Values, Re-orientation and National Renewal


Noah Dallaji, Founder, African Children Talent Discovery Foundation draws attention to the infamous Nigerian factor which weighs down on great ideals and opportunities

“Sixty years of nationhood provides an opportunity to ask ourselves question on the extent to which we have sustained the aspirations of our founding fathers. Where did we do the right things? Are we on course? If not where did we stray and how can we remedy and retrace our steps?”

These were the candid words of President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech marking the nation’s 60th anniversary. These words obviously speak to our collective essence, a crucial concern, I believe, we need to consider and reconsider, in tandem with our burning desire to attain our deserved greatness.

From the era of the founding fathers to the present, we have made some significant progress even though many also believe we could have performed better, in alignment with some profound projections by eminent commentators about the nation’s potentials for greatness. Indeed, sharing his high optimism in this regard in the eighties, renowned political economist, the late Claude Ake wrote that “The future of Nigeria is very bright more than any country on earth. The country has a very important role to play in reshaping the future of man”.
Regrettably, we have come to see a trajectory of our national development as one fraught with societal failure, policy and leadership challenges.

With deeper reflection, however, it is observed that the issue hadn’t been much about good policies but with actualization. Yet a key part of this unfortunate reality is the so-called Nigerian factor which continues to weigh down on great ideals and opportunities with the attendant negatives in our development narrative.
Even with the swelling bluster in the polity over where the power pendulum swings ahead 2023, the overriding concern, I think, is how we can make the nation truly work to serve the greater good on Nigerians.

It is in this regard that one would want to make the important case for national regeneration of our society, making sure the nation truly works, with a major focus on value re-orientation without which the best leader in the world will find it difficult to make any headway in running a modern and efficient administration that delivers the goods.

I strongly hold the view that the society as currently constituted, in critical social formations, is bedeviled by value crisis and unless this is corrected in gradual but effective succession, there is danger ahead, a situation that would continually militate even compounding our quest for greatness. In which case, the challenge we face transcends that of power acquisition but getting the fabric of society behave in some acceptable manner that can make the power holder do his or her job and deliver on it since the society functions in agreement with those values that help to make society truly work and for the betterment of all.

Nigeria is not the only country facing socio-economic challenges, virtually all countries are having their own bout occasioned by global factors especially the Covid-19 pandemic and some structural problems, but the clear difference is the level of adaptation, consistent value system and hope to overcome such challenges. Both the leaders and the led work in consonance with the ideals of society to produce results, cohesion and stability. And no matter the circumstance, the people know and understand the rules of engagement as everyone behaves responsibly knowing full well that there are sanctions for deviant behavior, and no matter whose ox is gored. Everyone appreciates the need for decorum, basic norm, discipline and orderliness. Agreed, no society is free of crime and delinquent behaviour but the point of divergence is the degree and bizarre nature of occurrence and regularity, essentially and continually threatening the survival of such society and consequently the jarring alarm bell.

Now you begin to understand the huge concern when you consider the spate of kidnapping, banditry, terror, insurgency, rape, ritual killings, mind boggling high scale fraud both in style and organization, corruption, baby factory where babies are sold to any bidder, mother and father selling their children to raise money, jumping queues and all sorts of sharp practices to beat established protocols and a general failing of standard in family, desecration of institutions and society. You are likely to be amazed and very worried as widely reported in the media that one Owolabi Adeeko had to kill her girl friend, a 400 level student in a university and prepared her body as ritual pepper soup for him and his mother all in a rabid quest to make money.

You further begin to wonder why a legitimate protest by the youths (#EndSARS) was hijacked by hoodlums to perpetrate such heinous act of massive looting and destruction of private and public properties never witnessed in this country. It’s indefensible either situated as unemployment pang or socio-economic deprivation especially in view of government/s prompt response to the demands of our youths and other related economic reliefs in policies and programmes. Yes, governments everywhere are challenged on this and must continue to respond with effective policies and reforms but the resort to brigandage does not show civility.

I hold the view that the situation is now in a free fall and something urgent has to be done to arrest the drift. Reordering the society through some necessary democratic reforms should now be a priority, top on the shelf of constituted authorities.
We must emphasise that failure to embrace the basic values which can uphold society to function optimally in the diverse elements of society is the root cause of our degeneration and must be rectified to create the enabling stability in our social system. Yes, attitudinal reorientation is well known as the most basic step to take in addressing such sociological issues

Thus there is urgent need for reorientation, a total overhauling, embracing critical values that can regenerate society, a must if our nation would ever fulfill her promise of greatness.
In recognition of its utility, successive administrations have actually taken some bold steps to rectify the anomaly through various reorientation programmes. From Ethical Revolution to War Against Indiscipline, Mobilisation for Self Reliance and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), to Good People Great Nation, Heart of Africa project, Do the Right Thing Transform Nigeria to Change Begins with me, conscious efforts had been made to remake the mentality of Nigerians to embrace some decent attitude and character in our national life. But sadly, not much has been recorded as a reflection of the expected values. The situation does not seem to have actually changed for the better.

It is important to point out that the degeneration of these values has in no small measure contributed to the current state of our economy, failing standard and our not too pleasant national image. The import of such immoral behavior among a few of our citizens becomes so telling at major international airports around the world as one is subjected to embarrassing checks because one is holding the green passport. May be we have to also rejig our foreign policy to tell our true story and tell the world we are far better than imagined. Though I agree that there is the challenge of discipline, honesty and integrity which requires a total reformation of society. Therefore, there is the urgent need for a holistic reorientation to usher in a new clime of decency and responsibility among the citizenry.

Since the National Orientation Agency is the institution charged with this responsibility, then the body should begin in earnest a review of its past activities to restart again. It is the most important issue in the nation today because it is the basis for reclaiming our lost glory and hopefully build a structure that can remake Nigeria. It is the fulcrum of how we can do better in our economic and political life. An acculturated person with the right values will neither hijack ballot boxes nor rig election because there is an established standard by which society is measured. Public policies and programmes can only achieve desired goals when they are properly implemented and the crux here is that the process of implementing such policies and programmes will have to be carried out by individuals whose orientation (good or bad) will eventually dictate the rate of success. Without the requisite patriotism, policies and programmes will not work. Intrinsically, the mindset has to change for us to have any meaningful development as a factor of societal reengineering.
And the starting point is the family where, today, there is dysfunction owing to debasement of values. We should talk more about effective parenting. Perhaps the strategy could change to really achieve expected result by taking the message so vigorously down to the fabric of society, including the schools, traditional and religious bodies and our institutions.

In this envisaged new crusade for reformation, we must take cognizance of the peculiarity of both our traditional and religious environment, ensuring a paradigm shift in how these influential bodies conduct affairs in relation to socialization as a medium of reorientation. They are powerful institutions which could help in this reengineering process.

One is particularly worried though about religious and ethnic sentiments all over the country which as we can see have taken a larger than life position in societal reckoning and actually tearing us apart. We must check the excesses.
Without doubt, we also need to look at the leadership question, which should focus on the crucial issue of leadership recruitment process in order to build a new set of leaders who are purposeful and patriotic to drive the required change we crave in the years ahead. Leadership in this regard transcends political leadership as we beam the searchlight on educational leaders, business leaders, and community leaders, religious and traditional leaders. Their essential relevance is to serve as transformative leaders, who are well inured with and conscious of what’s at stake vis-à-vis the call for national redemption. In critical dimension, these set of people determine how society responds to any change process and should be taken seriously.

And to a large extent, they play significant roles in how society functions because of their pervading influence in their respective environments which could infuse and sustain good values into our social system. Indeed, with this kind of leaders in the envisaged arrangement, then, we are likely to have functional institutions particularly on the key issue of accountability and due process, two major factors which have combined to ruin our national aspiration for greatness. Embedded in all the above, however, is how we can put in place a result-oriented value reorientation programme aimed at inculcating good values that can help Nigeria refocus on our road to moving from potential to actual greatness. The issues here will necessarily go beyond rebranding as mere tokenism as experience has shown but delivering on the inherent issues to really change the narrative as we know it.

Generally, however, it is not all gloom. Nigerians are perhaps some of the best set of people in the world but tainted by the nefarious activities of a few. At home and around the world, Nigerians are breaking news grounds of accomplishments.
In the corporate world, music industry and the arts where Nollywood is hugely attractive and proclaiming our creativity internationally, business and sports, Nigerians are making huge impact.

By the way, Nigerian- born Adewale Adeyemo has now been named by President-elect, Joe Biden, to serve as Deputy Treasury Secretary in the new administration. He is currently the President of the Obama Foundation. There’s also the remarkable Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, a Yale professor of Medicine, who led the Pfizer team that produced the Covid-19 vaccine. We can also remember Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, a fetal and pediatric surgeon who performed the baby-in-utero feat surgery in the US, just as we reckon that Dr. Oladotun Okunola served as personal doctor to Hilary Clinton. The great graces of extraordinariness among Nigerians abroad include the recent celebration of Robert Okojie, when he was inducted into the inventors Hall of Fame at the US’s National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA). Dr. Wendy Okolo is equally making her own waves in the same acclaimed institution.

Yet, Amaka Osakwe is Michelle Obama’s designer and also clothes top celebrities in Hollywood like Lupita Nyongo and Solange. Still we remember that Kehinde Wiley, the naturalistic painter, was commissioned by President Barrack Obama to paint his portrait for the Smithsonian National Park Gallery, housing portraits of all US presidents in New York. The list of such great achievements is limitless as Nigerians are conquering the world in major fields of endeavour but this trait is what we should now localize and in greater number by virtue of our redirection towards good attitude and behaviours.

We can’t achieve this if we do not change the complex web of notoriety for immoral and bad behavior by some of our compatriots. This is so because in the words of Jeffrey Gitomer, “Great people have great values and great ethics”. We can also borrow from Aristotle when he wrote that “We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly”.
It is when we have corrected the inherent societal anomalies that we can hopefully be regenerated and boldly say Claude Ake was right, afterall, about his predicted greatness of Nigeria.
However, how much of the optimism we share and internalize will depend on how far we also relate with President Buhari’s opening thoughts above by accepting that we have strayed in some parts and ready to retrace our steps. We must rethink our value re-orientation as a national imperative.