Moral, ethical imperatives of Nigeria’s change agenda (2)



Continued from yesterday

LOOKING at these elements above, there is little doubt that in Nigeria, our politics and politicians have not developed appreciable level of ethics and moral to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil in theory and practice. The Change Agenda should now, while redefining our national priorities, emphasise Ethics and Morals. As a nation, Nigeria should adopt the principle of “applied ethics” in all aspects of our national endeavours, from politics to economics, culture to sports, etc. Applied ethics attempts to apply ethical and moral theories to real life situation; and, as a discipline has been successfully utilised by several countries from China to Malaysia.

Indeed, it was labour ethics and morals through the strategic discipline they inculcated on the citizens that gave rise to the “Asian Tigers.” Thus, applied ethics which is used in some aspects of determining public policy as well as by individuals facing difficult decisions, will be a useful instrument for implementing the ‘Change Agenda’ of the Buhari Administration. It is true that some aspects of this applied ethics and moral philosophy have been introduced in Nigeria before but definitely not successfully sustained.

During President Buhari’s first coming as Military leader, he introduced War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Before then, President Shagari had introduced Ethical Orientation led by Maitama Sule and one Kalu Orji. Even President Ibrahim Babangida’s MAMSA, and Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan utilized the present National Orientation Agency (NOA). All these establishments had various objectives that included the inculcation of ethical and moral values on the citizens and generality of Nigerians.

For example, The National Orientation Agency of Nigeria has the task of “Communicating government policy, staying abreast of public opinion, and promoting patriotism, national unity and development of Nigerian society.” The motto of NOA is “Do the right thing, transform Nigeria,” and its vision is to “develop a Nigerian society that is orderly, responsible and disciplined, where citizens demonstrate core values of honesty, hard work and patriotism, where democratic principles and ideals are upheld, and where peace and social harmony reign.”

The present situation in Nigeria calls for an urgent and detailed reappraisal of Which Way Nigeria? However, there is a school of thought that believes this should begin with another question – What would it mean for Nigeria to rearm morally? For them as for the Moral Rearmament group this would mean the uniting of our nation in every part of its life on a constructive plan.

Situational analysis in Nigeria today favours the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, including the deployment of the spirit of personal apology as a way of breaking down the barriers between our peoples as well as an opening dialogue across the country.

All the essential commissions and Panels set up by the Federal Government in the past 40 years point to the imperatives of national reconciliation. All of them too, from the Aburi Accord to Justices Uwais, Belgore, Oputa panels, etc. have equally recommended that the “political environment under which we operate must be carefully considered.” They warned that over the years, the country has been curing the effects and not the causes of our national problems. Some went as clearly as the 2014 National Conference to recommend that Nigerian Constitution making be revisited.

The ‘Change Agenda’ must initiate and encourage the development of a new value system for the country. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. “A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based.” Values, reflect a person’s sense of right and wrong or what “ought” to be. For example, it is important in Nigeria to restore the dignity of labour, dignity and sanctity of life, honour and integrity. We must restore the cultural values that made our Founding Fathers strong and respectable at home and abroad. In today’s Nigeria, values seem definitely to have changed, affecting the beliefs, and attitudes of the people.

Today, developing a more positive national character has equally become a necessity. With a seething Nigeria-phobia in several parts of the world, we should consider character development measures for our citizens especially the youth. Thus, American Founding Fathers “rightly saw that without a people of character there could be no trust and justice, and thus no true community or stability. No true pursuit of happiness. What benefits the whole, benefits the individual as well.” Hence, “there is no freedom outside of character.” Liberty as Montesquieu said “is not freedom to do just as we please. Liberty is the ability to do as we ought. And the freedom we need is not the freedom of caprice and whim and listening to our impulses. It is the freedom that enables our eyes clearly to see what right is and then empowers us to do it.”

The Buhari Administrtion’s choice of Anti-Corruption as one of its cardinal agenda is a timely important decision to confront an issue that has dented the image of the country and its citizens world-wide. Corruption in Nigeria is a national tragedy that created a terrible image for the country and all the citizens. Indeed, many people, Nigerian citizens and foreigners alike can’t imagine that Nigeria has some good men and women who can do their jobs in public or private sectors, honestly, honourably and professionally with integrity.

No nation can survive under the governance of leaders that lack sense of honour and decorum. “Men of character are the conscience of the society to which they belong,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nigeria’s irreconcilable political elite have left the impression of Nigeria as a nation at war with itself as they engaged in politics of expediency. It is time for reflection and decision on which way Nigeria?

• Professor Obiozor is former Nigeria Ambassador to the United States.

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