Saturday, May 25, 2019 10:03 am
BY FOLU OLAMITI
Integrity has been described as the attributes of being honest and having strong moral principles, sterling qualities or moral uprightness. It is a personal decision to hold one-self to consistent, moral and credibility standards. In ethical terms, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity could also mean the personal quality of fairness that ‘we all aspire’ to attain in life. Furthermore, having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable and appropriate way. It is associated with personality trait that we admire because it involves a person having the moral compass that does not waver or falter.
Having defined ‘integrity’, there is the need to underscore the fact that whether at personal or institutional level, integrity connotes the same attributes of moral rectitude of positive and predictable behavioural patterns. This reality is undeniably accentuated by the fact that institutional integrity is a subset, as well as a web of aggregation of personal integrity by the people that drive particular organisations or establishments regarding their mission and vision for the common good of the society. At this juncture, it may not be out of place to address the concept of HONESTY. Certainly, honesty remains a key issue at the heart of integrity; be it at personal or institutional level, particularly, in relation to our society of today.
Of course, by honesty, it means that our behaviour is perceived to be predictably devoid of LYING. The universal fact here is that, lying breaks down trust and damages or destroys relationships. On the long run, it is demeaning to self, hurts and damages personal esteem. Another important co-efficient of HONESTY, as the central issue in integrity at both personal and institutional level, is the reality that our behaviour should be perceived by others, as being predictably devoid of CHEATING. It is incontrovertible to state that cheating destroys trust and ruins individual or group cooperation and cohesion. Hence, it is always good to be honest at all times.
Before I proceed further, I will like to share one of my write-ups that was widely published in both the print and online media, on July 29, 2016. It was titled; ‘WHO CHEATS’? The headline was taken from an Anti-Corruption International Blog – the FCPA. The writer of the article;Caveni Wong, discussed something so intriguing that would normally pass for our behavioural traits, but never taken seriously, as this is why cheating is taken as an integral part of corruption. Caveni, in the piece wrote: It is an uncomfortable thought, but given certain circumstances, most of us would cheat. He said his colleague; Ron Carrucci, once wrote about how easily one can ‘cross the line’. Various studies have repeatedly shown that most people cheat when asked to self-report their performance on a task, if it means a higher pay out. But they only cheat, a little enough to gain extra benefit, but not so much that they would feel bad about themselves for the act. The truth is that it does not pay to cheat others.
Carrucci further remarked that this attitude was consistent with what he observed in his earlier career, when he would go out with few of his colleagues for what they would classify as a ‘client’ meal in which actual client names would be scribbled on a receipt and submitted for re-imbursement. A colleague, he said, once told him that, he often embellished expenses. Oftentimes, employees do not know they had crossed the line. They only saw their actions as part of the informal culture. And that is the insidious nature of minor cheating that goes on continually and unchecked. Cheating slowly builds up a culture that can eventually lead to the stage whereby more serious violations could lead to mega corruption. This is the crux of the matter in our society today! Thus, question is: As adults, have we not crossed the borderline in the past? Thank God that some of us, after accepting Jesus Christ, confessed and restituted by battling against flesh in order to make eternity.
In the Gospel according to John Chapter 8, we read daily how Jesus exonerated and rescued a woman allegedly caught in an adulterous act from accusers, who were ready to stone her to death. Jesus simply stooped down and scribbled something on the ground and asked a thunderbolt of a question, saying ‘he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’. That question pricked their consciences one-by-one and they all moved away. What a timeless lesson for all us here! Today, many of us are looking for ‘Mr. Integrity’ and discussing corruption at every forum, but in our subconscious minds and at our closets, are we not guilty in one way or another? Do we not cheat? Just looking around this country today and tell me whether corruption is not starring at us. The holier than thou attitudes among our so called leaders remain the order of the day.
A perfect example of personal integrity is presented Biblically in Daniel Chapter 3, verses 17 to 18. We remember how Daniel renamed Shadrach and two of his friends – Meshach and Abednego – stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar as they were to being thrown into a flaming furnace for refusing to deny the living Almighty God, and they bowed down, saying: Your Majesty, we do not need to defend ourselves. The God that we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace. But if He does not, we will not worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up. These three men have taught us a great lesson. It is better to lose everything else, even our lives than to lose our integrity. When everything else is gone – money, family, friends and shelter – what remains is our integrity. My point here, therefore, is that we should not compromise integrity to gain money, power or prestige. You may not know how things will turn out to be when you stand up for the truth and integrity in the face of worldly pressures to do wrong. But I can assure you that it would not be dull – it will be bright and right at the end of the day.
There is no doubting the fact that integrity is a fundamental value sought by employers in their employees – private, corporate or public life. It is the trait of a person, who exhumes sound moral and ethical principles at work and in life generally. Integrity is the foundation on which workers build trust and effective interpersonal relationships. And, it should be the underpinning principle behind both public and private workers in their official relationships with the larger society. It is universally upheld and appreciated accordingly that people who exhibit integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable. They are regarded as principled and they can be counted upon to behave in honourable ways, even when no one is watching or even knows about their private or official assignments. There is no doubting the fact that this is what should be the norm and culture in all our private and official undertakings, as patriotic Nigerians.
Having gone this little stretch, to explain integrity at both personal and institutional levels, the natural question that follows is: Can our society be said to be genuinely and roundly blessed with men and women of integrity? Is integrity ever allowed? Is integrity unanimously? The answer will be a resounding NO! And, the reasons for this are not far-fetched. Taking from the macro-level of governance, the monumental graft issues being exposed and handled by anti-corruption institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and even International Police (INTERPOL), are enough evidence of the abyss of the level of degeneration in our society today, based on massive dishonesty and unbridled display of lack of integrity by some of our political leaders, private and public functionaries.
Integrity failure in our society is not just about political leaders or politicians, who promise what they know they would never do for the electorate because of their greed, monumental corruption and culture of primitive acquisition. It is about what has been happening in the business and economic sectors. Here, a quick reminder is the ugly situation of the infamous Wonder Banks of late last century and the near collapse of the banking system at the turn of the current decade in our country. In recent times, the shaky pillar of our beleaguered educational system has further been corroded with an absolute integrity deficiency issue of sex-for-pass-mark. Lastly, it must be stressed that at the micro or individual level, we are all culpable of integrity failure as we find it very convenient to lie and cheat in our official and interpersonal relationships within family, school, offices, market or business places, churches and mosques. A very sad side to all of this is that in most cases, we even lie, cheat and brazenly underscore our integrity failure by swearing in the name of Almighty God!
Meanwhile, let me assure that all hope is not lost. I believe that we can return to the path of probity, honesty and integrity by truly going into restitution of living our faith as established in the holy books. I strongly hold the belief that we can still return to the path of self-esteem and integrity in Nigeria, as way of life, as dictated by our cultural ethos and as it had been done in other saner societies, where things work organically for the overall good of all because of the existence of high level of integrity. It is quite inspiring after reading my earlier narrative that I got a feedback from a colleague, Femi Adefemiwa, which reads: “What a sound argument! The resonating fact remains that there is no collective guilt but individual guilt. By nature, every human being is selfish and self-centered. The background of deprivation, which a significant number of those of us that are experienced and undue societal expectations from us, have all created some primordial tendencies in us to behave negatively.
“This is particularly so because of the infamous urge in us for primitive acquisitions. To make matters worse, justice in our land is always given to the higher bidder. So, an innocuous combination of these ills has put us where we are today. But we have to start somewhere. Cleaning the mess must not be a mere academic exercise, it has to be complete and total. Whether we are all guilty or not, we just have to draw a line and start from somewhere. And perhaps we have started. This, I believe we can achieve by consciously instituting and promoting at all times, a culture of self-esteem in our families, and in all institutions of character-moulding and socialisation, from infancy through adolescence to adulthood. ”
Another colleague; Ademola Adigun has this to say: A lecturer wanting five rounds for pass. A policeman demanding money as bail from the citizens; a judge demanding millions for judgments, a public servant demanding money for his/her vote; and a clergyman demanding huge sums of money for blessings; leaders closing their eyes to corruption and nepotism; parents offering money for children’s admission into school or paying for examination questions; and a society rewarding incompetence; a society closing its mind such that mediocre do not get to the top in administration; a society that justifies all things in the name of politics, tribe, ethnicity and individual benefit; society that blackmail others for difference in thinking-nation that we are all striving to build but some working towards oppressing the other; a society where impunity is the order of the day; a society with low or no expectations from their leaders; a society with conflict with itself; a society where all issues are swept under the carpet, depending on who holds the broom. Nigeria should no longer be part of such sick society.
Undoubtedly, INTEGRITY is the bedrock of monumental techno-industrial feats, cum socio-economic strides, which have been achieved by Europe, United States of America (USA), Asia and Oceania in human history; in the last five centuries. We should be ready to get it right in Nigeria. It is not too late to start fighting corruption from one-self. Man’s insatiable greed for primitive acquisition, particularly, in our society of today, is so alarming that one keeps wondering whether one would ever think that we will all leave this Mother Earth, at the end of day. It is disturbing and unbelievable when we look at the crazy acquisition of those, who have access to our commonwealth that their wealth and worldly acquisitions are products of cheating and graft.
On the way forward, a number of suggestions could be useful. To begin with, there is need for attitudinal change. This must cut across all strata of our national life. We should see corruption as a serious plague and imbibe good morals of integrity, honesty and sincerity. The family, educational and institutions should be up to this task of moral rejuvenation. Secondly, those found guilty by the law for corrupt practices should be banned for life, to serve as deterrent to others. Hard work, honesty and diligence should always be appreciated. Thirdly, political offices should be made less juicy in order to discourage do-or-die politicking and promote genuine service to nation building. To enhance better stewardship and reduction in the cost of governance, there is the need to explore the possibility of unicameral legislature involving part-time law making. Furthermore, well-designed mechanisms should be put in place to make Nigerian leaders more accountable through objective appraisal and assessment of their promises before and during their tenure in office. Administration of justice system should be faster to make it possible to curb bureaucratic graft with ease. E-governance and the deployment of information technology to government business should reduce the involvement of person to person financial transactions . Any person aspiring to lead this country should have a minimum of first degree.
Anti-corruption agencies should better funded and staffed to perform their statutory duties. More importantly, the media should continue to play its watch-word role in the society. Obviously, our nation and Africa in general, would remain clay-footed, to catch up with the monumental developments in the other continents of the world, unless and in every existential undertakings that we embark upon. I charge you all at this summit to work towards truly making Nigeria a better place among comity of nations. Henceforth, at our personal and institutional levels, are consciously, habitually and enduringly pillared on all fronts by nothing else, but INTEGRITY and HONESTY, always.
Thank you all for listening.
Olamiti delivered this paper at the Kingdom Men Mega summit 2018, held in Lagos in May 2018