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Refocusing African societal values and leadership Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Oluwatosin, Nigeria Feb 7, 2007
Culture , Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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The African society is growing more and more in size and economy and is probably among the fastest growing economies in the world. Over the years the African society had been over ridden with no definite values thereby making the Nation into one that does not know where it is heading. One dictionary defines values as a principle or belief that influences your decision. That is probably one of the best definitions we can give to value.

There are some essential values that are fundamental. I think there are only three values that are truly fundamental -- that truly determine the kind of society we must have and the kind of lives we should live as individuals, and that are permanent matters of permanent relevance. The three values I speak of are honesty, competence, and unselfishness. And of the three, honesty is the most important because, without it, competence is not attainable and concern for others is less likely by far because one is not likely to know, understand or sympathize with the position of others.

Honesty is foundational. Without it disasters occur, and without it there can be no competence. For competent thought and action depend on knowledge of the truth of a situation, knowledge of its actual facts. Conversely, ignorance or distortion of the truth and the facts lead only to mistakes and disasters. Yet, for all the lip service paid to honesty -- and lip service is usually all it is -- it is relatively rare that one runs across a philosophy which holds that honesty is foundational and therefore is the single most important value of any. If one looks back over the years, it seems inevitable to conclude that much, even most or all, of our public problems stem from some level of dishonesty. Sometimes the dishonesty takes the form of outright lies. Sometimes its form is lack of disclosure of the truth. Sometimes it comes as spin. Sometimes it comes as standardized words or phrases that sound good but are false and are used to cover up the truth. There was some level of dishonesty with regard to our Independence, the civil war, political assassinations in the 80’s, the gulf war, revenues from the Oil booms, marginalisations, the ethnic and religious crises, the 2005 air crashes, African politics and our civic life in general. Had full-bore truth been the ruling desideratum in these matters, events like these would never have occurred. It was some form or level of dishonesty that created those situations. What is true of the public life is true as well of private lives. If we look back at our life, I would venture that, as often as not we will find that problems and traumas were caused by, or at minimum were accompanied by, some form or level of dishonesty. Having spoken of the necessity of honesty let me now speak about competence.

Competency is a value whose necessity is widely acknowledged, and is ultimately one of the fundamental recipes necessary for the success of a society. The need for competence in order to achieve success is, I note, of peculiar relevance to public and private life today. We are told that the air mishaps of last year were caused not by incompetence, but by failure of governmental organs to communicate with each other. We are equally told (as always) that the remedy is a new structure for intelligence operations. But the truth is that incompetence was the reason for the air mishaps, and all the new structures in the world won’t solve the problem we face if incompetence persists.

With regard to incompetence supposedly not being the reason for those disasters, we are told that nobody could foresee the use of outdated airplanes flying over our heads, nobody could foresee the states of our roads on which innocents souls are lost everyday, nobody could foresee those pipeline explosions, nobody could foresee the civil wars of the 80’s and 90’s and other foreseeable disaster. Despite all these, nobody in the government could foresee those disasters. It is sheer incompetence. Incompetence was the reason for those disasters, and if it persists we will have more disasters of one sort or another. For the fact that incompetence leads to disaster is virtually a law of life. We need to inculcate the morals of competence in our lives.

Thirdly, the value of caring for others, not just for oneself (unselfishness). This value, too, is spoken of favourably but is most often honoured in the breach, in an African society where, since independence, unbridled greed has become the ruling principle and plutocracy and oligarchy have become dominant features. Many people find that unbridled selfishness is not a satisfactory way to lead a personal life, and at the civic and political levels it has in the past led or contributed to such shaking events as the civil war, ethnic rivalries and various military coup d'états. No good can come to a society where lack of concern for others is the guide to action. There is need for us to have a conscious awareness of the people living with us.

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