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Getting it right as a nation

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Nigeria is abundantly blessed in human, natural and material resources. It has the potentials of becoming great, if these endowments are well-harnessed and utilised. In achieving this, the citizenry must be ready to make this desired transformation possible, as agents of change and impetus for nation building, as an epitome of discipline, integrity and patriotism. A robust discourse on this subject-matter recently took place that is worth sharing. The forum was the Kingdom Men Mega Summit 2018, held in Lagos and themed Perfect for Purpose. Eminent personalities made very-inspiring presentations at the occasion. Of utmost concern in this analysis is the paper delivered by Folu Olamiti, a Fellow of Nigerian Guild of Editors and the immediate past Resident Media Consultant to the anti-graft agency; Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). Olamiti’s paper was titled, Personal and Institutional Integrity. According to him, integrity is the attribute of being honest and having strong moral principles, sterling qualities or moral uprightness. Integrity could also mean doing the right thing in a reliable and appropriate way and is associated with personality traits that we admire.

He linked integrity with honesty; as human behaviour that is predictably devoid of lying, deceit and cheating others. Cheating, he stressed, destroys trust and ruins individual, group cooperation and cohesion. While making reference to an article written by Caveni Wong, in the Anti-Corruption International Blog, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, where the author admitted that cheating is an integral part of corruption, he averred that many people cheat when asked to do self-report of their performance on a task, especially, when the reward for such is higher pay, cautioning that it does not pay to cheat others. Cheating slowly builds up a culture that can eventually lead to the stage, whereby more serious violations could lead to mega corruption. This is the crux of the matter in our society today, he added. Citing many examples, including the Biblical Adulterous Woman; he decried why many people often blame others for corruption and cheating when they themselves are guilty. He cautioned against such hypocrisy as many of us are looking for Mr. Integrity and discussing corruption at every forum, but in our minds and in our closets, we are also guilty in one way or another. Do we not cheat?

Olamiti, a Knight of the Order of Saint Christopher of the Anglican Communion, warned that integrity should never be compromised to gain money, power or prestige, as integrity is a fundamental value sought by employers in their employees – private, corporate or public life. It is the trait of a person, who exhumes sound, moral and ethical principles at work and in life generally. Integrity is the foundation on which workers build trust as well as effective interpersonal relationships, which should be the underpinning principle behind both public and private workers in their official relationships with the larger society. It is universally upheld and appreciated accordingly that people, who exhibit integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable. The guest speaker asked: Can our society be said to be genuinely and roundly-blessed with men and women of integrity? Is integrity ever allowed? Is integrity unanimously? Before going too far, he said: the answer will be a resounding no. Why? The reason for this is not far-fetched. Talking from the macro-level of governance, the monumental graft issues being exposed and handled by anti-corruption institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and even International Police (INTERPOL), are enough evidence of the degeneration in our society today, based on massive dishonesty and unbridled display of lack of integrity by some of our political leaders, private and public functionaries.

Even though the integrity failure in our society is not just about political leaders or politicians, who promise what they know they would never do for the electorate because of their greed, monumental corruption and culture of primitive acquisition, it is about what has been happening in the business and economic sectors, while alluding to the infamous Wonder Bank era of the late 20th Century and the near collapse of the banking system in the 21st Century in Nigeria, adding that the shaky pillar of our educational system has further been corroded with an absolute integrity deficiency issue of sex-for-pass-mark. He, however, gave the assurance that all hope is not lost, believing that we can still return to the path of probity, honesty and integrity, saying I strongly hold the belief that we can still return to the path of self-esteem and integrity in Nigeria as a way of life, as dictated by our cultural ethos, as had been done in other saner societies, where things work organically for the overall good of all.

Olamiti gave a number of recommendations on how corruption can be curbed, such that the cherished values of honesty, integrity and discipline would become the order of the day in the country. To begin with, there is need for attitudinal change. This must cut across all strata of our national life. We should see corruption as a serious plague. The family, educational and institutions should be up to this task of moral rejuvenation. Secondly, those found guilty by law for corrupt practices should be banned for life, to serve as deterrent to others. Hardwork, honesty and diligence should always be appreciated, he said. Thirdly, political offices should be made less juicy in order to discourage do-or-die politicking and promote genuine service to nation building. To enhance better stewardship and reduction in the cost of governance, there is the need to explore the possibility of unicameral legislature involving part-time law making. Furthermore, well-designed mechanisms should be put in place to make Nigerian leaders more accountable through objective appraisal and assessment of their promises before, and during their tenures in office. Administration of justice system should be faster to make it possible to curb bureaucratic graft with ease. Additionally, he recommended that E-governance and the deployment of information technology to government business should reduce the involvement of person-to-person financial transactions. Any person aspiring to lead this country should have a minimum of first degree. Anti-corruption agencies should be better funded and staffed to perform their statutory duties. Appointment of the headship of these agencies should not be taken away from Mr. President (of Nigeria). More importantly, the media should continue to play its watch-dog role in the society. He cautioned that Nigeria and Africa in general would remain clay-footed, to catch up with the monumental developments in the other continents of the world, unless and until we embark on genuine change at personal and institutional levels by imbibing conscious, habitual and enduring display of integrity and honesty. No doubt, the rich and well-researched paper – even though did not dwell much on what makes people to be corrupt, such as moral decadence and weak state institutions – is in tandem with its objective of the organisers of the mega summit; to raise and men that would in turn, raise and disciple other men in an unbroken chain of victory and godly prosperity. It is only hoped that the resources persons, participants and those opportune to ruminate over the issues raised above would become better citizens for our dear nation.

• Kupoluyi wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB).


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