“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me. Truthfulness is synonymous with fulfilling the trust, and lying is equivalent to treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, insha Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully (someone else’s), insha Allah....."
In fact, Abu Bakr's companions often held him to account for his decisions in state administration.
This was also the case after Abu Bakr (RA) died when Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA) became the Caliph. In his first speech as Caliph, Umar (RA) stressed the need for accountability in his administration, and the rights of every citizen. Umar’s policy on accountability did not end with the primitive style of verbal complaints and condemnations from the public. He went further to establish a specific office to deal with the public administrators’ accountability. The office was designed for the investigation of complaints against officers of the state.
During the time of Ali (RA), the 4th Caliph, he wrote to all his governors to demand from them their people's right to hold their rulers accountable. In a letter he wrote to his governor in Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar, the Caliph Ali (RA) wrote:
“Out of your hours of work, fix a time for the complainants and for those who want to approach you with their grievances. During this time, you should do no other work but hear them and pay attention to their complaints and grievances. For this purpose, you must arrange public audience for them. During this audience, for the sake of Allah, treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. Do not let your army and police be in the audience hall at such times so that those who have grievances against your regime may speak to you freely, unreservedly and without fear.”
Accountability refers to the obligation on the part of public officials to report on the usage of public resources and answerability for failing to meet stated performance objectives. As humans, we subconsciously trust most people without acknowledging it. When we drive on the road, we trust that others around us are sound and that the road will be a safe place. When at home, we trust our family members. When we are at a public place, we trust many around us. We often trust politicians that they will not be treacherous and betray public trust. Human beings may have been programmed to operate on the mode because trustworthiness is a quality that is essential for a society to function as one unit. However, a phenomenon that is ravaging our society today is the mindless exploitation of this human quality and this scourge has brought us face-to-face with the devastating effects and consequences of lack of integrity, transparency and accountability. Many Nigerians are now faced with the astounding financial and even public safety costs of corruption, and it has been so for decades.
However, the crisis of lack of trust and accountability that is upon us today is not an exclusive reserve of those in public offices. Here, I'm talking about a different type of accountability. When you stand up in front of the mirror every morning, getting dressed for work, and you look at yourself in the eyes and you say: what promises have I made to people? And am I living up to those promises? What claims am I making about my work and are those claims real? Are they authentic? Are they truthful? Do they have integrity? Do we hold ourselves accountable first and foremost? I think this is an important question that each and everyone of us must find the courage to answer before we are held to account, here and herafter.
Over the weekend, the MPAC Convention shall offer an opportunity to each and everyone of us to hear from multiple sources, important ideas about the theme, Public Trust and Accountability. We will then have the opportunity to leave this convention with important ideas to be an agent of change. You are probably here for the sake of honouring the invitation to attend this great event or because you want to. Whatever your reasons are, I pray that the information offered here will translate to positive change within, open pathways and offer choices for us all at both personal and national levels.
Today, three great achievers and exemplars shall be honoured in the very first edition of the Nigerian Muslim Achievement Awards. Their achievements and record have received overwhelming public testimonies through the awards nomination process. The Awards underscore the importance of spiritual, moral, innovative leadership and a willingness to become a voice of courage and conscience, demonstrating that lives of integrity and genuine striving are essential for true and ethical leadership. The three of them are our role models and the nation's icons for public trust and accountability.
I and my colleagues wish to congratulate them for receiving the prestigious awards and we welcome you and your family to another great event. We pray that Allah blesses our nation with increased faith, piety and grant us peace and security from Him, amin.