Ethical imperative in governance and development in Nigeria (2)

(By Omobolade Olutade)

As a consequence of lack of moral depth, Nigeria’s myopic worldview militates against accountability and transparency resulting in unsustainable policies. Thus, immediate gratification takes over long-term investment and personal interests override public wellbeing. Strong ethical standards, rigorously pursued, engender transparency, responsibility and ultimately, development. In most cases, even what could pass for gains are easily frittered away on the altar of bad governance.  Sadly, in Nigeria, moral turpitude has continued to define our interactions both privately and publicly. As we decide against the normal ethical standards in every sphere we are vehemently and rigorously deepening poverty.

Continued from yesterday

Why Ethics Matter

INHERENTLY, development is ethics-driven. Since high ethical standards provide the basis for a strong institution and, as such, it serves as the fulcrum for solid socio-economic cohesion. Ethics are, therefore, the building blocks on which any organized society can thrive. Development is eroded or becomes an anathema when and where rules are ignored. Besides, ethics provide meaning for international relations. International business codes of conduct are not arbitrary but agreed and acceptable rules among nations. Because of its acceptability and universality, it has become a way of life, defining both bilateral and multilateral relationships; and any country failing in its ethical expectations is left in the lurch of underdevelopment. Painfully, our pathetic ethical stance has debarred the country from benefitting maximally from global economic opportunities.

   When a country spurns global standards, it loses its economic integrity and becomes subservient to others regardless of its sovereignty. Certainly, other countries, which are ethically disciplined will exercise suzerainty over its resources. In this regard, today, Nigeria’s wealth is virtually in the hands of foreigners as many rich Nigerians   put their resources in foreign land, bringing about capital flight. More painful is that a big chunk of such wealth is stolen. Even when foreign investors decide to invest in an unstable and uncharitable environment like Nigeria, they do so reluctantly and with heavy socio-economic cost on the country. Such investors, who were normally “begged” to invest, demand for unimaginable tax moratorium among other strenuous conditions before embarking on any venture because of the unpredictability of the economic environment arising from corruption, policy instability and insecurity. Hence, typical investors deal with the country cautiously while serious-minded investors avoid it like plague. Essentially, good governance is an important attraction for foreign direct investment (FDI) regardless of other incentives such as lower taxes and wage cost.

   Our culture of impunity and persistent shirking of etiquette, make our shameful descent to irrelevance almost irredeemable. Undoubtedly, Nigeria is fast becoming an ethical liability on Africa as it continues to set unwholesome precedents. Recently, it was reported that certain Nigerian judicial officers serving in the Gambian judiciary were involved in unethical conducts and summarily dismissed. Also in the USA, two U.S.-based Nigerian attorneys were convicted of fraud. In Nigeria, such odious occurrences are pastimes that go unchecked. Many highly placed Nigerians are serving various jail terms all over the world, but several high profile Nigerians in Nigeria, guilty of fraud and other misdemeanors, are free men. Our ethical posture has enfeebled our institutions thus criminalising governance. The level of moral perception determines the degree of leverage any nation would command in the committee of nations. Nigeria’s leverage has waned over the years. This is why   most countries would chide Nigerians at drop of a hat. Pathetically, Nigerians attract “special”, curious, undeserving, contemptible attention everywhere they go even in countries Nigerians redeemed with their blood. Mere mentioning of the name, ‘Nigerian’, makes our neighbours quiver with anxiety of unfathomable depth. All because we have lowered our moral guards.

   As a consequence of lack of moral depth, Nigeria’s myopic worldview militates against accountability and transparency resulting in unsustainable policies. Thus, immediate gratification takes over long-term investment and personal interests override public wellbeing. Strong ethical standards, rigorously pursued, engender transparency, responsibility and ultimately, development. In most cases, even what could pass for gains are easily frittered away on the altar of bad governance.  Sadly, in Nigeria, moral turpitude has continued to define our interactions both privately and publicly. As we decide against the normal ethical standards in every sphere we are vehemently and rigorously deepening poverty.

In politics, politicking is reduced to a wild game where all tactics are employed without regard for humanity.  We have thus turned the political arena to the unfits, misfits and charlatans who are nothing but development repellants.

   Where other factors of development like good geography exist and the culture of ethical impunity abounds, development, at the best, becomes comatose and stymied. Natural resources would only be relevant when man inputs his creative value into harnessing it for his own progress. As the endogenous economic growth theorists would argue, what grows people is not external, but intrinsic and endogenous to them.  Succinctly, factors of development are not in the nature of things absolutely, but in the nature of beings that populate a particular environment. Thence, knowledge and intellectual upliftments buoyed by ethical discipline, ultimately, determine the heights a nation can attain. In Nigeria, investment in education and human development is abysmally lower than 10 percent of the country’s annual budgets while countries such as Ghana and South Africa dedicate more than 38 per cent of their budgets to the knowledge sector. The impact of investment in education in Ghana is manifest and globally acknowledged. In fact, Ghana is swarming with Nigerian students while Nigeria’s education sector has been asphyxiated.  Piteously, due to low human development, Nigeria is languishing at the bottom of the Human Capital Index, ranked 114. The fault is not in geography, but in the thin moral carapace upon which Nigeria’s development is expected to bloom.

Sheer endowment in natural resources is not sufficient to lead a country to economic freedom. Observably, the expanse of natural resources has become an albatross for Nigeria. Oil and other resources are now sources of conflicts while illegal exploitation of resources gnawed at the country’s economic soul. Oil theft is a booming business, costing the nation an estimated $250 billion monthly in revenue. Interestingly, the oil thieves are not only alleged to be acolytes and surrogates of those in power, but are “elites” themselves.   An approximated 50 billion dollars was lost to illegal mining and exportation of unprocessed gold between 2011 and 2012. The thriving Illegal mining has its health and environmental issues. More than 400 children had died of lead poisoning in Zamfara State due to illegal gold mining. Invariably, low ethical standards have created a problem of survival for the geographical expression called Nigeria.

      In our daily activities, we are too cunning to be profound in thoughts and deeds. Nobody trusts us; we do not trust ourselves. Absurdly, in this milieu of ethical depravity, we continue to sermonise growth albeit without conscious action towards its attainment. We turn every good concept on its head and continuously crave development. We are not only joking, but we are a huge joke. We will continue to grovel in the abyss of hopelessness and helplessness. That is the truth. We ridicule morality in all facets of our lives; we chastise ethics as irrelevant and glorify corruption – in governance, in politics, in commerce, in community life and in religion. We disrobe openness and thrive on deceits and deceptions. We rationalize irrationalities and call it wisdom. We remove all ingredients of development and strive to grow. It is an aberration. It is unnatural. It has never happened and will never happen. Nature abhors and destroys such attempts. We will continue to endure the state of subservience eternally unless we change our ways. The leadership engages in propaganda against its people – perfecting the art of deception to a level of perfection.   The Government ensconces in duplicity and calls it diplomacy and continues to bask in euphoria of pseudo growth. Our politicians politicize truth while the economists economize facts. Religious leaders thrive on heresies and intellectuals are adept in blatant opportunism. Nigerians do not trust their leaders and the leaders do not give a damn and do not even pretend to give a damn! What a pain! Indeed we are damned! We need a moral rebirth.

   Maintenance of good ethical standards is the basis of good institutions and harbingers of good governance, which engenders prudent usage of resources. Perverted values and crooked orientation bring mockery to a people. Both globally and internally, our moral turpitude has created for us a problem of survival. We should seek lofty goals, aspire for the finest of ideals, pursue smoothest of values and profess purest of views. It is then that our path to honour, development and growth will be assured.

Concluded.

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