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Sins of the sons

By Tony Momoh
LET me reveal to you what went on in my mind when I read the unfortunate news about my friend Prof Tunde Adeniran being refused service on behalf of Nigeria as our ambassador to the United States of America because of what the son was supposed to have done.

But first things first. There is a procedure that is established in appointing envoys to countries and these are well settled. It is routine that when anyone is being appointed to be a representative of a country in another country, the appointing country ensures that the material being sent will not be rejected by the country of service.

Why?  Because the country of service has a right to accept or reject such appointment. Rejections are as rare as they can be because once both countries have agreed to the exchange of envoys, there is an understanding that relations between them merit such exchanges. Rejections are, therefore, usually a juicy subject-matter for pontifications. Many maybes emerge in such brainstorming of why there could be more to the rejection than may have been mouthed.

It is in the light of the many maybes that I saw myself looking at the many angles to the rejection of Prof Adeniran who, by any stretch of the imagination, is a plus for any country. He is an academic of renown. He was a minister of education in the Obasanjo regime. He has served us in Europe as ambassador. His clearance was undertaken by the Senate of our National Assembly. I do not know if they asked him to take a bow and leave as happens with some who have appeared before them! I saw one of them in the relevant clearance committee bellyaching over not knowing that the professor’s son had a criminal charge hanging over him.

I asked then so what? Another said they did not know he had two wives and that he declared he had one. And I also say so what? How many first ladies can there be in our affairs?  Only one, even where there are more than ten wives. And I maintain, so what? You may not like my so whats, but I raise them because although they matter to those outside of here, those who see wrong in them, here they are virtues. Oh yes, they are. If they are not, what is our attitude to training our children to be what they can be, and have we not made crime in public office a successful venture which we celebrate by open accommodation of culprits?

What I said I would share with you is not meant as self praise. It has to do with the way we were brought up. My father, as the traditional rulers of his time did, had many wives and many children. In my book, Each Man His Time, the Biography of an Era published in 1995 to mark 50 years of his death, I reported what the British said in their security reports on him. They said he had a large family (more than 45 wives and 240 children, and I am number 165!) but that he did not seem to have family problems.

All of us were brought up to see and regard all the wives of my father as our mothers. There were three groups of wives – the most senior who were married to him before 1910, the middle class before 1915, and the junior class after 1919 when he became the Otaru of Auchi and head of the district. The tradition of maintaining family discipline has continued. Just last weekend, I visited the residence of my brother General Hafiz Momoh (rtd).

For more than four months, I have not been there because this presentation of book thing took two full months of regular meetings to organize. I just called up the wife, Sef, and told her I was coming for lunch. She said she was going to her wine shop and I told her I did not ask where she was going to, that all I said was that I was coming for lunch and she would be the one to serve me my portion when I arrived at their residence in Maryland.

After lunch, a little incident took place. Nife, the grandson of the general, ignored a visitor who had just walked in and had wanted to embrace him. He was asked to say “good afternoon ma” to the visitor. He refused and started crying, rolling on the floor. One other visitor said we should leave him because he is only a child and we all in unison shouted no. It is what you bring up a child with that he takes on and builds on in life.

After a lot of pressure, Nife gave in and said “good afternoon.” It was not accepted until he repeated the greeting to add “ma”. Nife is less than four years old. With that type of training to respect people, he will grow up a good child. I am telling the Nife story so you know what we have tried to sustain over the years as a family tradition. We grew up to know that if we thought ill of anyone, or took anything that did not belong to us, we would be swallowed up by forces of hell.

We were told that if we harboured bad thought about our brothers and sisters and other relatives, we would drop dead. And who is not afraid to drop dead?  So all you do is to harbour good thoughts about your brothers, and by extension, about all those whose paths you cross in life.The thoughts that flowed through my mind therefore had to do with childbearing and child upbringing.

It necessarily touches also on the total population and the country they call their own. Is the population of a country no longer that number of individuals that make it up?  I am not blaming Tunde Adeniran for what his 20-year-old son was supposed to have done, but I also find it difficult to deny that he is not to blame. Where was young Adedamola Adeniran all these years? He was not born when Adeniran, Jerry Gana and I were involved in mobilizing Nigerians for internalizing self discipline when the War Against Indiscipline engineered by the Buhari/Idiagbon administration was refurbished.

We believed that it is the individual that must be worked on, and the manifestations of failure to bring our children up appropriately would disappear. It would seem that Adeniran’s child had not that attending to, that would make him a pride to his father whose academic and career credentials are unquestionable. But with where he had been since the late 80s, who was there to cater for the child?

Because the child will remain the father of the man, as the saying goes, the neglected child grows up to be the neglected man who will father neglected children! And this is where my worry comes from. We are neglected children of a polity and we are breeding children who must be neglected because we have nothing of worth, of value, to feed them with.  The gang-raping charges against Adeniran’s son and two of his friends in Baltimore, United States, is a localization of our gang-raping tradition here at home.

It is financial gang-raping for public officers to celebrate how much they made while in office and get rewarded by their communities for doing so. It is gang-raping democracy to break all the rules in the book because we want to access power through ignoble routes. It is gang-raping values to be seen all over the world to lead in those vices that the world trains their offspring to avoid. It is gang-raping law-making for those who have the mandate, given or stolen, to play the master, not the servant that democracy as a system demands.

So, since the Americans have not told us why they rejected our envoy, we have a right to think beyond the gang-raping charge and the lack of declaration that there is another wife.  We should look at the right of the United States of America to be thoroughly disappointed about what we are doing in and to public office-holding.

Perhaps if we accept the rules of democracy and give the leadership Africa and the Black Race are entitled to from us, we may see a less disappointed America stretching its hand to us as partners.  But with our leprous fingers that have become an ulcer on democracy’s body, who will willingly stretch their hand? Not America.


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