The moral factor

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We have two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach. Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays (1928)

World history is replete with instances that when a leadership is driven by motives shorn of the moral component, it begins to lose credibility that, in turn, contributes to hastening its exit. In contemporary times, there is a growing awareness that morality is being accorded the lowest priority, if any at all, in matters pertaining to governance.

The principal objective of any sitting government should be to do good to its people. It is on this premise that the electorate votes it into power. Therefore, the need for gaining and sustaining credibility by every governing dispensation, so that its initiatives and policies are accepted by the people, takes precedence over other requirements. This, in turn, would come through the proportionate quotient of sincerity and transparency accorded to the formulation and execution of policies. The repeated need that the incumbent dispensation feels to drum the legitimacy factor with regard to its democratic credentials is a direct outcome of the lack of credibility that it suffers from. This was not the case when it came into power. It is now the case on account of the manner it has handled the affairs of the state. From broken promises and contracts regarding the restoration of independent judiciary to instances of gross corruption and pervading nepotism, from the fraudulent rental power plants to the non-implementation of the Supreme Court adjudications, the ruling conglomerate is afflicted with wounds entirely of its own drilling. The credibility gap has widened further because of the unbearable hardships that the common people are subjected to vide the sky-rocketing cost of living, acute power shortages and the vanishing job opportunities. This has practically pushed them to the verge of extinction.

The incumbent hierarchy must understand that no ruling system can rest solely on polemics and authority. For it to sustain and develop, it must be adequately complemented with tangible results in the shape of benefits to the ordinary people. It has to wade clear of the battle of semantics and repeatedly take a dip in waters to cleanse it of its erring habits. It may appear to be a difficult task now that there is a growing perception of the governments insincerity based on its track record stretching back to over two years. The time of playing good cop, bad cop also seems to be over as the prime minister has effectively demonstrated that he only follows what emanates from the presidency.

As Oscar Wilde once said, Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace. This appears to be the core issue that the embattled dispensation is confronted with. Because of an inherent weakness in the shape of having to carry the burden of the person who commands the party and its policies, the entire drift is towards ensuring his survival. This is being secured through a coterie of like-minded operators who repeatedly parrot the (immoral) concept of constitutional immunity. In absolute terms, it means that the person may be guilty of the alleged transgressions, but he cannot be questioned as long as he is the president of the country. Does it, therefore, follow that he would walk straight into the pit upon leaving the presidency?

The problem is that the government has not been able to draw a line anywhere in the manner of its conduct. If, however, that line did exist some time in history, it has kept shifting depending on the expediency of the circumstances. This horizontal and vertical movement has not been controlled by any referral to a code of morality or any concept of right or wrong. It has solely been dictated by the need to help one person survive the battering of his unworthy legacy. The government has suffered. The perception of the system being incapable to deliver has gained further ground. The calls for a drastic change have become louder. It seems people would no longer be content with the prospect of a change of faces alone. They want a change in the manner the government is elected and its affairs conducted. They would not be content with cosmetics. They want to ensure that the system that evolves is geared for their benefit and not that of the ruling elite.

Every day that passes, dressed in the dredges of the incumbent dispensation, further erodes the prospect of a peaceful transition to a transparent and meaningful form of governance. Because of having sacrificed the moral component at the altar of ensuring the survival of one person, the incumbent dispensation has administered a mortal wound on the entire system that it may not be able to survive and a surgical operation, whenever needed, may not always lead to desirable results. In the words of James A. Forude, History is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. Is there anyone paying heed?

The writer is a policial analyst.