Ethical Deficit, Corruption and the Challenges of Nation Building in 21st Century Nigeria
No nation can survive without strong moral and ethical foundation. Correspondingly, a nation devoid of morals and strong code of ethics is a nation without a soul. In plain speak; such a nation is without identity and can never take a pride of place in the comity of nations.
Morality and ethical behaviour may seem utopic and aspirational, but those two time-honoured concepts are the transitory and transactional basis and grounding for patriotism. Our laws, mores and codes of conduct trace their origin and indeed their legitimacy to our morals and our unwritten codes of ethics. Our morals and ethics in turn have their basis in the things we most value – socio cultural and traditional values.
Our moral and ethical codes are more often than not, rooted in our belief systems. Some of them have taken modern mutations since our contact with the West and our introduction to their “civilization”. Our modern laws are for the most part enacted to promote morality and ethical conduct but most of them are atypical of our morals and code of ethics. Indeed a good number of our laws are in spite of our morals and ethics. One might be excused to dismiss them as spoofs of our morality. Laws such as the dreaded Decree No. 4 of the Gen Muhammadu Buhari and Late Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon military regime and some of the other legislation that our Legislative Houses routinely enact are borne out of a desire to further personal interests and to herd the rest of us in line with these interests.
One can argue that a nation may survive without “laws” but there will certainly be no nation without well-defined codes of moral and ethical behaviour; these are the fabrics that weave social conscience and cohesion together. That is the reason one should despair about the fate of Nigeria. Nigeria has become a nation where corruption is the norm while decency and sound moral principles, are exceptions. Corruption has literally brought our nation to her knees and if unchecked will certainly capitulate our collective aspirations.
What went wrong? One may ask. Most will argue that there is no simple answer and that “it is a complicated issue.” Therein lays the problem with Nigeria. Complicate a simple issue so as to avoid looking for a solution. Let us explore what went wrong. What went wrong is that Nigeria and Nigerians turned their backs on acceptable levels of moral and ethical conduct and thus we lost our collective soul. Other nations grow in experience, physical development and enlightenment but our Country seem to regress towards the state of nature; a conscienceless, morally bankrupt island of marooned citizens.
Nigeria has become a nation of people in a race to the finish line but it appears not to matter not how one got there, or when. The end literally justifies the mode and means of getting there. In our mad dash to scandalous wealth, we pervert the truth, skew tradition, mortgage conscience and murder the hopes and aspirations of our children.
What we now impart to our children is a culture of thievery, lasciviousness, crude exhibitionism, “loot-o–cracy” and wickedness. The result is that we are raising a generation of Nigerians that are blind to the difference between right and wrong. The clear demarcation between right and wrong has not only become blurred, it has become obliterated. The new generation of young Nigerians kill, maim, rape, kidnap and defraud with impunity, believing for the most part that these are legitimate economic and social pursuits. In other words, they do not know any better. This state of affairs did not creep up on us. Our generation and those before us lay the foundation and we have continued to entrench these perversities.
Traditional leaders, elders and titled men and women in our towns and villages, custodians of the building blocks of society have ceded their moral authority to bagmen and seedy characters. Being an “elder” or a traditional title-holder in our villages used to mean something and commanded respect and deference, now it amounts to nought, because money talks. Our local chiefs and elders lie, cheat, mortgage their conscience with bribes from criminals and corrupt politicians; they clothe seedy characters with respectability by showering them with honorary titles and statuses.
Parents have ceded their natural duties to guide and mould their children to become good citizens to foster parents and other mal-adjusted children. In deference to peer pressures, parents will not inquire how their children come about money to buy expensive cellular-phones, designer clothing and shoes. Children, who are full-time students without any jobs, pay their own school fees and even pay rent for their parents and parents are not troubled by that picture.
Ours is a nation of Professors and school teachers who extort sexual favours and bribes from their students for hand outs and unmerited grades. Our citadels of learning have turned into havens for gangsters, kidnappers and sexual deviants. Our students have more experience trading sex, pledging to cults and participating in sundry criminal activities than in attending to their studies.. The result is that each year we are producing a class of University graduates that are dysfunctional illiterates whose certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on and with more and more professional groups and guilds rejecting products of our institutions of higher learning from access into their ranks. Rather than fix our educational system, the corrupt political class and the money elite exercise the option of sending their children and wards overseas for studies. The religious “leaders” are busy founding Universities that average Nigerian families cannot afford. The vast majority of Nigerian kids are left to their own devices and fate.
Our politicians have obliterated the lines between their personal and public property. They perceive funds in their charge as a personal slush fund which they are entitled to spend as they deem fit. Public funds are freely donated to spurious causes and un-appropriated mandates. Public funds are used to build lavish personal mansions, purchase luxury automobiles and gifts for paramours and private jets that their states do not need and their travel demands cannot justify, while the plights of their constituents are of no consequence to them. It is their turn to “chop” and nothing can get in their way, not even their constitutional obligation to serve those that “elected” them.
Ours is a nation of Pastors and self-proclaimed “Overseers” who binge on the spoils generated by tasking desperate and poor members of their congregation. They build exotic Universities that parents of children in their congregation cannot afford. Never mind that the edifices were constructed at the expense of tithes paid by these same members of their congregation. They reside in lavish mansions and dress up in thousand dollar suits justifying their excesses on the declaration that they are serving a “God of Prosperity”. They advertise and dispense salvation with the sanctimonious dexterity of a seller of designer perfumes. Their logic presupposes that members of their congregation worships a God of poverty and desperation rather than a God of wealth and hope; hence, they jet around in sleek private jets whilst members of the congregation whose tithes bought the jets are condemned to life on Molue buses and Keke.
Let us not forget the Nigeria Police Force, with over half of their workforce serving as private bodyguards for politicians, the rich and the elite of Nigeria. The remaining half, man checkpoints on highways and streets of our major towns and cities shaking down helpless citizens, especially, motorists for real and imagined traffic violations.
We shall not fail to mention the sorry state of the federal and state civil service where workers will only come to work on paydays, “operation show your face” day, or to attend parties and, or meetings. The rank and file display world-class unprofessionalism including gross tardiness, unethical work culture, poor human relations and crass incompetence. Bureaucratic bottlenecks have been created in the course of carrying out paid jobs in order to extort money from customers that are meant to be served. The workplace has been turned into a marketplace, a bedroom, a worship centre, a beauty spa, and even a crèche!
What about our diaspora elite who will never see anything good about their country. They know how to criticize and complain but do not bring solutions to the table. They balk at the chance to come home and help fix the mess that they always complain about.
Finally, given the badly skewed sense of socio-cultural awareness, a perverted sense of moral discipline and ethical conduct, a self-serving political class, growing and emasculated youth population, apathetic parents, a broken down economic and social order, Nigeria is at the throes of anarchy unless we take a bold step to stem this tide of the erosion of our moral values and reinvigorate our code of ethical conduct. The solution lies with every one of us.
How we conduct our daily lives rubs off on our children and others who look up to us for leadership, example and strength. That is the sure way to build a new Nigeria.
National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity