Strengthening Democracy Through Ethical Reorientation

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On July 6, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed 18 principal aides to assist him, and Vice-President Namadi Sambo in discharging their constitutional obligations to the nation.

One of the aides, is a former PDP presidential aspirant, under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mrs Sarah Jibril, who was appointed the Special Adviser (SA) to the President on Ethics and Values.

Many observers then considered Jibril’s assignment as innovative, saying that it signified the intention of the Jonathan administration to foster Nigeria’s development via the citizens’ ethical reorientation.

Some of the observers also noted that the Office of the SA to the President on Ethics and Values would play a complementary role to the efforts of agencies like, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Code of Conduct Bureau, which are particularly mandated to strengthen the country’s ethical values.

Since its establishment, the Office of the SA has initiated several meetings with officials of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), security agencies and the military, as part of efforts to strategise ways of rejuvenating excellent ethics and values in the workplace.

During one of the interactions in Abuja, Jibril said that the objective of the meetings was “to remind ourselves of the need to ‘police’ oneself, instead of being policed by another person because we need to have a collective decision on discipline.

“We need to uphold ‘autonomous morality’, which entails the cultivation of our conscience; our courage to act on what the family and community teache us.

“This is because it is only a resourceful, work-minded person who can come up with excellent plans and strategies for economic development,’’ she said.

Jibril noted that family units played a unique role in the propagation of ethics and values in the society, stressing that sound values and moral principles ought to be inculcated in a child within the family setting.

The special adviser stressed that democracy was all about the practice of ethics, rule of law and integrity, adding that both the family and the legislature held the key to social order and political sanity.

The nascent ethical campaign even goes beyond the realm of values to the level of the citizens’intellect, diction and language use.

Jibril stressed that negative words such as indiscipline, ethical bankruptcy, illegalities, oil bunkering, chauvinism, conflicts, robbery, and victimisation should be expunged from the citizens’ language use.

“These negative words should be replaced by positive words such as appreciation, accountability, citizenship, conscience, modesty, optimism, transparency, self-realisation, among others,’’ she said.

Sharing similar sentiments, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, said that there was a need for Nigeria to adopt “renewed and effective strategies to inculcate and strengthen ethical values’’.

At a forum with Jibril, the SGF noted that Nigeria had been facing a lot of development challenges, while losing appreciable ethical principles in personal, systemic and institutional management.

“The development, therefore, underscores the need for us to embark on societal reorientation, using ethics and values as its main planks,’’ he said.

Anyim stressed that the prevalence of corruption in the country was one of the major factors inhibiting national development.

He called for the evolution of a “new national ethical and values psyche”, adding that this would enhance the transformation agenda of the current administration.

However, the Fellowship of Partners for the Protection of Ethics and Values (FOPPEV) is one of the priority projects of the Office of the SA to the President on Ethics and Values.

The Chairman of FOPPEV, Dr Paddy Njoku, who conceded that the project was not a government project, nonetheless, said that FOPPEV would partner with the Presidency in efforts to promote and protect sound ethics in the Nigerian society.

He said that the project would reach out to schools, families and the general public in the ethical reorientation campaign to engender good governance and add value to the society.

Njoku stressed that the project was a private-sector driven initiative because “we don’t want a situation where when the tenure of the administration ends, the project ends with it’’.

He said that FOPPEV would be in a position to query organisations, MDAs, including the Presidency, about perceptible unethical behaviours.

“We want a project of the people by the people. We also want a project that will outlive the government,’’ he said.

Njoku said that FOPPEV planned to appoint people as “Ethical Ambassadors’’ in local governments and wards across the country to take the ethical campaign to the grassroots level.

In December, the Office of the SA to the President on Ethics and Values organised the “National Collaborators Forum of the MDAs’’ to discuss ethical issues and the challenges facing Nigeria owing to unethical behaviours.

The participants of the two-day forum were drawn from the federal, state and local governments, as well as the civil society and international development agencies.

Jibril, who presented a paper on how to use ethics to promote good governance and systemic transformation, stressed the need for Nigerians to stamp out “official or systemic corruption’’ in all their transactions.

She said that the forum was aimed at bringing together government officials and prepare them to “further understand, collectively re-appraise, re-assess, re-correct and re-accept the responsibility to transform government administrative systems’’.

Jibril, nonetheless, bemoaned the complicity of some government officials in corruption, saying that such corrupt officials had contributed to the “shameful” reputation which Nigeria currently had.

“The systemic corruption, disorder and indiscipline by the privileged officials in public and political offices are part of the causes of the shameful and embarrassing image of Nigeria in the comity of nations.

“If the government officials would lift up the standard in the application of ethics, the private, corporate and political sectors, including communities, would join the crusade against corruption,’’ she said.

The presidential aide said that the conference would formulate quick-fix strategies that would engender a purposeful renewal of minds, attitudes, administrative ethics, discipline and order.

The papers presented at the conference include “Crisis of Values in the Nigerian Polity’’, “Ethical Issues in Good Urban and Local Governance Assessment of Nigeria’’, “Making Character Count in Nigeria’’ and “Business Ethics and Effective Project Management as a Tool for Promoting Ethics’’.

The participants, who were divided into syndicate groups, deliberated over strategic means of enhancing ethical values in the country.

They conceded that many Nigerians had poor moral standards, adding that the level of decay in the private sector was perpetrating systemic corruption.

The participants, nonetheless, bemoaned the country’s inability to enforce rules and regulations relating to ethical values.

They stressed the need for agencies responsible for upholding public service ethics and non-governmental agencies to monitor and report unethical, aberrant behaviours.

The participants recommended that their joint positions on ethical reorientation should be presented to the Presidential Summit on Ethics and Values, which would hold between January 25, 2012, and January 26, 2012, for scrutiny and consideration.

Most importantly, they resolved that the teaching of ethics should be introduced in primary and secondary schools, as well as tertiary institutions.

At the end of the meeting, the participants reaffirmed the need to adopt improved strategies to transform the people’s attitudes, while strengthening the society’s ethics and values.

Observers, nonetheless, say that the Office of the SA to the President on Ethics and Values, which is about  six months old, has been able to prove that it has a lot in stock to make Nigeria’s campaign for ethical reorientation a huge success.

Dariya writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

 

Veronica Dariya