Values are the set of ideals that determine the choices and priorities of an individual or a society. And those choices indicate the price or value the individual or society places on themselves. If an individual believes that material wealth and possession are the make-ups of life, you will see expression in crude greed and avarice. If an individual or society places value on honesty, learning, sacrifice, and service, you can see manifestation in the things they give recognition to. The dictionary definition of “value”, which accords with the tenor of my essay, is this: “The quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable or valuable.” What we desire is called “lust” (which could be positive or negative).
Nigerians, let us reason together. Who are we most likely to give awards to? How many civil servants are given awards in a year compared to public officials, who “win” awards for the only reason that they occupy lofty public offices, and not for their verifiable accomplishments in those offices? And the awardees are usually shamelessly required to “pay some token in order to print their profiles”. I have turned down all of such offers of awards! Obviously, the motivation of those who make such awards is often not noble, but to “win” back money, huge amounts of it. Here is a symptom of our national ailment—the love of money. In Nigeria today, it seems to be an anomaly to reward courage and bravery, knowledge and good performance, sacrifice and honesty. In Nigeria, if you neither have money nor occupy a public office, little value is placed on you by society no matter the depth of your knowledge and wisdom, your dedication to duty, or love for truth and honesty (in fact, you may even become a victim for such virtues). Thus, the public (called the “masses”) that accuses public officials of corruption adores the same accused for the display of the allegedly ill-gotten wealth, and would not hesitate to get their “share” if offered. This is hypocrisy.
Nigerians are caught in a web of contradictions. We “fight against corruption”, and yet permit an environment that encourages it. We set very exorbitant fees for nomination forms for candidates of elective offices, even far above the official salaries for occupants of those offices for the whole tenure. The electorate would not vote for you if you don’t part with huge sums of money, which they don’t care how you obtain. And as soon as the “elected” enters upon the office, they start demanding for “dividends of democracy.” Do we give time enough to ponder these things? Some years ago, when I considered running for a public office, I told my kindred chief that I was not prepared to spend my personal money if I would be a sent servant to run public errands for my people in Abuja. I expected that if the people bought into my ideas for selfless representation in the National Assembly, then they should contribute, at least at some point in the voyage, towards the dream. Some said that was not how things worked in the Nigerian political space then. I hope things have changed for the better; but if not, we have a long walk to freedom.
Every human being is a prisoner—prisoner of hope, or prisoner of blindness to the true value of life. We live by hope. When we offer miniscule reward for civil or public service, we encourage the worst out of men and women of little self-control, and not the best. Nigerian leaders should reconsider the reward system. The cost of poor reward outgrows the benefits. The service you get at a hotel is determined by the rates you pay; the quality of a dress at the garment shop is often determined by the price tag (value); and the social quality of a nation is determined by the value the leaders place on the people. What value do we place on human life in Nigeria? How unyielding are the efforts of security operatives to fish out the murderer of one Nigerian? The fact that we hardly apprehend and punish killers is itself a motivation to waste human lives with impunity. The heads of all relevant security chiefs in Nigeria should be forced out of office now by Mr President. They have failed to protect human lives, which are priceless. It is enough! Why does the President of Nigeria keep rewarding the inefficiency of those service chiefs (at national, state, and local levels), who have proved they lack the required capacity to protect Nigerians in the villages and towns; on the farms and in the market places? When a soccer coach posts a string of losses, he is changed to improve the fortunes of the club. It is time to change the security chiefs in Nigeria, and President Buhari should consider this. Now is the time. We ought to punish inefficiency, and reward competence; otherwise we communicate a misleading message.
Nigerians, please, don’t lose hope, for if you do, you cease to truly live.
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