By Ezinwanne Onwuka
Different schools of thought consider values to mean traits, practices, acts, ideals, beliefs, attitudes and principles that an individual, group or society acknowledge to be of merit, worthwhile, dear, acceptable and right.
Values, therefore, are basic beliefs and attitudes in a society whether of individuals or groups which are considered worthwhile and serve as a guide to choices and behaviours in one’s daily life. Values help to inform one on how he or she can conduct one’s life in a meaningful way. In other words, values are deep seated beliefs that influence people’s actions and behaviours. It is therefore essential that every individual, group and indeed the entire nation must have core values which serve as the driving engines for growth and development.
Our value system therefore is the sum total of our ideas and beliefs. It includes every opinion we hold about life. Each thing we like or dislike, and the importance each one has to us, merges to form our unique value system. Our value system develops through what we are taught and experience, combined with our reactions to them, forming our preferences and our unique perspective on life. Ultimately, every opinion we have in life is based on something in our value system.
Our actions are the first indicators to ourselves and others about the values we hold because the values that we live by are connected to what is most important to us. However, we can sometimes have other desires in our hearts that differ from our actions. To be completely at peace within ourselves, there must be conformity between our deepest values and how we actually live. That is, you must be committed to your deepest values and seek to live according to them.
Otherwise, you will experience inner conflict because you have not determined which values are most important to you, and every choice you make will not flow from a firmly held belief about that area of life.
If we are honest with ourselves we’d mostly agree that all is not well with our nation and that the values we once held dear sadly belongs in another era.
Where are values like honesty, integrity, good neighbourliness, religious tolerance etc. that once characterized our society? Whatever also happened to being our brother’s keeper? Today, we’ve grown so numb and we’re no longer shocked when people are slaughtered in a senseless terror campaign by some deranged individuals. As a result, we now have internally displaced people in Nigeria, yet we carry on as if all is well.
Once upon a time, Christians and Moslems mingled together celebrating Christmas and Salah, but today bigotry reigns supreme. We perpetuate the worst kinds of ethnic and religious chauvinism you could ever think of. Driven by greed and inordinate lust for the “good life,” we seek the shortest possible route to riches. We revere criminals and treasury looters as our “best of men” bestowing upon them honourary degrees, chieftaincy titles or even “purchase” election forms for them.
As I write, everything continues to go wrong as we forsake the values that ought to matter. Police officers still terrorise ordinary citizens, bankers still pilfer the life-savings of poor and struggling compatriots, hoodlums continue to run amok in communities, minority “lawmakers” ride roughshod over the majority, internet scammers and advanced fee fraudsters are still at their beats. What about armed robbers and kidnappers? They are all having a field day. The concept of equity has all disappeared from our lexicon, so is benevolence and the Rule of Law which permits no perception of justice except for the rich.
Religious and ethnic sentiments have taken pre-eminence over brotherhood. Gone are the times when Nigerians were their brothers’ keepers, irrespective of tongue or creed; gone are the days when every adult member of society could instantly discipline any erring child to the happiness of the child’s parents.
The traditional institutions on their own were faithful custodians of culture and moral values. Our music and folklore then had a good moral hold on the youths. Those were the days when Sallah and Christmas were celebrated together by both Muslims and Christians, be it in Kano, Onitsha or Lagos. This was the Nigeria of yesteryears before our slide into the current perfidy.
The society has become characterized by high level of distrust and everybody has become a suspect of misplaced value. Immorality and lack of sanctity of life have increased as murder and kidnapping have become a daily occurrence. The malady of corruption has polluted the character and personality of every Nigerian. It is worrisome as well as regrettable that vices have taken the place of virtue in our society.
The crisis of value system in Nigeria suggests that the growth and progress of the society is being retarded in many aspects through outburst of materialistic tendencies. It is beyond doubt that materialism has taken over government, political institutions, invaded traditional and cultural institutions, while the church seems to be more materialistic than the secular society. The malady of value crisis has predicated Nigeria as open society in which anything goes. In Nigeria, we seem to be grabbing the worst and getting very little of the best from the rest of the world.
Value re-orientation is the best way to address the myriad of societal problems confronting the Nigerian society. The message of value re-orientation and social harmony should dominate our polluted psyche.
By and large, the strength of a nation does not rest merely in its material or scientific achievements but it lies rather more in the moral qualities of the individuals and in the level of moral consciousness of the entire society. There is no doubt that our future really depends on how successful we are in fighting the orgy of negative values. Values are products of the mind which are manifested in behavioural patterns. The values of citizens on national issues is a two-edged sword capable of enhancing development or crippling it.
We cannot continue to sound like a broken record about our youth being leaders of tomorrow when we have not adequately invested in the all-important value re-orientation meant to inculcate in them good moral values while also purging them of all kinds of primordial sentiments of religious extremism and ethnic jingoism.
However, how ready are we as a family in preparing the child/youth to take over this responsibility of being leaders of tomorrow. Are parents now ready to question the source of the sudden wealth of their children who sometimes engage in armed robbery or Advanced Fee Fraud (419) and suddenly come home to exhibit stupendous wealth to the admiration and celebration of their parents? How prepared are our traditional institutions and religious leaders to stop the rampant and indiscriminate award of chieftaincy titles and religious honors to the people with questionable wealth? These are the issues and until they are tackled decisively, the fight against corruption in the polity, violence, drug abuse and other intolerable social vices will not be won.