This piece is not about former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, per se — and for two good reasons.
First, the man has appealed his Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) conviction. After a rash of immediate post-verdict comments, fairness demands everything be put on hold, until the higher courts concur or demur.
Secondly, decency and good breeding demand you don’t kick a man already down. It’s simple compassionate humanity, given the heights the former CJN had crashed from.
But the rather puerile manner the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) tries to rationalize the Onnoghen conviction should well and truly alarm everyone.
Ironically, both Onnoghen and NCEF are frightening symbols of contemporary Nigeria, perhaps in its worst-ever decadence.
Onnoghen’s symbolism of rot has more to do with the shocking vanishing of honour in Nigeria’s public space; and less with law, even if the putrescence of our laws and lawyers — “lawyers” used in the widest generic form, to capture both the Bar and the Bench — is damning enough.
An accused Onnoghen, head of the sacred Judiciary, ruins the critical code of a saintly conclave, come to bring to heel the rest of us.
A convicted Onnoghen completely shatters all of that myth.
Napoleon Bonaparte declared the throne no more than a bench covered with damask. Our own Fela, the ultimate iconoclast, in the ultimate putdown, to the uppity Nigerian military: uniform na khaki, na tailor de sew am — and that, at the apex of their swashbuckling power!
Perhaps a throne can soak such slur and reform itself? Incidentally, the French monarchy never did. Perhaps a political military could brush it aside, and still continue to corral power – another impossibility the Nigerian military learned the hard way!
But no civilized society survives a debauched Judiciary without baiting anarchy. That is the full and unvarnished tragedy of Onnoghen’s terrible judicial pass.
But that puts, even in bolder relief, the greater danger of a critical moral centre, deodourizing such grave moral stink; because it plays the politics of ethnic hate and jaundiced faith.
That is the unpardonable crime NCEF has committed on the Onnoghen question, when it suggested, in an infamous statement, that the troubled former CJN was removed by Fulani “stealth” — whatever that means!
But then, the NCEF outburst would appear to climax the moral free-fall of Christendom Nigeria, as a moral force, in the anti-sleaze war, with all its un-Christian manoeuvres, unleashed on the political front.
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, fired the first salvo in 2015, when he pointedly told Nigerians to forget the nation-threatening sleaze of the Jonathan era and “move on”.
True, he drew terrible flak from irate compatriots, shocked at the ringing illogic — not to add, the crippling immorality — of such a call.
That was because it came from a distinguished scholar-priest; whose rippling logic and severe moral code ought to strike a hard blow for probity and public morality.
But Kukah’s call would appear a Freudian slip. Though no one gave it an official seal, the People’s Democratic Party’s bathetic campaign of 2015 was nothing but an emotive Christian-versus-Muslim sympathy-seeking stunt.
Remember the “Janjaweed” quip, in regard to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), by Femi Fani-Kayode, President Goodluck Jonathan’s chief campaign spokesperson?
Father Kukah probably regarded Jonathan the closet “Christian” candidate. After a drubbing by the “Muslim” one, the electorally vanquished sure deserved some post-defeat veneration, in holy sentiments.
Well, if that was the case, it back-fired big time!
Nonetheless, Kukah’s screeching whistle kicked off a virtual political match, in which leading lights of Nigerian Christendom would unleash, on the Muhammadu Buhari presidency if not outright on his person, personal bile cleverly pushed as Christian holy rile, to scam the gullible faithful.
One of such has been Winners’ Chapel Presiding Bishop, Bishop David Oyedepo, and his periodic wail, against PMB and his government.
In one of such, he got so worked up, over a mere satire. That grand gaffe became a grand embarrassment to Nigerian Christendom — and Oyedepo himself, the butt of jokes.
Prof. Olatunji Dare, celebrated columnist of The Nation, had satirized the hare-brained joke, that PMB was some cloned “Jubril” from Sudan.
Like boiling ocean waves, the satire drove up the holy bishop’s darkest id (to borrow the language of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis) — burying all his inhibiting ego and super ego; consuming his entire priestly restraints.
Right there on the sacred pulpit, the triumphant bishop, bristling with holy rage, read out the entire satire to the cheering faithful; passing it out as concrete facts, to bury his quarry. But alas, everything blew in his face!
It was perhaps God Himself confounding the wise! In Oyedepo, the hunter suddenly turned the hunted — for who would save, from the biting jokes to come, the chancellor of a thriving private university, who nevertheless couldn’t understand simple satire?
Indeed, God would not be mocked!
Perhaps that realization – that God would not be mocked – pushed the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigeria’s apex Christian body, to some post-poll detente, of congratulating PMB on his re-election. CAN itself had had its own fair share of pre-poll theatrics and rascality.
But CAN’s possible morphing from Saul to Paul, after the blinding flash en route to political Damascus, NCEF won’t hear of; accusing CAN of some alleged sell-out!
Which is why the CAN-NCEF tiff could well be likened to a contemporary equivalent of the Biblical Tower of Babel, when Jehovah scatter the tongues; and planted confusion, among a lobby locked in an illicit task.
Both CAN and NCEF have wilfullly refused to press themselves into service, when their nation faced the most lethal moral crisis, opting to play instead some political hanky-panky.
On that account, however, the Solomon Asemota (SAN)-chaired NCEF has become the most virulent; and the latest proof, aside from its sickening reading of “Jihad” and “Islamization” into everything, is its rather silly rationalization of the Onnoghen mess.
Besides, NCEF’s emotive activism appears bereft of any strategic thinking. If NCEF piles up so much bile and hate, against the “Fulani-Muslim rulers” of its troubled imagination, can its preferred “Christian” future rulers withstand future rabid Muslim bile?
Where does that then lead the polity? To Mogadishu or even Kigali, some vile killing fields, resulting from mutual faith intolerance? And to think most of these elders could well be gone, when their present ill wind breeds the whirlwind!
NCEF is, indeed, manifesting political rascality instead of the Christ-like propriety its name demands. It’s high time, therefore, it changed tack.
Still, NCEF is only a symptom. The real disease is Nigerian Christendom, fleeing from battle, when the country sorely needs its corrective ammo, to survive a moral ruin.
But history would dust its sandals, as dire evidence against the present Nigerian Christian order, for its epochal abandonment; just as Christ instructed the early disciples, against the willfully unreceptive to the gospel.