The poor socioeconomic condition in Nigeria and the inability of the leaders to create conditions necessary for higher national development after 6 years of civil rule (or democracy?), should be a concern to any person who cares about Nigeria. The concept of national development (economic, political and social) is said to bring with it valuable and positive changes that improves the living standards of the people, as it creates employment opportunities and equality of opportunity, and reduces poverty, among other things. In particular, economic development increases the efficiency of a system in the production of goods and services to meet the basic needs of the people in a society. The achievement of these objective hinges on the character and attitude (moral compass) of the leaders entrusted with the management of the society. Experts have noted that "strategic planning at a macro-level is a pre-condition for successful and long-term national development." Therefore, the focus of this article is "values education" and its implications for national development.
As it were, "values education" involves "educating for character" and for good "moral values." It is the teaching of respect and responsibility (and other values) to the citizens for good character development and for the health of the nation. As Thomas Lickona pointed out in ‘Educating for Character' "respect and responsibility are the two foundational moral values" that a society should teach its citizens. Others values are honesty, fairness, tolerance, prudence, self-discipline, helpfulness, compassion, cooperation, courage (the Virtues of Aristotle) and other democratic values. However, rule of law, equality of opportunity, due process, representative government, checks and balances and democratic decision-making are "procedural values" that define democracy. All these would enable the people to create a viable humane society and to act "respectfully and responsibly." Thus taking responsibility for the things we do wrong as well as the things we do right is the way to move the society forward. Responsibility matters!
The increasing moral problems in Nigeria (corruption, greed, dishonesty, violent crime, political killings, drugs (peddling and use) and other destructive behaviors, call for ‘values education' in the society. Presently, corruption drives and shapes social values in Nigeria, and for some individuals, the quest for ‘easy money' is a justification for breaking the laws of the land and distorting policies directed toward national development. Consequently, unnecessary display of ill-acquired wealth threatens Nigeria and its democratic political process. When the leaders and the people think of public service in instrumental way, accountability declines, and national development is adversely affected.
Nevertheless, morality would not be important to the young ones if it does not matter to adults. The youths need inspiring role models who make positive contributions to their communities because many of them that are ‘ethically illiterate' are growing up not knowing that corruption is socially injurious. And because of moral decadence among the youths many of them do not seem to realize that cheating (dishonesty) in public examinations, campus gang violence and prostitution are anti-social behavior. Therefore, without good moral up bringing of the youths today the nation may not produce enough good leaders to manage its affairs tomorrow.
Experts in ‘moral education' believe that ‘moral development' "promotes critical thinking and moral reasoning" (Garrod & Bramble, April 1977), which positively impacts national development. As noted earlier, because of greed, selfishness, dishonesty and immorality and lack of respect for the society, elections are often rigged in Nigeria, political opponents assassinated, and public schools are left to rot away. The leaders abuse their office and plunder public resources, and bastardize public policies toward national development. Some individuals and institutions with morality problems are known to have "aided and abetted frauds" during the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NEC), leading to the frequent cancellation of results in the society. The Daily Independent of May 22, 2005 reported that in past ‘nine years' about "five million" results have been cancelled.And the President has again misused his office to "extort" about N6billions? from Nigerians (as Prof. Wole Soyinka rightly noted of the library project), with the pretence of setting up a presidential library. Reports show that civil servants and state governors (and some persons of questionable character) contributed to the phony library project. Yet, the schools in the society have been without functional libraries for years and the President is not bothered. And he appears to have violated some ‘constitutional provisions' by spending some public money without legislative approval, and making unilateral changes in the 2005 budget after it had been approved by the National Assembly. A society may not develop if the leaders and followers do not posses the appropriate character to enable them get committed to democratic values and to work for socioeconomic development.
The founding fathers of American democracy had noted that "moral education" or ‘values moral education' is "essential for the success of a democratic society." Because the people must posses the appropriate character to build a free and just society and the moral foundations to make democracy thrive in the society where it had never been cultivated. And Thomas Jefferson had noted that good character and ‘loyalty to these democratic virtues must be instilled in the people at an early age.' However, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, defined good character as ‘the life of right conduct-right conduct in relation to other persons and in relation to oneself' (Palmer 1986). Therefore, good character consists of knowing what is good, desiring what is good and doing what is good. Other attributes of a good character include respect for the rights of others, regard for the law of the land, taking responsibility for ones actions in public and private life concerning the common good. These virtues are necessary for leading a moral life of the individuals and for the health of the nation and, therefore, ‘strong personal character should manifest itself in service to organizations and communities' (Nicgorski 1987).
Nevertheless, moral education should include ‘political education' to enable the citizens develop critical political awareness to guide their actions. Would democracy survive in a society where rule of law and human decency is cast to the wind? Again, how would Nigeria develop without the citizens developing the critical and creative minds needed to manage its democratic system? As experts have noted, the success of any democratic system depends on the individuals' ability to analyze problems and make thoughtful decisions. Because democracy thrives on the productivity of its diverse constituency-productivity fostered by free and critical and creative thought on issues of common interest. For Nigeria to be become a truly democratic society, and for it to develop economically, the citizens must posses the appropriate character and integrity to administer the laws of the land. As William Bennett (1980) has noted, people who have good character "act truthfully, loyally, bravely, kindly, and fairly without being much tempted [or pulled] by the opposite [forces to indulge in anti-development behaviors]."
Undoubtedly, the extractive behavior of the political leaders in Nigeria has continued to drag the society behind economically, socially and politically. That seems to show that honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability, respect and responsibility have been cast to the wind! What does ‘responsibility' mean when the political leaders and their handymen ganged up to abduct Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State and forged a letter of resignation (as the Supreme Court ruled recently)? And what does ‘respect' and ‘responsibility' tell Nigerians to do when the see someone steal public money and tell lies to damage another person's reputation? The leaders have continued to play politics with public education by denying them the resources for effective teaching and learning (human capital development) because many of them do not seem to realize the undeniable linkage between ‘values education' and national development. They lack moral values to understand what is right and to do what is right. Workers are not paid regularly and that point to the fact that there is a decline in empathy in the society. They do not have respect for life and responsibility toward others. But how would Nigeria develop if the workers were not paid when due?
This is unacceptable! Nigeria's long-term economic and national policy goals should be placed higher than individual political interest or idiosyncrasy. To prepare for life in a modern society the citizens should be exposed to qualitative education and acquire good moral values to enable them create a humane society and to function effectively in a democratic political environment. However, the leaders should understand that ‘values education' does not occur in a vacuum - the leaders must plan it. The challenge for the political leaders is to confront Nigeria's problems with innovative ideas and include ‘values education' (teaching of respect and responsibility and other democratic values) in the nation's school curricula for good character development and sustainable national development.
Victor E. Dike, CEO, Center for Social Justice and Human Development (CSJHD), in Sacramento, California, is the author of Fraud or Democracy? The Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, 2003-2007 [Forthcoming 2007] and Nigeria and the Politics of Unreason: A Study of the Obasanjo Regime [London: Adonis and Abbey Publishers, November 20, 2003]