As Nigeria celebrates her 61st Independence anniversary today, speeches, conferences, protests, prayers, and other public functions will hold in search of a better country. But, one thing is unarguably wrong about this nation, Nigeria is drenched with attitudinal depravities and moral decadences. It is absolutely evident that we are morally deficient as a people, and the sad part of it is that we fail to acknowledge this.
Moral by a simple definition is all the principles of right and wrong behaviour that define an ideal man in society. The moral aspect of one’s life affects attitude towards everything.
When talking about attitude, it is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something. If a sense of judgment is balanced, the attitude will be fair. Summarily, if a person is morally upright, such a person’s attitude will be unquestionable. But, as far as this country is concerned, the moral deficit has taken a lion's share. All our national woes and institutional calamities can be traced back to our attitudinal paucity.
Today, as it has always been in the last sixty years, our national discourse will reflect on the faulty amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates by the British colonialist, Lord Frederick Lugard who created Nigeria in 1914, amidst other historical blunders by our forefathers and present politicians beginning from 1960.
I don’t need to remind us that Nigeria is bedevilled by security challenges of terrorism, banditry, police brutality, as well as bribery and corruption, nepotism and tribalism, bad economy, under-funding of education, poor electricity, deplorable roads and hospitals, unemployment, bad governance, the list is infinite. The unfortunate thing about these challenges is that we keep postulating solutions, but there are no tangible results.
Now, the disheartening story is the wastage of the nation’s resources as we fight to end our problems. I want to categorically state that our efforts cannot yield progressive effects except we tackle our problems from the foundation. We have to collectively correct our moral and attitudinal anomalies, which is but the greatest introductory hitch confronting our society.
These anomalies are present in all homes. We then nurture them on our streets and take them to our schools. We graduate from there to employ them in our workplaces until they become full-grown leaders who rule our economy and society at large. It starts from telling lies, then greed, examination malpractices, dumping of refuse on the streets, shunting queues in public places such as hospitals, banks, and fuel stations.
These also include breaching agreements among friends, stabbing a fellow in the back, (and I mean both literally and metaphorically).
The Nigerian anomalies are mainly the excesses of our leaders turned rulers which include sending political thugs to steal ballot boxes to rig elections, and even maim and kill voters, demonising self-determination activities to make peaceful citizens scapegoats, banning the use of Twitter to gag freedom of expression from June 4 and giving terms and conditions before lifting it, marking callous politicians sacred cows in society, empowering security agents to be lawless through violation of human rights, scheming to retain power in the North when it is the turn of the South, sending military men to kill protesting youths and denying it even with strings of proof and many more.
But, despite our horrible deficiencies, we can be made whole again as a nation morally if we take the bull by the horns.
Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist posited that “Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.”
The remedy lies in learning to accept and respect our moral values in all political, economic, social, and religious activities. And we must abide by it as our truth, no more no less!
The whole of our national institutions and government agencies needs a thorough overhauling. And all hands must be on deck to achieve this. How do we achieve this? We have to be morally pragmatic! This has to be said because we are a theoretically compliant nation which leaves the practical aspects in the hand of fate. If we want to be completely sound in morals and attitudes as a country, we need to go to the root cause with practical cleansing. We need to format the old, rogue mentality of corruption and moral decadence, then, install moral and integrity principles into our systems.
The practical awareness and purging of our society from ineptitude to be morally upright as a people begin from families. After all, charity, they say, begins at home. Fathers and mothers should engage in teaching, practising, and supervising their children in the aspects of morals.
They have to be exemplary leaders. Simple morals like greetings, saying sorry genuinely, thanking people for good deeds, working diligently, saying no to bribery, integrity, and dignity at home should be taken seriously as the lifeline of our dear nation which really is actually correct.
Then, teachers should do the same in all our educational centres. If education is the bedrock of modernisation, then the school system should be used to inculcate moral values and sound attitudinal principles in our learners who take over society in all their endeavours. Practical courses to test morals and behaviours should be introduced. For instance, students can be deployed to go and help traffic wardens on the roads to test their moral values against the hostile environment of drivers, market women, and the rest.
The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, urged the Federal Government to reintroduce Moral Instructions as a compulsory subject in the school curricula as well as develop an effective orientation for the school system in Nigeria.
The policy, according to the House, is to be obligated through collaboration between the Ministries of Education, Youth and Sports Development, the National Orientation Agency, and other relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
This followed the adoption of a motion moved by a member from Imo State, Uju Kingsley China at the plenary titled, “Need to Enforce Compulsory Teaching of Moral Lessons and Orientation Subjects/Courses In Nigeria’s Educational Curricula.”
While moving the motion, the lawmaker noted that good morals and proper orientation were undeniable rudimentary mechanisms of child upbringing and training, thus a lack of it especially in young people would result in societal decay.
He said, "Cognisant that with the increasing rate of violence and various forms of immorality in recent times, the need for reintroduction and enforcement of the teaching of moral lessons and orientation subjects/courses in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions cannot be overemphasised.
“Also cognisant that the reintroduction of moral lessons and proper orientation will keep rebuilding good morality in the younger generation and provide proper orientation for future generations.”
While I applauded the Imo lawmaker, I must state that this has to be an encompassing affair, therefore government officials and politicians are not exempted. As a matter of fact, moral decadence has gripped the entirety of our public structure.
For instance, the debate on the rotational presidency was not formally documented, but political analysts said it was gentlemanly agreed upon before the inception of this present democracy. However, it is morally wrong that some elements want to capitalise on it to usurp fairness.
The Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a recent statement issued by its spokesperson, Alex Ogbonnia said, “A gentleman agreement was reached at the NUC Conference Centre, Abuja in 1998 between the North and the South. The late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo spoke for the entire South and Alh. Abubakar Rimi, also of blessed memory spoke for the North. It was agreed that after Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar as the Head of State, that the presidency should shift to the South. That accounted for the emergence of the presidential flag bearers of the mainstream political parties from the South West.”
With this, it can be said most of our politicians have no respect for moral values as regards integrity and attitude.
The Nigerian politicians should see the society they govern as their own school. After all, life itself is a school. And as such, their textbook as far as Nigeria is concerned will be a new Constitution that will be drafted and birthed by the people of Nigeria, not the one decreed by the military regime. The document will be our ‘Bible’ and ‘Quran’ to instil moral values in us, irrespective of our age, status, religion, or ethnicity.
The emergence of a new Constitution can preserve the corporate existence of Nigeria. It will be our study guide to really direct our moral principles and also stipulate penalties for the offenders. The school system the lawmaker was referring to should be a new constitution and all of us will be humble learners. It is through this we can have a new people, and a new Nigeria, if not, the voice of agitations will be louder as days go by.
The unity of Nigerians is crucial to avoid disintegration of the country, and if the political elite wants the preservation of Nigeria as an entity because their lives so much depend on it, they should begin to display and honour moral principles in our society. This begins but does not end with respecting the fundamental human rights of citizens and respecting gentleman agreements.
May we have a better, safer, and greater Nigeria.
Busari is a journalist in Lagos.