Fixing Nigeria’s Moral Deficit


By Lanre Etti

If only a country could develop through words, judging from countless articles, both in prints and online, from many intelligentsias across the nation, prescribing numerous drugs and treatment for Nigeria’s mandarin headache. By now, the Federal Republic of Nigeria should have been greater than the greatest country in the world. Surprisingly, words have failed to abate our problems. Opinions and sentiments aside, what quotas have each and every one of us contributed, to build our nation and salvage our economy from the doldrums of cluelessness and uncertainty?

Undoubtedly, Nigeria is controlled by a government that has an incontestable status of insouciance towards the people. But why are the masses also insensitive to the plight of fellow masses? It is imperative to note that nation building is not the exclusive right of any citizen, and as such should not be left solely in the hands of government. In fact, it is beyond casting of votes every four years and sitting back to critique.

Apparently, the paucity of moral values is not limited to those in government. The Nigerian populace is also an accomplice in the deteriorating condition of our country, because we live in a society that extols mediocrity over merit. Fraudsters, drug dealers and public wealth looters get more enamoured than, (let’s say) a Professor would, in our society.

Painfully, our case could be likened to that of a drowning man, who clings to the nearest object in a desperate attempt to avoid being submerged.

At times, seeing people engage in all sorts of criminality in the name of ‘survival of the fittest’ is the worst thing that can ever happen to a society. What can be said of workers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, who have turned themselves to ‘aviation beggars’? They beg travellers for money, even sometimes delay them, thereby, tainting the nation’s already battered image in the process.

Unfortunately, this is a clear evidence of moral failure and demise of social values amongst our people. We have given room for abnormalities to become a norm in our society.

One begins to wonder why a Local Government chairman or a member of the House of Representatives does something as little as acquiring a transformer for a community and the next thing will be to erect a giant banner, with the pictures of the ‘donor’ splashed in more than 50% of the space. With words like “Promise made, promise kept” or “dividends of democracy at work” as if the project was executed with their money when in true fact, they only spend crumbs on the project. It amounts to a disservice and insult to Nigerians for a public official to carry out a statutory role and give the credit to himself, with the objective of being construed as a hero.

Without any fear of contradictions, things will get better the day Nigerians start rejecting peanuts from these politicians and demand absolute accountability, which will drastically transform the nation and their lives. Scrambling for N500 or a cup of rice on Election Day is not the way out.

The decadence also has its base in the transportation sector. Virtually everyone must have experienced the harum-scarum of our commercial drivers. They are one  of the most clueless, lawless, and ignorant people in our society. They drive with impunity and do all sorts of funny things, all in the name of trying to make ends meet; likewise the keke (tricycle), okada (motorcycle) and bus riders. They have disdained traffic laws and operate like emperors of the road. Imagine what it will be like if there were no LASTMA or VIO officials.

Honestly, the commuters deserve part of the blame, and because of our nonchalant attitude, we are being transported in this disorderly manner. I have seen a case where a bus driver drove against traffic and the passengers praised him for being a ‘smart guy’, just because he went through ‘shortcuts’. We can only stop these indecorous behaviour by collectively admonishing erring drivers.

On the other hand are the twitter activists, who are quick to lash out at the government for any wrongdoing, in order to gain cheap popularity, but later employ their social media accounts as an online advertising platform for companies and the same government they once lambasted.

Similarly, blogging which is a tool for disseminating information is gradually turning into a nudity affair. The culprits here are not only the shameless and attention-seeking daughters of Jezebel that flaunt their stretch mark-riddled bodies, in front of cheap China phones, but the bloggers who, out of their desperate search for internet traffic and adverts on their site, post these nude pictures for the public to see. And since the media is important in spreading information, then the pride of (African) womanhood is in jeopardy since the spread of information in the digital age is limitless.

I am forced to ask, for the whereabouts of the so-called Human Rights Activists that threatened fire and brimstone, when the issue of ‘child not bride’ was at the front burner. They made us believe they were protecting the girl child. But now, it seems they are helplessly watching the celebrities and models inspire the girl child to toe the path of nudity. Or are they just bent on protecting the girl child from early marriage and not early waywardness? These organizations and individuals are nothing but hypocrites.

The nation may have lost the fight against corruption, but yet we can’t expose our toddlers to indecency at an early stage and that is why the family is so crucial in nation building. The family is a child’s first agent of socialization.

Therefore, parents should ensure they inculcate moral values in their wards at the earliest time and also control what they are exposed to.

Also, one of the highest levels of indecency and debauchery exists in the midst of our entertainers. Some mediocre movie makers have espoused nudity as a strategy to make money.  They produce semi-porn movies and still have the audacity to market them in the open. In a similar vein, Yoruba movies too now contain harsh and unprintable words that are not fit for public consumption. So disheartening!

An industry that is meant to promote cultural values is now propagating impropriety. Likewise, the music videos are incomplete without having young girls dance half naked. Thereby creating the impression that women are best used as sex symbols. All these and many more are taking place in our 100 years of existence as a nation.

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It would have been better for the country if the so-called activists and civil society organizations rise up daily, to confront the myriad of problems facing us. I wonder, how and why they could campaign with such tenacity against the National Assembly bill that has not even been passed into law, and ignore far more compelling tales of indecency amongst our youths.

None of them did a campaign against the organizers of Big Brother Africa reality show, where the dignity of African woman was laid bare like a scattered  pack of cards by smutty contestants, especially our very own Beverly Osu, who had an explicit bath in a tub with a fellow male contestant. I expected this issue to have been an eye raiser to the various acts of indecency being perpetrated by those in Nigerian entertainment industry. But to my chagrin, nothing happened!

Although, I don’t really care if anyone decides to show off his or her body on national TV for all to see, all I care about are the kids getting exposed to adult contents. Sadly, in a country where regulation is non-existent, this effect becomes inevitable and inimical. Still, the girl minor might easily fall under the illusion that, these people (naked celebrities), are rich and famous, thus, they are worthy of emulation, thereby putting our children in moral quandary.

What can we say, about a man that empty the content of a plastic beverage, while in a commercial bus, and decides to dispose of the plastic, by throwing it out of the window and unto the streets? Just like that.

I believe, this is an improper and uncaring attitude towards the environment.  We do all these and complain that the Governor is not working, truly he is not, but some people also fail to know, that this routine of improper waste management, goes a long way, in telling who we are as citizens.

It baffles me a lot that in this 21st century Nigeria, we still ‘proudly’ emblazon our walls with inscriptions like “do not urinate here”, “post no bill” and “refuse dump is prohibited here”. The amazing thing is that, most of these caveats are usually disregarded. But how on earth will stuffs like these are written, before we can put ourselves in order. Alas! It exhibits lack of decorum and civility and the extent to which, indecency, has penetrated every nook and cranny of our society, which is pathetic!

In my local government of Lagos Island, betting centers and hotels are opening almost on a daily basis. Whereas, ever since I was born, I have never witnessed the opening of a public library or a public health centre. Is this not alarming? And there are people who claim to be LG Chairmen and councillors; they drive around in their state government-donated cars without making any attempt to correct this anomie. Or are we witnessing a new Las Vegas in the making?

However, one of the main causes of our societal ills is the issue of widespread illiteracy. The future of every country is tied to the development of its human resources. Forget all the policies of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and her Bretton woods-coined solutions.  The solution to our country’s problems is not hard to find. Educate your people and obey the rule of law. Simple!

I observed that the strength of the American society lies in the citizens; the people are the ones that make the country great. America has a high literacy and the law is being respected by all. The US government also finances researches a lot and researchers continually discover ways to make their societies better – That is the result you get when a country invests in its human resources.

If the Nigerian government can heed these advices and spend large chunk of our money to educate Nigerians, the better it will be for us. Because, there will be less problems for the government to contend with.

The better people we have, the better for our society. Government will not have to erect a traffic official to check for people without seat belts, or arrest people for not using pedestrian bridges, because they are already aware of its usefulness.

If not for greed and disregard for laws of the land, politicians do not need steal public funds before they can have a comfortable life. If the country’s security apparatus is highly efficient, they need not move around with heavily armed security men, before they feel secured in their country.

As a matter of urgency, the government should strengthen institutions that regulate public conduct, and promote human rights. Our journey to prosperity will begin the moment we start doing things the right way. We, as citizens should try hard to uphold our societal values, irrespective of cultural or religious affiliations.

We must imbibe the habit of correcting erring ones amongst us, and not gang up against our fellow citizens to inflict outrageous fatalities. Our beauty is in our diversity, our strength is in our unity, and our development is in our values.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Long live Nigerians!

(This piece is dedicated to the souls of the Aluu 4 and the victims of terrorism in Northern part of Nigeria, may their souls RIP)

•Etti Jr is a graduate student of International Relations and Economic Development, Maryland, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @EttiJr