A few weeks ago, Farouk Lawan was the darling of many Nigerians, an example of what legislative powers should be.
There are two military characters Hollywood brought to life. Colonel Frank Slade, the blind idiosyncratic war hero in Scent of a Woman, played by Al Pacino; and Colonel Nathan Jessep, the decorated war veteran, who was eventually disgraced from the army in ‘A Few Good Men’, played by Jack Nicholson.
It is common to see A Few Good Men played to new intakes at Law Schools around the world; the powerful message that no reputation is too intimidating to be challenged is a clear theme of this movie. The plot is based on the trial of two US Marines accused of causing the death of another officer. The marines are defended by Danny Kaffe, an inexperienced naval lawyer who has to prove that Col. Jessep ordered the action that led to the death of the marine. The highlight of the movie is the cross-examination of Col. Jessep, and his furious reaction to Danny Kaffee’s ability to spot flaws in his testimony and question his integrity. After his “You can’t handle the truth!” rant, Col. Jessep angrily admits to giving the order that led to Private Santiago’s death. The marines in trial are acquitted, and Col. Jessep is arrested.
The similarities between this movie and the state we live in are fairly obvious; Nigeria is increasingly becoming the graveyard of champions. Good people go into government (elected or appointed) and come out with their reputation in tatters. This is the biggest disincentive for anyone considering public service. The situation is not helped by many people in government constantly alluding to a failed system you must conform to or run the risk of being spat out violently. We have also seen government can be like the Bermuda Triangle, where people go into and never come out of; if one goes by the careers of Messrs Ojo Maduekwe and Jerry Gana.
A few weeks ago, Farouk Lawan was the darling of many Nigerians, an example of what legislative powers should be. On live television, he was polite and firm while leading the House of Representatives probe of the fuel subsidy process. The detailed report at the end of that probe was seen as a breath of fresh air for a nation used to the putrid stench that comes out of such probes. Now it seems the once admired Lawan is on the road to perdition, like many before him. This is the tragedy of a country desperately seeking heroes that don’t exist.
There are a few people who seem to fare better than most. One of them is a distinguished lawyer who started out as Attorney General of Rivers State. He was appointed Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in 2007, and became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2010. When the story of the petroleum industry is told, he will be remembered for bringing his legal experience to table in preparing the foundation of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the single piece of legislature expected to kick start the reform of the sector. As the foreign affairs minister, he was a dignified representative of a bumbling government in diplomatic circles. Today, he is no longer in government. Instead of waiting around Aso Rock and its environs for handouts, he is back as a partner in the law firm he co-founded.
He is a reason I firmly believe that to succeed in government; one must have built a successful career. It is easier to walk away from bribes when you’ve earned similar sums honestly. When you are drawn from a successful career into government, you are better prepared to treat it as a call to service, not a boarding house dinner call to “come and eat” as S.M. Afolabi once told Bola Ige.
I am assured that a few good men (and women) can serve Nigeria without blemish because of people like Odein Ajumogobia.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.