The place of ethics and values in national rebirth (2)
Second part of a keynote address presented at the reunion meeting of alumni of Aquinas College, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria at Crown Plaza Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia, United States.
I will wager that our founders perceived the threat that corruption would pose to the very fabric of our nation- they foresaw the pandemic spread of mis-education and the viral propagation of counter-productive norms and values across our nation, and so in advance, they prepared a potent panacea in form of instruction in the path of Integrity.
Again, I am confident that you all would agree with me that as corruption as a norm has permeated the very psyche of our nation thereby distorting our ethos as a people, even leadership has become a form of “cash and carry” transaction.
Across the length and breadth of our land, the ancient landmarks of morality, forthrightness, virtue, honesty which all rest as you all know on the cornerstone of integrity, have been discarded and it is now a common saying that “Nigeria has gone to the dogs”.
However, we have cause to be hopeful as amidst this thick darkness, we have shining lights of Integrity. It is also a thing of joy that many of these shining lights are alumni of our great college who all passed under the tutelage of our father, in whose honour we have gathered tonight and other dedicated teachers.
Of a truth, many of these lights who hold aloft the burning torch of Integrity and fight valiantly in different sectors to banish the present darkness that threatens to overrun our fatherland are indeed our brothers with whom we raced the fields and burned the midnight oil on the grounds of our alma mater- Aquinas College, Akure.
It is a thing that gladdens the heart when we stop for a moment to consider the fact that, amidst the myriad temptations and trials of modernity, we all have held fast to the lessons of Integrity that Aquinas College, Akure has written into our very hearts- with repeated instruction and sometimes with the rod of correction.
Persons who were not privy to these lessons may be wondering how these lessons have benefited us; what are the benefits of Integrity, they may ask? The benefits of Integrity as a personal credo are manifold and manifest: integrity courage, compassion and vision.
A particular verse in the Holy Bible opines that “the righteous is as bold as a lion”; this verse, in Proverbs 3:34, underscores one of the benefits of integrity as a personal doctrine, as a personal ideology, and as a principle of conduct.
Of a truth, Integrity births boldness; it imbues a man with a form of fearlessness borne of the knowledge of the fact that “one’s hands are clean”. It is also a given that Integrity births the twin qualities of vision in the mind, and compassion in the heart; a man of Integrity is a visionary man with a caring heart, looking forward to what could be while acting with compassion to impact the lives of those around him.
The likes of Mohandas Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Gani Fawehinmi who were sterling examples of integrity were also shining examples of compassion.
To take it further, I must also say that the final word on all standards of human conduct- in Christendom- Jesus Christ was an Apostle of Integrity, who extolled the virtues of Integrity all through his earthly ministry. “Let your ‘Yea’ be ‘Yea’, and let your ‘Nay’ be ‘Nay’….” “Let your eye be single….” These and many other sayings of His, continue to underscore how highly He rated Integrity as a code of conduct.
Ladies and Gentlemen, all these are a pointer to a fact: Integrity is the principal thing, and considering the dilapidated state of our alma mater, which is but a metaphor for the Nigerian society at large, Integrity is the Cure. Integrity, or perhaps I should say, a return to Integrity, is the cure for all the societal ills bedeviling our nation at this point in our history. I will not, at this point, begin to lament the dire state of things in our nation; time would fail me, and besides, I really believe none of us here present need any reminder as to how badly our land has been ravaged by corruption.
To be candid, it does not give anyone an iota of pleasure to begin to recount the challenges of being a resident citizen of our dear nation, but one finds that it is inevitable to broach the possibilities of change and transformation in our land without even identifying and highlighting the state of the nation at present. It is quite unfortunate that the average adult in Nigeria of today has been morphed into an emergency “Local Government Area chairman”, with his constituency being his own life, home and family.
As an “LGA Chairman”, he is responsible for the provision of the basic social amenities for self and family. And as such, for water, a borehole is dug, for light, he purchases an electricity generating set, for security, he looks not to the police, but to local vigilantes and even militia such as OPC boys, and for the education of his progeny, he resorts to the private educational institutions that abound in the land.
He’s also required to give “stomach infrastructures” and some sort of “empowerments” to the populace. The same goes for housing and feeding, because in the Nigeria of today, the government, which by all standards should have provided all these, has more or less abandoned its responsibilities to the Nigerian citizen.
It is true that Nigeria needs urgent help; the citizens yearn for Messiahs, and while it is also true that we have experienced a successful change of government, it is dawning more and more on all and sundry that the nation might still have to wait even longer for the deliverance it so dearly needs.
The body language of the party in power, the lingering crises in the legislative arm, and even the entangling relationships of the president with certain dubious persons who occupy influential positions within his party are a pointer to the fact that, for Nigeria, it is not yet Uhuru, and the nation still has a long road to true freedom.
This dire situation extends across all sectors in the nation, and is mirrored across every layer of the nation- even in our beloved alma mater. If I were to ask the audience here cast our minds back to that golden era when we were students of that illustrious institution, we all would be hard pressed to pin-point a single period in which the school had to resort to soliciting for funds and aid from alumni in order to keep afloat or to provide basic tools for smooth running of the school. Today, the school is a shadow of its former self, and funds are needed for her maintenance.
It is no doubt true that recounting the woes and travails bedevilling our alma-mater and indeed, our fatherland would cast one down a path of depression and anguish; it is not my intent to weigh our minds down with nostalgia or to burden our hearts with despair. So, instead, I would ask us all to cast our minds back to the tenet of conduct entrenched in us by our father and mentor, and to imagine with me, the healing it could bring to our land.
My dear brothers, as custodians of that most noble of values, the time has come for us to take on ourselves, the role of evangelists or missionaries like our unforgettable founders who left the shores of his home country to make a home amongst us in Nigeria, preaching the gospel. This time however, our gospel will not be a religious one per se; we are to give back to our alma mater and our nation at large by spreading the message of Integrity.
As missionaries of Integrity, we will spread the message of forthrightness, moral rectitude, and sincerity in conduct, to all who we encounter as we continue on the path taught to us in our alma mater. As it is written in the Bible, “Freely have you received; freely give…”, let us therefore feel the burden to play our part in the rebirth of our beloved alma-mater and our nation at large.
As I close my address, I would like to stress the fact that summertime in the United States is always a wonderful experience; I have been asked to extend my stay and bask in the aroma of summer here. However, as much as I would love to holiday here, it is of greater importance that I return to Nigeria to continue that all-important work of restoration, of reformation and renewal of our dear fatherland.
I also implore everyone present here to give a thought to what can be done- to what should be done to see Nigeria occupy its rightful place in the comity of nations; this also may necessitate a return to the fatherland because there is only little that can be done as a Nigerian-in-Diaspora. I would like to thank the conveners of this gathering for the thoughtfulness that birthed this occasion; events like this have served as catalysts that has brought renaissance to nations across the world.
It is my hope that this would be recounted in the future as that historic move that initiated a reversal of the regression that Aquinas College, and Nigeria too have experienced in recent times. Thank you all once again. CONCLUDED
•Ajulo is an Abuja-based lawyer and politician