Africa

The Corruption of Morals in the Nigerian Public and Dr. Dora Akunyili’s Image Re-branding

The corruption of morals in the NigeriaIsn’t it a universal plague? I begin by saying that it is not only a Nigeria problem, nor an African issue. It is everywhere and in every country.

If I write about the corruption of morals in the Nigeria social life, it is because of two things: firstly, I am a Nigeria. And secondly, I want my country’s image and standard of life to improve. And sometimes, I could not but pity people who were put in the position of cleaning up the mess that some corrupt Nigerians have left behind and are still leaving behind. Sometimes the issue of image re-branding in Nigeria seems like wasting water on the back of a duck. I remember the time of OBJ, when Frank Nweke Jr, was made the Minister of Information and National Orientation. He lunched into full action, during which he ran around the world, trying to improve the country’s image. Perhaps, he must have seen first hand that image making is so tedious when it comes to a nation who has not gotten its priorities and values right. The challenge and the shame this gentleman faced was depressing.

Today, as in the past, Nigeria, still determined to improve her statues around the world, has appointed Dr. Akunyili and entrusted to her the huge task of keeping Nigeria’s image clean. Sometimes, we are too quick to forget the past.

Did we ever asked what where the practical result achieved, with regards to image making, by Frank Nweke Jr. Why did his office fail to wash off the dirt in the Nigerian image? The reason is this: Nigeria cannot be solely preoccupied with improving her international image without first of all re-orientating her citizen’s moral sense of duty. The Igbo people have the saying that ‘ana esi n’ulo mara mma puo ezi’— charity begins at home. Or rather beauty begins from the inside, and then spreads outwards. The problem with the issue of image re-branding is the problem of priority. It is international oriented.

Dr I am of the view that if Nigeria must re-brand her image around the world, she must first off all heal the minds of her citizens from embracing sick values. She must fist of all rehabilitate the moral conscience of her citizens from the infestation of corruption. Corruption has impressed deep in the national psyche that lots of people had began to see it  as normal and a way of life. A policeman who extorts money from motorists might not even see him/herself as being corrupt. The only people he/she sees as corrupt are the politicians and their coliques. A business person who tricks his customers’ hard earned money with fake product might not consider being corrupt. Students who pays bribe their lecturers in order to pass examination might not see themselves as corrupt. A wine taper who mixed saccharine with palm wine to make more money might not consider himself as corrupt. They only people regarded as being corrupt are the leaders. That is why re-branding Nigeria is more of national overhauling than international self-marketing.

As a concept, the term corruption is very familiar in describing the level rottenness in the Nigerian society, especially within the political atmosphere. Corruption of public figures is like a cankerworm ravaging the bud of progressive initiatives and developments. So much money has been wasted by different regimes and governments to fashion out a better stratagem of tackling and defeating this endemic menace and its corrosive effects on the image of the Nigeria nation both within and without. Yet, despite all these frantic efforts, little or no result has been seen.

I am often left crestfallen like a blade of grass standing under the intensity of hamattan sun seeing how the world portray Nigeria as one of the most corrupt country in the world. The first instinct is to be defensive and close ones mind to any objective and constructive discursion on the issue. After all, corruption is also in America, in Europe and in Asia. We all know that bankers and corporations in these developed countries are just as corrupt as the Nigerian scammers or corrupt politicians. But the different is this: these other nations have been able to do something which Nigeria has not been able to do for her citizens. And that is: embark on massive development of their countries and their people, initiate a period of industrial revolution, refine their educational institution to meet international standard, build bridges, roads and maintain private and public buildings, establishments and structures that define the beauty of modern societies.

Why has Nigeria not been able to take her proper place in the international community? Why? Evidently, Nigeria produces very smart and brilliant people. So she has the means and the potentiality of being a strong voice in the global arena. Simply put, corruption of the human morals has stunted her growth from the yore. Corruption and morality respectively, though unrelated concepts, play key roles in the rise or fall of any nation. Corruption implies decadence or a form of deviation from decent ideals or standards which automatically stems from the intrusion of putrid values in the human moral reason. Once the human sense of moral reason has been corrupted by adverse values, actions would then spring forth from these adulterated values. And values are based on morals.  When the human moral is tinted by wrong values, then a person becomes corrupted. On the other hand morality has to do with good character, valued code of conduct, good conscience built on proper ethos of a functional social system.

It is not uncommon that this sense of morality or right and wrong could be corrupted as far as human beings are concerned. This is based on the fact that human nature is corruptible in itself especially by the intrusion of wrong social values. Corruption in Nigeria is based on the fact that on a massive scale, the entire social systems seem to have embraced unhealthy values. When a pattern of life, even though immoral becomes widely spread, it quickly corrupts not just individuals but an entire system. For instance, the corruption of lecturers spreads to the students who would later be the shapers of the society—politicians, doctors, businessmen and women, civil servants and so on and so forth. Why do lectures demand bribes from their students? Simple, there is an immoral placement of values on wealth accumulation. In Nigeria, one is not valued for what one is, but rather one is judged by the kind of wealth and power accumulated rightly or wrongly.

Hence pecuniary value has replaced the concept of ethical standard of living, it is common that everyone is or ought to do ugly things to make money. Why do so many Nigerians who travel abroad involve in all kinds of illegal dealings: simply put, they have a very sick set of values from which their behaviors emanates. It is either they make money and go for a show-off in the village or they would live the rest of their lives feeling socially and culturally irrelevance. Until people begin to reverse this mentality, Nigeria would still need to travel through a bumpy road in her quest for a sound national image.

Thus apart from projecting the Nigeria image as good in the international scene, Mrs. Akunyili should also make the frantic effort to initiate a program to educate the masses of Nigeria that a healthy national image is a duty which every single Nigeria aught to involve in. Unless she finds a way of factoring in the Nigerian masses in her project of image re-branding, the program might end where others before it had ended—in the ditch of unfruitful oblivion.

It is worthy of not that for an effective improvement of the Nigeria image, corrupt government officials both past and present needs to be dealt with squarely in the court of law. We appreciate the fact that Yar’adua’s government initiated this program of image re-branding. But how can there be any meaningful result when even the election that ushered him to power was observed to be flawed with irregularities. What sort of image are we re-branding when the world sees the Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic as having been handpicked by OBJ.? In so far as there are so many elements left untouched by the Nigeria judicial system, the tendency exists that the Nigeria masses would continue to learn ills from such people thereby making our national image continue to be damaged abroad.

As a nation, we all know what to do in order to improve our image abroad. Yet, the problem is not knowing but doing. If we improve our justice system to be able to arrest and prosecute offenders without fear or favor; if we use public money for what it was  intended for; if we revitalize our dilapidated educational systems; if we train the police to be capable of controlling crimes with modern technologies; if we create entrepreneurial friendly environment for both local and foreign investors; if we build functional railways, roads, bridges, hospitals and hospices; if we become fair and just in handling out electoral practices; if we place our nation first above the divisive factors of tribalism; if we create job opportunities for the mass of hopeless citizens; if we imbibe a mentality of honesty and hard work; if we embrace the just spirit of meritocracy over nepotism and mediocrity; if we create beautiful tourist attractions of international standard and more, we would be improving our image around the world.

 

The office of image re-branding is more than just a ceremonial office. It is one that is very tasking. It is one that involves a comprehensive approach.  I am of the view that the problem with the damaged Nigeria image is not sorely of international made. Nigerians too bear the greater part of the blame for their woes. Thus, Nigerians should not stand by and watch Mrs. Akunyili as she try to lift this heavy weight over our battered shoulder. Those living within Nigeria should be sincerely willing to help improve Nigeria and those abroad also aught to eschew illegal conduct that brand Nigeria bad. This is because they represent their country in the most microcosmic way. They therefore aught to see themselves as ambassadors, a representatives of their country who are always in the spotlight.

 

A decision to be good is a moral commitment to always act godly come what may. It is a decision to be a responsible moral agent. Every human being is a moral agent and also has the capacity to be corrupted. But since corruption has done the Nigeria society more evil than good, it is now a time for change. According to Barrack Obama, ‘yes we can’ make Nigeria a better country for the sake of posterity and our progeny. A moral Nigeria is a prosperous Nigeria. And a prosperous Nigeria is one whose image is clean around the world. And an image-healthy Nigeria is one whose citizens act responsibly and do not involve in massive international scandals. Government policies and programs come and go but Nigeria remains. Eventually, Dr. Dora Akunyili’s government initiated program will echo away and the onus of a sound nation building lies on the Nigeria populace themselves.

 

ugwu-hilary@yahoo.co.uk

2009-04-03-562

 

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