Nigeria: Monetization of values has led to the bastardization of ethics that lies at the root of corruption – D.H. Habeeb

This column starts today with the fact that the prognosis of experts on the ravages of corruption on the nation’s moral fibre have become overwhelmingly gloomy as they are sure that a certain malignancy, caused by a values-system that is not discouraging of graft and other fraudulent avenues to wealth, has set in.

When corruption has not gotten to the point of being attitudinal, when it is just only the preferred underhand option to getting undeserved advantages which is the case in most settings elsewhere, behavioural psychologists posit that such settings may benefit from a prioritization of their ethics to favour the loftier principles of probity, hard work and accountability.

If on the other hand as in Nigeria, where corruption is so ingrained in the mind as to have become an attitudinal disposition and a virtual way of life, where it is a substructure of the values-edifice of society, that is, a necessary fallout of our meaning of success, then, there is no war that can be successfully fought against this national moral failure unless there is a complete overhaul of the prevalent inversion of values.

For starters, the youth that are supposed to be handed good moral lessons in life are not getting the right lessons because their parents cannot infuse in them what they, the parents, do not have or practice. When parents try to circumvent the requirements for cut-off marks before their wards and children can be admitted to secondary schools, when they pay for brilliant students to write exams on behalf of their children, when they induce favouritism by a culture of persistent bribery of teachers, why would the students themselves not grow up to celebrate “orijo”, “expo”, “kronje” and all other euphemisms for examination malpractices?

Who can successfully convince the younger generation that it pays to be honest in life? Unless one has successfully brought-up his or her children in the ways of the Lord and has nurtured in them the right moral precepts, it is a herculean task to re-orientate the youth away from their prevalent culture of instant, towards that of delayed gratification. It must be mentioned however that some state governments have taken up the gauntlet to reverse this unwholesome social trend by instituting rebranding programmes to celebrate excellence in service and to recognize distinction in achievement.

For example, the Ondo State Government has what it tags as its “Night of Recognition” which is both a celebration of, and an exhortation to excellence by the administration. It is the administration’s very quintessence of distinction in human achievement and Ondo State government’s way of rebranding its youth, of re-orienting and refocusing them along the timeless ethos of scholarship, hard work, excellence and an embrace of the spirit of delayed gratification.

If all the corruption that happens in Nigeria were to be limited to the level of a few individuals and not as presently institutionalized as a quasi-official way of public conduct, if it were not given judicial imprimatur by the highest court of the land via the infamous acquittal of Ibori despite the compelling evidence of the judge that had previously convicted him, if it were not sanctioned by the top hierarchy of the country’s law enforcement during the notorious days of the serially disgraced former Attorney General of the federation, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, then, a case can be made for the federal government to submit itself to the recommendation of social behavioural scientists through a reprioritization of the nation’s ethical precepts.

However, how does one entrust the moral rectitude of a nation in the hands of successive governments which have been known over the years to do everything to abort the war on corruption either through the demonization of a well applauded anti-corruption czar or the canonization of the most emblematic purveyor of graft and sleaze through a devious presidential pardon?  Nor does it sound reassuring that the doyen of the country’s presidents, himself a catastrophe of moral and material corruption in the ruinous third-term elongation misadventure, can or will navigate correctly the moral compass on behalf of millions of the Nigerian people.

Ditto for the National Assembly. Even if they take time off their fistic predisposition, and spend more time on legislative matters for which they were originally elected, a lot of the members of the country’s National Assembly will find canvassing for paedophilic indulgences in obscure provisions of the constitution much more germane to the people’s interest than curbing the cankerworm of corruption in the body politic.

It was not always like this however in the not-too-distant past. There was corruption quite alright but it was never institutionalized; there was attendant shame and opprobrium to being tarred with the brush of fraud or dishonesty. People avoided soiled reputations and longed for integrity. But, with the advent of the military in governance in the country came the monetization of values and its flip side of the bastardization of ethics. Money was the end of everything or, so it seemed during the Babangida regime when corruption in the country assumed a life of its own. With virtually no organ of government to check their excesses, theirs being the very antithesis of representative government, successive military governments outdid themselves in primitive accumulation and helped to encourage the present inversion of values through cronyism and espirit de corps.

The present pervasive inversion of values amongst every stratum of our society is the cumulative effect of years of accepting corruption as a way of life. From tipping the passport clerk for extending the duration of passports to bribing the traffic police to evade arrest, all these conduce to institutionalizing corruption in the system. There must be a revolution in ethics and morals for the nation to understand the effect of corruption on our development programme.

The gradual solution should be such that a nexus must be constantly established between superlative achievement and societal recognition; between distinction in service and high reward, and between the dignity of labour and material endowment. Money must be de-emphasized and demystified; it should be explained as a means to an end while the good name should be pushed forward for celebration and emulation.

In short everybody, and this includes governments as well, must now adjust their mindset to be players in an ever competitive global chess game that is only admissive of the best and most resourceful. Only then can the nation’s attitude towards corruption change for the better.


TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2013.  8:08:26 a.m. [GMT]

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2 Comments on “Nigeria: Monetization of values has led to the bastardization of ethics that lies at the root of corruption – D.H. Habeeb”

  1. rafiu Says:

    Indeed, it is about time we re-examine our values. We should however look at the root cause of the problem with corruption. How did it get to this point where, as one official said not too long ago, “anything goes”?

    The military stepped in originally, ostensibly to stem corruption, but the way they went about things was not exactly perfect. On that basis alone, corruption could not have been eradicated. Although corruption was tame in those days, the early military leaders unwittingly sewed the seed of corruption, while later ones knowingly outdid themselves in reaping the fruits.

    One major fault of governance we overlook today is the fact that the civil service is a mockery of itself. The civil service that we inherited from the British was far from ideal, but it was based on sound and tested principles. The system was so good that the head of state could be absent for a long time, and the service would make up for ensuing lapses. Unfortunately such a system was not designed for military fiats, and a showdown with the military was inevitable.
    The first public showdown was when Gowon ordered university lecturers to pack out of their official residence. Such a thing was hitherto unheard of, and it showed the dons that job stability thereafter was debatable. Simply put, they had to start finding other ways to ensure survival beyond the campuses. Then, Murtala/Obasanjo designed a proper coffin for the civil service by summarily dismissing officials, sometimes with such ignominy that made survivors swear not to be caught unprepared in future. By the time Buhari/Idiagbon left, the coffin had been nailed, what with the Lagos State Governor at the time forcing Lagos State civil servants to devote one day of the week to cleaning gutters and drains. His ridiculous reason: they had nothing better to do.
    It is not surprising then that civil servants would do everything to feather their nests. We should not forget that they are in charge of everything anyway. So, with time, the service became the only body or thing that matters in the country, very far from the distant second position, by way of salary and emolument, it was to the public sector. Today, the civil service is the only thing, whether it is by appointment or election. There is no country that can maintain that type of structure and survive for long.

    Unfortunately, the civil service is the basic fabric of all facets of governance, from teachers to police, soldiers to ministers; every tier of governance depends on a system of operation otherwise known as the civil service. When that system has been bastardized to the extent that appointments, promotions or recommendations can be made without recourse to properly tested guidelines, then truly we are operating a system where anything goes. And when anything goes, then one day, everything will be gone.



    • emotan77 Says:

      Thanks, Doctor. It is true that “no nation can rise beyond the capacity of its civil service”, according to Ms. Amma Pepple, a Federal Minister and one-time Head of Civil Service, who delivered a keynote address at the Federal University of Tech., Akure, at an Iju Public Affairs Forum special edition in 2012.

      Will post this.




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