Corruption versus family values in Nigeria

By Tunde Adeparusi

Once upon a time, there was a society where family values were not only upheld with utmost integrity and consciousness but also celebrated — a period in history when young men and women had had to transfer values inherited from their parents onto the generation coming after them. Even though there were no ‘modern aesthetics’, the young men and women living in this period could only recognise and appreciate values and not ‘things’; family names were pearls and every family member (either home or abroad) made conscious effort to protect their names. A man would rather die than being alive to witness his family name dragged through the mud by his children. Hence, parents were involved in every developmental stage of their children through effective mentoring and strict parental guidance.
The schools also helped in upholding these values by ensuring there was discipline across-the-board. If any child broke the regulation, the appropriate punishment would be applied regardless of the status of his/her parents. In fact, parents and guardians always got agitated should their ward be reported to have erred with regard to the school regulations. This was as a result of the orientation that held family names on high esteem and the fact that same must always be protected. There was no apparent difference between the affluent and the poor in the society because every home had ‘contentment’ boldly written on the family plaque and beside strict adherence was no other choice available.
Of course, there is no doubt that cultural background does play very important roles in the outlook of any society, nonetheless there is a goal that is common to all societies of the world, irrespective of cultural, political, economic or social differences and that is, to achieve and maintain peace, security and sanity at all times! This explains why regulations and the various laws are in place — they help check anti-social behavioural patterns, especially those considered dangerous or disruptive where peace, sanity and unity are concerned. History revealed how the various societies, within the context of their norm, had reacted to social ills or behaviours that are considered unacceptable and, these had attracted different degrees of penalties, even the dreadful capital punishment. For example, there was a time in history when simple act of stealing, indecent dressing, speaking words of profanity, wrong accusation, practice of witchcraft and act of sorcery. were offences punishable by death. Even now in the new age, some countries are yet to completely repeal capital punishment which is still applicable in their law courts should the degree of offence demands it. The various societies worldwide have operated strictly on moral codes so as to always sustain value systems. Therefore values define humans — humans are humans because they live by societal value system and/or moral codes. Nevertheless, in every society, there are always individuals who are considered iconoclastic — this could be due to abstraction, in other words, their views or actions are portrayed as deviant demeanour. This is a different angle to this discussion for such individuals are indeed needed in the society because their ideologies and constructive arguments often times help formulate new social policies or ameliorate the existing ones. Hence these ideologies have also been scientifically proved to be key factors in the promulgation of the various social theories by which people understand, relate and interact with one another in the milieu.
Therefore, in the light of the issue under discussion, it is pertinent to elucidate what corruption is, and this may only be appreciated by a very simple but explicit definition curled from the free online encyclopedia — Wikipedia, which says, corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. In more simplified terms, corruption is established when everything or anything acquired by anyone who is in a privileged position comes through an avenue of dishonesty or unethical approach. The peculiarity of the Nigerian society with regard to corruption is a contributory factor to the poor international imagery and wrong perception of the citizens whereby foreigners become unnerved to deal whenever the word Nigeria or Nigerian is flagged. And unfortunately the role of the foreign media in this regard is also very horrendous but, be that as it may, there is an urgent need for the country to review its penal codes in the context of its judicial system in order to alleviate the dented image of the country in the eyes of the international communities as well as initiate a systemic process of internal restructuring. This may help to mitigate the bad effect of the foreign media on the economy, and not only that, the process of economic recovery would be smooth and effective even in recession.
It is bad enough to note that Nigeria as a country may not have been so fortunate in terms of good leadership; leaders who are selfless, accountable, loyal, patriotic, sincere, truthful and people-focused have been proved to be a desideratum over the years, more especially under the various administrations that have existed since independence. For example, government officials would expect kickbacks on approved projects; hence many of these projects get abandoned by the poor contractors due to insufficient funds because chunks of the money allotted for such projects have gone into the hands of the officials as kickbacks. However, the situation has further deteriorated when leaders (government officials and certain politicians alike) are now directly involving close relatives or family members in their corrupt practices. In other words, family members’ account and private companies are now being used as instruments to siphon the nation’s resources into private pockets.
Nevertheless, the bulk of the mess is reflective of the disturbing state of youth unemployment in the country. Now, whether these youths are actually employable is a totally different argument altogether; this is also because the government has seemingly lost focus on the importance of quality education for an average Nigerian youth. The reluctance of the lawmakers to put forth a strong and constructive debate in order to come up with good idea or programme so as to save the situation remains a mystery. Hence, chunks of unemployable graduates are rolled out on a yearly basis while the situation deteriorates by the day. The fact that the government has not paid adequate attention to the public schools in terms of infrastructure and manpower, has made many business-oriented folks to take advantage of the situation and, this may explain the proliferation of private schools all across the country in the recent times; not in the history of this country have there been such huge number of private schools even up to tertiary level. This does not make a proud and healthy country in terms of its educational system. It is also observed that many civil servants, especially those at the public tertiary institutions have shown less commitment as they get enticed by these ‘private enterprises.’
And because of the government apparent abandonment of public schools and subsequent decadence of this institution focus has been shifted to private schools, hence only those with higher financial status engage in the patronage of private schools in Nigeria while the poor remain in the abandoned public arena. As a matter of fact, it is to be regretted that many government officials as well as serving politicians have also ventured into the private school business. And now the question is; how can these people really advocate for a policy that is counterproductive where their personal interests are concerned? This explains why the leaders may not be keen on advocating for upgrades of the public institutions. Therefore, youth unemployment in Nigeria, more especially under the prevailing economic condition, is a premonition more especially where the future of the country is concerned. The government had better do something quick!
The government has a big role to play in all these. First, the criminal justice system in Nigeria is perceived weak due to the fact that many corrupt individuals who should be in jail are fighting the government with their ill-gotten wealth. Many of them have infiltrated the various systems of government. They hold political offices and dictate the direction of power in the country.
There is no doubt that corruption disconnects from core social values. The burden of oppression, impunity and intimidating image laundering by individuals with ill-gotten wealth in the society are luring the vulnerable youths into becoming ‘desperados’ who would rather have money at all cost. More unfortunate is the role being played by the 21st century parents who would rather give their children unhealthy orientation and expose them to unrealistic lifestyles — the orientation their own parents never gave them, all in the name of ‘my child must not suffer what I suffered.’ Many of the things children are exposed to nowadays are not sustainable in futuristic terms, hence these children would grow up craving for what they could not afford and, of course eventually get their fingers burnt when they become desperate. So, the question remains; where is our value as parents or guardians?

Adeparusi is a member of the British Society of Criminology.

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