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Nigeria: In search of people of honour and integrity

Nigerians are routinely forced to undergo torrid experiences which in many instances are avoidable when people are not sleeping on their jobs and importantly when…

Nigerians are routinely forced to undergo torrid experiences which in many instances are avoidable when people are not sleeping on their jobs and importantly when they evince honour and integrity.

The recent fuel crisis is a fitting example. Not a few citizens suffered incalculable damages on their vehicles; then had to relive the unsavoury experience of punishing inconveniences and loss of valuable man-hour and time on long winding queues precipitated by the bad fuel that simply slithered through what is supposed to be a thorough quality test process.

Since then, we have been awaiting government action; however, they seem to have succeeded in allowing the matter to slide into oblivion without a fall guy in their net. And, it was plain that no official was on the edge because they knew it will remain business as usual.

Also, the state of insecurity offers a sobering tale of the absence of moral responsibility. The brazen attacks and abductions no least the one recorded on the Abuja-Kaduna train despite humongous investment on security is strong enough reason for someone to spontaneously resign. We have simply overlooked the fact that public office is built on trust and have allowed personal aggrandizement to cast a heavy shadow over public interest. 

It is trite to assert that we have got people of honour in short supply- public officers that are ready to take moral responsibility for their action or inaction as well as for those within their sphere of influence. And, that is where honour and integrity come to play.

In effect, people with honour and integrity will not flow with the current when it is against their principles to do so; will exhibit the courage of their conviction and make their words a strong bond; their integrity will always shine through and will be ready to head to the exit door when it comes under threat.

And, they are people always at hand to offer uncomfortable counsel without fear to their masters and will always reflect the standards of their calling and office in their work and exercise incorruptibility and accountability posture. Such people will simply lay down their tools in the face of honour tarnishing circumstances and against personal principles.

In the cases mentioned above, somebody should have simply jump or be pushed as stated earlier. Patrick Dobel in his essay “Ethics of Resigning” stated that “resigning from office is a critical ethical decision for individuals. The option to resign reinforces the integrity, buttresses responsibility, supports accountability and can provide leverage. The moral reasons to resign flow from three interrelated moral dimensions of integrity.”

There’s a surfeit of the example of people who have taken the honourable path, which remains strange to us. For instance, the former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron showed courage and resigned simply on the strength of his failure in the BREXIT referendum.

In one fell swoop, the entire Sri Lankan cabinet ministers, as well as the central bank governor, resigned their positions over the violent protest sparked by the worst economic crisis since independence. In fact, the extreme practice of honour and integrity is common in Japan. For instance in 2015, Ryoichi Kishi a Japanese committed suicide having blamed himself for the snapping of cable on a bridge, which he was part of the design and construction in Turkey. His suicide note reads: “I bear complete responsibility for what happened. Nobody else was at fault.”

The public sector is rife with demonstrable cases of financial shenanigans, abuse of office/privileges, incompetence which for the most part, those that are culpable would prefer to stay put. They simply won’t sacrifice their ego, perks of office and financial future. Unfortunately, public officers are unaffected by whatever form of negative public light that is cast on them. I believe so strongly that service to the nation that’s draped in honour would make a world of difference to its growth and development.

We need a tectonic shift in our orientation on what public service constitutes. Again, we need to hold people accountable for their actions and inactions and apply the deterrence measure, which is consequential. People of honour and integrity have so much to lose and will do anything to protect the rare quality in them. These are the type of men that we need in public service.

Abachi Ungbo can be reached via [email protected]

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