By Olaogun Michael Sunkanmi
“In just about every area of society, there is nothing more important than ethics”- Henry Paulson
Ethics and moral philosophy involves systematizing, defining and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. Ethics and moral philosophy investigate the questions “what is the best way for people to live”, and what actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances”. Consequently ethics or moral, philosophy dwells “on concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime.”
The Change Agenda of the present administration should by now be redefining our national priorities emphasis of Ethics and Morals. As a nation, Nigeria should adopt the principle of “applied ethics” in all aspects of its national endeavors, from politics to economics, culture etc. Applied ethics attempts to link ethical and moral theories to real life situation; and, as a discipline has been successfully utilized by several countries from China to Malaysia. Indeed, it was the labour ethics and morals through the strategic discipline inculcated in the citizens which 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’ we seek, so as to give birth to a better Nigeria.
The government 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 to restore the dignity of labor, dignity and sanctity of life, honor and integrity. We must restore the cultural values that made our Founding Fathers strong and respected both home and abroad. Values affect character and behavior as well as personality types. Character, the wise say, is destiny and moral character refers to the assemblage of good qualities that distinguish one individual from another. 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. For us the impression may be wrong, but the consequences are real. As was once said “Deciding to become a man of character means choosing to live a more disciplined and less selfish life”. 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”.
“Men of character are the conscience of the society to which they belong,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It is therefore time to emphasize moral and ethical consciousness in our national affairs from education to politics and governance. The lack of conscience and genuine patriotism, character, virtue and integrity has been the syndrome that has undermined our progress and development over the years.
Many nations of the world have stated core values that are meant for socio-political stability and for the survival of the nation. In the United States of America, for instance, the core Values are honesty, dignity and worth of every one, moral conscience, patriotism and equality. In Saudi- Arabia, the core values include morality, commitment to the service of Allah, truthfulness and honesty. Patriotism is the core national value in Rome. This is why the nationals claim that “it is sweet and fitting to die for ones country”. It is time for all citizens to take the wordings of our national anthem and national pledge seriously just as we take the ten commandments of the holy bible and the five pillars of Islam in the Quran. Some of the core values enshrined in the Nigerian national pledge and anthem are discussed below
Arise, O compatriots Nigeria’s call obey To serve our fatherland With love and strength and faith
The labour of our heroes past Shall never be in vain To serve with heart and might One nation bound in freedom Peace and unity
I pledge to Nigeria my country Tobe faithful, loyal and honest To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honor and glory
So help me God
As said by a scholar, Mclean and McMillan; patriotism is love of one’s country or zeal in the defense of the interest of one’s country. Patriotism therefore means loving and being loyal to our country. Patriotism further means showing more regard and loyalty to our nation rather than our ethnic groups, states, local government areas and towns. It is the extent to which citizens trust and support their government and the extent to which the government trust and support its citizens. Aspects of patriotism include: absence of bribery and corruption, love of one’s country, obeying laws, paying taxes, loyalty and voting at elections. It is therefore a vital ingredient of socio-economic and political stability. When the citizens (the leader and the led) are patriotic, it fosters national integration and assists in advancing the course of national development. It is only when we are patriotic that our country can survive, grow, carry out her normal duties and resist attack from other nations. The inculcation of values of patriotism in the Nigerian citizens has therefore become an urgent task. There is the need to develop in the citizens such value that will enable them put the interest of Nigeria first before any primordial interest.
Obedience means to comply with or abide by rules, regulations and laws of the land without being reminded or forced to do so. The value of obedience is essential for civic responsibility. It produces responsible, effective and law-abiding citizens. This promotes unity, peaceful co-existence, progress and human dignity in the nation. Today, the rank and file of the Nigerian citizens does not demonstrate the value and trait of obedience. Our cities are in chaos each day because of the flagrant disregard for laws. For example, disobedience to court orders, disobedience to traffic rules and regulations, urban or regional planning regulations, environmental sanitary regulations, prohibition of street trading and related activities regulations. In the Nigerian educational institutions, many pupils and students are not obedient to the school and examination regulations. This has compounded the problem of moral decadence and cases of youth restiveness in the nation.
This is the quality, which makes us allow people to express their views or do things in their own way though we may not agree with them. It is an attitude of live-and-let-live. For example, your neighbor may belong to a particular religion, which is different from your own. You may not like some of the practices of his/her religion. As a tolerant person, you should learn to put up with some of them.
The Nigerian motto: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress can only be attained when the citizens tolerate one another. Many Nigerians do not demonstrate the value of tolerance. A lot of people are not tolerant in political matters. After most elections in Nigeria, winners and losers see themselves as enemies. This shows that there is problem of intolerance. In the houses of legislature, many politicians are very intolerant with people who oppose their views. They cause chaos thereby making it difficult for decisions to be taken. Also, many religious leaders and groups in Nigeria cannot tolerate the practices of other religious groups. Such intolerance has led to breeds hatred, tension and open confrontation even ethnic war.
This is the belief or idea about what is right or wrong and about how people should behave. Morality is used to describe a person’s conduct or way of life as good or bad. Thus, immorality is conceived as any conduct, which violates human ethics. To be morally good is to have consideration for national welfare and the welfare of others. This will make us do those things that are right and acceptable in the society. A moral person demonstrates citizenship traits by living in accordance to the values of the society. The lives of many Nigerian youths are ridden with such vices as stealing, drunkenness, rape, drug abuse, examination malpractice, vandalism, sexual harassment and robbery just to mention a few. To build a civil and united society, the citizens must be morally good and upright.
This is the act of being truthful. An honest person tells the truth, he loves justice and fair play. One of the major causes of undemocratic practices and low level of civic responsibility in Nigeria today is dishonesty among the citizens. Dishonesty of Nigerian citizens has been largely responsible for the unwillingness of foreign investors to favor Nigeria for business activities. Dishonesty is displayed in various ways, such as bribery and corruption, sale of adulterated drugs and foods, illegal minting and circulation of currencies, sale of sub-standard spare parts, altering of expiry dates of drug, labeling of low quality goods as original ones and examination malpractice. Nigerians today are being governed largely today by dishonest political leaders who have stolen our commonwealth to serve personal and selfish interest which has brought the nation to the state of hardship, famine and starvation.
The need for appropriate means of developing core values in the Nigerian citizens cannot be over-emphasized. This is the major thing which can guarantee national integration, peace and unity in the country particularly at this time when there is agitations from across different ethnic and religious groups. A greater and prosperous Nigeria is possible only if all and sundry can put efforts in place to reshape our country with conscious efforts with the reflection of national ethics and values in all we do.
God bless Nigeria!
Olaogun Michael Sunkanmi