A RESPONSE TO BALA IBRAHIM’S “OSINBAJO & THE INFIDELITY OF INTEGRITY.”
Trump: I would expect a pledge of loyalty to me from you.
FBI Director Comey: I would always be honest with you, Mr. President.
Trump: … but I’m counting on honest loyalty.
Comey: Hmn., I can give that.
At a One on One Dinner at the White House, January 2017.
Since the V.P announced his (long anticipated) decision to contest in 2023, so little has been written about his competence or lack thereof, but so much time has been devoted to issues of betrayal and its twin brother, disloyalty.
Rather than focus on the public good, and virtues that are superior in advancing the public interest, to evaluate the V.P’s declaration to run for public office, there seems to be a tsunami of commentaries on loyalty, a virtue indeed, but one oriented towards private interest, even at the expense of public interest.
In his otherwise brilliant piece, OSINBAJO AND THE INFIDELITY OF INTEGRITY, Bala Ibrahim argued that, “Truly, Vice President Osinbajo is free to contest against any adversary. But from the foregone, if integrity matters, if honour matters, if virtue matters, if humility matters, and if there is respect for correct behaviour, should that adversary be Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, under whose wings he prospered? To contest against the lifelong ambition of your benefactor?”
Like most commentaries criticizing the V.P., his declaration, clearly against the declared interest of his mentor, Tinubu, amounts to disloyalty, calls to question his integrity honor, and ethics in general, and by extension, whether he deserves the support of the electorate.
What such commentaries appear to suggest is that (1) all virtues (loyalty, integrity, honesty, bravery, prudence, justice etc.) are the same; and, (2) there is no distinction between virtues that advance public interest vis a vis private interest, in that all virtues advance both public and private interests equally.
For a start, all virtues, like all animals, are equal in so far as they are oriented towards the good, but some (virtues and animals alike) are more equal than others.
Accordingly, some virtues serve the public interest better than other virtues, and indeed, some virtues have a potential to advance private interest over public interest, and in so far as they do so are undeserving to be counted as relevant in decision making where the public interest is the preeminent objective.
In his treatise “On Free Choice of The Will” 220.127.116.11, in the course of a Socratic exchange with his partner, Evodius, on the issue of virtues, St. Augustine provided a philosophical foundation for distinguishing between virtues, ranking great goods, higher than intermediate goods which are in turn higher than small goods, and in the process described great goods as virtues that can never be used for evil, only good, and intermediate goods as virtues that can be used for both good and evil.
In summary, where of two virtues, one can be used only for good, and the other can be used for both good and bad, right reason would counsel that the former that can only be used for good, is to be adjudged the superior virtue, and ranked higher than the latter, that can be used for both good and bad, and ranked as the inferior virtue.
This brings up the second issue raised earlier: whether in public affairs, where the interest of the public ought to rank, higher than any private interest, and rightly so, which virtue ought to take precedence– the superior or inferior virtue.
Right reason, once again, counsels that the superior takes precedence over the inferior in decision making with respect to public affairs.
Now is the time to examine the (ir)relevance of (dis)loyalty which has been conflated with integrity, honor, betrayal in public affairs in comments trailing the V.P’s declaration to run for president earlier in the week. Much has been written about loyalty and betrayal, and in the same breath, integrity and honor, as if they all advance public interest equally.
Of all the virtues relevant to the current discourse, integrity and honesty belongs to the superior virtues category, and loyalty belongs to the inferior category.
The reason is simple; loyalty can be used for both good and evil; think of Abacha and his loyal subordinates willing to kill for him, to protect his private interest, at the expense of public interest in democracy, accountanility, transparency, and the like. In sharp contrast, honesty and integrity can only be used for good, not evil.
If there is any betrayal of Tinubu by the V.P., it is a matter of private concern to both, and irrelevant to evaluation of suitability of the V.P for public office, anymore than whether if it is discovered that Tinubu had also in the past being disloyal, such discovery should render him ineligible for public office. It shouldn’t count against either of them.
Nonetheless, integrity and honesty are virtues we should all expect of leaders in public affairs, hence the question is whether a person of integrity could (not) be disloyal.
The answer depends on whether the loyalty is one of expectation of loyalty or declaration of loyalty.
If it is the former, yes, one could be perceived wrongly to be disloyal, in which case, he could still be a man of integrity, nonetheless.
However, if he gave his word to be loyal at any point in the past, and subsequently recounts, he cannot be deemed to be a person of integrity, for he lacks honesty.
As for the electorate, integrity should matter, not loyalty, and a distant second should be competence– who, honestly, is more competent to seek and assume a public office where the public interest dwarfs any private interest. This should be of primary interest to the public.
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