A Systematic Approach Towards The Reorientation Of Nigerian Values

Cussing out corrupt politicians and ranting about government ineptitude is a favourite Nigerian pastime. And like Jonathan has found out, social media amplifies this activity to the point that is deafening.

Taking potshots at the “people in power” is cathartic, no doubt, never mind that it seldom accomplishes anything more. What I find puzzling however, is how most Nigerians aren’t sure of what they would do if they themselves were to hold the reins of public policy, or be in a position to administer public revenues. In fact, most blatantly admit that if given the opportunity, no matter how fleeting, they would steal as much of the national cake as they can.

And sadly, I believe them.

We all acknowledge that if Ibori had been tried in Nigeria, he would never go to prison. The only question would be the factor to which his acquittal should be attributed — a compromised justice system, or round-the-clock fasting and prayer sessions that would be organised by his numerous voltrons. Like rich ex-convicts before him, a street closing celebration party will likely be thrown for him on the day of his release, one which will be well attended by the same people who he is said to have stolen from.  Tolu Ogunlesi captures it succinctly in the following tweets:




The problem actually goes far deeper than civil servants buying porsches, because the same ordinary man who is being robbed blind by soul-less politicians is also busy perpetrating small evils of his own. The policemen that mercilessly extort commuters and transport workers for offences real and perceived are human beings like you and I. Throughout my stay in the University, I never received one kobo in bursaries, the funds were always misappropriated by students like me. Another tale from school, I was one of the odd people that always chose to sit in front with the invigilators during examinations, I just couldn’t stand the wholesale “cooperation” that was going on behind me. The owner of the restaurant where I eat complains bitterly about the six to ten dericas that the dealer skims off each bag of rice that she buys from him. Those who go to the market will of course be familiar with the myriad profit skimming techniques that have evolved just because everyone is out to rip the other person off.

We have found Ibori…and Ibori is us.

When considered from this angle, the problem with Nigeria immediately ceases to be one of leadership exclusively. It becomes one of values, or rather, of blatant disregard for them. The Ibori in each person is only manifest to the degree that opportunity and access to resources are available.

Take note that I didn’t say the values don’t exist, because they do, in carefully compartmented recesses of our minds. Like our best clothes, we wear them to church on Sunday, after which we fold them back neatly into the wardrobe till next week. We aren’t morally bankrupt — if anything, we are they greatest moralists in the world. The interesting thing is that our brand of morality, thoroughly steeped in the religious pretension that is commonly referred to as a “church mind”, does not entertain certain scruples and cannot make certain fine distinctions – like the difference between integrity and a one thousand naira vote. We might acknowledge that things ought to be done in a certain way, but our consciences are jaded by experience to the point that by default we expect corruption, and we act accordingly.

Naturally, our children — the leaders of tomorrow — have inherited this skewed perspective of life in Nigeria, and are well on their way to becoming what Ebuka Obi-Uchendu has aptly described as the looters of tomorrow.

Figuring out how we got here, to the point where questionable values are so entrenched as to be considered normal, is a very involved undertaking that I cannot attempt at this point in time. But if I haven’t incensed you by now, you’ll agree with the poles by which we have set our moral compasses need a fundamental reset.  Nigeria’s problems will not necessarily go away if bad leadership does. If Nigeria is to change for the better, Nigerians must first change. But how?

This brings me to the original purpose what has now become an unintentional essay. It took us a while to become accustomed to this sort of thinking, we can’t just collectively snap out of it on a whim. Reorienting the value system of Nigerians and changing the prevailing mindset requires a deliberate and systematic approach. Artist and polymath, Ade Adekola (with whom I’ve had a much more animated discussion on the matter), happens to have a such a proposal. And with permission, I have made it available below for your perusal.

Candid feedback is appreciated, and kindly share with others so we can take the discussion, and hopefully action, forward.

A Systematic Approach Towards The Reorientation of Nigerian Values

Click here if you would like to download this presentation in PDF format

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