revolutionary movements may be that they thought that the nationalist struggle itself will cleanse the Augean stable and create a new morality in governance in African states. So, in the struggle against colonialism, slavery, neo-colonialism and the “neo-colonial bourgeois elites”- as we call them-a systematic and independent language of morals was missing. In a situation where our language shows what we think this may be a tragic absence as it is showing in contemporary African states, which now exhibit extreme moral wretchedness in public governance.
Sadly, contemporary rulers such as President Goodluck Jonathan, his predecessors and leading members of the political class in both APC and PDP have continued this tradition of extreme poverty of ethics in public governance in Africa. And that has shown in their handling and responses to the abduction and consistent rape of the Chibok schoolgirls by the epitome of evil called Boko Haram.
Of recent Nigeria had thought that formal education, importing Diaspora Nigerians to serve, as ministers etc will -apart from “solving” other problems- solve the problem of poverty of ethics in governance. This has been unhelpful because formal education alone and living in the Diaspora do not necessarily commit you to invest in public ethics. If you are not committed to ethics and the language of morals in an original sense you will never SEE it as it is often the case with members of Nigerian political class-both local and imported from the Diaspora.
This is why members of Nigerian political class(local and Diaspora) and their spokespersons will interpret asking their principals to engage the ethical question in poor service delivery as “blame game”! While I understand (not agree with) this poverty for local members of the political class it is difficult to accept it for Diaspora members of the Nigerian political class, the Diaspora ministers, their media and non-media spokespersons. This is because they know or ought to know what obtains in the Diaspora with respect to public ethics and moral responsibility in governance.
This moral poverty explains why the defenders of President Jonathan, his government, PDP, APC, and their sponsored commentators miss the ethical point.
For example, President Jonathan accepts the security challenge of the South South Creek terrorism, but is lukewarm to that of the Northern Boko Haram terrorism. It is morally problematic and against common sense to accept responsibility for security in one region and fails to accept same frontally in another region. Yet this is what President Jonathan, his government, PDP, and their spokespersons are committed to. However, they are obliged to show Nigerians on rational grounds how to reconcile this contradiction.
Same thing goes for Boko Haram, their associates, some APC leaders such as former head of state Mr. Mohammadu Buhari, a former head of state. It is interesting that same Mr. Buhari of APC in his moral “wisdom” cleared the greatest African Kleptocrat -Sani Abacha – of any corrupt act!
Yet the group of APC politicians, which Mohammadu Buhari belongs to would when it works for them point to the looting by South South political elites of local public funds meant to stem the tide of South South Creek terrorism. In calling attention to this looting, they are saying the South South political elites need to be responsible locally and regionally to the masses of South South people.
But the same APC politicians fail to see how that is applicable to the ground reality in Boko Haramic infested areas in the Northern part of the country. The APC would not see how one of their prominent leaders-General Mohammadu Buhari gave a clean moral bill of health to Sani Abacha, the worst African Kleptocrat ever, by claiming that Sani Abacha was not corrupt, yet same Sani Abacha and members of his family stashed Nigerian public funds away in many foreign countries including the principality of Liechtenstein!
Suppose the public fund Sani Abacha stole on behalf of his family were originally invested in the Boko Haram infested areas? The positive socio-economic and cultural impact of this in nipping in the bud Boko Haramic terrorism can only be imagined.
To then give the Kleptocrat, Sani Abacha a clean moral bill of health as Mr. Buhari, the APC leader did is ridiculous. It is the worst form of moral blindness. The consequence is a yawning abdication of moral responsibility at the grassroots.
It is easy to see how the clean moral bill of health Mr. Mohammadu Buhari gave Sani Abacha would strengthen the irredeemable corrupt hands of President Jonathan in simply handing over the remaining Abacha loot to the heirs of the Abacha family for the survival of his (Goodluck Jonathan) own political fortunes in 2015 elections! What is the difference between what Mr. Buhari of APC said about the Kleptocrat, Sani Abacha and what President Jonathan (of PDP), his ministers and advisers have done in handing what Sani Abacha stole from the Nigerian treasury to the Abacha family?
But there is an interesting missing link to this-something Nigerians ought to pay attention to. A visit to the Middle East emirates will show how members of Nigerian political class and their feudal apron strings (old and freshly crowned monarchs) have fully invested stolen money in the local economy of these emirates-especially Dubai. Also, same stolen money is used to sponsor their children abroad in elite schools in Middle East, Europe and America, and used to take care of their “princely” families tucked away in foreign countries.
These are local and regional members of the political class in PDP, APC “progressives” who tweet and re-tweet the most about corruption, yet they are fully invested in Dubai. How did they get this money?
And on the other side of the political aisle is the latest deal between President Jonathan’s government and the Abacha family for the Abachas to keep N100 billion which the federal government knows that Sani Abacha stole so that the same federal government can keep N36 billion the same Sani Abacha stole and tucked away in the principality Liechtenstein?
This is different from the $458m of the Sani Abacha Family loot frozen here in the US. So our President, Goodluck Jonathan, minister of finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Attorney General Mohammad Adokie, national security adviser Sambo Dasuki must think that letting N100 billion of Nigerian peoples money go (into the pockets of Abacha Family) for N36 billion (back into public treasury) is good “economics”, “law” “security” and “ethics” under their economic, legal, and security watches.
And the point here is the link between corruption and terrorism, the moral wretchedness of Nigeria’s political class-both local and Diaspora who are historically and perpetually linked in their un-ethical and political agenda. Having siphoned public money abroad, they impoverish local population and turn them into mass destitute. This feeds into Boko Haramic and other forms of terrorisms in the land.
But, rather than take responsibility for pocketing public resources, they turn around to sell silly dummies and pass the buck.
The masses do not need that money in Dubai, in foreign economies, in the private estate of African Kpletocrats like Sani Abacha. They need it to be economically invested right there on ground in Boko Haramic infested areas and other parts waiting to be gunned down by Boko Haramic doctrine.
Consequently, in view of the dubious deals President Jonathan cut all over the place (the latest is the Abacha Family /Federal Government N100 billion/N36 billion swap) to garner support for his political survival in the 2015 general elections, how can he effectively fight terrorism while he is simultaneously promoting corruption?
Thus, beyond Nkrumah in a historic sense, with respect to Boko Haram and the Chibok girls, let us all seek first the “Kingdom of Morals” and take responsibility. Such “Kingdom of Morals” may be the beginning of wisdom and the final solution to Northern Boko Haramic terrorism and their fallowed South South Creek counterparts.
I invite members of Nigerian political class –civilian and military, retired and serving, their old and new “progressive” “anti-corruption” feudal apron strings, our Diaspora ministers- to this “Kingdom Of Morals”.
Seek first the “Kingdom of Morals.” The modern in us is about ethics. Accept this, hearken to the moral voice and make a difference.
Adeolu Ademoyo, firstname.lastname@example.org, of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, is also a member of the Premium Times editorial board.