Dinner In Honour Of Dr. Okey Enelamah, Organised by Government College, Umuahia Old Boys Association

  • Share:

Nigerians Need To Bring Character, Integrity And Accountability To Public Service




Let me begin by saying how delighted I am tonight, that we are gathered here to honour a Nigerian patriot and also celebrate a school that has not just produced worthy Nigerians, but also represents the notion that values character, when mixed with a proportionate level of competence and skill, can almost always produce progress and prosperity – both individually and collectively.

That our nation is sufficiently endowed with men and women of skill and all manner of competent people is never in doubt. We are even so blessed in the accurate articulation of the problems that we face as a country and the understanding of what to do. The greatest challenge we seem to face is that of character and the value-driven will to get the right things done.

For instance, how else do you explain the paradoxical story of our nation’s overwhelming human and natural resources and its underwhelming performance in providing a decent quality of life for most of its citizens?

As a people, we are familiar with all the statistics. We have interrogated those issues very clearly and solutions have been proffered at various fora over and again across the land and even abroad from our diaspora!

Truth be told, Nigeria needed (and now the people have validated the need) a new leadership, capable of taking head-on, the main problems that undermine inclusive growth and prosperity.

What we need and what the likes of President Buhari, my humble self and our honoree today, Dr. Okey Enelamah have stepped out to offer the nation is a new Nigeria, manned and supported by what I have chosen to describe elsewhere as A NEW TRIBE. Let me present that argument again.

It is my view, that the Nigerian elite, political, business and religious, regardless of ethnicity, think alike, and are driven by largely similar motivations.

The elite is self-centred, selfish and unprepared to make the sacrifices either in service or self-constraint that leaders of successful communities must make.

The elite plays the religious card, or the ethnic card, when necessary, to get the masses in line. Such behaviour is the grossly cynical default tactic of our elite.

However, the most poignant point to note is that when you look at any list of alleged perpetrators of a heinous case of corruption, all tribes, ethnicities and religions are well represented. In other words, high level corruption knows no religion or ethnicity.

The conspirators include Christians and Muslims, and they come from all the geopolitical zones. They are in governments, the legislature, the judiciary, in business, industry, other professions and even in the press.  They are united, they protect each other, they fight for each other and they are prepared to go down together. They are one tribe, indivisible regardless of diversity. It is this tribe that confuse the arguments for change in society.

It is my respectful submission that to build the new Nigeria, we need a new tribe. A tribe of men and women of all faiths, tribe and ethnicities, diverse, but firmly committed to a country run on high values of integrity, hard work, justice and love of country.

A tribe of men and women who are prepared to make the sacrifices and self-constraints that are crucial to building a strong society. Who are prepared to stick together, fight corruption side by side, and insist on justice even where our friends are at the receiving end.

A tribe consisting professionals, businessmen, politicians, religious leaders and all others who believe that this new Nigeria is possible.

One of the things I have come to realize in this past one year – the norm is the depth of corrupt behaviour across all arms of the formal systems of governance.

In such a system the private sector is a strong collaborator, the fight against corruption is then a fight against the system. The result is that the system can hardly deliver public goods.

Where has the billions of dollars in the days of the 100dollar oil gone?  Many other nations who enjoyed similar oil prosperity are in much better situations today because they managed to save and had spent the oil largesse rightly and smartly.

In our case, what we have are instances of very shocking thefts of funds meant to procure arms to defend the nation demonstrating the moral ambivalence that pervades our systems. What we have are cases of mismanagement and profligacy.

Which is why the system needs to be dismantled if the nation is to progress. Nigeria’s greatest battle is the one to bring character, integrity and accountability to public service and the private sector. This requires a new way of thinking, a new leadership corp, a new tribe.

As we celebrate tonight, let us be clear that indeed our challenge today, friends, colleagues and patriots, is to populate that new tribe.

Thanks very much for your attention and may God bless our dear nation!