By Dr. Tony Nwaka
Yes, you could say it didn’t start today. But must we continue to repeat the same errors? We now even go ahead to defend, justify and applaud obvious abnormalities. Take a look at these:
- A public office holder could not present his primary school certificate, which is the minimum requirement for his office.
Then you hear some persons say: “Oh, forget it, you don’t need certificates to perform well in office.”
- Official letters from the highest organ of government are full of factual and grammatical errors.
You hear some other persons say, “Look, my friend, English is not our language.”
- A high ranking government official is found to have submitted fake certificates to secure his appointment.
Somebody will say, “It doesn’t matter, as far as he is doing well in office.”
- Conflicting directives on same matter are issued by different organs of the same government, showing an obvious lack of coordination.
You hear people say, “Plurality of opinion is part of democracy.”
- A sitting president declines to participate in a presidential debate and, rather, directs his deputy to play the role for him.
Then you hear very intelligent men say, “Debates are not constitutional requirements for elections.”
- A grievous allegation is made against a public officer, provoking national outrage. Yet the said officer chooses to completely ignore the people and remain silent.
Then you hear some people say, “My dear, what can you do? The man that appointed the officer is not complaining.”
- A public officer who should be an exemplar of decency and polite communication, is dressed up, dark-goggled, and speaking like a gangster.
Yet many persons see nothing wrong with such uncultured manners especially when such a person is appointed to take care of youth matters
- A man is caught red-handed pilfering the commonwealth, yet our condemnation of such act is now dependent on whose side the culprit stands.
I’m just wondering what could be responsible for these declining ethical values. To the extent that even the very basic courtesies of public conduct, which ordinarily should be models of reference for our developing society, are discarded with brazen disdain. What really is going on? Could it be I’m the only one observing this diminution of the basic standards of public service? Could it be I’m too old-school? Or am I being unnecessarily alarmist?
There are infractions that are understandable, especially if they are committed by uninformed members of the larger society. But it is really disheartening to see these violations of the basic norms of propriety coming from people in authority. We must understand that there are inescapable consequences attendant upon these aberrations. It is common to see people in authority express regrets at the seeming unwillingness of the citizenry to identify with the programs and policies of government. Incidentally, we may not have to search afar for the reason. The evident lack of scruples in the conduct of some officials of government does not only debase the value system that regulate public conduct, but also tend to distance the people from government, thereby engendering a general atmosphere of cynicism and lawlessness.
Some persons have argued that previous administrations were not known to have demonstrated a higher level of decorum in governance, so why hold the present actors to a different standard? Yes, such submission is not totally baseless, but I personally think it is self-defeatist. I believe that no Nigerian who is resident in the country can fully insulate himself from the repercussions of a decadent moral and ethical culture. If so, why then perpetuate those attitudes that are evidently regressive, simply because preceding personalities never treated them with the seriousness they deserve?
At any rate, even if we are able to ride roughshod over these blatant misdemeanors, will they not significantly shape the psyche of our hapless youths? When our youths are raised to believe there are no irreducible minimums of civility as currently seen in some high quarters, the implications for the future can only be left to the imagination.
I just hope that those at the commanding heights of governance would understand the gravity of the situation. Indeed we must begin to rise above partisan orientations and condemn in strong terms these assaults on, not just the fundamentals of official conduct, but the foundations of our ethical and moral values. If for no other reason, at least for the sake of the younger generation.
Dr. Tony F.E Nwaka.