According to the Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary; Oath is defined as a formal promise to do something or a formal statement that something is true. An Oath of office is a declaration a person takes or makes before undertaking the duties of an office, usually a position in government, an association, before the person exercise the powers of the office. Oaths of office are a statement of allegiance to the Government or people, some are affirmations of loyalty to a constitution or other legal scripts or to a person. Professions swear to statements that they will serve the people; plaintiffs and defendants swear to tell the truth in court and even couples also swear be it in court, church or nikkai that they will love, care for and be true to their partner.
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Modern democracy is incomplete without Oath taking. At the inauguration of an administration the President, his Vice, Governors and their Deputies, ministers, commissioners and other appointees takes Oath of office. As the May 29th Handing over date approaches, Nigeria’s newly elected and appointed political leaders will once again be stepping forward to take an Oath which will enable them to assume full responsibility of their respective offices. Over the years Oath taking in Nigeria has been reduced to a mere mockery of a failed system and the sensibility of Nigerians. Government official are as guilty as professionals in the discharge of their constitutional obligations. Their attitudes are a complete departure from their Oath of office. They often deride the same people they have sworn to serve. Total disregard to the provisions of the constitution they swore to uphold is the order of the day. Neither the professionals nor political office holders are excusable on this matter.
The core of Oath taking has suffered a shipwreck and our society is sinking! Apart from the funfair and the wasteful ceremony that usually characterizes Oath taking/swearing-in in Nigeria, the whole essence and core value of the exercise ends with the funfair and merriment of the day. As soon as they get into office, political office holders almost immediately begins to act contrary to the contents of their oath of office. Executive and legislative recklessness, high profile corruption, and all sorts of misconducts and abuse of office with impunity are usually the order of the day. Contrary to the contents of their Hippocratic Oath, doctors usually abandon their duty posts to embark on regular strikes. Lawyers are now dubbed liars, they manipulate the judicial system to suit their friends and the “highest bidder” contrary to the Oath they took. Accountants and clerical workers have transformed into “pen robbers”.
There is urgent need for our institutions to be strengthened. It is meaningless for an elective or appointive office holder to mount the podium to take an Oath of office when our institutions aren’t adequately empowered to bring offenders of Oath breaking to book. The EFCC, ICPC and the code of conduct bureau have been reduced to toothless bull dogs. The agencies saddled with the responsibility of upholding the rule of law are the ones breaking it and aiding injustice. The reason why Nigeria’s voice is no longer respected among the comity of Nations is that we do not obey our laws, our leaders are the chief breakers of the rule of law. What made countries like the USA and China so great today is their strict obedience to their own laws, and offenders are squally brought to book by their strong institutions, no matter who is involved or how highly placed the offender. A former Egyptian President was sentenced few days ago alongside his sons, this is a perfect example of a “working” institution and Nigeria should learn from that. If our political office holders are aware that the law will always take its course if they do not adhere strictly to the contents of their Oath of office, they will surely sit up and serve uprightly.
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