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How honour works in the jungle of power

By Wole Oladapo
05 October 2021   |   3:55 am
There is something mystical about honour, something completely beyond the comprehension of commoners, those that life situates outside the realm of power.

There is something mystical about honour, something completely beyond the comprehension of commoners, those that life situates outside the realm of power. It is exactly that mystical dimension to honour that distinguishes the powerful people from the powerless moral mobs in a literally classless society like ours. It takes honour to keep power. That is why powerful people will stop at nothing to honour their own. Let me make this clear from the outset: there is no crime in power, except against power itself. One who is in and on the side of power can do no wrong, for there is enough room in power to accommodate all excesses, no matter how egregious they are. Apparently, public intellectuals, codenamed moral police by owners of the jungle, are often too learned to understand this simple but fundamental truth about power. Their preoccupation has always been to hold people in the corridors of power to the moral rules and standards sanctioned by right thinking members of society. On that they act in pitiable ignorance of the fact that honour is the highest moral rule among that special breed. This crime scene of ours is replete with perfect illustrative cases of this deviant nature of honour in the jungle of power.

Sheik Isa Ali Ibrahim aka Pantami, Nigeria’s Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, is no stranger to controversies. He wears around his neck like laurels alleged ties with world class terrorists and alleged incitement to religious violence. If he were an ordinary person, by this time he would have no reputation left to which he could lay claim. When #PantamiMustGo started trending on Twitter, with receipts from the honourable minister’s yesteryears flying around, untutored observers would have concluded that the sheik had come to his wits’ end. It took only a solidarity message from the presidency, ably delivered by Mallam Garba Shehu, to raise a rabble of #IStandWithPantami chanters to silence the minister’s detractors. Those in the jungle of power will always honour their own.

Without any doubt, doomed to silence also is the current outrage against the minister’s controversial promotion to the professorial cadre by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), an institution for which the minister never worked. Everyone who cares knows that it is an extreme display of humility for the minister to stoop to be promoted by a university that struggles for visibility in ordinary webometric rankings. It is even more that a Fulani agreed to be honoured by a Biafran university. One who is held in honour in the jungle of power stands honoured everywhere.

In his endless oscillation between political relevance and irrelevance, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode recently landed in the embrace of President Muhammadu Buhari. As a holy spirit led the former Minister of Aviation back to the APC, a party he once despised so much, people of inconsequential rage flooded the public space with insults and invectives. Unlike them, the people in power received with joy their prodigal who returned home. Only empty messages of condemnation emerged from APC hopefuls. Chief Femi Fani-Kayode left lurking in the now faded memories of power to fan the dying embers of the PDP. They knew that the footprints of the man of anonymous bankrollers could be the courage that they need to trash the umbrella and walk in the rain of shamelessness to reach the broom. For Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, those days of humiliation are now over. His access to the seat of power has been restored. The journalists that once attempted to cancel him must now yield their platforms to his sophistry. Even the EFCC will henceforth handle his case with utmost respect for the rule of law, even if that requires professionally handling some overzealous judges. Frustrating the course of justice is not one of the weaknesses of errands of power, especially when those in the jungle of power must honour their own.

What about the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria? Mr Femi Adesina made the position of the presidency on them quite clear. Nigeria is not interested in naming and shaming sponsors of terrorism. The US government has repeatedly threatened to reveal the identities of the sponsors of terror in Nigeria. The UAE did that once and again. Nevertheless, Nigeria is not in haste to resolve the puzzle of terrorism sponsorship in the country.

As the Attorney General of the Federation maintains, Nigeria regards as accused individuals those who were already convicted in the UAE for sponsoring terrorism. Nigeria believes in justice, whose mills grind quite slowly. Nothing can move Nigeria to increase the speed, not even the military men and ordinary citizens who have continued to die in the hands of terrorists and the entire citizenry that lives in fear of the same. Those who are rich and connected enough to fund terrorism are not likely to be ordinary people.

If the various allegations made about the country’s patrons of terrorism are anything to go by, a high number of people in and around power are likely to be entangled in that web of evil. Just as the super cop Abba Kyari is being disentangled from Hushpuppy’s web, those powerful individuals too must be extricated from the quagmire. It is the only right thing to do for the sake of honour. We must not kill initiates the way we kill commoners.

Honour works in the jungle of power the same way it does among thieves. It defies every semblance of sound moral reasoning, for it has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of human actions. Its concerns are boundary maintenance and preservation. Public outrage against it is like a libation poured on the altar of a malevolent spirit.

It does come back to hurt the pourer. That is why it is not strange for public intellectuals to die mysteriously, disappear without a trace, rot in jail, live under constant attacks, or become conquered by the same evil they fight. Grave consequences often attend even the most flippant display of ignorance of the honour code by which the jungle of power operates. Most people in that jungle today owe their freedom to the honour code which daily holds down the already near grounded mills of justice. When they too appear to stand with the despicables of this world, they simply extend to fellow gangsters the same honour that everyone enjoys in the jungle.

This is too hard for moral crusaders to both understand and accept, that the jungle’s honour code stands supreme over the laws and reasoning of a civilized society. May those who are given to the defence of the good and the ideal find the courage to accept the futility of their moral crusade. Those in the jungle of power will always come through for their own, come what may.

Oladapo wrote from the University of Ibadan.