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Nigerian society and its values

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    Values are foundational principles, standards, the individual and societal sense of right and wrong, the moral foundations and ethical principles that guide human and societal conduct. They are reflected in laws, norms, and policies that guide a nation and its people. To a great extent, the larger section of humanity recognises certain fundamental values which have been enacted that drive human conduct in the desired direction for peace, progress and the continuation of the human race.This discourse reviews the Nigerian value system as epitomised by the value system of its political elite which is supported by a vast number of the population.

    The first issue to note is that values are not necessarily on the same wavelength with legalism and the prophecies of what courts will do in any given case. The moral code that states that “you shall not kill” which is the foundation for the crime of murder and prescribes a sentence for murder is not the same as trial in a court of law where a guilty man can escape justice due to human failings. Values are reflected in human character and conduct. Character in leadership is very vital and it is the foundation of everything else in leadership. Character is the very essence of the human person. They are the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, the personality, nature, disposition, temperament, mentality, psyche, psychology, constitution, make-up of an individual. This is what makes an individual, a leader, what he is; how he will make policy, execute policy and react to the society he leads.

    Beyond physical capital made up of land, natural resources such as oil, lithium, equipment and machinery, etc., human capital, I dare say, is the most important capital needed to drive development and progress. Human capital includes the qualifications, skills and competencies of the population. A distinctive part of this human capital is its values reflected in the character of the people and the way things are done. They reflect in the work ethics; manifestation of virtues like honesty, patience and hard work; the solemnity to sit down and think through challenges to create innovation and products that drive change and solve social problems. It is about whether citizens are ready to put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay or work for half a day and claim a full day, consideration for others, readiness to pay tax, etc.  These values drive the intangibles such as the rule of law, distinguishing between law in the books and law in the day-to-day lives of people.

    In Nigeria of today, we have vast arable land, mineral resources like oil in abundance and a rich reservoir of trained personnel in many sectors. But it appears that the majority of the population or the leadership lacks these essential values necessary for economic growth, peace and progress. We steal public resources, disobey traffic rules, avoid and refuse to pay tax, pervert justice when appointed as judges, rig elections and deploy thugs to harm people. Yet we expect our economy to grow. Pray, is it not the human element that has prevented the nation’s four refineries from producing refined petroleum products? Why do Nigerians, always frustrated at home, excel in different endeavours in foreign lands? Nigeria’s currency is under intense pressure leading it to depreciate in value, at the official window from  N450 to N770 and at the parallel market from N750 to N1,100 in a space of less than six months, yet the elected representatives of the people must drive foreign-made SUVs that cost about N150m each. What is the value system of such inconsiderate legislators who do not care if the nation were to capsize only if they satisfy their craze for fancy cars? It is all about values.

    A human being should understand and anticipate the natural consequences of his act. When you vote and support a dishonest fellow into a position of power because he is your tribesman or from your religion, you have started the first act of the law of sowing and reaping. When a person comes on radio or television to analyse a burning national issue and his opening remarks state he is not here to discuss morals, he is simply stating that there are no values attached to his analysis, anything goes and there are no fundamentals. Thus, a leader who is dishonest will make dishonesty an instrument of state policy; a compassionate person brings the quality into his leadership, etc. Character is very vital to leadership; it holds the key to the gravamen of leadership. Character is not developed overnight. It is developed over time and cannot also be changed all of a sudden except there are very harsh life lessons or the leader imbibes distinctive lessons in discipline overnight.The need for good character informs constitutional provisions on disqualification of a person for the high office of President or governor which includes that within a period of less than 10 years before the election, he has been convicted and sentenced of an offence involving dishonesty, he has been found guilty of contravening the code of conduct for public officers or he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Furthermore, all Nigerian leaders swear to an oath to abide by the constitutional code of conduct which is the same as swearing to be of good character and conduct in the discharge of official duties.

    It has been stated that the measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out. What would a leader who preaches the sermon of good character do if no one is watching? What does he spend his security vote on since he is not held strictly accountable for the expenditure? Answers to these questions will show the character of a leader and the nobility of his intentions. Leadership in Nigeria is supposed to be primarily focused on the security and welfare of the people, not of the rich or any section of Nigerians, but of the whole Nigeria. Leadership’s reaction to the vulnerable, the deprived shows its quality and ability to carry all segments of society along in policy formulation and implementation. Hence, the challenge of inclusivity, tackling inequality and guaranteeing life in larger freedom for all segments of society.

    In the final analysis, in this society without values, where anything goes and the end justifies the means, we are all losers. We are all profiled in foreign airports as drug pushers; we are treated as scammers, liars, certificate forgers, etc. At home, we are victims of insecurity, inflation, electricity deficit and poor governance. For those who think they have stolen their way out of what affects fellow citizens, the day of reckoning will soon come.


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