A university don, Prof. Akin Oyebode, says oath-taking by public office holders on the strength of religious scriptures has not checkmated abuse of public trust in Nigeria.
Oyebode, a Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence at the University of Lagos, said this in Lagos on Wednesday.
He said that leadership failure in Nigeria was due to inability of public office holders to live true to the contents of their oaths of office.
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According to him, holding the Bible and the Qur’an during oath-taking by public officers does not incur instant wrath of the Supreme Being on violators like taking an oath by the god of iron (Ogun) or god of thunder (Sango).
“My late colleague, Prof. C.S Momoh said people don’t take oaths seriously because we are worshiping foreign gods.
“Christianity and Islam originated from outside Nigeria. We should change the procedure for oath taking by using pieces of iron, Sopona and other traditional items.
“We as Africans are very traditional, we may put on western clothing but when a real African has problems, he runs to the native doctor in the village.
“As for the Bible and the Qur’an, Africans do not fear those books but if a piece of iron is used to take an oath by the god of iron or thunder by the god of Sango, African people will abide by their oaths.
“There is a lot of merit in this view that we have to take a fresh look at the ceremony of oath taking by not relying on the Bible or the Qur’an.
Oyebode, therefore, called for a revisit to the African tradition regarding oath taking.
“For oath taking at the national level, I’m suggesting that we go back to our roots. For example, look at the Okija Shrine, people were so afraid of the shrine because they knew that the consequences of flouting an oath taken there could be devastating.
“Even though, we speak good English, we are not English people. There are problems with our psyche, the white man removed our values and replaced them with his own values.
“Nigerians have become “Afro-saxtons”. We are neither African nor British, we are in between, and the lawyer who is involved in the procedures of oath taking is the finest example of this.
“There are no legal consequences of violation of oaths because the oaths via the Bible and the Quran is between him and God, the violation of which is only heretical.
“However, traditional oaths sworn to Gods like Obatala, Sango, Sopona and Aiyelala are feared because of the grave sanctions visited on the violators.”
“The fidelity to oaths is part and parcel of the desiderata of accountability. The failure by Nigeria’s public office holders to hold themselves bound by their oaths of office needs to be deprecated and severely criticised.
”In other climes, those who desecrate their oaths are shamed or sent to be burnt at the stake, but here, our tolerance level seems too elastic.”
Another lawyer, Mr Darlington Agbale, shared the same traditionalist view as Oyebode.
“The issue of oaths is a mere ritual, office holders should swear to gods like Ogun, Sango and Obatala
“Those gods are vicious and fierce and violations of their laws come with dire consequences and instant justice. It is high time we reverted to our traditional practices for efficiency.
Regarding the consequences of oath violation, Agbale said that the consequences should be dire.
“The person should be struck down immediately because courts protract issues with long legal arguments; let us change to the old practices because the modern ways do not yield any result.
“The gods of Ogun, Sango and Obatala, are the way to go and let us be serious about it,” Agbale said.