African Online Journal




Walnshak Alheri Danfulani

Lecturer in the Centre for Peace and Conflict Management of

the University of Jos.


Umar Habila Dadem Danfulani

Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion

and Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, University of Jos.


Proper ethics is vital for the economic, political, social, legal, religious and civil development and growth of a country like Nigeria. This paper examines ethics as a concept that entered the national discourse in Nigeria from the 1980s during the era of the Second Republic. In its introduction, the paper provides basic information about Nigeria, followed by clarification of terms andconcepts used in the paper with special reference to ethics and its typology. Furthermore, the paper examines the centrality of ethics to leadership, the principles of good governance and the problematic of corruption in Nigeria.

       In a bit to analyse the empirical application of ethics to governance, the paper discusses the notion of African ethics as character, vis-à-vis the indigenous and currentperception of the ‘big man’ in Nigerian society and its implications for leadership.The paper comparatively critically examined the backdrop against which oaths of office and secrecy are taken with ascent to political and public offices in Nigeria in conjunction with indigenous oath-taking rites and with the corrupt empirical conduct of someof such officers in public office. The paper then gave some modest recommendations towards curbing corruption in Nigeria.


Keywords: Ethics/morality, ethical theories, character, oath-taking, corruption and leadership



Human society is guided by norms, lore, laws, rules and regulations. This has been the case from indigenous to modern times. These measure the levels of human compliance and/or breach as human beings interact with each other in society. The institutionalization of this basic legal system contributes to human wellbeing in the immediate society. This belongs to the domain of ethics where humans are faced with the task of appraising, evaluating and analysing the actions of others (Anjov and Nguemo, 2012: 171).

       Over the years, military administrators, politicians, political office holders and most public civil servants and their organizations in Nigeriahave clearly demonstrated their deficiencies in upholding ethical values (cf. Asuquo and Akpan, 2012: 1). Most of Nigeria’s public office holders have failed woefully to keep in tandem with the oaths of office they have sworn to adhere to.The Federal Republic of Nigeria is geographical located on the Gulf of Guinea in Western Africa. It is precisely located between Benin in the West and Cameroon in the East, while the Republics of Chad and Niger are located to its immediate north (Douglas, 2004: 10 cf. Achebe, 2000).The land mass of the country is 923,768 square kilometres of which the water bodies have covered circa 13,000 square kilometres (NBS 2001:3). Demographically, Nigeria currently possesses a population of over 150 million.

       Nigeria is made up of 36 states, divided into six geopolitical zones: The North-West zone with seven states, the South-West zone with six states, the South-South zone with six states, the North-Central with seven states, and the FCT Abuja, the North East with six states and the South -East zone with six states.

       Even though Nigeria possesses abundant natural and human resources, its economy is largely dependent on oil rents, which supplies over 90% of its foreign exchange earnings, 78% of federal government revenues, and circa 11% of GDP in 2000 (Amaeshi, et al. 2006: 14). Despite her enormous natural resources, Nigeria has per capita income of about $390 (compared to $4,650 for Malaysia, $33,940 for the UK and $41,400 for the US) and life expectancy of 45 years. Her GDP stands at 72.1 billion US dollars, (with 118.3 for Malaysia, 2,140.9 for the UK and 11, 667.5 for the US), (World Bank, 2006).

       Nigeria currently suffers from poor infrastructural development, with undeveloped road networks, unassailable transportation networks that keep several communities cut off from each other. The education system is both unstable and grossly underfunded, with illiteracy rate up to 40% on average, but with some areas in the north reaching over 60%. Over two-thirds of Nigerians are poor since they live under $1 per day. While an estimated 27% of Nigerians were poor in 1980, 70% earned less than $1 per day by 1990, and figure has kept on rising. Nigerian health care system is one of the worst in the world, with a doctor/patient ratio of almost 1:1000. The public sector has been weakened by corruption and corruption threatens to bring the country on its knees (Amaeshi, et al. 2006: 14f). There is a general collapse of governance in Nigeria when compared with western standards. In a nutshell:


Businesses wishing to operate in Nigeria face many constraints, including poor infrastructure, particularly road networks and electric supply; inadequate physical security; corruption; weak enforcement of contracts, and the high cost of finance. These factors have deterred foreign entrepreneurs from investing in Nigeria and have also induced many Nigerians to take their money and skills abroad (Amaeshi, et al. 2006: 15; cited from NEEDS 2005: xv).


Clarification of Terms


Defining Ethics

       Historically,the term ‘ethics’ as it is used today in the Western world dates back to Plato and Aristotle his student. Politicians and public officials in Greek and Roman times demanded for higher ethical standards in their society thus predating the concern being muted for human rights and the rule of law (Davis 2009). The term ethicscomes from the Greek word ethosmeaning character, customs, habits, conduct or mores (Ozumba, 2001:1, 490). This is equivalent to moral which is derived from Latin mos, moris that was introduced by Cicero. Morals and values are established by members and individuals of society who find them appropriate for guiding conduct.Ethics therefore deals with judgment as to the rightness or wrongness, virtuous or vicious, desirability or undesirability, approval or disapproval of our actions. The word ethics has to do with value systems arising from the reasoned or acceptable as against mere habitual way of life. It is a set of moral principles that define right and wrong. Ethics is therefore the study of what is morally wrong or right. It is a body of principles or standards of human conduct that govern the behaviour of individual and groups, which relates to the question concerning right/wrong and good/evil (Bottorff 1997,Ani Casimir, et al, 2014 and Politt, 2003). When used in relation with leadership, ethics is concerned with the character of leaders andwhat they do in terms of their actions and behaviour (Ozumba, 2001:1,490), because it is a system of moral principles that governs or influences human behaviour.

       The author there defines ethics as moral codes of conduct established by a given ethnic group, society, organization, individual, or a nation to protect their values. Today, the constitutions, laws and other documents of various countries contain codified ethical principles that guarantee the protection of their cherished values such as human rights, justice, public interest, impartiality, neutrality, equality and the common good. Other codes of conduct that are crafted to promote these values very often include financial regulation (FR), public service rules, due process, and due diligence, or transparency initiative. Through the ages, ethics has always referred to codes of behaviour conceived to protect collective human values and is concerned with ensuring high standards of behaviour.

       It is, however, germane to note that what is ethically acceptable to one indigenous culture may not be ethically permitted to another (Asuquo and Akpan, 2012:2). For example, the cultural practice of sister exchange as a primary system of marriage among some Tiv people of Central Nigeria is not widespread. Furthermore, the practice of cicibosem(or cicisbeism, from the Italian ciscisbes, meaning a lover of a woman), as a secondary form of marriage, which was known as njemamong the Berom of Central Nigeria (Nta 2013,Smedley 1986:5, Danfulani and Mwadkwon, 2013), is an uncommon or rare practice in other indigenous societies of the world.

       In a general sense ethics is seen as a system or code of morals of a particular profession, group or religion (Mijah, 2005: 23). Ethics thus determines the correct behaviour of a business community, institution or profession towards its members or the public. What then is ethics today? Nta asserts that:


This is a set of societal rules which have international acceptance in terms of permissible behaviour or actions which promote good human values: honesty (accountability, transparency, etc.), justice, chivalry, respect for others, patriotism, etc... An absence or low supply of ethical values leads to a deficit in moral well-being and limits the deficiency-prone individual in the delivery of good governance and corruption. A high dosage of ethical values can also attract resentment for an upright individual operating within a morally bankrupt corrupt society (2013:1).


Taxonomy of Ethical Theories

       Ethical theories fall into two broad categories: those that relate to leaders’ behaviour and those that relate to leaders’ characters. There are two types of the theories that relate to conduct: First are those that relate to leaders’ conduct and their consequences and, second, those that relate to the rules or duty that prescribe leaders’ conduct(Ozumba, 2001:1, 490).

       Teleology or Consequential Theory or Teleological Approaches: The theories related to consequences are referred to as teleological theories (telos being a Greek word for purpose or ends). These theories emphasize whether a leader’s action, behaviour, and/or conduct have positive outcomes. This denotes that the outcomes related to a person’s behaviour establish whether the behaviour was ethical or unethical (Ozumba, 2001:1, 490).This theory is not so much concerned with the act itself as with the consequences of the particular act. The theory determines the value of an action on the grounds of a cost benefit analysis of its consequences (for instance, an action is considered morally right or wrong if it outweighs its consequences positively or negatively). Thus it is sometimes referred to as “end-based ethics” or consequentialism. In teleological theories, ethical requirement on its own may neither be good nor bad in itself, but the intended result of applying it is considered good. An example of the application of teleological basis on ethical requirement is when one considers the end justifying the means (Asuquo and Akpan, 2012: 2).

       Furthermore, teleological theories possess three approaches to assessing outcomes or consequences and whether they are viewed as ethical or not. First, is ethical egoism, which describes the actions of leaders that are designed to obtain the greatest good of the leader. Second is utilitarianism, which refers to the actions of leaders that are designed to obtain the greatest good for the largest number of people. Third is altruism, which actually describes the actions of leaders that are designed to demonstrate concern for others’ interests, even if these interests are contrary to the leader’s self-interest (Ozumba, 2001:1, 490).

       Deontological Theory or Approach: The theories related to duty or rules are called deontological theories. This approach is derived from deos, a Greek word meaning duty. It argues that whether or not an action is ethical depends not only on its outcome or consequence, but also the action, behaviour, or conduct is itself inherently good (Ozumba, 2001:1, 490). Northouse (2013) assertedthat examples of actions and behaviours that are intrinsically good, irrespective of the outcomes are “telling the truth, keeping promises, being fair and respecting others”.

       These theories focus on the actions that lead to consequences and whether the actions are good or bad. Thus, deontological theories are theories of duty or obligation. Deontology theory is hinged on the basis of morality as specific and fundamental principles of duty and obligation. It will take on to itself a deeper meaning when associated with the Hindu term dharma, duty.

       Where ethical theories are formulated on deontological basis, an ethical requirement is justified according to Asuquo and Akpan (2012: 2) because it is a good theory in itself. Here, the ethical requirement is based on the act and not on the outcome of the act—whether it is right or not. For example, professional integrity, which connotes a sense of duty or moral obligation to act truthfully or honestly act all times, is an excellent form of the application of this type of ethical requirement. This approach, therefore, emphasizes the actions of leaders and their ethical responsibility to do what is right (Ozumba, 2001:1, 490f).

       Virtue Theory or Virtue-Based Approach: Those theories related to character are described as virtue-based approaches. Here focus on a given set of rules, such as ‘do not steal’. Virtue-based theories have their emphasis on the development of good character. Virtue theories are related to leaders, who they are and are grounded in the leader’s character. Virtues are learned in an individual’s family and the various communities with which an individual interacts throughout his/her lifetime. Aristotle believed that individuals could be helped to become more virtuous and that more attention should be given in telling individuals what to be as opposed to telling them what to do. Aristotle then suggested the following virtues as examples of an ethically acceptable person: generosity, courage, temperance, sociability, self-control, honesty, fairness, modesty, and justice (Velasquez 1992) leaders and managers of organizations should learn and retain such virtues as: perseverance, public-spiritedness, integrity, truthfulness, fidelity, benevolence and humility (Northouse 2013).However, in this paper, values, norms and virtues are all interrelated and interwoven.

       Agency Theory: This theory refers to people owning a business and others who have interest or shares in it. According to the agency theory, the day to day running of the business enterprise (public or private) is carried out by managers as agents who have been engaged by the owners of the business. The theory is on the notion of principle of two sided transactions, which holds that any financial transactions involve parties both acting in their own best interest but with different expectations (Asuquo and Akpan, 2012: 2 cf. Kaliski, 2001: 140f).


Centrality of Ethics to Leadership

       Ethics is central to leadership because of there is an innate and natural relationship that ought to exist between leaders and their followership. It is unavoidably normal for leaders to mandatorily influence or affect their followers’ livesor those of their subordinates either negatively or positively (Yukl, 2012; Ozumba, 2001:1, 491).


The nature of the influence, [however] depends on the leaders’ character and behaviour...Leaders have more power—interpersonal and/or formal hierarchical power—and therefore have greater responsibility with respect to their impact on their followers. Leaders influence followers in the pursuit and achievement of common goals. It is in these situations that leaders need to respect their followers and treat them with dignity. In other words, leaders need to treat their followers as individual with distinctive identities. Finally, leaders are instrumental in developing and establishing organizational values. Their own personal values determine what kind of ethical climate will develop in their organizations (Ozumba, 2001:1, 491).


Heifetz (1994) examined conflict and states that leaders possess the responsibility to assist followers in dealing with conflict and in effecting changes from conflict situations. Heifetz focussed on the values of followers, the values of the organizations in which they work, and the values of the communities in which they live. The paramount responsibility of leaders for Heifetz is to create a work atmosphere characterized by empathy, trust, nurturance and mentorship; and to help followers to change and grow when faced with difficult situations (Northouse, 2013; Yukl, 2012).

       Ciulla (1998) argued that leadership, especially transformational leadership helps followers to achieve higher ethical standards when differing values conflict—especially during difficult and conflict situations. He argues further that the interaction between leaders and followers should result in raising ethical behaviour and character of both and leaders could do this by assisting followers to emphasize values such as equality, justice, and liberty.

       It is germane that both scholars’ perspectives stressed the undeniable bonding between leaders and followers. Both scholars argue that the relationship between leaders and followers is at the heart of ethical leadership. The ethic of caring of Gilligan (1982) supports the position of Heifetz (1994) and Burns (1978). Ethics of caring is central to the principle of ethical leadership research and it is of overriding significance to organizations because it is critical in developing collaboration and trust among leaders and followers (Brady, 1999).


Ethical Leadership Principles and Principles of Good Governance

While discussing Transformational Leadership and Public Service Ethics, a UNDP document states that:


Ethical leadership is vital to creating an ethical workforce. Research indicates that most employees look outside themselves to significant others for guidance in ethical dilemma situations, which should be provided by the leader of the organization....an ethical leader is a leader who cares, listens to what employees have to say, and has the best interests of employees in mind. In addition, an ethical leader communicates an ethics and value message. When making decisions, he/she asks “what is the right thing to do?” An ethical leader also role models ethical conduct and conducts his/her personal life in an ethical manner. This role model is trusted by employees and sets an example of how to do things the right way in terms of ethics. An ethical leader holds everyone accountable and defines success not just by results but also by the way they are obtained (2007, Treviño, 2007).


The empirical blueprint of leadership laid down for his disciples by Jesus Christ is that of the servant leader. DuBrin (2010) and Northouse (2012) list five ethical principles that they consider key to the development of ethical leadership. These are made up of respect, service, justice, honesty to others, community building and goodgovernance (Hesselbein, 2013: 2492f; Kamungo and Mendonca, 1996).

       Respect for others: Leaders with high ethical values and principles will always treat other with dignity and respect; they treat people as ends in themselves and not as means to their own ends. Such leaders with high respect for others recognize that followers possess viable goals and ambitions, they are human beings who have great worth and value to the organization where they work. It also creates empathy, active and patient listening and tolerance in leaders for conflicting viewpoints.

       Service to others: Ethically sound leaders are servant leaders who find fulfilment in serving others.They adopt an altruistic posture as opposed to a type based on ethical egoism. Such leaders place followers and clients first. They live and work to support and nurture subordinates through mentoring, internship programs, team spirit building and empowering. Thus,the Pentecostal dictum: Where there is no service, there is no promotion and no crown.

       Justice for others:leaders that possess excellent ethical principles would ensure that justice, firmness and fairness form the central core of their decision making. They would treat all their subordinates in very similar ways, except where there is a clear situation arising for differential treatment and s/he would ensure that there is transparency about why the need arises or exists. Furthermore, aside from transparency and objectivity, the moral soundness and rational logic of the motive for differential treatment must be obviously tenable.

       Honesty towards others: Ethically sound leadership requires honesty, trust and integrity. Dishonesty, which implies lack of integrity, destroys trust—a critical characteristic needed for the success of any leader/follower relationship. Honesty increases trust and makes the leader/follower relationship to blossom. Honesty implies openness in expressing our thoughts and goals concerning the organization. This means balancing openness while disclosing only what is appropriate in a given scenario. Honesty also implies accountability not evading it; promising what you can deliver, not what you can’t deliver; responsibility, not survival of the fittest or irresponsibility; respect for human dignity and humanity and not the erosion of abuse of it (Costa, 1998: 164). What a leader believes, thinks, says and do must be internally consistent. Internal consistency coupled with openness, will build trust in the followers towards the leader.

       Building Community together with others: The morally sound leaders build with others. This is crucially significant because leadership is about influencing and mobilizing others towards achieving a communal goal. Leaders formulate institutional or team goals that are appropriate for the leader and his/her subordinates. These goals need to motivate all workers on the team and the morally good leader achieves this by taking into consideration the goals of all concerned.

       The working of ethically sound leadership is based on the relationship existing between a leader and his/her followers. The leader ought to show sensitivity towards the needs of team members, treat them justly, and display a caring attitude towards them. The leader should ask and answer the following questions: Is what I am doing the right, just and fair thing to do? Isthis what a morally sound person should do? Am I honest, respectful to others? Am I treating others generously? Am I honest towards others? Am I serving my community, organization or institution?Morally good leaders are equally concerned with running their businesses and with their employees, clients, suppliers, communities, shareholder/stakeholders, and the quality of their end products. Leadership is about mobilizing people to achieve communal goals; ethically sound leadership is achieving team goals in a way that is fair and just to your employees, customers, suppliers, communities, shareholders/stakeholders, institutions and yourself (Hesselbein, 2013: 493; Daft, 2011; Phillips, 2006).


       In Nigeria, the citizens are more than ever calling for state institutions to be more democratic, transparent, and more efficient in the use of public funds, effective in delivering public goods and to remain strong players in an increasingly competitive global system. An efficient, accountable, effective and transparent public administration is vital for the realization of internationally agreed goals, including MDGs. Nigeria should possess the capacity to:


Foster dynamic partnership with civil society and the private sector, improve the quality of service delivery, enhance social responsibilities and ensure the broader participation of citizens in decision-making and feedback on public service performance (UNDP, 2007:1)


The Problem of Corruption

       Corruption refers to dishonest or illegal behaviour by persons in authority (Ochulor, Metuonu & Asuo, 92). The term emanates from the Latin corrumpo [corrumpere, corruptus], meaning to rot, decompose, disintegrate, or decay (depravity); to lose purity (in Christian parlance, to lose righteousness/holiness), or integrity. Corruption is:


A deliberate act of indiscipline against the legalized moral norms of the state, and the natural law of justice, as it affects the realization of the common good of the citizens, whereby an individual or group of individuals, directly or indirectly diverts, misuses with the tool of political manoeuvring, the wealth of the state for…personal use (Uduigwomen, 2006).


It denotes the “abuse of public office for private or personal gain” (Mauro, 1997:1). Gboyega succinctly asserts concerning the subject matter:


We define corruption as any decision, act or conduct that was (is) perverse to democratic norms and values. It also covers any decision, act or conduct that subverted (subverts) the integrity of people in authority or institutions charged with promotion, defending [and] or sustaining the democratization process, thereby under mining its effectiveness in performing its assigned role (1996: 6).


But people in public office belong to homes, clubs, societies and communities and what they exhibit in public office is an image of what holds within the moral vicinity. According to Nta,


Corruption is the subverting of public institutions, processes and goods for the benefit of a few persons or their associates. The substructures that fuel corruption indicate that it thrives where there is a high percentage of ethical and moral deficit in the populace. Societies with high inflation rates, lack of social safety nets, poor infrastructure, poor access to good quality health and educational services, high unemployment rates amongst the youth provide fertile ground for corruption. Ill-paid civil servants, public office holders and unregulated businesses will tend to exploit these situations to provide personal safety nets and eventually become rapidly greedy (2013:1f).


However, it is the candid opinion of this writer that in most cases, “the people [of a particular country/society] get the leader they deserve” (Ochulor, Metuonu & Asuo, 92), whether they are corrupt or not because of the machinery theyallow their politicians to set up to oversee the emergence of new leaders.


Typology of Corruption and its flourishing in Nigeria

       Some types are public centred, others are market centred, while others still are public interest centred (Uduigwomen 2006). He identified seven types of corruption: Autogenic, defensive, exhorting, intensive, nepotistic, supportive and transactive. In Nigeria corruption is so massive, pervasive and gigantic that it slows down development in most spheres of the economy. Simpson state that:


Corruption flourishes [in Nigeria] as luxuriantly as the bush and weeds, which it so much resembles, taking the goodness from the soil and suffocating the growth of plants which have been carefully and expensively bred and tended (2012: 3). 


       The effects of unethical and corrupt practices are negatively reflected, not only on the individual, but also on his/her profession, professional body, and indeed the society at large because it has a gigantic rippling and multiplier effect. The culture of corruption at any level robs Nigerians of decency, good life, human dignity and international respect.


Typology of Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs)

       Various types of anti-corruption agencies have emerged in the world in an attempt to deal a death blow to corruption. There are four different types listed by Nta (2013:2). The first are multi-functional (universal) and possess investigative, prosecutorial preventive and educational/public enlightenment functions. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong, established in 1974 and Nigeria’s equivalent, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), which was established in 2000 both are good examples of this type.

       The second category of ACAs is purely investigative in nature and addresses specific areas of needs, which may or may not include prosecutorial powers. In 2004, Nigeria instituted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to deal with cases relating to money laundering, terrorist financing, oil bunkering, internet-based fraud, advanced fee fraud and other related economic and financial crimes.

       A third typology of ACAs are largely preventive in nature and are known as Ethics (and Anti-corruption) Commissions especially in Kenya and Ethiopia. They set up to bring about an ethical reformation as a basis for preventing corruption. Under this genre, Nigeria has the National Orientation Agency and the Code of Conduct Bureau, with the latter being codified in the Nigerian Constitution, and having elaborate ethical rules guiding those in the public service.

       The fourth variant of ACAs is the multi-Agency approach where several distinct ACAs work in synergy to fight corruption as a common enemy, with each developing areas of specialization that become useful during coordinating inter-agency operations. The US Office of Government Ethics, which has preventive functions, is an example of this. It works in concert with the Justice Department, which has investigative and prosecution powers. However, in the aftermaths of the September 11 bombing incident the Homeland Security Department came into being and coordinates several other agencies like Customs, Immigration, Coast Guards, and the Secret Service, among others. There is a higher tendency for the fightagainst corruption in countries suffering from severe corruption crisis to succeed where they themselves have decided to do something about it domestically. Furthermore, the local population must buy into and deliberately sustain it for their own good and the common good of all (Nta, 2003:2f).


Notion of African Ethics as Character and the Problem of Entrenching Values

McShane and Clinow (2003) define value asthat which human beings desire, hold in high esteem, expect or forbid. They refer to values as stable long-lasting beliefs about what is important ina variety of situations. Values for Ezeani (205) represent what individuals, ethnic groups, nation states, and organizations desire and want.Generally, values are cherished and acceptable standards of behaviour or principles through which persons are influenced in their choices among alternative courses of action. They constitute the highest parameters and criteria through which individuals, groups and societies order their goals, determine their choices and judge their conducts (Ihedoro, 2006). Values are the goals people work for and are the elements in a person’s behaviour that demonstrate how a person has decided to use his time, energy or life (Ugwuegbu 2004). Core values are the selected standards of behaviour that are fundamental to developing a stable and progressive nation. Core values are the acceptable, right and cherished patterns of behaviour that are capable of enhancing national integration and unity.

In African thought, notions of values belong to the entire body of ethics (morality).African words for ethics (morality) very often resonate with character or ‘head’. This is true of the Akan, Yoruba and many other Indigenous African peoples. In Yoruba, character and value refers to obedience and respect accorded to older persons without questioning in speech and in responding to an elderly person where the wordseh and yin are used rather than wa. For example, you do not call an elderly person wa, which you use for a younger person or your contemporaries but you have to use eh-waor eyin, with the ehtransforming the two words into plural forms. Character for the Yoruba resonates with ori head. For instance, the abusive phrase orik’oda (pronounced orieoda, with the k’ becoming silent) literally emerges from two words: ori meaning ‘head’ and k’oda, which when translated means ‘is not good’. Thus, a person who is called orik’oda is actually descriptive of one whose head is not good—a person possessing a bad character (Pastor Michael Akintunde, Oral Interview).

       The Mupun on the other hand referto character as dyen conscience or ka head.When the Mupun ants to describe you as a person with a bad character, they would say hha kih kaa kas, which means ‘you have no head’ or‘ha kih dyen kasmeaning ‘you have no conscience’. The notion of character and personhood is central to African ethics. Furthermore, morality and personhood are also tied to communal humanity, as Mbiti (1977) says:“I am because we are; and it is because we are that I am”. The twin African notions of character and communalism have jointly birthed the ethical notion of the common good. This has manifested its impact on the following aspects of African life.


The Big Man Syndrome: The Politician, traditional ruler or boss as a big man

       Communalism made the African leader a sort of a big boss man who took care of the problems of others in his community. The big man was indigenously powerful man with a few titles, a pot or big belly, many wives and many children. This has made the new African elite, politician, or traditional ruler to love playing the role of the big man. The modern Nigerian big man has a retinue of titles, political, economic, social and financial power. He is very wealthy, with a fleet of cars, a number of landed properties, mistresses, and fits in very well with the ‘Big man, big belly, big car’ picture—and his car may be bigger than the building of his local Church (an idea first muted by Shambe, a professor of Chemistry who was actually describing the Mercedes Benz 380cc car of a colleague at the University of Jos as it was parked outside his rather small local Church). In such communally based societies of Africa, where traditional heads were in charge of protecting and providing for their communities, the ethical standard for measuring values and successis not good name, but wealth, class status and power. So, many try their best to live and grow wealthy by looting government, private company and NGO treasuries complete dry without feeling any guilt.


Shattered Microcosm: The Breaking Down of Communal Bonds

       In his book The Gods in Retreat, Emefie Ikenga-Metuh (ed., 1986) explains that agencies of change have shattered the microcosmic indigenous societal structure of Africans, leaving them with little options but the embracement of Western values and culture. Ikenga-Metuh propounded his theory from the works of J. Spencer Trimingham and Robin Horton, reaching the conclusion that the bond of communality in indigenous societies have broken down, and I dare say that as gleaned from No Longer at Ease, The Poor Christ of Bomba and other such African novels, nothing has been introduced to replace it. The traditional concept of community (extended family, clan and ethnic group) has died or is dying. Develop the concept of Christian Ummah-community and of self-development, with a clear line of succession as our Muslim counterparts that have a clear line of succession and a clear sense of Ummah-community. Christians easily became inaccessible to their friends once they go into office. Consider President Barak Obama (of the US) and his blackberry phone—he wanted to stay accessible to his friends in the backside of Chicago. Why should fertilizer distribution in a particular state become even more in-balance after pastor was appointed chairman of the fertilizer committee?

       African rites of passages such as life cycle and calendrical rituals or rites of passages of temporary cycle possess training and efficiency, which should be incorporated into Christian training of young people towards the integration of faith and carrier in the work place. Furthermore, Africans tend to possess a very strong sense of ethnic nationalism can forge unity and make a country prosper if properly enhanced. Nigeria went through colonialism where the new elite used it together with Western education for class, economic, political and socio-economic domination and divide and rule tactic over the masses. China transformed its traditional values into new sense of Chinese identity, which it utilized to forge a unity and high level of modern development.


Change: A Continues Process of an incomplete Transition

       From the 19th to the 21st centuries, the African continent has experienced the introduction of a great deal of agents of change that include colonialism (imperialism), Christianity and Islam. These forces of changes gave birth to the introduction of Western and Middle-Eastern cultures, language, social values, economic systems, political structures, legal statutes, and religions among such others in Africa. This resulted in the break up indigenous institutions and the emergence of new coinage, flag, identity, national anthem, civil society, etc., that are alien to the continent. These paradigms of change in Africa have continued and, in many areas, only partially understood and with fragmented acceptability. For this reason, Africa has been in a transition from oral literary texts and ethics of the indigenous beliefs to Christianity and/or Islam. This has been an incomplete process that is still ongoing.

       Africans have through the years following imperialist take-over and so-called independence merely taken what is convenient from the West and the East. For instance, Africans have abandoned their earlier strategies of moral education, which involved puberty (manhood and womanhood) rituals that reinforced societal values that made African forefathers honest. Though some aspects of African life crisis rituals and their methods were evil, the vehicles used were superb. This produced the Africans we read about in the diaries of early Arab and European explorers that kept goods by the coasts and road sides. The buyers purchased them and kept the monies for the owners in absentia, in the open without any thieves robbing either the goods or the monies resulting from the purchases.

       What do we then make of so called Nigerian Christians today who involve themselves in openly asking for bribes before carrying out their normal official duties? What do we make of people who call themselves Christians but who have compromised their positions by engaging in corrupt practices? Such terribly nominal Christians are people who have heavily compromise their faith and are poor or baby Christians, if they are indeed Christians at all. Many of such persons have accepted the principles of materialism and the dictum of if you cannot fight them, join them and may well have never at any time tried fighting the system, which they have strangulated and held hostage by the throat for their selfish inordinate ambitions. Once entrenched in a society, materialism overwhelms its moral foundation and births institutionalized corruption, which always eats the golden eggs along with the golden goose that lays them. Nigeria here needsa better and more empirical system of teaching, together with a sense better of commitment and responsibility. However, we in Nigeria have rather speedily accepted rights from the Western world (striking at any moment over welfare, social, economic, political, religious, gender, legal and other human rights violations and perceived injustices) rather than responsibilities. For any society to develop at all; there ought to be responsibility, self-denial and sacrifices offered on the part of its citizenry. Nigerians have in the majority treaded the joy of the Lord for material things; they have not learned to live sacrificially. Nigerians should be willing to give up their rights for service and to uproots the seeds of greed, corruption and avarice already sown deeply into the Churches, especially prosperity preaching Churches that say, “just bring the money, once it enters the Church coffers, it will automatically become blessed cum holy money’. The church should preach and pursue holiness, honesty, truth and hardwork.


People are Greater than Principles

       In the communal life of Africa, it is a culturallycorrect thing to place a great value on a human being—the human being is a great asset. Here, people are considered greater than principles and the personal need of a person in my community is more important than the need of a community located further away from my own. Thus,money used for helping others is considered not embezzled. It is basically a people-oriented society, where the feelings and expectations of people close to the person in power should be met. This makes it easier to compromise, embezzle, cut corners and avoid the due process. Society expects much from you and reminds you that you are in that office and you have not built your mother a better house. People expectations: great virtues and values in a people-oriented culture: more concerned about what your brother thinks or expects. However, what should be comprehensively taught is the flip side of this coin, which clearly demonstrates the factual reality that assets, even human assets, have liabilities too.


Indigenous Rituals of Oath Taking and Ascent to Political Office Today

            Ethical dynamics constitutes a check against the loss of control of the ethnic or group purpose for existence and/or its capacity for mobilization, such as for communal development or in the face of a common enemy. Codes of ethics were enforced in indigenous societies to elicit compliance (Dukor 2010). In indigenous African communities, ethical codes of justice were executed and enforced through a number of ways including invocation of curses, consultation of oracles/diviners, standard oaths, and in a last resort trial by ordeal. I was believed and greatly feared that the breach of any code of conduct would result in a curse or a misfortunate on the culprit. Since it was generally held within the cosmological paradigm of the day that the gods, ancestors and or spirit beings would punish culprits instantly for any breach of ethical codes with catastrophes extending beyond their generation to their unborn seeds, public trust and confidence on indigenous taboos and lore were very high indeed. This high reverence for indigenous taboos, lore and laws, which resulted in the general fear of taking oaths due to belief in the supernatural beingsand the authority and capacity to punish breaches existed up to the early days of the amalgamation of the Nigerian society (Dukor 2010).

       Today, oath taking has been modernized by Muslim and Christian influences. For instance, an Igbo indigenous concept of oath-taking as known as igba-ndu is no lingered widely practiced.Igba-ndu is an Igbo ritual oath that involves the piercing of the skin of a fingerof the parties concerned,to allow their blood drip over a kola nut, which is then cut into pieces and eaten by them. This ritual makes the oath binding on all concerned. As a young parish priest (just newly graduated from Rome), one of the problems faced by Emefie Ikenga-Metuh had to do with counselling an Igbo Catholic couple involved in the ritual of igba-du. In this case, a husband who inherited his late brother’s young bride wanted to guarantee her love and loyaltyto him through the oath of igba-ndu.

       Furthermore, Nigerian political godfathers have of recent resorted to garnering loyalty from their political sons and daughters through oaths sworn over monies of various currencies and largess stuffed into coffins. Such monies are thereafter distributed to their political sons and daughters who are expected to go and work for them in the belief that any breach of the agreements or embezzlement of the monies will be punished with death. This was glaringly revealed by the gory site of coffins with corpses at various stages of decomposition found at Okija Shrine because victims of breached oaths taken at the shrine had to have their coffins deposited at the shrine and their properties confiscated by the priests of the shrine. Ritual oaths through scarification of the skin, taking of ritual ash or ritual white chalk (indigenous kaolin), swearing by the sacred emblem of deities (the sword for the worshippers of shango among the Yoruba) is common place amongst indigenous religionists, while campus cults members and those of the occult take oaths over the relics of their various cults. The aim of the oaths they take includes secrecy, loyalty and service and it binds members at the pain of death to release the secrets of their religious cults, covens, and guilds among others. Nigerians in most cases live according to the taboos and lore governing the oaths taken in circumstances painted above and those that break them know that the consequences will be grave.

       However, in Nigeria, its plural legal system allows Christians to swear the Holy Bible, Muslims by the Glorious Qur’an and indigenous peoples to take oaths over symbols of their religious with the sword by far being the most popular. Political parties and the government also have their own oaths. For instance, the PDP in 2013 administered an oath of secrecy to its members of staff.The civil service has a standard form usually handed out to and filled by civil servants. The oath is administered to control the flow of information within and outside the party/the civil service and government cycles.

       Unlike oaths taken by Nigerians as members of indigenous religious cults, the occult, or oaths sworn over coffins are considered more binding and are taken more seriously than the oaths taken as a part of the process of ascending to political office and civil service oaths of secrecy. Oaths taken by some state governors, members of the Senate, Houseof Representatives, Houses of Assembly, Local Government Chairmen and other such offices are most times disdainfully treated with contempt and apathy. Thus, making oath taking, which is a public service ritual a total nullity. For instance, some high government officials and political office holders in Nigeria find it ‘dehumanizing’ and contemptuous to declare their assets. This notwithstanding, however, such politicians very often treat government as extensions of their personal properties.

       The notion of human character and the person in African ethics has changed tremendously overtime, especially with the introduction of Western agents of change on the African continent in the political, socio-economic, religious and spiritual and legal spheres of life. The big man syndrome that is currently influencing Nigerian politicians, traditional rulersand other “acting big men” is a mentality that negatively inflates the ego of individuals, making them to want to live above their incomes—they want to live big. Added to this is the fact that even though their traditional worlds have been eroded and shattered by these forces of change, with communal bonds of kinship and the extended family breaking down, this process of change is still an incomplete transition that is still being resisted as alien. Thus, the majority of Nigerians will not break oaths of secret cults, the occult, oaths taken at the local shrines and oaths administered at the meetings of politicians. They will also generally keep oaths taken over the Christian Bible, the Muslim Qur’an and oaths taken over a symbolic relic of indigenous religion at the law courts. They will, however, not hesitate to break oaths of office they as a process of ascending into political office.

       The conclusion reached here, therefore, is that most Nigerians are afraid of taking religiously inclined oaths or those associated with their cults; and when they do so, they are more inclined to keep them. But when they take oaths associated with public office, even though the same sacred symbols (Bible, Qur’an and sword) are used in the ritual, they are less likely to keep them. Thus, corruption is perpetrated by bad politicians in all areas of national life.


Way Forward: Fixing Nigeria’s Ethical Deficit

       Nigeria is no doubt suffering from an ethical deficit which has led to the depreciation of its indigenous and borrowed alien values from the Middle East and the West, as they were introduced by Islam and Christianity, respectively. The current ethical values of the Nigerian nation, which has for a very long time been drown in the etiquette of increasing corruption (embezzlement, mismanagement and 419—Advance Fee Fraud), is thus in dare need overhauling. There is an urgent need for the entrenching of new values that will stem the tide of this massive avalanche. Why do we have an ethical deficit in Nigeria and what viable ways have the capacity of taking Nigeria out of this deficit?


Why do we have an ethical deficit in the first place?

       In discussing indigenous values, Limbs and Fort (cited in Amaeshi, et al., 2006: 17f) identified ethnicity, language and religion as the three major contexts that shape Nigerian business and institutional ethics. A common trend among different ethnic groups that have implications for ethical values is the communal philosophy of life and concern for the less privilege. This trend is rooted in the concept of the extended family. The family network is germane in Nigeria and ethnic groups believe that individual responsibility extends beyond the boundaries of immediate family. This practice is the Nigerian indigenous form of social security. In establishing a firm, the founder represents not merely the company but the family, extended family, clan or a whole village. The founder therefore balances business demands with his responsibility to the extended family or community in taking all business decisions. The family owned nature of most private businesses and cultural notions of extended kinship suggest a propensity towards communitarian identity and there appear to be strong notions of group identification according to ethnicity, language and religion.

       Nigeria is a very theistic country, where belief in the supernatural and/or spiritual reality and cosmology is central to the weltenschaung as dictated influences of the cultural matrixes of various groups. We may argue that since gifts and sacrifices form core aspects of religious ritual, the same beliefs sipped into the Nigerian understanding and business-society relations. However, rather than this religious inclination influencing the Nigerian attitude in business to bribery and corruption (the domain of ethical responsibility) as expected, we have a total disconnect! One way of accounting for this could be that the firm as a mode of production, institutions and organizations as machineries that move governance are borrowed practices and therefore alien to African countries (Amaeshi, et al, 2006: 25).


Proposing a viable way out of the present ethical deficit

       Since Nigerians today are highly religious, being mostly Christians or Muslims, an indigenous approach to oath taking for both private and public servants, espoused and crafted under a metaphysical moral fabric that will combine both theistic humanism and religious rituals should be integrated into conduct, behaviour and operations of government business in Nigeria (Dukor 2010: 120). The pastors, imams and priests of religious institutions that intending office holders attend should be invited to administer ethical oaths of office to such public administrators who are ascending to positions of public service.Under the watchful eyes of their respective religious leaders, such oathswhen administered will lead to an individual ethical commitment that will deter such a public servant from compromisingthe codes of conduct of the Nigerian public because of nso ani (fear of mother earths wrath (Ani Casimir, 2009).Unlike the Biblical oaths administered within the Western framework of ethics, this will have a positive impact in reducing the incidence and tendency of corrupt civil servants to steal and compromise due process in the conduct of government business in Nigeria. Moreover, the religious leaders that administer such oaths can hold their members to ransom if they breach their religious oaths of office after entering them. Rather than believing that government wealth is nobody’s and can be stolen at will, the African native proverb, which states that “what is not mine cannot be of value to me or my family; rather it will destroy everybody if I steal what belongs to others” can be applied (Ani Casimir, 2009: 34). This indigenous system of oath taking that was highly valued in traditional times should therefore be integrated into the programs and activities of anti-graft agencies in Nigeria. This will make them efficient and effective through the instruments of individualized ethical and spiritual internationalization of the respective ethical principles of the religious organizations to which office holders belong. The respective religious denominations/sects to which they belong should be called upon when office holders abuse the oath they took before taking office. This will lead to the formulation of a new and efficacious spiritual favour of Africa’s theistic and humanistic ethics (Dukor 2010).

       The need for national ethics is already guaranteed in Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2011), especially in the section dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. This section of the constitution states that:


This is for the: purpose of promoting the government and the welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people.


       Professional ethics go a long way in ensuring that the funds entrusted to government and into the hands of public servants are properly utilized for the benefit and common good of all the citizens. Thus:


Every civil servant should only accept the job that s/he can competently carry out with display of professional ethics and by so doing s/he will in the course of his work identify the loop holes I the system for proper corrective action to be taken…Budget preparation which is a core financial activity in the operation of the public sector organizations will be adequately financed if the ethical standards are applied during its preparation and this would go further to reveal areas of waste and by so doing the deficit or surplus of any budget would be reduced to the barest minimum. Ethics enable the government to analyse performance indicators as seen in the establishment unit cost with comparative figures from previous periods. The use of trend analysis will be applied which is aimed at identifying the area that need specific attention towards investing, financing and di-investing decisions to ensure the proper management of funds (Asuquo and Akpan, 2012: 2; ICAN, 2009; Smith, 2002; and Scott, 1998:8f)


Public sector financial management (PSFM) is a very vast field of human endeavour. It encompasses the whole process of formulating and implementing decisions in government cycles concerning services, expenditure, debts and other revenues, including grants and IGRs for the federal, state or local government. PSFM is crucial for the smooth running of government and the execution of financial decisions more than other matters because money/fund is the hub of the wheel of every government activity. The formulation and effecting of adequate fiscal measures, satisfactory income distribution and standard of living, resource allocation and public accountability all rely on the standard of morality of the civil servants and politicians are at the helm of affairs. This is because government finances have remarkable influence on the activities of both the money and real economic sectors. Government investment activities are bound to create ample employment opportunities, avail citizens with good services, and stimulate the development of all sub-sectors having direct links with such specific investment activities (Abianga, 2001:3f).

       The need for putting quality control measures, peer reviews of professional ethics and conduct and monitoring and evaluation procedures can never be over emphasized. Quality control is a “system for setting quality standards and taking appropriate action to deal deviations outside permitted tolerance” (Cole, 1986: 205f). Quality control aims at setting high quality standards so that adverse deviations may be spotlighted for corrective measures. Peer review enhances the quality of auditing, accounting and attestation services.

       There is the urgent need for Nigerian Core Values to be identified and promoted, since Christians, Muslims and practitioners of indigenous religious practices share core-ethical values in common. All of them abhor dishonesty, stealing, laziness and telling lies, among many others. This will no doubt all these shared values to culminate into National Core Values that will overtime become a basis for negotiating acceptable laws acceptable to and practiced by all Nigerians.

       National Ethics and Civic Curriculum programme was launched from 2005 by ICPC in collaboration with National Education Research and Development Council (NERDC). It has developed a national ethics and civic curriculum for Nigeria’s educational system from the primary to secondary school levels with teachers’ guide.There is need to establish anti-corruption and integrity clubs in secondary schools, tertiary institutions and within the NYSC.

       In Nigeria, corruption is not only present among politicians at the top and in the civil service but it has penetrated down to the grass roots, where some petrol/fuel attendants and sales agents retain change from the monies paid for services rendered referring to such change as ‘chicken change’ and yet it is the buyer’s money. Thus, a dynamically holistic bottom-top and top-bottom approach (that would reach down to the grass roots) ought to be adopted in Nigeria towards the eradication of corruption. This is because corruption does not involve the big men alone;it has stained the hands of ordinary folks, including low and middle-income earners too.

       Furthermore, there is the need to strengthen the partnership between ICPC and the National Anti-corruption Volunteer Corps and National Coalition of Civil Societies as citizen-run volunteerism program in fighting corruption through mobilization and sensitization schemes. Professional bodies and associations (for example Nigeria Bar Association, that for medical practitioners and pharmacists, among others) should be engaged, because they have the capacity to proactively monitor and evaluate the activities of their colleagues and even sanction professional misconduct and ethical breaches.

       Access to justice is a fundamental human right to the whole citizenry and the Legal Aid Council should ensure that the poor enjoy their services. However, this should be reorganized to provide an expanded National Legal Scheme to encourage and assist young lawyers take up and defend indigent persons for a fixed state fee. The Indian Prime Minster and father of modern India Mahatma Mohandas Ghandi and the US President Obama started their professions by engaging in selfless community service which catapulted them to stardom and corridors of power. Young Nigerian professionals should learn from these examples.

       Poverty reduction, poverty alleviation programs, job creation and reduction in high unemployment rates of the employable – will strengthen democratic rights – the needy and the hungry cannot make ethically good choices. The acceptance of democratic principles and the entrenchment of the principles of good governance already mentioned above is germane to the development of the good ethical values in society. A mechanism for immediate restitution and compensation of victims of crime, crises and injustice should be put in place. Immediate retribution and punishment for criminal misconduct has the rapid and commensurate signal of strengthening the ethical conduct of citizens.

       The promotion of the high valuesof professionalism, encouragement of merit in all things and at all levels, and the inculcation of the spirit of patriotism should be built into the cultural fabric of the Nigeria society at every level of education and governance. This should be counter balanced with the downright rejection of the current state of mediocrity, which has been institutionalized based on regionalism, state, ethnicity, sectionalism, linguistic interests and religious considerations.

       There is the need to build confidence in governments in light of the increased concern on corruption and unethical behaviour of their civil servants. This should prompt current governments to review their approaches to ethical conduct at all levels. Governments can improve public service ethics in one of two ways. The first is compliance-based management, which depends on rules and enforcement and seems more appropriate to situations in which unethical behaviour is rampant and where it is difficult to curb widespread corruption. The second refers to integrity-based ethics management and is based on inducements and support and it appears more appropriate to situations in which there is a strong sense of shared values and a higher degree of homogeneity. Most countries have adopted a mixed approach (UNDP, 2007: 1).

       Promoting ethics in the public sector is based on key principles that identify the function of guidance, management or control. In the context of civil service reform, it goes without saying that ethical leadership and political commitment at the higher level remain vital to the success of any reform initiative. In the words of President Obasanjo, “Civil Service Rules by themselves will not lead to good governance if they are not backed by political will and the preparedness of government to impose total adherence to these rules to promote public good” (UNDP, 2007: 2).

       Leadership development aims at addressing the following dimensions: vision, effectiveness, and integrity. These are critical in realising small and large-scale change in public life, achieving capable and accountable governments that will produce sustainable results for the poor and produce viable leadership interventions, which are vital for leveraging and accelerating technical reforms in a variety of settings (Heidenhof, et al, 2007). Empirical internship programs (junior interns, master apprentices) should be introduced in all sectors of governance and within the private sector. Indigenous professionals such as diviners, priests and medicine experts had their bag-carriers. This sustainable mentoring scheme, training, in-service training system is largely lacking in the present setting of most government organs in Nigeria. This mentorship scheme will reengineer the whole training system towards enhancing the quality of civil servants in Nigeria. The best approach to mentoring is leadership by example. If you lead a humble, simple and holy servant leader life, you will positively influence most of the people around you.

       There is no holy money: stolen money is stolen money and people who loot money from government coffers and try to get them baptized through fat tithing or zakat to religious organizations should be convicted and the religious organizations forced to return such loots. Religious organizations, especially Christian leaders should be bold to call ethically bankrupt politicians to order. As Christians, they should know that they are supposed to be the light of the World. Corrupt politicians should not be supported by the Christian electorate to stay in politics and perpetrate the corrupt practices they are reputed for but they should be shown the way out. On the other hand, genuine Christian politicians that are suffering or have suffered persecution at the hands of morally bankrupt colleagues ought to know that the cross they have been called to carry is to persevere until they cleanse the political system of institutionalized and endemic corruption. Christian politicians are not supposed to compromise.

       Church doctrine in Nigeria orders pastors not to engage in partisan politics because the pulpit must remain holy and available to all and sundry notwithstanding party affiliation. Thus Christian pastors are supposed to enlighten their members concerning politics and pray for politicians, showing them the way to heaven. If and when pastors speak out their minds concerning politics, political parties or individual politicians, the people would say, Ehe, pastocisun fara ciyasa! Meaning, See! Pastors have started getting involved in politics! Some pastors have spoken out; they have refused to keep quiet. Rev Fr. Gabriel Adasu (stopped from saying public masses because he went into partisan politics). Fr Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese was the Secretary to the Oputa Panel.

       Corruption is still on the increase in Nigeria and it is slowing down much needed development in all spheres in Nigeria. The oaths of office and secrecy that are taken by politicians are not worth the paper on which they are written. Unfortunately, gross human rights violations continue unabated in Nigeria, while the oaths of office are being administered and long after the politicians have taken over the reins of power and the seat of government. The rule of law is truncated at all levels and only the highest bidders have access to justice, while poverty continues on a large scale through a larger chunk of the populace. Worst still, the majority of Nigerian politicians do not go to conferences where papers written on corruption such as this are presented to their hearing and they do not read scientific papers on corruption such as this one. Meanwhile, indigenous systems and rituals of oath taking remain more efficaciousin a country like Nigeria, with the rich human, vast natural and powerful political resources it has, since the ethical breach of traditional oaths very often calls for immediate and/or certain death.




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