(By Nnaemeka O. Ikemefuna)
“Nigeria is a mosaic of diversity. This makes ‘Unity in Diversity’ our ideal, reality and challenge. But how do you mediate conflicting primordial and parochial interests with the aim of ensuring inclusiveness, unity, equality and progress? You may devise many institutions, initiatives, rhetoric, policies, legislations etc. But until these are built uncompromisingly on a value or set of values (three at most), the likelihood for sustainable success of such endeavours will be minimal.“
NATIONS that work optimally are built on and sustained by specific and identifiable values. Take away quality engineering from Germany and what do you have left? Quality engineering is based on precision, exactness, accuracy, correctness, integrity, knowledge, diligence, hard work, etc. All these are different shades of truth and industry. Take away banking from Switzerland and what is left? Would you put your money for safe keeping in the hands of an unreliable or untrustworthy person? Even a thief knows to safe keep his loot with the trustworthy. The bottom line of banking is trust and its perception. That’s how Switzerland was built and is perceived. Trust earns you good reputation – a core quality of banking. And where will Singapore be without discipline?
Nigeria, without clearly identifiable values, will not work optimally or for the benefit of the most. Indeed, no nation will. Look at the ‘first world nations’ of the world. They took specific values, drew the architecture and built their nations on them. Over the years, these values have become so integrated into their national culture, institutions, political processes, economic systems that they don’t even appear obvious now. Some of these ‘first world nations’ are poor in natural resources but with clear and identifiable national values still forced their way into global reckoning, giving prosperity and dignity to their citizens.
National values, then, are the true riches of any nation. The human and natural resources give great head-starts but without clear and identifiable values, they become a curse.
Do we have national values in Nigeria? Surprisingly, yes. Our ‘National Anthem’ and ‘National Pledge’ are at least two authentic sources of our national values. When you study them critically, you find a surfeit not just of values but also the aspirations and convictions of this nation. Yet the way we live, you will think that we don’t have national values. This is because of four challenges facing our national values. These are the challenges of priority, definition, acceptance and application. Unless these challenges are sincerely and decisively confronted, we will continue to run a nation operating far below capacity while ambling towards implosion.
Priority of values
The ‘first world nations’ were built on values. They selected and stuck with few values that match and reflect their experience, realities and aspirations. Not many values but few. They prioritised. They decided on specific values and built their whole national life on them. Take the United States of America for example. ‘The American Dream’ was built on the tripod of liberty, equality and free enterprise. Every other value takes second place to these values. Germany has truth and industry. Switzerland has trust. Singapore has discipline. Really, you do not need more than three values on which to build a nation, indeed the fewer the better.
This is what we must do in Nigeria – prioritise values. We have quite a number of them: Service, integrity, faith, duty, industry, justice, freedom, etc. But we must decide on the values that best reflect who we are as a people, and that can harness our diversity and direct our enormous potentials to optimal ends.
Nigeria is a mosaic of diversity. This makes ‘Unity in Diversity’ our ideal, reality and challenge. But how do you mediate conflicting primordial and parochial interests with the aim of ensuring inclusiveness, unity, equality and progress? You may devise many institutions, initiatives, rhetoric, policies, legislations etc. But until these are built uncompromisingly on a value or set of values (three at most), the likelihood for sustainable success of such endeavours will be minimal.
Definition of values
It is not enough to prioritise values. We must agree on what these values are. What is our definition of justice as a nation? What do we make integrity to be? Is there a nationally accepted standard definition of these values? You will be amazed at what you will get when different shades of definitions of these values are permitted. If we define these values from various view points, they will lack consensus, force and direction. We need and must have standard national definitions of these values and what they mean to us.
Acceptance of values
The next step is the acceptance of these values as our way of life. Do we as a people sincerely desire to live by these values? You cannot successfully live what you don’t believe. Your way of life reflects your values. If you believe appointment to public office is an avenue for personal enrichment and licence to empower your ‘bloc’ and not for national service, your rhetoric and remonstrations notwithstanding, you will not promote integrity as a national value.
Application of values
Theories, rhetoric and excuses will not do. Values are not meant to be talked about. They are lived out. They are tangible actions. Believing and not living out values are merely exercises in folly, self-deception and futility. If you profess integrity, your tolerance level for corruption will reveal it. Corruption is corruption; injustice is injustice, notwithstanding where and to whom these occur. Until we attain the level when deviations from national values are not only roundly abhorred but deservedly served with corresponding judicial penalties, we are deluding ourselves and are only making motions of movement without direction and progress.
Lord Lugard brought us together in 1914. That was quite a feat! And we have lived together for a 100 years. That’s another feat! But to continue to stay together and maximise our union, we must meet and overcome the challenges of priority, definition, acceptance and application of a set of national values that reflect our experience, realities and aspirations as a nation. If and when we do surmount these challenges, we will guarantee that this nation works optimally and her enormous wealth and potentials benefit all Nigerians. We will also be the giant of Africa, indeed, with the feet of iron, and not of clay.
Ikemefuna lives in Lagos and can be reached on email@example.com.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”