By Fr. Martin Onwudiwe
One of the most famous definitions of culture is that it is a way of life of a given people. Repeated behaviours that are welcomed or at least not frowned at in a given setting gradually form part of the culture of the people in question. Identifying a people with particular and reoccurring behaviours is irrespective of the morality of the practice. In this case, approval of behaviours may not necessarily be oral. Practices are rather often endorsed tacitly than through any other means. It may be out of place presuming that cultural, social and religious values still hold waters in the minds of many in a country where shame is no longer that of defaulters but of onlookers. It may be ridiculous believing that shame still counts in a country where taboos are no longer visited with zero tolerance but have become so negotiable that their perpetrators keep winning the bid.
We live in a society where immunity has given birth to impunity. We live in a country where for some; acts of indiscipline represent signs of modernity and fashion. Gone are the days when morality and discipline were upheld as desirable qualities, now they are apparently the exact opposite. The pressure of this misconstrued modernity is also having a weakening impact on the cherished traditional hang on of virtues thereby cultivating negotiable grounds for our don’ts. Traditional title men no longer speak one voice in the face of taboos; rather they speak from both ends of their mouths. Our school systems and religious houses are not left out in this regard. Churches are now more commercialised than market places. Ministers of the Word of God employ every strategy in amassing wealth from unsuspecting and wearied followers. The school system on the other hand, is paradoxically sowing seeds of corruption in the society such that JAMB and SSC examinations are preparatory grounds for the popular sorting tradition in the universities. A country where parents contribute for the facilitation of examination malpractices is a sinking country. A country where a lecturer boldly asks for sex from his students as an indispensable condition for a pass marks in his course is a facing a disaster.
Back in 1984, a military regime enacted a decree; War Against Indiscipline popularly known as WAI and was supported by President Buhari and General Tunde Idiagbon. With the enforcement of the decree, Nigerians were brought back to the close neighbourhood of public morality, civic responsibilities and social order. Customers and passengers were meant to queue up for services, urinating in open and public places were visited with lashes of koboko from the military, traffic rules were respected since punishments meted out to defaulting drivers were enough lessons to others. The short-lived regime was always to be remembered. It was a period when bribe taking by law enforcement agents and public officers resulted in imprisonments and subsequent dismissal.
Indiscipline and corruption are as old as humanity and cut across every age and location of man but becomes a matter of national concern when they continuously skyrocket to an unprecedented level in magnitude. Different societies have their mechanisms in combating the ills around them. Other past Nigerian governments have tried in one way or the other to fight indiscipline and corruption yet, as days pass by, they keep gaining grounds and welcomed tacitly. Could it be that the mechanisms set to curb these taboos are instituted political machines aimed victimizing political opponents? Could their operations have placed the sincerity of their founders in doubt? Could it be that these mechanisms lack consistency, focus and are rather selective? Could it be we are being presented with the image of a black goat which sets out to capture fellow strayed black goats in the dark?
Wait a while! Who is checking on who in a country where jobs are not given based on competence but on the size of bribe one is ready to give? If we have arrived at a point where people with questionable public characters are shamelessly appointed to discipline offenders, it entails we are making ridicule of our one time cherished virtues. We may have arrived at a point where the very few citizens who make effort to be sane are considered insane in a disgraceful manner. Just imagine the impunity of people who defecate the streets of Lagos in a broad day light leaving passersby to feel the shame meant for them (defecators). People have been so subdued and intimidated by delinquents to the point that shame remains a vanished phenomenon from the faces of lawbreakers. However, the silence of those who should speak drives our society all the more into the land of shamelessness than the activities of lawbreakers. May God help us!
Rev. Fr. Martin Onwudiwe