We were recently riveted by allegations of sexual misconducts leveled against three Nigerian lawmakers by the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle. In a letter to the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, he accused one of the ten members of the House that were on an official trip to the US of grabbing a housekeeper in his hotel room and soliciting her for sex and two others of requesting hotel parking attendants to help them solicit prostitutes. The accusations generated something of an uproar and an overall condemnation of the actions of the three lawmakers. I was astonished by the uproar that followed the allegations and miffed by the hypocrisy it evinced.
Are Nigerians trying to make believe that the code of conduct among Nigerian public officials is, by any stretch of the imagination, comparable to that of the American public officials? Secondly, by the standards of the Nigerian National Assembly, notorious for its greed and corruption, what is outrageous about the alleged sexual peccadilloes of the three legislators?
On checking into a hotel in Nigeria, it is not uncommon for a courteous porter to help you with your luggage into your hotel room, and solicitously, turn on the TV and AC, ostensibly, “to make sure that everything is working fine” but more importantly, to justify the tip he is expecting from you. And, sometimes, before stepping out of your room, he informs you that if you need a lady for the evening, he will gladly make one available for you. Generally, female employees of hotels are forbidden from consorting with hotel patrons. However, with an understanding with the night shift manager, a female employee of the hotel can readily sneak into a male patron’s hotel room, and for a consideration, be his romantic guest for the night. By Nigerian moral and ethical standards, these are normal and acceptable ways of doing things.
What many Nigerians fail to realize is that by the standards of many countries of the world, our moral and ethical standards are abysmally low. And, as such, some of the things we find acceptable in this country are inconceivable outrages in some other countries. In a country where public officials brazenly plunder the public treasury, lecturers/professors audaciously demand sexual favors from their female students and pastors remorselessly sleep with their “daughters in Christ” (including married ones), what can be wrong with an Honorable member of the House demanding sex from a housekeeper or wanting to procure prostitutes through parking lot attendants?
Due to the poverty in the land and the Nigerian tendency to worship the rich and the powerful, many housekeepers in Nigerian hotels, for implied or expressed pecuniary incentives, will have no qualms (and may feel privileged) in pandering to the libidinal zest of an Honorable member of the House of Representatives. And hotel parking attendants will cheerfully and dutifully procure prostitutes for him. By Nigerian standards, these men did nothing wrong. Their only offense is that they failed to realize that the code of conduct, especially, for public officials, is much higher in the United States of America than in Nigeria. And, as such, the American society will not tolerate their accustomed crude and vulgar modus operandi in extra-marital sexual gambols. The American have frowned at their undesirable behaviors and taken punitive measures against them. And that should be enough.
To avoid such embarrassing situations in future, members of the House, before going on official foreign trips, should be made aware of the susceptibilities of their would-be host countries. They should be advised to endeavor to restrain their sexual instincts, or otherwise, travel with their wives or girlfriends. For Yakubu Dogara and the other members of the House to feign outrage at the alleged behaviors of the three legislators is hypocrisy. After all, there is no evidence that the generality of Nigerian legislators usually exhibits more discipline and self-control than the accused lawmakers in tending to their own libido.
Dogara has directed the House Committees on Ethics and Foreign Affairs to investigate the matter. This is a colossal waste of time and resources aimed at impressing the American government.
There are many pressing and dire issues that should rivet the focus of the Nigerian House of Representatives. It should direct its energies and resources to important matters with direct relevance to the improvement of the quality of life in Nigerian. It should work against hunger, poverty and desperation that are plaguing the majority of Nigerians. It should direct its actions against the chaos, lawlessness and social injustice that threaten to unravel the Nigerian society.
The House Committee on Ethic should investigate the insatiable greed and entrenched corruption among Nigerian legislators that has tarnished the image and undermined the credibility of the National Assembly. There are too many other aberrations of the Nigerian society it needs to investigate, for example, why are legislators in Nigeria, a country with the social indexes of the poorest countries of the world, the highest paid legislators in the world; and why are the Nigerian police excessively brutality and infamous for extra-judicial killings?
The Nigerian House of Representatives, in its lassitude, avarice and corruption is grossly failing in its duties to the Nigerian people.
Therefore, it should focus on living up to its constitutional responsibilities to the Nigerian people, and leave the three accused lawmakers alone. They operated by the standards we find satisfactory in Nigeria that happened to be unacceptable in America. Harrying them for what is normal conduct in Nigeria is hypocrisy and kowtowing shamelessly to the Americans government.
*Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.