By Adeolu Ademyo
Ms. Kathleen Sebelius was the former American secretary of Health and Human services while Mr. Abba Moro is Nigerian interior minister. Two life issues have joined the fate of these two public servants. These are the moral rights of working people to employment without being murdered, and the access to affordable heath care. First, let us take the case of secretary Sebelius. As the secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration she was responsible for the implementation of the Obamacare-President Barak Obama’s moral signature policy. Due to website technical hitches the very first outing of Obamacare was a technical failure. In other words many Americans who wanted to buy health insurance under Obamacare were unable to do so because the website could not handle the deluge of potential subscribers.
Understandably, opponents of Obamacare pounced on this technical website glitch while ignoring the moral worth of Obamacare itself which ought to be the real issue. It is strange how website technical problem was used by opponents to measure the moral worth of a policy that made health care accessible to American working people, and the most vulnerable sections of the American populace. Strange as this is, using a technical problem to read the moral worth of Obamacare is understandable because Obamacare itself is a moral statement in defense of citizens who otherwise would have gone without health insurance.
So, this was Ms. Sebelius moral dilemma. Even when she eventually sorted out the technical problem, thus making it possible for the initial target of subscribers to be met, she still resigned. Her resignation was a moral statement about sacrifice, and responsibility in public service. Even when it was clear that the Republican party’s opposition to Obamacare was political, Ms. Sebelius still took responsibility for the technical problem of the website.
This is the point at which Nigeria’s Abba Moro stands in sharp moral contrast. As interior minister he supervised a recruitment exercise on March 15, 2014 that led to the death of 19 young Nigerian including a pregnant woman who were seeking for employment.
Mr. Moro hijacked the recruitment exercise by unilaterally selecting a private company Drexel Ltd. as the recruiter. The company selected by Mr. Moro failed to make adequate plans for a screening that involved more than 710,000 applicants.
Despite receiving N1, 000 from each applicant-totaling at least N710 million- the interior ministry and the Civil Defense Corps, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services Board, had no funds to conduct screening for the candidates. Nineteen young Nigerians who were looking for jobs died as a result of Mr. Moro’s act, but Mr. Moro still has the moral courage to sit in office as Interior minister.
The resignation from office of the American Kathleen Sebelius and the sitting tight in office of the Nigerian Abba Moro reveals the face of ethics not only for the two-secretary and minister- but also for Presidents Goodluck Jonathan, Barak Obama and the peoples of the two countries.
It is instructive that in the American case at least in a physical sense no life was lost, yet Kathleen Sebelius has the sense of grace and honor to resign, hence taking responsibility for the failure of the first outing of an important moral policy such as the Obamacare.
On the other hand in the Nigerian case nineteen Nigerians died –including a pregnant woman – as result of a policy decision taken by minister Abba Moro yet minister Moro is still in office as minister.
We Nigerians can continue to live our lives as usual after the death of 19 Nigerians as if nothing happened. President Goodluck Jonathan can continue with his politics as usual defending the morally indefensible. This would not be the first time President Jonathan would be found to be in cold complicity and conspiracy with an intense immorality and evil.
President Goodluck Jonathan was in cold complicity with the immorality of his erstwhile aviation minister, Ms Stella Oduah until the moral stench in the kitchen was too thick to be covered. In the same vein, President Jonathan is presently in cold complicity with his Petroleum minister Ms. Diezani Alison-Madueke over the accusation that she, as minister of petroleum who supervises NNPC, spends about 500,000 euros (N130 million naira) of public money monthly to maintain an aircraft, solely for her personal needs and those of her immediate family. Diezani Alison-Madueke is involved with other alleged corrupt practices. That ministers such as Moro and Diezani are still in office given their scandalous tenures in office says a lot about the gracelessness that defines public office and service in Nigeria. It says a lot about the miserable understanding or lack of understanding of public ethics by President Goodluck Jonathan and his cohort of advisers. That Nigerians continue to tolerate this gracelessness on the part of President Jonathan and his ministers is a testimony to the extent to which we are ready to allow our humanity to be abused. Ministers Moro and Diezani should go. It ought to be about honor. It ought to be about grace.
Adeolu Ademoyo is at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.