Two very symptomatic occurrences filtered into the system last week. One was the poor performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominee for election to the International Criminal Court jury, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun’s decision to appoint winner of the just concluded Big Brother Naija and indigene of the state, Olamilekan Moshood Agbelesebioba, popularly known as Laycon, as Youth Ambassador of the state.
Juries of ICC, an organ of the United Nations General Assembly, are replenished every nine years for nationals of its 123-member nations. They are saddled with prosecution of war crimes, genocide, international crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression. The election is to be conducted at the 19th session of the Assembly.
Of the 20 nominees, however, Justice Bello and two others, upon grading by the committee saddled with their screening, were found to have fallen under the lowest category, next only to disqualification cadre and thus falling short of requirements stipulated in the Rome Statute for ICC judges’ election. Bello’s nomination was specifically spurned based on his lack of understanding of “the knowledge of the workings of the ICC.”
The ICC rejection of the nomination of Bello should be a wakeup call on Nigerians and particularly the Buhari government, on the futility of underscoring indices other than excellence in appointments and nominations. Nigeria shone in the past, both nationally and internationally, even when placed side by side the best of other countries because selfish considerations were absolutely relegated. First African to hold a PhD in law from the University of London, earned in 1949 and one who became Nigeria’s Attorney General in 1960, Teslim Elias, in October 1975, through his nomination by the Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, was elected to the General Assembly and Security Council of the United Nations’ ICC. He subsequently rose to become its President, first African jurist to be so honoured and five years after, was appointed to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.
Ditto Justice Akinola Aguda. Nominated for appointment by the Yakubu Gowon government as Chief Justice of Botswana on February 3, 1972, Aguda became the first indigenous African to be so appointed and concurrently acted as Judge of the Court of Appeal of Southern African countries of Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.
However, over the years, the crevices of Nigeria’s divisions have jutted out embarrassingly. Runners of governments flee into mundane considerations when making national choices. It has worsened in the last five years where ethnicity is a major index in such choices. It is why Nigeria had to be thoroughly disparaged by the ICC in the choice of Justice Bello. The question to ask is, was Buhari the appointer, not aware that Bello was incompetent for that office? If so, why did he nominate him? Because he was Hausa? Were there no competent Nigerians at that point of nomination?
Another symptom of Nigeria’s tumble from the Olympian heights of hitherto-held values was Abiodun’s choice of the BBNaija star, Laycon. In an announcement made while he played host to Laycon in his office in Abeokuta, the governor handed him a three-bedroom bungalow and N5 million. His justification for this was that Laycon “will help inspire our teeming youths to channel their energies towards positive engagements and shun vices such as robbery, drug abuse, cultism, advanced fee fraud, cybercrimes and kidnapping amongst other negative tendencies.” He had said what was being celebrated was “much more than the entertainment that the House provided” but what Laycon represented, which the governor said was “rare combination of prodigious intellect, academic excellence, multi-faceted talents, character and resilience.”
Abiodun’s decision to splash such humongous public funds on the entertainer isn’t as execrable as his justification of the act. Since he became governor, it is not on record that he had effectively paid traditional pittance bursaries to students of the state spread across the country nor has the state been known to have celebrated teeming mental excellence that precocious indigenes of Ogun exhibit in every sphere of knowledge.
If the governor wanted to “inspire our teeming youths to channel their energies towards positive engagements,” I dare say that “excellence” in a house of voyeur which the BBNaija stands for should not be the index of such inspiration. Rather, what that celebration inspired is belief that personable and excitable engagements, as against mental engagements which hold hope for advancement of societies, were more desirable. It can even be said to have been an attempt to play to the gallery and appropriate cheap adulations. What those who cite the celebration of footballers and award of humongous sums of money to them as justification for the Abiodun mis-vote of money to personable engagements forget is that, no nation becomes great on account of “It is a goal!” nor are great nations made out of such Abiodun excitable ventures.
Goodnight, Joseph Chijioke Oyibo
Two days ago, 57 year-old Joseph Chijioke Oyibo, who died on September 21, 2020, was interred at his Amutu village in Ezi-Nze, Udi local government of Enugu State. Oyibo, a civil servant of decades, was said to have died of cardiac arrest. Oyibo personified whatever definition anyone may think up of a good man. He was humble, honest to a fault and loyal. In four years of my stay in Enugu and about five years day-to-day relationship with him, Oyibo mirrored the trinity of the Igbo character.
Borrowing from the man who espoused this trinity, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Ndigbo, from their Nri cradle, which they term the Holy City, espouse and venerate the Cot of Reason called akpa uche, which then manifests in the physical gesture of aka Ikenga. Its end product is accomplishment, called ntozu. When this accomplishment is celebrated, according to Nnamani, it is Odenigbo – the universal applause for fame. This trinity of Igbo character is expected to be manifested both home and abroad.
Oyibo manifested this trinity while alive and at Amutu, in Ezi-Nze, Udi local government on Friday while his remains were being interred, he received affirmations that he was a moral accomplishment, receiving applauses for his humanity while alive.
Whenever anyone asks me what were my takeaways from those days of sojourn in Enugu, Oyibo and a few others were my measurement. It is why I always conclude that good and bad men inhabit all lands, whether Igbo, Hausa, Fulani or Yoruba.
We will all miss this good man, even as we wish him a peaceful journey to the territory of the immortals.