Oath-taking in Nigerian politics
By Reuben Abati
"Okija goes to Ogun state! They say all of you in Ogun state take oaths. So where did you take your own? ".
"You think this is something to laugh about?"
"In fact, I want more photographs of naked Ogun state people to be published. The people who swore to oaths in Okija at least have the decency to put on some clothes, but you people in Ogun state don't even bother to cover up anything at all. You just stand in front of the camera, golonto, in your birthday suit".
"There are too many assertions and fictions in that matter. Don't use one man to judge an entire state. We don't know all that there is to know."
"What else is there to know? We have been told that secret oath-taking is standard practice in Ogun state. In fact when I see any politician from Ogun state now, I try to imagine what that person, man or woman, looks like without clothes, holding a fetish object and posing for the camera like that Wale Alausa guy."
"That fellow is a fool."
"If he didn't know what to say, he should have kept quiet. He didn't help his own case by saying that the nude pictures of his that have been making the rounds are genuine. What kind of man is he? "
"Or that he is not the only one that took oath."
"And then the Speaker of the House of Assembly also says everybody swore to an oath and he too did, but in his own case, he had his clothes on."
"If I were a woman married to that Alausa guy, I will leave him immediately. How dare he expose family assets to the public under such controversial circumstances?"
"Well you are a man, and what has his wife got to do with this? And he didn't expose what you call assets to the public, The Compass and The Sun did."
"I think the publication is gross and malicious."
"I thought you were talking about assets. I don't see the assets. The pot-belly? Or what? I think we should be talking about journalism: what should newspapers publish, what should they leave out, and under what circumstances? Must newspapers be used to fight personal and malicious battles?"
"I don't care. At least now we know that Ogun state people are naked oath-takers. In fact, we should do a special publication to be titled Ogun state Politicians in Pictures: The Nakedness of power. It will be a best seller."
"One man, one picture. Don't generalize."
"If I were a member of the Alausa extended family, I'd never speak to that guy again"
"Forget about that. That should not be our business. Our concern should be that Ogun state seems to be in the throes of a serious crisis. For the past seven or eight months, there has been one crisis after another in that state. It is the people that are being short-changed. And I am afraid that the conflict between the Executive and the legislature has now reached a point that there can be no meeting point again. Even the Awujale is saying I am a well-respected monarch, don't drag me into this matter. All the people who would have loved to step into the matter would now be too scared to say a word."
"But where are the people of Ogun state in all of this?"
"Nowhere. It is all about raw desperation for power. People are prepared to do anything to remain in power, to grab power, to deny other people power. And the people whose interest they are supposed to defend are completely forgotten."
"To talk seriously, it is a Nigerian thing. I understand that Nigerian politicians always have to swear to secret oaths and to pledge severe penalties: death of a first child, impotence, sudden death...all because they want power."
"The Nigerian Constitution has spelled out the exact kind of oath that should be taken by government officials. Anything outside of that is illegal. Why would an elected politicians go to a shrine, a house, wherever to swear to an oath for any reason whatsoever?"
"This is a Nigerian contribution to democracy. It is a cultural thing. I guess that is why the court accepts that there is nothing wrong with oath-taking at the Okija shrine, as long as the purpose of the oath is not to subvert public interest. Customary arbitration is allowed."
"Except that you and I know the truth. The law courts can talk about cold facts and insist on matters being proven beyond reasonable doubt, but the truth is that when these oaths are taken, the objective is to pledge allegiance to a cause that is purely anti-democratic. Now, that is criminal"
"But secret oath-taking is not working. We get to hear about it when the oath-taking breaks down, when a man who voluntarily accepted to take an oath reneges on it. I see an evolving process, the more such contracts break down, the less attractive they would be. I guess after Alausa, nobody will allow his or her photograph to be taken again in any shrine."
"Don't count on that. Is this the first photograph that will be published? Have you forgotten Ngige? And Theodore Orji? The thing is that people are so desperate they will pose for photograph, swear before an effigy, shame their wives and expose special assets in gardens, forests and so on as long as it will bring them the power that they seek. Even the ones who do not swear at shrines, go to pastors and imams to do all kind of rituals. This is the character of Nigerian politics. And it further shows the need for political reform. Nigerian politics needs to be rescued from secret covens and shrines and brought back to the people."
"You know, sometimes the whole thing gets really ludicrous. Just as I was following the Ogun state story, there was also this story about another public official, a big man in Akwa Ibom state whose manhood made the front page of The Nigerian Tribune."
"You mean the Tribune put a big man's something on the front page?"
"No. No. Just the story"
"The man's herbalist says the fellow paid him N715 million for juju to revive his manhood. And the man had to tell the court "my manhood has never stopped working, I repeat, it has never stopped working".
"If he keeps saying that, one of these days, he may be required to prove that assertion in open court. If the thing has never stopped working, how are we supposed to know?"
"What a country!"
"But N715 million? The people in our village can achieve better results with 715 Naira only"
"I know one malam who can get the thing up and running with less than 500 Naira. In fact, one man took one of those potions the other day, he ended up in the hospital. He reported his wife to the doctors. He had to blame his wife for trying to assassinate him."
"I hear a lot of herbalists make a lot of money from treating erectile dysfunction"
"But what kind of man will pay N715 million to a herbalist, or a pastor to offer prayers or to do something fetish"
"It is all about power. Raw power. In the two stories, the sub-text is about power. Physical power. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac"
"Isn't it a shame that the big stories in Nigeria in one week, have to do with a naked lawmaker taking oath, and an Ambassador/former Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission defending his virility in open court, in a country where we should be more concerned about national progress, about power supply, about roads, about getting the hospitals to work, about getting university lecturers to return to work."
"I think one of these days, I'll try to write a book on Rites, Rituals and the Spiritual in Nigerian Politics."
"Yeah, I know. Only God knows how many books you are carrying about in your head, all fully written and read only by you."
"Candidly, it is a phenomenon that we should study carefully to get to the root of the leadership formation process in Nigeria."
"And that book will also talk about erectile dysfunction?"
"And homosexuality, adultery, ritual killing, kidnapping, and cultism as content and process."
"Isn't there something positive that we can talk about apart from this depressing news"
"Bernard Madoff, the American 419er who has been sentenced to jail for 150 years."
"How is that an interesting subject?"
"Of course it is. The way the whole world talks about 419, you would think it is only a Nigerian phenomenon. But the Madoff case has shown that the biggest 419 crooks are in the United States. The man is the biggest of them all, with his Ponzi scheme fraud."
"You mean wonder banking. That is what Nigerians call it."
"Well, the man is an American, not a Nigerian."
"But you should be able to spot the difference. If the man were a Nigerian, he probably would have gotten away lightly. He would have bribed the entire system, and the judge would have given him alight sentence. But in the US, he got maximum sentencing, 150 years. The prison is his grave. The judge considers his crime extraordinarily evil. Only God knows how many Madoffs are in Nigeria and the system will never bring them to trial, because they are big men."
"I get your point"
"Madoff knew everybody. He moved in the most privileged circles. He was even Chairman of the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. But the system has made its point: no one is above the law. And look at how the case was treated: expeditiously. If it were here, his lawyers would have been asking for all kinds of injunctions and adjournments, and the judge would have granted all kinds of motions just to delay justice."
"I agree with you. Nigerian Lawyers are part of the problem"
"It is a thing about the system. The Nigerian system is not just working. It is the same old thing: we need to rebuild our institutions."
"We also need to do something about people, about individuals."
"I think Nigerians are great people. It is just that the wrong people are the ones in high places."
"We need winners, like the Williams sisters."
"Oh, Sugar. Those two ladies are extraordinary. Fantastic. They made my day yesterday. For the fourth time, the two sisters are in the Wimbledon final. One day it will be said that Wimbledon without the Williams sisters is not the same."
"Which one of them you do you prefer? Venus or Serena?".
"Get out. Both."