Honesty As Albatross By Udo Silas

Honesty is easy. Yet difficult and complicated. It is
not like the river that ebbs its flow in seasons and
times.

It is constant or so it should be. As constant as the
Northern star some would say. But honesty is
lonely.

And that is not just because it is rare. It is because
as humans we are inherently untrue.
When the lure of honesty stalks our conscience we
become adamant to its tugs.

Because conscience ‘is an open wound’ only us can
see, we become the folly of choosing what we want
to be honest about. In the end only the individual or
individuals know when they are honest.
That is until truth surfaces. And that is because the
tributaries of honesty and its synonyms, integrity,

uprightness, morality, ethics, righteousness and
more, only flows into the pond of truth. So truth only
suffers for a time.
That is why honesty is the first chapter in the book
of wisdom. I didn’t say that. Thomas Jefferson did,

in his famous letter to Nathaniel Macon, January 12,
1819.

So wisdom, without necessarily any reference to
ecclesiastical postulations, resides, like honesty, on
the narrow, lonely road. Its attributes are not
commonplace.

So I come across this story written by my friend
and colleague, Osundu Ahirika, titled “A’Ibom Works
Commissioner Charges NDDC to be honest with the
people”.

The story made an interesting read on one front.
Though I found one fundamental flaw. I tried to
understand the context of the charge made by the
commissioner, especially in the words with which
he made the charge. I found none.

Now, ‘The news manual’ tell us journalists, that
there are three main reasons why you should use
quotes in print journalism.

Firstly, ‘If you repeat the exact words which people
themselves used, you will reduce the risk of
misreporting what they say’. Secondly, ‘When we
give a person’s exact words our readers can see
both the ideas and the way they were represented’

and thirdly, ‘People often use lively language when
they speak. Quotes allow you to put that lively
language directly into your story’.
This is an aside. But my understanding of the
commissioner’s charge was hampered in the
foregoing regard.

Was the charge altruistic? Was the word ‘honest’
deliberately used in full grasp of its real and
applicatory meaning? Indeed, does the word honest
truly exist in the evidential inferences of our
governance at any sphere?

Why has honesty
suddenly become a clarion call in the aftermath of
near eternal PDP leadership at the NDDC?

The questions are by no means exhaustive. But we
must be charitable in agreeing that honesty is as
important to leadership and governance, as air is to
life.

Professor Paul Whiteley, author of a study
conducted by Essex University would help illuminate
our understanding. “Empirical research suggests
that societies in which trust and integrity are strong
perform much better on a range of economic and
political indicators than societies where they are
weak’ he said.

He doesn’t stop there. “The corollary of this is that
low trust brings pathologies, such as poverty, crime,

ill health and unemployment. More recent research
shows that trust is equally important in Britain. So a
lack of integrity has serious consequences for our
society”

It still doesn’t end. Whiteley avers “This highlights
the need to research integrity and its apparent
decline over time. It raises many important issues
such as how do people actually define dishonesty?

Can individuals genuinely disagree about what
honest means in practice? Is honesty all of a piece
or is it compartmentalized in people’s lives- in
other words can they be honest in one context and
dishonest in another”?
It is instructive to note that this study was
conducted in England and about England. But its
conclusions are universal.

Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national
Security Adviser to Donald Trump was honest in
one context and dishonest in the other.

“We got to a
point not based on a legal issue, but based on a
trust issue with a level of trust between the
president and general Flynn had eroded to the point
where he felt he had to make a change. The
president was very concerned that General Flynn
had misled the vice president and others…

the
evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this
situation in a series of other questionable instances
is what led the president to ask for general Flynn’s
resignation” Sean Spicer, White House press
secretary said.

It is possible that the honorable commissioner may
have made his charge having engaged in a prior,

self or institutional examination of his government.
Indeed, we must conclude that he so did.

Because doing so, and scoring full marks on the
honesty scale, would be the only adrenalin that
would allow him entry into the benevolent but fiery
spirit of the law of equity.

Let us be honest. (No pun intended). The
topography of governance in Akwa Ibom is replete
with architectural inquiries of the honesty question.

There is a view that trust had long been eroded
between the governed and the government. Plain
truth is, in Akwa Ibom, as in perhaps all other
states of the federation, there exists legion of
honest answers the citizenry would and should
demand of her leaders.

If the honesty game is played, it is doubtful where
any government or leader in Nigeria would stand on
the truth-o-meter!
Serious societies do not joke or play politics with
the honesty question in leadership. And honesty is
not pious pretensions to religiosity or populist
spirituality. It is the sum total of words, attitude,

dispositions and actions laid bare for all Akwa Ibom
to see.
But we must welcome the charge by the
commissioner. Without a doubt it would help Akwa
Ibom people, desirous of accountability to test the
altruistic and integrity content in all those who
aspire to leadership and public service.

Our persuasions must be akin to the fate of the
mariner in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of
the Ancient Mariner’.

The sailors and crew on board the ship believe that
it was the albatross that led it out of the turbulent
sea in the Antarctica. But the mariner shot and
killed the albatross. Even though angry with the
mariner, the crew soon warm to the idea of killing
the bird as they encounter a calmer sea.

But they soon turn coat again, when the elements
become more vicious and violent. ‘In anger the
crew forces the mariner to wear the dead albatross
about his neck, perhaps to illustrate the burden he
must suffer from killing it, or perhaps as a sign of
regret’.

I wager that the call to honesty would in the near
future, become an albatross in the discourse and
politics of Akwa Ibom state. Kudos to my state.