I was reading Shatto Arthur Gakwandi’s The Novel and Contemporary Experience in Africa sometime ago, when I came across one important revelation. It is an expression that carries in its womb a solution to most of Nigeria’s problems.
Gakwandi’s book attempts to identify and discuss certain thematic as well as stylistic features of modern African literature. It was first published in 1977, yet in the course of the reading, I found myself in total communion with the author, the ideas the book raises, with my Creator. Why? Nigerians that have the same view of personal integrity may feel the same.
One may assume that literary works, or secondary literatures on them, have but little to do with the real, the universal truth, politics or governance for that matter. But conversely, the relationship between fiction and reality can be explored in the things they carry.
The book opens up with Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy. Naivety, curiosity and self-abnegation attitudes of the central character, Joseph Toundi, aside, the novel revolves around one idea – indulge me to put it this way, the presence of personal integrity or the lack of it. All the variables at play point out at one thing: rehabilitation of personal integrity. Toundi makes many mistakes in his life. But before his death in the hand of his treacherous white masters, it may seem too late, he rehabilitates his personal integrity.
As a Nigerian I felt the book questioning my integrity and to some extent suggesting rehabilitation of some kind – asking me to do as I want others to do and do as I preach.
That revelation has absolutely caught in it the real culprit responsible for our collective suffering as a nation, and answers the question why despite the enormous resources budgeted every year for critical sectors of say, the economy, security, infrastructure, health care, education, name it, the sectors repeatedly underperform and at worst retrogress.
Personal integrity, Jan Water Daggur said, are ‘those characteristics of an individual that are consistently considerate, compassionate, transparent, honest and ethical.
Very few individuals, even institutions, can boast of being in possession of right attitudes to work – that positive way a worker or a political office holder carries out his or her works that can lead to increase in productivity.
Those who follow headlines closely may accept the argument as the truth that probably from 1999 when the country returned to civil rule after decades of military regime, successive administrations have budgeted billions of dollars to improve power supply in the country.
For instance, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in June this year said, as reported by many newspapers, the Buhari administration has invested not less than N900 billion in the power sector since its assumption of office in 2015. But for many reasons the volume of the supply has continued to drop.
Many communities are living in total darkness. Conflicting laws result in corruption, poor service delivery and the use of substandard equipment. The end result is a collapse in business activities.
How do we get this right? Perhaps the first step in getting rid of this torturously lingering power supply problem across the federation is attitudinal change from negative to positive. Plainly, the people entrusted with the responsibility of improving the sector from the Ministry of Power down to the menial labourers should undergo a kind of rehabilitation that will improve their personal integrity.
Successive administrations in this country have made some efforts to liberate especially ordinary Nigerians from their suffering. But from the looks of things almost all the problems our forefathers bemoaned have outlived them; and how certain are we they will not outstay the present generation?
A few weeks ago Daily Trust ran a very catchy headline: Lecturers ‘cut corners’ to get promotion. The report, to relatively a large extent, put the lid off the mafia within the academia. Lecturers at many Nigerian universities are cutting corners to get promoted. Daily Trust busted academic creeks to put the report together drawing its findings from state, federal and private universities across the federation.
The university is a perceived high moral ground that is expected to teach moral values and trains the future leaders of the country. But unfortunately the absence of personal integrity is doing the opposite.
Oftentimes, people suggest commensurate funding, improvement of teacher welfare, teacher training, provision of educational infrastructures, among other things, as viable ways of improving the standard of education in the country.
Nevertheless, President Buhari proposed a capital expenditure of N48 billion for the Ministry of Education in the 2020 appropriation bill, in addition to the N112 billion proposed for the Universal Basic Education (UBEC). All these notwithstanding, the first step in the right direction is to instill personal integrity in the minds of the stakeholders in education. Why?
Sometime ago, an executive secretary of the State Universal Basic Education Board of one of the north west states told me of how the board he heads save more than N300 million by uncovering scores of ghost workers. Imagine the amount.
Some people have left teaching profession. They rate teaching second to joblessness and still they have the audacity to receive remunerations they did not work for. Aren’t they in need of rehabilitation of personal integrity?
There is a practical instance of this. On Thursday, December 19, 2019, The Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, graduated 628 ASPs. In addition to officers the institution produces, it is introducing some courses bordering on crimes to equip the police officers with the knowledge and skills needed for effective policing.
Nigeria has been investing huge resources and even created the Ministry of Police Affairs to realize the academy’s mission of producing superior police officers to ensure security of life and property. Yet there is a gap. The commandant of the Academy, AIG Zanna M. Ibrahim, summarized this in few words:
“We are about to face daunting challenges. In the discharge of your duties always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That is why it is important for you to devote your time and energy to the promotion of public order and security. I encourage you to be selfless.” This advice would have brought to an end the menace of happy-trigger(ism) and reduce crime rates in the country.
A protector turned torturer. On Thursday December 24, 2019, Premium Times ran a headline: While IDPs starve, NEMA shares food items to staff. According to the report, during the 2019 lean season (June-August), about 3.6 million people were in need of urgent assistance in the four sub-national areas of lake Chad Basin.
Most of the people were pushed forcefully to IDPs either due to physical strife between farmers and herders or insecurity in the north east, leading to food insecurity.
While these poor people starve, sadly the report claims officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were seen sharing food items meant for IDPs.
To sum it up, as long as Nigerians refuse to take a second look at the main cause of their sufferings, as long as Nigerians refuse to learn that their sufferings are self-inflicted owing to their deep-seated racket in almost everything and say nay to rehabilitation of personal integrity, the county will continue to wallow in the wilderness.
Abdulhamid wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter yassar 2013
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily