• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria – A case for moral rearmament

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In 1938, during the crisis leading to the Second World War with its attendant economic downturn, Europe was rearming militarily. Frank Buchman, an American minister, was convinced that military rearmament alone would not resolve the crisis. At a meeting of 3,000 in East Ham Town Hall, London, on 29 May 1938, he launched a campaign for Moral Rearmament. “The crisis is fundamentally a moral one,” he said. “The nations must rearm morally. Moral recovery is essentially the forerunner of economic recovery. Moral recovery creates not crisis but confidence and unity in every phase of life.”

Nigerians need to celebrate the huge success of the transition from one ruling party to a different party entirely. This is the first time we have witnessed such a peaceful transition after a vicious and acrimonious electioneering campaign. This has signalled the maturity of our democracy and serves as a watershed in our trajectory in national development.

As the government of President Muhammadu Buhari settles down and expectedly begins to chart a new course for the nation, so much is being said especially about the economy, corruption and high wage bills for public servants in elective positions.

I have watched the debates and listened to different viewpoints on what the issues are and what needs to be done. In my humble opinion, the problem with Nigeria can be encapsulated in moral degradation as evidenced in erosion of values and rise in impunity.

It is generally believed, and wrongly so, that corruption can be singled out as the problem with Nigeria. Corruption is merely the symptom or an offshoot of a larger problem. All humans exude almost the same reflexes and sensibilities with regard to self-preservation. What has happened in Nigeria is that due to poor leadership and governance at all tiers, the sinewy values which hold society’s fabric have been totally eroded.

We are celebrating the wrong values in Nigeria and the younger ones appear to believe that it is the societal norm. People have wealth that they cannot explain how it came about and the society goes ahead to celebrate them. They are being given awards by various institutions including media houses. The royal fathers are not left out in the dishing of awards and titles.   The media are awash with birthday celebrations of relatively young Nigerians including those whose sources of wealth are to say the least shady. These dubious characters become elevated in the rungs of societal ladder and occupy high tables at ceremonies while we turn around to blame corruption for grinding our systems to a halt. In other climes, when you earn wealth illegally, you hide to enjoy the wealth and you dare not flaunt it before the society.

Hard work goes largely unrewarded in our society and hardworking Nigerians are seen as failures by the society. The plunderers of our commonwealth would begin to have a rethink the day we begin to ignore them or treat them with cold shoulders in public gatherings, be they in villages, churches or mosques.

Secondly, I hear people say that the ‘approved’ emoluments of our elected politicians should be slashed. I beg to disagree. The problem is not with the approved salary structure for the executive or the legislature but the lack of checks and balances in the management of public funds.

For the private sector employees, their salaries are higher than those of some of the elected public servants yet their expenses/lifestyles are miles apart from those of public officials. While there are defined procedures for all actions in the organized private sector, the public sector is characterized by sheer impunity and outright abuse of laid-down procedures without any repercussion. What is the salary of a governor compared to his lifestyle or living standard? The salary of a governor is much lower than that of some general managers in the private sector, yet the elected or appointed public servant lives like a billionaire.

What is required is for there to be ‘defined’ policy for every action(s) such as travel allowances, mode of travel, frequency of foreign trips and the size of the entourage and others. Merely slashing the salary of public servants without addressing their actions or creating defined checks and balances is merely playing to the gallery and the savings from such salary reduction will be wiped out by other bogus and limitless expenses.

In moving Nigeria forward, Nigerians should stop putting the blame squarely on corruption; rather we should ensure strict conformity to societal values with nationalistic fervour and create a society where everyone is accountable.

Wilson Ideva