Friday, July 10, 2009

Oath-taking controversy in Ogun State

THE controversy over oath administration involving a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly has again highlighted the unprogressive nature of politics and the political leadership. It confirms the widely-held belief that most of the people professing to lead the country are prepared to do anything to protect their positions.

Considering that incidences of illegal oath-taking have now become rampant among politicians with such cases having been recorded in Anambra, Oyo and Abia states, among other places, it is about time law enforcement authorities began to investigate the incidents and ensure that appropriate steps are taken to sanction persons who engage in secret rituals to sabotage the people's interest.

It is disheartening that illegal oath-taking usually involves highly-placed public officials who are expected to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. There is every reason to believe that the few reported cases constitute only a tip of the iceberg. In every instance, it is the politicians and the political parties that are on trial. Men and women of integrity are certainly needed in the political arena.

The current scandal broke following the publication in The Nigerian Compass newspaper of nude photographs of Wale Hassan Alausa, a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly. He was shown purportedly swearing to an illegal oath, which was also taken according to the newspaper, by 14 other state legislators who are currently in opposition to the Ogun State governor. The oath ritual was ostensibly an expression of solidarity among the group.

Alausa subsequently admitted taking the oath, but he pointed out that he did it at the Governor's instance in his Sagamu residence, and not in a shrine in Ijebu Igbo as claimed by The Nigerian Compass. Alausa added that the Governor forced him to take the oath as a mark of unalloyed loyalty to him, and that most other public officers took similar oaths in the Governor's house.

Governor Daniel has since denied this and challenged Alausa to substantiate his claim. The Speaker of the House, Tunji Egbetokun later decried the publication and blamed the governor for masterminding it in order to discredit members of a group known as G-15 in the State House of Assembly. The controversy has lingered on since then.

The entire episode is disgusting. Whose interest is being served? Certainly not that of the people of Ogun State who are regularly treated to the sordid details of a counter-productive face-off between the Executive and the legislature. Everyone who is linked with illegal oath-taking is a let-down and in Alausa's case, he certainly has brought much infamy upon himself with his own admission of complicity. It it shocking that he still bears the title "Honourable," and parades himself as a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly. His conduct has been less than honourable. On display is greed and desperation. The prevailing atmosphere in Ogun State, sadly, does not support any form of progress. The people of Ogun State deserve a better deal.

Worse still is the probability that nobody will take action on the dastardly events unfolding in the state, since the power brokers are all involved. Besides, the failure of Government to investigate other reported cases of illegal oath-taking before now has encouraged the practice. It is important to unearth the full details of the Ogun incident, in the light of accusations and counter-accusations by the Governor and the G-15 law-makers. Where exactly was the nude photograph taken? Was it in Ijebu Igbo or Sagamu? Who is lying and who tampered with or attempted to falsify the photograph? Is it true that the photograph was taken a year ago when former Speaker, Titi Oseni was being impeached? Or is the photograph a depiction of current events? If indeed it was taken a year ago, why is The Compass newspaper just publishing it at this time and not earlier? Is it also true that other lawmakers and public officers have been taking illegal oaths?

These are some of the queries that need to be clarified. The police in Ogun State should be interested in the matter with a view to determining whether any criminal act or omission has been committed. If so, the guilty should be brought to book.

For now, there is nothing enchanting about the political career of Wale Alausa, despite his face-saving explanation. His excuses cannot absolve him of guilt and he ought therefore to resign from public office. Any other lawmaker or person found to have taken similar oaths should either resign honourably or be sacked. Nigerians deserve saner and better leadership. The entire Ogun State Government, considering the deeds and utterances of its principal actors in recent times, is obviously in a sorry state.

We should all lament that people who ought to be far from the corridors of power are holding important positions, and violating their original oaths of office by entering into secret and occultic covenants. It should be noted that all the gladiators in Ogun State belong to the same political party - the Peoples Democratic Party. The leaders of that party are faced with a helpless situation, whereby the contestants with their extremism, seem to have foreclosed any reasonable compromise. The implications for the 2011 elections in that state are frightening.

Without a doubt, the full story of the debacle in that state has not been told. But whatever voices of reason that can still be identified within and outside the PDP, should wade into the matter and forge a ceasefire, so that energies and time could be better deployed to the more important task of development and governance for the people's benefit.