BY Afe Babalola
Every society is governed by a set of rules by which its members are expected to conduct their affairs. Within the society itself, different classes of persons are governed by different sets of rules unique to their circumstances. For example, medical doctors are bound by what is known as the Hippocratic Oath whilst in Nigeria Legal Practitioners are bound by the Legal Practitioners Code of Conduct. Even amongst the military and before the adoption of the Geneva Convention on conduct of war fare, a defined set of rules had over the centuries been developed to guide soldiers on the battle field in the treatment of the enemy. Therefore, hardly can one find a sphere of modern society that is not regulated by some form of rules and regulations.
LINK BETWEEN MORALS, RULES AND PARTISANSHIP
However, my interest in the subject of rules and regulations runs deeper than the mere existence of such rules. I am more interested in the fact that the rules that bind society are largely derived from the morals held by the said society. Morals have been defined by scholars as the principles concerning rights and wrongs or good and bad behaviour. Morals are principles for describing, evaluating the degree to which something is right or wrong. Morals have also been defined as the ultimate principles and criteria whereby social behavior is judged and indicate conformity with recognized rules or correct conduct. As a result, the importance of morals to virtually all aspect of human conduct and endeavor cannot be over emphasized. Indeed so strong is the issue of morals that in several cases, principles of morality have been transformed into legislation. As everyone would agree that it is wrong to take human life without justification it is therefore no surprise that the laws of all countries criminalize the wrongful taking of lives. However, due to differences in culture, what may be morally correct in one society may not be so in another society. This is easily recognizable when it is considered that the passage of laws to prohibit same sex marriage and other homosexual conduct in Nigeria, Uganda and some other African countries has met with stiff opposition from countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom where such conduct have come to be accepted as normal. Conversely, whilst many African men and even women find nothing objectionable in polygamy, the very thought of it is objectionable in many western societies.
However, one area which I feel that morals and morality should play an important role irrespective of culture, political, social, or economic circumstances is in that of politics. Politics in all countries of the world offers a means of participation in the affairs of the country. Politicians participate in politics with a view to attaining and controlling political power. The attainment of power should not however be an end in itself, but rather a means to an end of service to the populace. Politicians therefore are expected to exhibit strong morals which should guide them in the discharge of the duties of public office. Where politicians exhibit traits which call into question their morality, they are in most cases called into account by the public. The late President Richard Nixon of the United States of America was impeached over allegations of involvement in what has become known as the Watergate Scandal. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings over allegations that he had lied under oath in relation to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. In the United Kingdom, a member of the cabinet was forced to resign his position over allegations which later turned out to be false that he had interfered with police investigations.
Where morals and morality play a role, partisanship will have little effect on the ability or willingness of the politician to deliver on his electoral promises or hamper his ability to place the interest of the electorate above his or that of his party. To be certain, Politicians are expected to remain true and steadfast to the ideals and objectives of their parties. However there are times when the greater good may dictate that politicians adopt a bipartisan approach when sticking stubbornly to the views of their parties would be unproductive or outrightly immoral. Some weeks back an attempt to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act popularly known as Obama Care failed as some Republican members of the Senate out of their conviction that repealing the Act without putting in place a viable alternative would be counterproductive and hurtful to most Americans, broke ranks with their party and failed to vote for the repeal. Close to two centuries before then, some members of the Democratic Party in the Senate broke ranks with their party to join their counterparts in the Republican Party in voting to pass the thirteenth Amendment to the American Constitution for the abolition of all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude.
THE NIGERIAN POLITICIAN IS DIFFERENT WHEN IT COMES TO MORALITY
However, it appears that Nigerian politicians have overtime failed to match the level of public spirited consciousness which appears to guide their counterparts in other parts of the world. In Nigeria, politicians see nothing wrong in making electoral promises which they know they cannot fulfill and even have no intention of fulfilling. Even when they eventually attain political office, they continually engage in conducts which call into questions the moral standards with which they conduct their affairs. Regrettably, it appears that Nigerians overtime have become used to the unscrupulous politician without any moral standard such that many have gotten away with conduct which in other climes would have brought about their political demise. Even in cases where it has been absolutely necessary, Nigerian Politicians have often failed to rise above petty partisanship.
In confirmation of the attitude of the Nigerian politician to the issue of morals, the outgoing governor of Niger State was recently reported to have made certain statements which have since attracted wide comments including several newspaper editorials on the place of morality in Nigerian politics. A former governor was reported to have stated as follows amongst others:
“if you cannot lie, get out of politics. Anything you are involved in has its own rules. You are in politics to win, win first and let other things follow. Don’t be the one crying louder, lest you will be the one they will take to court. If you are talking of honesty or morals, go and become an imam or pastor. Politics cannot be the way it used to be. The challenges are more now, the variables have changed, the issues we are going to face in 2015 are different from the ones we faced in 1999 and we must bear this in mind….”
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN
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