AN ETHICAL REVOLUTION… OR EVOLUTION?

Revolution…That word to me, readily evokes images of rebellions, uprisings, inquisitions, and angry hordes storming the Bastille of their resentment. Ethics – the system of moral principles that dictate the rules of conduct in society. Conscience, morality, and the like, are all ethical considerations. 

Ethical Revolution…when the President made a call for an ethical revolution, some weeks ago, my adventurous mind, married the two variables and in its expedition, came up with the following: I imagined our own dear President (horn-rimmed glasses and all) on dazzling white charger, a benevolent Maitatsine, with his pious army, on a moral jihad, demolishing ill- gotten edifices, and destroying the inhumane, the corrupt and the tribalists with one swipe of his broadsword. 

He, in his capacity as a latter day Usman Dan Fodio, would purge the country of all its vices, destroying all unpatriotic elements, and establishing “his vision of Nigeria.” But against the cold hard reality of what is corrupt Nigeria, the idea of our mild-mannered President establishing a new social order, a revolutionary change for the better, is alas but a pipe dream, or at best, the musings of a visionary. However, instead of a Revolution, why not an evolution? An evolution suggests a gradual and progressive change in a state of being and so in an ethical evolution one would expect a gradual change in the ethics of Nigeria. 

There would be minute and barely discernible changes in moral judgments, actions and most especially attitudes to one another. We would slowly but surely unfetter ourselves from the temporal bonds of naira-mania, tribalism, greed, and in one-word, gross-materialism; and pursue in its stead the loftier goals of brotherhood, love, peace, and more realistically, nation-building. 

But as it’s often said: “Nigeria is a country in a hurry”, and so we ask ourselves, have we got the patience to wait on father time until we morally evolve into a forthright nation? And in evolving, will all societal variables remain relatively unchanged? What I mean is, in improving our attitudes and responsibilities to our fellow Nigerians, would the socio-economic milieu be conducive to a change in our National Ethics? 

Arguing beyond this point would be a purely academic venture, and a waste of time. But the question must be asked. Are we really ready for an ethical change…by revolution or evolution? The answer is clear to everybody. (Or I should think so) — a categorical No! I don’t think we really want to change; we are having a rollicking time wallowing in the ordure of lies, avarice, hypocrisy, corruption, duplicity, tribalism, and the least of all, filth! And we are vigorously burrowing ourselves into the dark, dark depths of decadence. 

And until we reach the nadir of societal decay, that is reminiscent of Ancient Rome, our collective mission would not be complete. Because a society so steeped in gross materialism, as to mortgage its probity and its conscience, can’t possibly want to change. 

A society that does not question “how” and “when” you got your money, but “where” it is now, and how you are going to spend it, can’t possibly want a change. A society where dead bodies are a common sight in peacetime and nobody has any regard for sacredness of human life can’t possibly want to change. 

And we are all in it together, those taking an active part in destroying and corrupting society, and the millions of passive observers whose silence in the face of such decay, is a tacit consent for its propagation. And if we continue to fold our arms and do nothing when “our house” is on “fire”, we shall all surely be engulfed in the conflagration…whether we ignited the fire or not. 

Sounding like this, it’s easy to be condemned as a fatalist, or at best, a short- sighted pessimist. But even a casual look in the direction of the leadership of this country, and the psyche of the Nigerian, almost compels you to want to go on your knees and pray for some form of divine intervention. And by leadership, I don’t mean the incumbent administration alone; I mean the whole load of them, political parties, politicians, legislature, and every single member of the top segment of society. I am sick and tired of oily-faced politicians lying through their teeth to the masses about everything from their age, to the state of the economy. 

I am sick and tied of poker-faced Ministers coming on television to deny allegations that are obviously true and known scoundrels masquerading as one advisor or the other. “Bigmen” embezzling and getting away with taxpayers money, while some other Nigerians are sleeping and starving under bridges. I am sure a lot of other Nigerians are fed up too! They are fed up with seeing bloated camels every day passing through the eyes of minuscule needles, with the law and the judiciary looking the other way. 

One can expend a lot of energy and verbiage railing at the system and changing nothing! But even then, I am forced to ask, where are we going? A democracy is supposed to be founded on reciprocal trust between the elected, and the electorate. And the elected are supposed to represent the interests of the electorate, in the institutions of democracy. But our democracy has to be different (as usual). 

What we have is a lopsided democracy, with elected offices relieving themselves of all responsibilities to the masses (who put them there), once in office. Not content with “riding on the backs” of the masses to elected offices, they “jab” us periodically in the ribs with the “stirrups” to remind us who is boss. 

And the latest “jab” is the “ten percent salary cut” issue. Our legislatures have shown to us Nigerians, again, that they simply do not care about what happens to the Nation or to Nigerians. Of course we know that a ten percent cut in their salaries would not necessarily put the bounce back in our economy. 

But they missed the moral point. With the President calling on all Nigerians to make sacrifices for the nation; and the poor man tightening the excruciating grip on his belt even further, our “Honourables” have shattered whatever illusions we had about their commitment to the nation. The ten percent cut in their salary would have been a symbolic gesture of their political and personal responsibility to the nation, and sympathy with the masses, that are hardest hit by our depleted economy. 

But I suppose their reprobation is because we don’t care, or because even if we did, we can’t do anything about it. But I must warn — Nigerians are not dumb, and their reticence should not be misconstrued to mean an inability to act. And when the time comes, I am sure we shall all rise in unison, and shout ‘ENOUGH! NO MORE!’… Then we might have an ethical revolution … or evolution. 

The Punch 1982 

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