This writer has followed events in Germany in the last couple of days and had come to a conclusion that Nigeria as a nation need to go further in deepening her democracy, political culture and moral values, if at all she is worth being called the giant of Africa.
It is not everyday one hears, watches or reads in the media the resignation of a President or Prime Minister, especially when such comes from Europe. Silvio Berlusconi reminds critics of a man who despite being mired in scandal and facing sliding approval ratings, has survived a series of confidence vote and refuses to resign from being the leader of his PDL party. It is no wonder, when the President of Germany, Christian Wulff resigned last week amidst corruption claim from prosecutors, many, most especially the powerful German Chancellor, Angela Merkel were shocked and surprised.
For those who do not know Christian Wulff, he was by the age of 20 politically active in the Christian Democrat Union, CDU and even challenged a one time chnacellor, Gerhard Schroeder, though loosing to him. He won state election in 2003 and became one of four deputy leaders of the CDU in 1998. He was also the Premier of Lower Saxony until 2010, when he was picked as President by Chancellor Angela Merkel, becoming the youngest President at 51. He was two years into the job when prosecutors came calling.
Many would wonder that since the post of the German president is largely ceremonial and the primary role being to serve as a moral authority, why prosecute him on corruption charges? All he could have been given was a reprimand and nothing more, some would have argued. Despite this myopic arguement, one thing remain clear and that is, no matter the position one occupies, the moment such a person is found wanting, nothing stops the law from taking its course. This ofcourse can only happen in saner climes where democracy, good governance and the rule of law is pursued vigorously and manifestly triumphs.
When one digs deep into what prosecutors had said Mr Wulff had done, one would marvel to know it is infinitesimal compared to the devilment that happens on a daily basis in all strata of the Nigerian socio-political and economic space. Before resigning on Friday, Mr Wulff had been under pressure since December to explain a private loan he received from a wealthy friend's wife when he was premier of Lower Saxony and criticisms over a furious phone call he put through a newspaper editor before the publication reported on the loan. It was a scandal which escalated dramatically, prompting prosecutors in an unprecedented move against a German president to ask parliament to lift his immunity from prosecution.
In his resignation statement, he had said Germany needs ''a president who is supported by the confidence not just of a majority of citizens, but a wide majority.'' He also reiterated that 'the developments of the past few days and weeks have shown that [the German people's] trust and thus my effectiveness have been seriously damaged...for this reason, it is no longer possible for me to exercise the office of president at home and abroad as required.'' The Bundestag committee on parliamentary immunity is expected to consider the request of prosecutors in the next few weeks.
Having said this, this writer is of the opinion that such moral gestures ought to be emulated by the Nigerian political elite and taken as a lesson never in futility. When a politician commits a heinous crime like corruption or electoral malfeasance, it is imperative that those involved in fighting illegality must take the bull by the horn in ensuring that such an individual is prosecuted. It is only in Nigeria that leader entrusted with the people's social contract misbehave and turn themselves into godfathers and feudal lords, yet nothing happens to them. They become the untouchables, further causing chaos in the polity.
If Mr Wulff where a Nigerian politician, he would have quickly visited his political godfathers who inturn would have given him a clean bill of health to continue on the sit. He would be confident because even the legislature would keep mum in order to safeguard their illegal bogus remunerations and masssive allowances. He would have ensured that all voices from the opposition are subdued, while newspaper, radio or television stations are taken over by the SSS for what they would term 'breach of viewing content' (if there is anything of that nature).
Mr Wulff would have rallied his party and asked for their help and because they are the largest party in Africa who wish to rule for 60 years, they give him a soft landing and assure him of his exalted position,even after his one term of four years elapses. If Mr Wulff were a Nigerian politician, he would certainly have resisted calls from the public, media, civil rights group, labour, political activists and other pressure groups to step down. He would have called those calling for his resignation do gooders and never do wells. He would have accused them of formenting trouble and hijacking the situation to commit insecurity and therefore deploy soldiers to man protest hot spots. Since the judiciary had been compromised, Mr Wulff as a Nigerian politician would have recieved massive support and in order to back him up well enough and fortify his rule, some judicial (mis)interpretation of the law would have sufficed.
Because the law has always been an ass and under the ampit of even the President, Mr Wulff would have been left off the hook or his case would not have been pursued anyway because there are other pressing issues to attend to by prosecutors like the escape of a terrorist from police custody, the arrest of Boko Haram chieftains or even how to takle the massive bombings of specific targets. At the end of it all, Mr Wulff, taking advantage of the gullibility of the Nigerian people, would end his tenure of eight years and life would ofcourse continue. Mr Wulff, for the insincerity inherent in the Nigerian constitution would have quickly showed every listening ear that he was covered by immunity and for that reason must not face the prosecutor's hammer.
There are however quite a number of lessons to learn from the resignation of Mr Wulff, most especially for Nigerian politicians who are usually hell bent on the sit tight phenomenon. Democracy is not about sharing money at all tiers of government all the time but about doing the right things all the time. Leaving office when the trust the people have reposed in one is lost is one policy our constitution must inherit and politicians accept willynilly. Mr Wulff's action is typical of the saying that when the ovation is loudest, one bows out. His action might be a shock to Chancellor Merkel, but Mr Wulff would forever be a statesman whose name will line the sands of German history.
Democracy flourishes when the media, parliament, the public, judiciary and the law are made to perform their duties in a manner that should not promote bias and witch-hunting. These different elements where the reason behind Mr Wilff's resignation and if we must get it right here in Nigeria, politicians must uphold all forms of democratic tendencies and always speak the truth no matter what.
Mr Wulff had said in his statement that, he had always behaved legally correctly in the offices he held and had made mistakes, but was always honest. These are the kind of statements the Nigerian public wish to hear from the myriads of politicians who have committed atrocities, yet walk freely on the streets of Aso Rock, hunting for political patronage. Mr Wulff might have been out of power, but would perhaps had wished he were a full blooded Nigerian politician, in order to remain in power and care less about the the social contract between him and the ruled.
Raheem Oluwafunminiyi is a political analyst and social commentator who wrote from Ibadan. He could be reached via [email protected]