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Generation against generation

By Sonnie Ekwowusi
23 March 2022   |   3:47 am
Political philosophers, historians and political scientists continue to assert ad nauseam that constitutional democracy cannot lead to true human development and human flourishing unless it transcends political experiment.

Political philosophers, historians and political scientists continue to assert ad nauseam that constitutional democracy cannot lead to true human development and human flourishing unless it transcends political experiment. This is because constitutional democracy is more than a political experiment: it is also a moral enterprise which largely depends on the ethics and virtues of the political leaders and citizenry for its success. Agreeing with Plato, Cicero, James Madison and Alexis De Tocqueville, Prof Rocco Buttiglione persuasively argues, and I completely agree with him, that democracy not run by highly-principled political leaders is bound to collapse. For instance, the Nigerian democracy has been stormed-tossed or shipwrecked or imperiled because it has been bringing out thieves, murderers, pant-pissing wicked men, mad men and undisciplined rabble from their hideouts and entrusting them with such a sacred duty of managing the affairs of their fellow men and women.

In the past, the traditional Nigerian society had an in-built mechanism for ejecting scoundrels, thieves and corrupt community leaders from its midst. If you had a neigbour who was a notorious thief, he was naturally singled out for ejection and punishment notwithstanding the fact that he was a rich politician or a thief or “419” person donating money to the church or to the town. No longer the case today. In the absence of a national character that defines democracy and establishes the parameters and moral high ground in which democracy should operate in order to promote the well-being of the people, the politics and political activities of the current Nigerian political class, are, in the words of Federic Bastiat, French political economist and philosopher, legalised plunders. And this is serious. You see, when a government turns against those whom it is meant to protect then the whole country inevitably is imperiled. Our country Nigeria has always had some scoundrels in public offices, but never before had such a great number of scoundrels crowded our public offices as now. In fact, there is a huge national character deficit in our body politics at the moment. Our future ought to be built on the triumph of youthful potential but unfortunately our future is ruined because our youthful potential is ruined. Consequently we seem to be headed to a future in which, seeing themselves pitted against the old, the present young generation develops a resentment that leads to a great cultural upheaval.

Penultimate Saturday I was one of the guest speakers on the GX Show anchored by Onyinyechi Ekumankama on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM Radio Station. The theme of our discussion was: ‘Character, Nigeria Youth and Nation-Building’. It was a discussion that centred around the character deficit of the present Nigerian young culminating in the upsurge of youth ritual killing, yahoo boys eating human excreta in public, rapist-murder, barbaric and grotesque murder of girlfriends by boyfriends and so forth. Every society derives meaning and purpose from cherishing certain perennial self-evident natural truths which in fact form the superstructure for the building of societal ethos. Viewed from historical and cultural context, the traditional family essentially doubles in Africa (Nigeria inclusive) as the provider of those character traits which a person needs to imbibe in order to grow up to become a responsible member of the society. There is an adage that states that if you lose your material wealth, you have lost nothing; if you lose your health, you have lost something, but if you lose your character, you’ve lost everything.  High premium is placed on character in the traditional Nigerian society. For example, growing up in those days, attempts were made both in school and at home to inculcate in us pristine values such as self-restraint, hard work, respect for elders, respect for truth, decency, moderation and so forth which augur well for strong family ties and community ethos. At that time the family provided the bridge that allowed the youngsters to graduate from childhood to adulthood with a certain sense of security. At that time, it would not have occurred to any boyfriend to murder his girlfriend in order to use her body parts for a juju ritual or a boyfriend digging a six-feet grave in his bedroom in order to bury his girlfriend alive in the grave for the same purpose.

Unfortunately today we have lost our humanity even though many of us go about clutching our cell phones on one hand and pretending to be civilised. A new totalitarianism now looms large in the horizon. To begin with, the government is a never-do-well. The oldies are failing in inculcating in the youngsters those fundamental principles which will make the youngsters become matured and responsible leaders of tomorrow. Most families have become dysfunctional families. What used to be regarded as family values are now being reinvented today if not completely eroded. When families fail to function properly, Prof. Robert P George argues, the effective transmission of the virtues of honesty, civility, self-restraint, concern for others etc is jeopardised. Sadly, this is what we are witnessing in Nigeria at the moment. Most parents are no longer role models to their children.

Instead of giving good examples to their children, many parents now give bad examples to their children. I am sure you watched the video clip that circulated on WhatsApp about three weeks ago. It was a video clip showing a drunk-Mum with her drunk-little (probably aged four or five years) during a party. While the drunk-Mum danced in the fashion of an irresponsible mother, her impressionable drunk-son in front of her who was clutching a bottle of beer with his two hands and sipping it intermittently was shown shaking his body sideward in response to the sound of the music. So, as it is said, like a mother like a son. Obviously that drunk-Mum damaging the character of her drunk-son is a failed mother of a failed generation. Philip Pilkington regrets that the worst aspect of the “intergenerational rests in the fact that the “young” in the abstract will not be turning on the “old” in the abstract. Rather, it will be a family drama that disrupts our most intimate relations”. “A society, he exults, that cannot reproduce itself is disordered, and such a society creates powerful conflicts of interest between the generations, motivating children to turn on their parents in battles for economic resources. In such a world, the disorder is truly, unspeakably perverse”. We may be only at the beginning of adult delinquency which is now rendering the younger generation useless.

So the Nigerian crisis is also a crisis of failed parenting. The foundational pillar of society called the family has disintegrated resulting in disastrous social consequences such as youth ritual killing, yahoo boys eating human excreta in public, rapist-murder, barbaric and grotesque murder of girlfriends by boyfriends, drug overdoses, alcohol-related diseases, youth rebelliousness, breakdown in extended family system, breakdown in economic solidarity, abandonment of the elderly, inability to differentiate right and wrong, lack of sense of value of human life and so forth. A member of the House of Representatives, Abuja had moved a motion for the castration of rapists in Nigeria.

I laugh, laugh and laugh. Why? Because we are just wasting our time fighting symptoms instead of the problem. Rape is not the problem: it is a symptom of deep-seated myriads of problems. Ditto for the barbarism of the yahoo boys in the streets.  As I keep on suggesting, if we are really determined to remedy the problems of our time, we need to uproot the problems from their roots rather than just fighting symptoms. Therefore exerting energies fighting symptoms is sheer waste of time. We need to tackle the problems from their roots in order to uproot them. If the Nigerian families are fast disintegrating, why are we surprised that families are now producing rapists, young drug addicts, young ritual killers and yahoo boys eating human excreta in public? So, first things first. We must first of all fix the family which is the fundamental unit of society.

Sad to say, none of these politicians gallivanting about town trying to grab political power in 2023 is concerned about the enthronement of a culture and those communally-binding ideals which make democracy thick. This affirms again that most of these people trying to grab political power in Nigeria lack proper political ideological motivation. There is no doubt that Nigeria will continue to gravitate from bad to worse until the country is re-ordered to a higher culture and a higher loyalty. The separation of culture and those communally-binding ideals from politics or from public life in Nigeria has led to a palpable moral bankruptcy that has been hindering progress in Nigeria over the years. For Nigeria to function effectively there ought to be a fine blend or a happy convergence between culture, those communally-binding ideals and politics.