By Kayode Ketefe
The present state of our country is making overwhelming majority of Nigerians very unhappy. The vision that gave birth to the country is being progressively blurred by “forces of darkness”.
The nation is reeking with disunity and fear, pandemonium and stagnation. While these four depressing nouns: disunity, fear, pandemonium, stagnation might have aptly captured the current the realities, they are by no means mere fortuitous sequence of lexical items by this writer.
The words are, ironically, just the direct opposites of the lexemes in the national motto enshrined in Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution.
The said section provides that the motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and faith, peace and progress. With the rate of insecurity in the land, a la Boko Haram, spate of mindless killings, destruction of properties and the concomitant pernicious effects on the country’s socioeconomic fortunes and the quality of life of Nigerians, it is one of the ironies of our times that the nation now seems a perfect negation of everything each of those idealistic concepts embodied by our national motto.
But the paradoxical discrepancy between stated objectives and realities is not confined to the motto alone; it extends more palpably to the virtues described as national ethics under Section 23 of the Constitution.
The said section states: “The national ethics shall be discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self-reliance and patriotism.” To project the palpable incongruities between our behaviours and each of these ethics would certainly require the writing of volumes of encyclopedia-sized treatises. Let us briefly examine each of the virtues against the backdrop of our experiences, starting with discipline.
What amount of discipline inheres in our socio-political and cultural contexts? How often do you see Nigerians jumping queues at public places in defiance of social etiquette, and in glorification of indiscipline? Do our policy makers set targets and remain committed to them in consonance with the demands of a disciplined mindset? What about financial and moral discipline? At the lowest rung of the ladder, you see people urinating or even defecating shamelessly in public places.
Where is the discipline? Integrity comes next, everyone will agree that if ever there is one scarce commodity in Nigeria, it is men and women of integrity; the extent of corruption in the land is a direct index of the level of integrity in the character content of most Nigerians. What of the dignity of labour? Many civil servants are not only lazy, they see their offices as avenues for self-enrichment.
The government itself has no workable blueprint for an efficient and dynamic labour-force. People also have the attitude of looking down on many jobs for being lowly and menial, as if white collar jobs are the most important in the society.
As for social justice, is our socio-political and economic order not structured in such a way that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer? In the search for justice, for instance, the common experience is that the poor access to justice is not only curtailed by the exorbitant cost of litigation, it is also hampered by selective justice.
I recently read about a roadside mechanic who was sentenced to death by hanging by an Oleh High Court in Delta State, for stealing a car stereo. About the same time, a 33-year old hungry, and jobless man, Opeyemi Ayomide, was remanded in prison by an Ojokoro Magistrate’s Court in Lagos, for allegedly stealing onion valued N20 and a tuber of yam!
This is happening in a nation where influential politicians who stole hundreds of billions of naira from public treasury find judicial refuge in plea bargaining- the farcical contrivance through which they give up a negligible fraction of the loots in exchange for the now familial watered-down, slap on the wrist sentences.
Certainly, the poor may find it difficult to get justice tempered with mercy, but the rich has no problem getting justice tempered with absurdity!
Then we have religious tolerance as the next ethic, My God! Religious what? The remains of 185 innocent civilians who were ruthlessly massacred in Baga village, Bornu State by the self-styled Islamic terrorist have just been interred.
Is it not a sad reality that our various religious groups always proved incapable of harmonious co-existence as a result of mutual intolerance?
The spate of religious-based violence has been taken took to an infernal level of unprovoked, sadistic terrorism.
Now, who is talking of self-reliance? We cannot even rely on ourselves just to refine our natural products like crude oil, having to import refined fuels from abroad.
Don’t we spend hard-earned foreign exchange to import necessities, luxuries and even vanities? Our rate of reliance on foreign expertise is so painfully enormous that it is debatable if we can survive without foreign dependency, as about 98 percent of all household items in a typical Nigerian home are imported.
As for patriotism, where are the patriotic Nigerians? May be one in a thousand! The pertinent question is: why is our national character so diametrically opposed to our self-chosen, much-vaunted national motto cum ethics? We must remind ourselves that wishful thinking has never accomplished anything laudable; people, as rational beings, ought to work consciously, with commitment and determination, towards the accomplishment of the noble goals they set for themselves.
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