What is the Price of the Nigerian Conscience?
At what point do we awaken collectively to a need to rejig our national value systems?
Nigerians take great pride in describing themselves as a morally upright people. I mean, the reason for this is not hard to find as we are a people who have, for a long time, confused moral uprightness with religious passion.
Wikipedia says, “According to the Pew Research Center, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa, with more than 80 million persons in Nigeria belonging to the church with various denominations.” That is about 46.3 percent of the total population.
For a wider scope of the religious landscape in the country, Muslims make up 46.2 percent of the population, and ethnic religions make up 7.2 percent.
There is obviously a vibrant religious presence in the country. Every day, from Sunday to Sunday, there are religious activities – mostly Christians and Muslims.
Woe betides you if you happen to live next to a church or a mosque. Conversions are believed to happen through speakers mounted for the benefit of the lost souls.
“One time I walked to a church beside my house, I’d just returned from a night duty, and asked that they reduced the noise, and they told me that because I had refused to listen to the word of God shouldn’t stop another person from being filled with the word. I had not told this person my religious affiliations or otherwise,” a friend shared.
My concern doesn’t lie in the fact that Nigeria is a highly religious nation. Do whatever floats your boat. It is the fact that this religiosity has not imbued in adherents values such as honesty, discipline, justice, right attitude to work, and citizens’ rights and duties. These are qualities that one would expect from a supposedly pious people. Most importantly, these elements are needed for national development.
If anything, Nigerians have selected moments to display these values, and those moments are almost far and in between. Our systems have not helped in any way to correct these failings, and it is a tiered-level problem. Shall we begin?
I’ll start with this set of people because as Nigerians, we believe that our problems start and end with these people.
The current Minister of State, Labor and Employment and Director, Public Affairs, Festus Keyamo, embodies the despicable qualities Nigerians have come to associate politicians with. Years prior, he said this about Bola Ahmed Tinubu – possibly Nigeria’s most scandalous presidential candidate of the last two decades – “Tinubu’s regime has been the worst for the workers (of Lagos State) in the last two decades.”
He averred, “I cannot imagine a situation where the military government gave more succour in Lagos State to workers than even Tinubu’s administration.” Does he still hold that view? He doesn’t. For the why, we can start from the fact that he was the Spokesperson for the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council during the 2023 elections.
How does one switch from castigating a person whom you had indubitable facts of their dereliction to their job as an elected officer to singing their praises and worship and even going as far as saying that he didn’t remember saying any of those. Selective amnesia, I suppose?
Does the conscience of the judiciary have a price? A report by Premium Times noted that the Nigerian judiciary was a recipient of N9.4 billion in bribes between 2018 and 2020. The question then is, to whom do we arrogate justice if those put in the position to mete out justice have sold their conscience to the highest bidder? To whom does the average Nigerian run?
In 2021, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah (retd) for misappropriating the sum of N13 billion earmarked for arm purchase. In the same year, Tukur Yusuf Buratai, another former Chief of Army Staff, alongside other high-ranking officers in the armed forces were indicted for misappropriating the sum of $1 billion.
In a country where thousands die yearly at the hands of terrorists and bandits (as the government has continued to term them) and unknown ‘men gun’, we have people that have decided that their personal interest comes first, national interest be damned.
In a speech, Mr. Minimah blamed the rise in Boko Haram attacks on Nigerians…the victims, for not standing up to the terrorists earlier. Think I’m lying? Here’s what he said in 2015, “perhaps if we had all stood against the terrorists at the onset through public condemnation of their activities and active collaboration with the military to confront them.”
They play a major role in the daily lives of Nigerians. Many Nigerians take the words of their religious leaders as cannon. Anything that departs from their words is tagged disrespectful or downright blasphemous. If you follow online conversations, you might find proof of this. They are positioned as blameless, paragons of morality. But the reality is not reflective of expectations. Religious leaders have turned religious sanctuaries into a commercial hub – cash in exchange for blessings (and this doesn’t matter what you did for the cash).
Here’s what former president Olusegun Obasanjo had to say, “If the Church, as an institution, does not take bribe or get involved in other corrupt practice, the behaviour of some of our men of God leaves much to be desired.
“They not only celebrate but venerate those whose sources of wealth are questionable. They accept gifts (offering) from just anybody without asking questions. This gives the impression that anything is acceptable in the house of God.”
While putting this newsletter together, I had a conversation with someone and asked their input on the subject matter, and their response was, “what is the value of one’s integrity when their stomach is empty?”
During the last election, two buildings away from where I stay, people trooped in and out with packages. Turned out the packages contained rice, maybe 5 cups, garri, and oil. That is what their conscience is worth. Hopefully they have those items still feeding them.
In the end…
It is very easy for Nigerians to condemn the actions of the leaders when they aren’t committed to the development that they seek (waste management says ‘hi’, topic for another day). The system is designed to impoverish the people, we are aware, but at what point do we awaken collectively to a need to rejig our national value systems? Because today, many parents are okay with their kids being fraudsters. Na who dem catch be thief.
We do well to ask ourselves, what is the price of my conscience?
On the side
Please, you people should tell OPay to get Grammarly or something because they are testing my heart. Which one is debit when you people mean credit? Abeg oh.
Happy Eid Mubarak.