The Hub

September 15, 2011

Resignation in protest

By Josef Omorotionmwan
Today’s title is borrowed from the fine works of Edward Weisband and Thomas Franck, who in 1976, assembled their highly provocative assessment of why high U.S. Government officials remain silent when they resign in disagreement with Administration policies; whereas their British counterparts would go public on resignation.

And we may also add that in Nigeria, ethical autonomy is out of the question. In the main, rather than resign in protest, the Nigerian would wait to be flushed out, even where his policy is collapsing over his head. To him, a man never sees himself as dead.So he plays the stubborn fly that would follow the corpse into the grave.

In Edo State, after the 1993 Abiola debacle, and when the military had effectively taken over the reigns of power, some politicians of the Oyegun administration still crept into Government House under the cover of darkness, to find out from Col. Onuka, whether the important offices they occupied under Oyegun did not exempt them from the general purge. Of course, you trust the military man in his brute frankness, “Everybody should go!”

Perhaps OBJ blew his third term bid when he sought to be alone in paradise. All that was needed to see the evil plan through was to liberalize that ticket to accommodate the automatic return of all elected officials of that era to their various positions. While others after him should take note, let us quickly warn that the plan also contains a propensity to choke.

For sometime now, Nigerians have been engaged in the debate on whether President Jonathan should send the nation’s security chiefs packing in the face of the total breakdown of our intelligence apparatus. This looks like approaching the issue by half. Every appointment is a contract between two parties – the appointed and the appointer.

Why should the security chiefs not recognise on their own that there is dignity in quitting? It is easy to see the ugly hands of corruption at work. As an instance, if you are occupying a position where you have misappropriated so much of the people’s money, you would rather die on active duty than leave at the risk of   being exposed.

If in the same position, you have done certain things for, or with, your boss, he may also be unwilling to fire you, no matter how inept you become.

This country has had it really rough. Crime and criminality have taken centre stage. While the religious sect that calls itself Boko Haram has captured the entire Northern states with its bombing spree, kidnapping, armed robbery, assassination, rape and other associated vices hold sway in the South.

Terrorism has now become like the weather, which everyone complains about and yet no one can do anything about it. Terrorism has suddenly attained the giddy height of the moral equivalence of war but unlike General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), we refuse to accept that “it is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it”.

The fire is already burning. All we have done so far is to try to put it off with words. As the orgy of killings and maiming spread from Jos to Maiduguri and, indeed, across the land, our President has perhaps become incrementally confused. Every new bombing or ethnic slaughter has only enabled him to pull out his template of big threats; threats that are fulfilled in the breach than in the observance. Never in the history of any modern civilization have leaders remained so indifferent to the plight of their citizens.

At the middle of it all, our National Security Adviser goes on air, in abrasive candour, to announce to the citizens that terrorism will be with us for some time to come. In other climes, this would be accepted as a tacit admission of the nation’s total surrender and such admission would have been accompanied with his resignation letter.

In those other places the question would not be whether he should resign but whether he should resign and go public or remain silent. There is a full recognition of the fact that members of even the best run organisations cannot always escape moments of profound crisis, when they must break faith with the organisation or with themselves.

The American official would rather leave quietly because that is the only way he could be trusted for any future consideration. As for the British, the whole issue of resignation raises a basic question that is central to democracy: If a course of action is perceived to be so wrong, so unethical or ill-advised, as to warrant a person separation himself from those who embarked upon it, is it not also wrong and undermining of faith in the entire system to leave in such a way as to give the impression that all is well?

In Nigeria, only a few strive to respect their individual conscience. They would rather keep serving against their inner conscience, principally to be able to keep their secrets secret. In this world of stinking corruption, to leave mid-stream could be an open invitation to the anti-graft agencies.

David Thoreau (1817-1862) saw it coming, when he grumbled: “The mass of men serve the state not as men but as machines. There is no free exercise whatsoever of the judgment or of the moral senses”. Otherwise, why would anyone remain in office after he has ‘expired’ and when his continued stay will not mitigate the evil effect of the issue at hand? The time-honoured counsel is very relevant here: If you can’t stand the smoke, get out of the kitchen! Don’t always wait to be shown the door.