By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
The fumes of public discourses – or more correctly, public displays – make any opinion outside of hammering the idiotic and impunitious spectacles of senior executive officials exchanging words with federal legislators in televised probe dramas…as nothing short of Afganistanism. That is a mouthful way of explaining a writer’s preoccupation with happenings and socio-cultural upheavals in countries thousands of miles away; yet his home-grown shenanigans piling up to the roof are studiously ignored.
One is able to premise a no-guilty plea when you take the sum-total of our four-part treatise as excursions into public and private etiquettes…a clarion call to take a deeper look at our ethical and value-adding elevation or lionization of genuine representations of the Nigerian society. What we are concluding today is part of what is ailing our society – a complete absence of shame and disregard for values (or a complete lack of exposure to modifying values) such that today’s so-called adults and godfathers behave as if they had no “home-training” and foundational pruning wherein you were taught not to steal, covet or cheat to gain advantage or escape due punishment.
It is so sad today that men and women in their 50’s and 60’s with pretensions to scholarship (professors, lawyers, doctors, etc) are serially accused of fiscal and managerial “pickpocketing” of their official positions, held in trust; and their responses to these astonishing accusations range from “she had four ex-husbands…”, “you’re a Mushin boy… I’m a V. I. boy…”, “I’m the same age as your Oga in Lagos…”, “We fed school children with billions of naira in their homes…” or “yes, we shared hundreds of billions as palliatives across Nigeria…but we cannot disclose names of beneficiaries…”.
Others respond to allegations of high stealing and misappropriation by acting clinical epilepsy… strapping on neck-braces…hugging surgical trolleys…and all sorts of diversionary nonsense. Without a scintilla of shame… nor a spectre of sanction.
The level of official disregard for extant laws and fiscal responsibility is so prevalent and keen that many Nigerians watch in utter disbelief…haplessly wishing grave and disastrous comeuppance upon these daylight bandits stinking the corridors of power with their grandstanding and nonchalance.
However, it was not this bad at the beginning of this nation-state…the African societies were not this tolerating of and lethargic to unarmed robberies. We didn’t start our ancestry on this template of insulting disregard for the starving majority by a clutch of irredeemable carpetbaggers who appear uncontrollable and untouchable…even as their hopelessly atrocious behaviors fill the airspace. You just wonder: does the president read the same newspapers…watch the same television…or browse the internet? His boys and girls are not hiding, nor relenting on assaulting the commonwealth…with uncommon greed and impunity!
Before we completely digress, let us bring this tetralogy to some kind of conclusion. How did we get here? What did our forefathers set as examples for us? Let us review the source of our original worldview…to appreciate the viciousness of the current departure from the path of honour and virtue.
Now, let us probe the underlying factors that should influence our reading and acceptance of “book” definitions of a Celebrity based on environmental conceptions and pre-occupation of Western and American civilizations.
It is in understanding and appreciating the honour of place accorded certain concepts of human transactions amongst the African people, and the black race in general, that has promoted and made to flourish thousands of years of shared cultural and ethno-religious harmony and integration.
Even when the concepts of societal values, driven by environmental peculiarities of American, Asian and similar scholarship, dominate contemporary imaginations, we can still find few shared cultural experiences. Let us go through a few explanations of societal valuation around the world:
“Here are seven social values: Respect. Justice/Fairness. Honesty. Service/Giving
Back/Contribution. Responsibility. Family. Community.” – Quora.com (July 21, 2017)
“Social values form an important part of the culture of the society… They provide the general guidelines for social conduct. Values such as fundamental rights, patriotism, respect for human dignity, rationality, sacrifice, individuality, equality, democracy, etc., guide our behaviour in many ways.” – Yourarticlelibrary.com
“Our values are important because they help us to grow and develop. They help us to create the future we want to experience… The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs, and they are always directed towards a specific purpose.” – Valuescentre.com (May 29, 2019)
One writer breaks it down admirably. Puja Mondal, in “Values: It’s Meaning, Characteristics, Types, Importance”, enthuses: “Generally, value has been taken to mean moral ideas, general conceptions or orientations towards the world or sometimes simply interests, attitudes, preferences, needs, sentiments and dispositions.
– Values are collective conceptions of what is considered good, desirable, and proper or bad, undesirable, and improper in a culture.
– Familiar examples of values are wealth, loyalty, independence, equality, justice, fraternity and friendliness. These are generalised ends consciously pursued by or held up to individuals as being worthwhile in themselves.
– Characteristics: Values may be specific, such as honouring one’s parents or owning a home; or they may be more general, such as health, love and democracy.
– ‘Truth prevails’, ‘love thy neighbour as yourself’, ‘learning is good’ are a few examples of general values.
– Individual achievement, individual happiness and materialism are major values of modern industrial society.” – Yourarticlelibrary.com
We cannot conclude our discussion on concepts of societal values without weighing in with an African perspective. This shall be supplied by Sunday Awoniyi’s “African Cultural Values: The Past, Present And Future”: “… ‘values’ refer to the attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and actions that are cherished and acceptable standards of behaviours which each society expects that the members should abide by. Although, values differ from person to person and from one society to another. This is because social groups or human societies have various beliefs, attitudes and standards that form their value system…
…Although, it is important to note that talking about African cultural values does not imply that by any means there are no cultural disvalues or negative features of the African cultures…
African people have various moral and societal values meant to regulate interpersonal relationship and to perpetuate the entire community. Africans have certain standards or norms to be observed. These standards or norms are meant for social cohesion and smooth running of the community. They are to prevent members of the community from becoming rebellious and thereby endanger the welfare of the society. In African society, there are a set of values that guide the behavior of every member. Specific mention could be made of values such as hospitality, chastity before marriage, truth, respect for old age, covenant keeping, hard work and good character….” (Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa – Volume 17, No.1, 2015).
In conclusion, public figures such as Celebrities are, broadly speaking, expected to portray certain elements of societal values (morals, virtues or norms) since their lifestyles and positioning combine to influence, motivate and inspire the general public. Such values include: accountability, decency/integrity, financial independence, education/enlightenment, honesty/fair play, loyalty/group fidelity, caring/compassion, giving/charity, discipline/forthrightness.
The above are some of the means (highlights) of societal values, while the ends (consequences) are peace, health, comfort, brotherhood, kinship, communal progress, advancement, etc.
Questions: Where are such Nigerian men and women, in public space? Have you seen any Celebrity lately?