In all his utterances since 2003 when Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has been running to be an elected head of state, he has not once promised to launch a second War Against Indiscipline. If he has even adverted to the need to still do something drastic about the national moral character now sunk to more dissolute levels than in 1984/85, I have yet to hear of it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose to guard his tongue on that subject. WAI provides incriminating evidence against the 20-month Buhari-Idiagbon regime. Yet not once or twice I have heard a few people wax nostalgic about the culture of civic responsibility and social decorum that was beginning to take hold before Maj-Gen Babangida decided it was his turn at last to be a dictator. Indeed, just the other day, a group described as Igbo leaders of Northern Nigeria more or less asked for a WAI when they visited Buhari in Abuja. Impunity and indiscipline, they said, have long become a phenomenon of our lives. Describing Buhari as “a man of impeccable character, disciplined and result-oriented,” they said “We want discipline to reign again.”
Buhari must promise another war against indiscipline, now or after he is elected—as I believe he will, the country being primed for change, for character-driven and purposeful leadership. The new WAI will, obviously, have to be fought without kobokos or horsewhips, jackboots, and rifle-butts. The indelible scenes created by WAI brigade soldiers wielding those weapons present some of the most unforgettable images on record of military rule. Yet undeniable is the fact that the root problem WAI sought to address—the staggering indiscipline in our public lives, manifested more openly in the chaos that ruled our bus stops, perennial lateness to work then closing hours early or outright abstinence, mindless littering and the turning of our streets into open garbage dumps, excessive noise, air and water pollution, corruption, etc.—persists today.
It is no exaggeration: the indiscipline that rules our lives today, distorting every moral value and threatening to transform our collective consciousness beyond recognition, has reached unimaginable proportions. Take corruption, or ordinary stealing, as President Jonathan insists. The amount stolen ought not to be of any consequence to the offence. If in doubt, ask those who will not coddle corruption and the corrupt. The British, for instance. In April last year, Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, first apologised then repaid to the treasury the £5,800 (N1.12 million) she wrongly claimed as mortgage expenses, and in October 2011, Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence, resigned amidst an investigation into the relationship between him and his close friend and bestman, Adam Werrity, on the ground that he had “allowed the distinction between personal interest and government activities to become blurred.”
I hear you laughing! Corruption defines the state in which the character or integrity of a person or thing is degraded or compromised. It is the fertile ground on which official graft grows like weeds. Our national character has been so degraded that a moral war needs to be waged to restore its integrity. Happily, the man who added WAI to our political acronyms is he who promises to lead the country out of its ethico-political wilderness. Look, we have reached the point where we pardon convicted treasury looters even before any serious penance and smugly reward the prime suspect in the rigging of a governorship election with a ministerial appointment! “People will talk? Let them talk!” impunity yells. So, when, Mr President will Brig. Aliyu Momoh, the Field Officer Commanding of the Ekiti rigging operation, be made Chief of Army Staff?
Buhari knows too well that any wars he must fight can only be won constitutionally. From Abuja to London and Lagos, he has been insisting on his transformation from autocrat to democrat. He can’t change the past, he says, but he can change the present and the future. WAI is one past that he most certainly can change. He should know that one reason why he failed 30 years ago is that he launched a war for which he lacked the requisite formations, arms and ammunition. No Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, no due process. Now all he would have to do if elected (and may he be elected), is to, first, strengthen the EFCC and ICPC (merge them, I say) financially and institutionally, including, by the way, the police and the judiciary, and then grant them the autonomy to go after any and all corrupt persons. The more sacred the cows, the better.
If you are like me, character, integrity, vision and the moral authority of personal example are key deciding factors in this as in any election. Which makes Buhari’s impassioned plea to be seen as a born-again democrat, backed by his stubborn insistence on a minimum public morality, worth the leap of faith that comes, invariably, with every election. He knows that his new-found acceptance, especially by a critical section of the intelligentsia, is hard-won. And that he is on probation, pending proof at every step that he is the convert zealous for atonement that he says he is. The first proof for me will be to show that he gives a damn (we can’t assume it) by publicly declaring his assets and insisting all the members of his cabinet do likewise. That would be the first step towards a second War Against Indiscipline. To be launched in the first 100 days of his tenure. At least, without any unnecessary delay.
Now, dear readers, be sure to vote and be an agent of the change Nigeria truly needs!