The king, dearth of honour and the rest of us – Part 3
It is easy to be tolerant of the principles of other people if you have none of your own – Sir Herbert Samuel.
The public space of today’s Nigeria is anything but honourable. No thanks to the funny characters to which our society has bequeathed its noble driving seats. This is not to imply that there are perfect societies anywhere. None of such existed either in the African ancient past of our opening reference or in more advanced climes we often cite as standards. No! The point is that human societies and the aggregate of their progress are proportional to the sanctity of honour permissible among the people. It is self-evident that Nigeria lacks this sacred honour and that is where the proverbial rain started beating us. A few events in most recent times will support this position.
Compared to the Alaafin’s bathtub where this narrative started, the dishonour and attendant disrespect now meted at the traditional stools are unprecedented. Most of the erstwhile revered royal stools have been balkanised for tom, dick and harry (t’aja t’eran) to occupy. Recall that colonial interloper eroded the erstwhile monarchical system of governance of the ancient period. At independence, the monarchs didn’t really regain their political and spiritual prominence of old. Both the 1960 and 1963 constitutions created a Council of Chiefs for traditional rulers at the regional level. 1979 gave them representation in the federal and state levels. The same 1979 Constitution stripped the traditional rulers of their roles following the creation of Local Government councils. From there on, you only need to be in the good books of the State governor or party in power to be eligible to the stool – as the government appointee! Monarchs that are outspoken or seemingly ‘antagonistic’ of government’s policy are readily deposed or dissolved into irrelevance through divide and rule scheming, leading to the creation of autonomous communities.
The fallouts have never been palatable and there are examples all over the place, including Oyo and Kano. Just some days ago, 12 monarchs were banished by Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State. Reason: without the government’s permission, the monarchs, sponsored by the Obiano’s political arch-rival, billionaire Arthur Eze, travelled to Aso Rock on a courtesy visit. The monarchs offered selves as puns in the chess game of Anambra politics. That is how far down the cliff tradition has gone. No wonder Obiano’s counterpart in Rivers State, Nyesome Wike, earlier took his monarchs to the cleaners. The royal fathers, majority of them, have lost honour among gods and men.
The new set of kingmakers – the political class – is worst. Be it His Excellency or Honourable as they are called, there are very few men of honour in the political space. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, recently said he would resign to undergo treatment for a chronic illness, and ending his reign as the longest-serving premier. Nobody does that in Nigeria. The president and Commander-in-Chief could be sick and incapacitated for the rest of his tenure and wouldn’t matter, even if the entire country is grounded. Officeholders undergoing trial for a gross misdemeanor can still preside over affairs of the State. There is no honour for the self or the office they hold, and would rather take the institutions along with them into the gutters.
The unfolding drama in Edo politics should not go without a mention in this context. Men without honour, driven by blind ambition, are at it over there. The former governor of the State and ousted National Chairman of the ruling party has made two apologies lately. First, that he sold to Edo people “a bad product” in the person of the incumbent governor. Second, that he, in error, called the newfound ‘best product” for the governorship, as a thief just four years ago. Put together, this former governor lied to the State. He has admitted to being simplistic, easily misled and in turn misled his followers. By his own assessment, he is complicit in taking the state backwards in underdevelopment. But rather than recuse himself as a bad example in leadership, he still wants to be trusted going forward.
Missing in Edo politics and across the board is the lack of self-rule. When men of status start engaging in conducts incompatible with their position and stick out like leprous fingers, they lose all respects. Sadly, that is where society is today. The aggregate fallout of all these is not only a dysfunctional society but an abused one. The image of the country is battered worldwide. Even as a private citizen, to appear anywhere as a Nigerian is to be treated with caution, if not abused in a manner that is not done to other Africans. We are a people that have lost our innocence because of the bad representation some of us have made of themselves. Worst still, the entire world could see that the worse among us are leading the best of us. That is our ignoble credential in public space. Thus, is it any wonder that our ship continues to sail without rudder or purpose?
As I conclude, what is the way out? The carrot and the stick measure. The carrot of home training must begin to instill honour in our wards to avert abiiko – uncultured and irresponsible adulthood. And for the recalcitrant fools, akoogba, the sticks of public disapproval and condemnation should suffice. For a start, parents must understand that they have a big responsibility in the shaping of their children. Parentage is far more complicated than just having a bedmate, donating sperm or going into labour nine months after. It is a noble duty to nature and humanity that is only most rewarding when the products become exemplary in character, conducts and useful to the society.
We must realise that society is an aggregate of the families and the former cannot be better than its households. We must fix the families to better society. Home training and proper upbringing are very important. All our honourable men with no modicum of honour are products of families. So was the contemptuous queen that this piece opened with. She clearly didn’t represent her family well before the king, and the decapitation of her Baami suffices as a metaphor in failed parental responsibilities. A wayward child will bring troubles to the family.
The society too should not condone dishonourable acts. Too many of them in town will spell doom for the whole society. We must name and shame them. We must demand of honourable conducts at all time. When people cross the line, no matter highly placed, they should face the consequences. It is the duty of society to demand it to avoid setting a dangerous precedence. The treatment meted to that uncouth freeloader calling journalists stupid is more like it. It doesn’t matter whether they attended Cambridge, Harvard, or Edinburgh in the formative years. It doesn’t translate to the nobility of birth. Bibi ire s’owon; bibi ire ‘o se f’owo ra. Once they cross the fine line of impropriety and start behaving like beasts among men, they cannot complain when the knives are out. It is the way to restore sanity in our public space and brighten our chances of making progress. When we as a society take it upon ourselves to be honourable members and demand the same at every junction, the gods of the land will show up in our affairs. Ire o!
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