By Remi Oyeyemi
In what seems to be the victory of evil over good, many of us are witnesses to the upside down turn of those things considered sacrosanct. It appears that many of us are living in a different world very diametrical to the ones in which we were all raised as kids. Yes, those good old days when we as kids, were raised in a society that places the highest premium on integrity, honest hard work, explainable source of wealth, self respect and dignity.
Kids in that era, first wanted to grow up to have a profession and become doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, accountants and what have you. Those who did not have aptitude for formal education made forays into carpentry, car repairs, bricklaying and several others. Each and everyone believed that honest living could be made from each venture either as artisans, traders or professionals. It is after you have had a profession, or a trade that one could now think and talk of making some money legitimately.
The philosophical template in that milieu was that “good name is better than gold and silver.” We were raised to always protect the name of our family as that ought to and actually was regarded as more important than anything. Loyalty to one’s family, community and society at large was of great value that was appropriately rewarded while perfidy was promptly punished by several social consequences in place. An extension of the template was that everyone is responsible for the progress of society. Non-conformists of the positive genre were celebrated and encouraged while destructive deviants were frowned upon with swift and appropriate sanction. In that milieu, comfortability was always the goal, not undue materialism. Success was celebrated and praised, but not when it was tainted and blemished.
If anyone suddenly came into wealth, the source of which could not be explained, the entire community became suspicious. They would begin to ask questions. Where the resources were available, discreet investigations were conducted. They want to get to the root of the matter. If and when their questions were not appropriately answered, such persons of unexplained resources became pariah. The community would stay away from them. They were not invited into community get together. At social functions, others avoid them like the plague. No one wants to marry into such a family. Such a family’s name would have been soiled.
The willingness of the young to want to learn from elders was self evident. Brilliant young men were celebrated and encouraged. They were expected to use their brilliance to uplift their people and their communities. Every legitimately successful person in the community was seen as a collective asset to be propped and acknowledged while the propped always saw self from the purview of his community.
Everything was based on family value. “Eko ile” or home training was very much valued. It was regarded as the foundation of the society. The love and respect for one’s mother; the awe and respect for one’s father; the mutual affection and adoration amongst siblings; the fondness and appreciation for the extended family and the love of and loyalty to one’s community, each form an indispensable twine in the chain of communal survival and preservation. Be your brother’s keeper. Always lend a hand to the needy, young and or old. It was one for all and all for one.
This is not to say that in the milieu under examination we did not have odious and destructive deviants. No, that is not the case by any means. We still had evil men and or women with evil intentions in those communities of yore. There were injurious jealousies and venomous envies. There were bitter rivalries and unhealthy competitions. There were perfidious acts, murders, slander and greed. But they were few and far in between. When they occurred, they were very swiftly and appropriately sanctioned as a means of discouragement.
But it seems times have changed. The values once cherished by us all are no longer applicable in today’s world. It seems that evil has finally become victorious over good. Things evidently are different nowadays. We are now in a world where duping one’s father is a routine, exploiting the love and faith of one’s mother is normal, stabbing your siblings in the back is considered “smart,” and hoodwinking one’s members of extended family is an act deemed to be of a product of “great intelligence.” You trust others at your own peril.
Unlike the olden days, one’s word is no longer one’s bond. Most people would now say anything to get anything. Integrity has become a handicap to and for those who still cuddle it. Maintaining one’s dignity has become a daily excruciating yoke. Kindness has become an agonizing burden. Any display of honesty is seen as a magnificent manifestation of innate idiocy. You see artisans who would take money and never do the job. Professionals cut corners to make the most out of an unsuspecting client who had put his or her trust in them in the first instance.
The breakdown of family values has by implication led to the breakdown of communities in particular and societies in general. The nauseating excreta resulting from this breakdown has seeped into the politics of our polity. Though, some would argue that it was immoral politics that brought this upon us in the first place. But this in turn, has permeated the economic, social and religious facets. Rigging of elections seemed to be a new normalcy. It no longer shocks. People seemed to now expect it as a matter of course. Cheating and conning, public lying and larceny, deceit and distrust as well as swindling and subverting have become the new norms.
This is why nowadays, a James Ibori could be discovered to be a rogue and still be loved and adored by some. This is why an Olusegun Obasanjo would rig elections, and would still be able to command significant faithful. This is why a Mohamadu Buhari would commit mindless murder via retroactive laws and still hope to be rewarded with leadership. This is why a Goodluck Jonathan, dour, incompetent, seemingly guileless, would seek to bribe others with our money and not lose a sleep over it. This is why a Tunde Bakare would think that consistency and integrity of his decision do not matter. This is why an Ibrahim Babangida would still see himself as a kingmaker. This is why the son of a Mohammed Abacha is still able to show his face in public as he angles to become a governor. This is why a Diepreye Alamieyeseigha would escape justice and have a hero’s welcome. This is why an Andy Ubah would unleash violence on entire state and still have some followers. This is why a Michael Andoakaa would be an Attorney General and still provide the lead in subverting the laws of the country without any misgivings.
These few names, out of several, represent the faces of the new “morality.” Kleptomania comes naturally to them. They have no qualms about what they have done to the collective psyche. They seem very proud to espouse the odious inanities of this “new morality” and tried to convince the rest of us to accept it as the new definition of the new noxious order. They constantly explain away and redefine what we all knew to be self evident as they ostentatiously display their ill gotten wealth. Their control of the reigns of power and bountiful resources that come with it, became lethal weapons in this endeavor. Lethal weapons used to force the rest of us to listen to the cacophony of their perjured definition of morality, even if we have to hold our noses.
It is this mindset that informed the sad unbelief of President Goodluck Jonathan that, with all his own limitations, he was in position to win the election, without some of the observed riggings, re-run or no re-run. He did not trust the people enough to allow an unfettered election. This same mindset is what explained the arrogant reluctance of Mohamadu Buhari to condemn the carnage in the Sharia North where massive underage voting was reported. This same mindset is responsible for the ostrich approach of Pastor Tunde Bakare, a messenger of God, who has not, up to the time of writing this, deemed it fit to condemn the murders of innocent citizens, some of them Christians, in the Sharia North.
With flagrant flippancy, they and their ilk across the land, arrogantly gallivant around our space, claiming ownership of our destiny, asking us to follow their corrupted lead or get out of this world to make way for them. Shamelessly and ceaselessly, they feed us with preachments of the “new morality,” not so much by their talking, but by their ignoble actions, asking us to accept it or leave it. They audaciously insult our sensibilities and publicly engage in moral turpitudes. With effrontery, they could take bags of rice to polling units to buy votes, and publicly offer money to influence voting patterns without any fear of being challenged. They could tactically encourage carnage against innocent citizens, through their utterances, and not lose any sleep. Bombs have been exploding. People have been dying. But it did not matter to them. It is their new normalcy, the new vogue and the new morality.
The rest of us have been shocked into stupor. With our ability to stop them obviously distressed, we watched on helplessly and wondered what the heck has befallen us. As they ruthlessly continue before our very eyes, to moralize immorality, we became transfixed; our spirits suddenly become inorganic as we continue to pant with non-expressive trepidation.
The worst part of this parody is that some of our youth have bought into this dangerous trend. All they care about is money and not how it is made. All they care about is material wealth and not how it is acquired. All they care about is political power for its sake and not as a means to a productive and positive end. All they care about is themselves and not about others. There is a new god of unenlightened individuality – crude and cruel in its genre, brutish and barbaric in its modality as well as mean and maniacal in its nature. It is fast turning everyone in the community into wolves and our polity into a jungle.
Most of these youth are very abrasive, which could be an asset, but seemed to have limited understanding of themselves. Even if their interpretation of our History would be different, they seem unclear about what kind of society they want to build for themselves and those coming after them. They have the proverbial fire in their bellies but have no idea what to burn with it. But before you jump into blaming them, remember that they are products of the “wasted generation,” apology to Professor Wole Soyinka.
Debased values could only result to a debased people. Immorality of leadership could only lead to retrogression of the polity and possibly the destruction of that polity. Since aridity of courage and vision is the distinguished character of the Nigerian stakeholders, they are not likely to make decisions that could serve the interests of the ordinary people, despite the obvious message in this last election – that Nigerians are not one people, they have never been one people and they would not be one people.
This is why the latest election on the national level is not a harbinger of any real hope or substantive change. Just open any news website and or newspapers and see evidence of grief resulting from the last carnage. Now, the peace of the sepulcher is in the air. It is another postponement of the doomsday. How long do we have to wait? How many innocent women and children do we have to waste? How much property do we have to destroy? What will it take just to summon the courage to RESTRUCTURE this behemoth? To make the kind of change required in this milieu is a monumental challenge. But it is a challenge that would have to be met eventually: RESTRUCTURE or BREAK UP Nigeria.