Mama Taraba, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan has murdered sleep. Not with physical weapons as William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but by social blunder. The current Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development is no political neophyte. Even in the vexatious issue of affirmative action, which dogs the step of female participation in Nigerian politics, Mama Taraba parades significant political credentials. Aside from being a former senator, she would have made history as the first elected female executive governor of a state in Nigeria after a fierce gubernatorial battle, where she narrowly lost to the present governor of Taraba State. Dame Virgy Etiaba holds the enviable position of becoming the first female governor in Nigeria, following the impeachment of the governor, Peter Obi, an illegal act that was later voided by the court. It was therefore unexpected that a female political heavyweight like Alhassan could fall prey to the current political turmoil threatening to engulf her.
During the Sallah celebration on September 5, Senator Aisha Alhassan paid homage to her political godfather, former vice president, Abubakar Atiku, where she made openly endorsed him for the 2019 presidential election. Not done, she raised the bar of indiscretion the following week in her interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation in which she declared: “Atiku is my godfather even before I joined politics, and again Baba Buhari did not tell us that he is going to run in 2019. And let me tell you today that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him, ‘Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister. But Baba, just like you know, I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather.’(That is) if Atiku said he is going to contest, as we are talking now Atiku has not said he is going to contest.”
Predictably her comments sparked opprobrium in different political quarters with many calling for her resignation or outright sack.
Granted that Alhassan is entitled to her opinion, the bone of contention is the moral correctness of her conduct. In other words, it is ethically wrong to openly endorse a potential rival of her principal, a clear demonstration of divided loyalty.
The revenge of etiquette is that beyond the faux pas (social blunder), it further widens the gender gap, a major issue in this administration. Gender inequality has earned President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration major knocks in feminine quarters, especially in the not so recent past when the former Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed, who was appointed Deputy Secretary- General at the United Nations, was not replaced in the Cabinet by another female. It therefore becomes worrisome when the fragile quota allotted to women is further weakened by the deliberate act of the few flagbearers of the endangered gender.
“Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be,” said Emily Post.
In essence, ethics is that aspect of etiquette, which deals with moral principles as the foundation for every relationship.
Conflict of interest, abuse of office, plagiarism, cutting corners, circumventing due process, misappropriating privileged information for selfish interest are some ethical challenges in the country. The show of shame has gained general acceptance as the norm.
The irony is that we are highly religious, but trivialize ethical issues in Nigeria. Nobody sees anything wrong when people convert official property for personal use or use official time for personal business.
Corruption, which is enjoying a free run, fights back because we have not integrated ethics into our way of life. In a deliberate reversal of moral values, shady characters are celebrated and rewarded with honor.
To advance as a nation we must institute values in our homes and offices whereby we subject ourselves to very high standards as a matter of choice and not for fear of being caught and ultimately sanctioned. A worrisome trend abounds where individuals post materials on social media in flagrant disregard for professional ethics. Unknown to many, organizations profile candidates for recruitment through scrutiny of the media handles.
You murder greatness when you work shabbily; ethics provides direction in the path of honour. Sadly, gone with the wind is the era of sobriety and low profile lifestyle of civil service, which has been overtaken by the brazen display of vulgar opulence.
All hands must be on deck to revive the principles, which hitherto defined us as a people. Ethical values such as honesty, humility, integrity, truthfulness, fairness, equity and self-control must be espoused and reinforced.
So before you cast your stone against the Team Aisha, or any other person, you may do well to ask the man in the mirror: “How ethical are you?”