By Kurtis Adigba
What happened to the values and virtues of hardwork,honesty, and integrity? What happened to the popular saying’honesty is the best policy’? When did we replace hardwork,industry, and honesty, with criminality? When did we accept scamming,banditry,and drug trafficking, as a way of life? Maybe we never consciously and forcefully accepted them,but we did by not speaking out against them openly and consistently, as parents, teachers, pastors,imams, and leaders.
Let me tell you a personal story. In 1996, I bought my first car. It was a’brand new tokunbo’ Mercedes Benz 200, from Cotonu. I spent 2 days with my mechanic looking for the perfect car that must not be Automatic(it has to be manual),because in his words” cars with automatic transmission, are problematic( he didn’t know how to work on it). So I bought a car that had a great engine, but a terrible body. I had to do body work before driving the car. Did I tell you that it was a 1980 model,and that it cost me a whopping N90k? Now you know! That amount of money then, for my level, was huge.
1996, was also the year we had our first child. We had the rare privilege of having both mothers on omugwo duty. Both of them have gone to be with God. My mum passed on in 2015,and my mother in law,4 weeks ago. She will be laid to rest on 13th September. God bless their beautiful souls,and grant them peace in eternity. So my mum was around and left a month after. Two months after, I travelled home with my young family in my car.
We arrived Otukpo at about 6pm. As expected, my folks were super excited to see us,and amazed to see the car- Mercedes Benz, that is owned only by the nouveau rich in my town. What an achievement in so short a time! They were ecstatic. Some walked round the car praying for more blessing. But someone, was noticeably cold and worried; my mum,Mrs Sarah Adija Adigba. After things settled down, she called me” Adam( my father), I was named after her dad. I just left you in lagos,and you were complaining about not having money,where did you get money to buy this car? I hope you are not doing something bad”? I had to explain to her how my boss whom I had spoken to her about gave me some money on the job I did while she was with us in lagos,and how the company that I worked for gave me an I-owe-you loan to make up the money. The money,I said will be deducted from my salary over 12 months, interest free. Satisfied with my explanation, she smiled and gave me a warm hug and prayed for me. She also counselled ‘ be careful about where you go with the car, every white teeth smiling at you is no indication of happiness with you’. Her action that day, restated the lessons she had always taught us as children.
What do most parents do today? They celebrate wealth without work. They are not interested in how their sons and daughters are’ making or killing it’. They are happy to enjoy the wealth and riches of their super’successful and prosperous children’. They are quick to brand neighbours, friends, and relatives, who ask questions about these things as witches,enemies,and envious jerks. They see the riches and wealth of their children as ‘ blessing’ from God.
The church or the mosque-religious leaders, that should stand in the moral gap,are also failing because of love for money and prosperity. Many Pastors and imams, don’t give a damn about the sources of the money, they just need the money. Even the chief priest in the time of Judas Iscariot had the sense to know that the money Judas sold Jesus for,and which he surrendered to the scribes before committing suicide, cannot not be brought into the treasury of the temple. It was forbidden and only good for buying a strange land for burial. But our religious leaders are comfortable with these monies. Not that they are expected to know how all monies are made, but they are expected to keep hammering on these things,instead of preaching prosperity alone as if to be poor,is to be a sinner.
What about the schools and teachers? Abandonment of public schools by the government, and the ill-advised takeover of some missionaries schools, dealt a moral blow to moral education. The private schools that took over from the public schools, are driven by profit more than anything else. Morally challenged pupils and students, are hardly punished because of bottom line. So they accept and accommodate all bad behaviours because they don’t want to lose the school fees from the student.
We need to return to the time when the family, schools and religious institutions, saw the right and moral upbringing of children as more important than money.
I will conclude with another personal story. My daughter that was born in 1996, studied in a university in the United states. She had graduated from Avi-cenna secondary school in GRA,Ikeja,as the best student. Some of her school friends, also studied in the UK. On her way back to Nigeria on one of her trips, she connected with some of them at Heathrow Airport London, on Virgin Atlantic flight heading to lagos. My daughter flew economy class,but most of her friends were in Upper class. On arrival in lagos, she told me about meeting her school friends in the flight, and how they flew in upper class. I asked her” Sarah, did you feel bad that you flew in economy and they in upper class “? She said” Daddy, I don’t feel bad at all. Upper class should be a reward for success. If you buy me upper class ticket, what will I buy for myself after accomplishing my goals”? I cried a few tears. It dawned on me that my daughter internalized the values we had worked hard to inculcate in her and her siblings. We passed to them what our parents handed to us” know whose child you are”.
Folks, the solution to our moral quagmire is not in law enforcement alone, it is in our parents, teachers, religious and political leaders, stepping forward and embracing their moral responsibilities to our children.
God bless Nigeria.
• Adigba, a Lagos based Lawyer is also a public affairs analyst