Value System For Societal Development

Text of a Lecture Delivered at the 2012 Umalokun Memorial Lecture, Organised by National Association of Seadogs, at Olori Motel, Ughelli, Delta State on Saturday, 15th December, 2012.

By Prof. Temi Akporhonor, JP Dean, Students’ Affairs, Delta State University, Abraka.


I must thank the organisers of the lecture for this opportunity to share my thoughts on such a topical issue, especially now that the Federal Government is brandishing its so-called transformation agenda – the problem with Nigeria being that of implementation not that of policy formulation.

I had thought that a subject that bothers on value-system would have been better handled as a group discussion rather than this student-lecturer approach. This is predicated on the fact that value-system could be personal, communal or corporate. At the individual level we all have our different experiences and even at the communal level.

Another reason why I have a passion for anything that has to do with the Umaloku massacre is my initiation into the education pathway. I am sure that until today very few of you are aware that I started my educational career in Local Authority (L.A.) Primary School now Oharisi Primary School, Ughelli, incidentally, the site of the unfortunate murder incident.

It happened around Christmas period, while I was in Manchester for my Ph.D. programme. The news was a rude shock from the Oyailo family, that Victor had been killed. I was devastated on getting the details because some of them were my boys at the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi, as I was a Lecturer at the present Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma then. On my return from Manchester, I became the Capoon of old Zone C which has now been split to about nine Zones under two Areas that include Umalokun Deck, the organisers of the memorial lecture. This is a special home coming from me.

Value System

A value system is a set of consistent ethic values – more specifically the personal and cultural values, and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined value system is a moral code. It is a coherent set of values adopted and/or evolved by a person, organisation or society as a standard to guide its behaviour in preferences in all situations.

Your value system is the set of beliefs by which you have chosen to live your life, your morality, integrity, ethics, cultural attitudes etc. As individuals we all have our ‘dos’ and our ‘don’ts’ and we do have reasons for them, for example stealing. Some individuals see stealing as justifiable in certain situations. For example these individuals will not see anything wrong in taking stationery from office but for others there is never a justification for that.

The dilemma a lot of people face is when they are confronted by a circumstance that challenges them to make a decision that could place them outside their value system because it is an easier choice. For example, the taking of drugs; sometimes it is an easier social choice to go along with the group because one could be ridiculed if they said ‘no’, though it goes against what one believed in.

There is therefore always the need to work out what code you have chosen to live your life by and how you continue to live that way, even when you find yourself in a situation that may compromise these values. This is what I call “will power”. The will power to resist any challenge to your moral code.  A personal value system is held by and applied to only one individual.

A communal or cultural value system is held by and applied to a community or group or society. Some communal value systems are reflected in the form of legal codes or law.

As an individual member of a society, group or community, you can hold both a personal value system and a communal value system at the same time. In this instance, the two value systems (one personal and the other communal) are said to be externally consistent, with the proviso that they bear no contradictions or situational exceptions between them. A value system in its own right is internally consistent when its values do not contradict each other and when its exceptions are consistently applied. There is also an idealised value system which is a listing of values that lack exceptions. It is therefore, absolute and can be codified as a strict set of proscriptions on behaviour. Those who hold to their idealised value system and claim no exceptions (other than default) are called absolutists. A realised value system contains exceptions to resolve contradictions between values in practical circumstances. This type is what people tend to use in daily life.

The difference between these two types of value systems – idealised and realised, can be seen when people state that they hold one system yet in practice they deviate from it, thus holding a different value system. For example, a religion lists an absolute set of values while the practice of that religion includes exceptions.

There are implicit exceptions which gives room to a third type of value system termed formal value system. Whether idealised or realised, this type contains implicit exception associated with each value: “as long as no higher-priority value is violated”. For example, a person may feel that lying is wrong. However, since preserving life is probably more highly valued than adhering to the principle that lying is wrong, lying to save someone’s life is acceptable.

Conflict between Personal and Collective Value System

Two parties might disagree as to whether certain actions are right or wrong, both in theory and in practice, and find themselves in an ideological or physical conflict.

In such a situation, a value system based on individualism will be pitted against a value system based on collectivism. A rational value system organised to resolve the conflict between two such value systems may be as follows:

  1. Individuals may act freely unless their actions harm  others or interfere with others’
  2. freedom or with functions of society that individuals need, provided those functions do not themselves interfere with these proscribed individual rights and were agreed to by a majority of the individuals.
  3. A society (or more specifically the system of order that enables the workings of a society) exists for the purpose of benefiting the lives of the individuals who are members of that society. The functions of a society in providing such benefits would be those agreed to by the majority of individuals in the society.
  4. A society may require contributions from its members in order for them to benefit from the services provided by the society. The failure of individuals to make such required contributions could be considered a reason to deny those benefits to them, although society could elect to consider hardship situations in determining how much should be contributed.

A society may restrict behaviour of individuals who are members of the society only for the purpose of performing its designated functions agreed to by the majority of individuals in the society, only insofar as they violate the aforementioned values. This means that a society may abrogate the rights of any of its members who fails to uphold the aforementioned values.

Value System-Wither Nigeria?

I have tried all I can to locate any evidence both written and oral to show that Nigeria as a nation has anything that looks like a value system without success. I may not have tried hard enough. However, there are certain examples and comparison that I will make to show that life in yester years is definitely different from the life we live today.

Sometime in 2011 the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC was quoted as blaming the high rate of corruption in the country on the nation’s value system and that the social vice (corruption) was more destructive than the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and HIV. This was a veiled acceptance of a systemic failure, acceptance that the nation either has no value system or has what I term negative value system. While comparing corruption with HIV he had this to say “Corruption is evil and its object is nothing but destruction. It brings suffering to millions of Nigerians and even diseases and it ultimately has contributed to the death of many Nigerians.  It is more deadly than HIV”.

As if that was not enough it said that what gave vent to corruption in Nigeria was poor leadership quality, lust for power/wealth, excruciating poverty, lack of patriotism among other factors. According to him, “under poor or weak leadership, corruption is bound to infect a very high proportion of members of the society. The uncontrollable rate of corruption complicates the existing social and economic problems and in the process draws everyone into one corruption chamber”. This is clearly an indictment of government and confirms that Nigeria lacks a value system. It is therefore my humble submission that there cannot be a national value system without first addressing the personal value system and then the societal/communal value system. Charity must begin this time from our personal value system.

Only recently I heard that the Delta State House of Assembly went on recess to be able to have time to go to the National Sports Festival in Lagos, to cheer the Delta State contingent. If this is true , is the kind of value system we have for the state nay the country? A 900-man contingent made up of about 300 plus officials and 500 plus athletes – a ratio of about 1:2 official to athletes. What a value system. If it was possible to have such a ratio in our primary educational systems, one can imagine the kind graduates that will emanate from our universities.

A story was told of a Commissioner that led Pilgrims to the Holy Land, Israel. While the pilgrimage was on, he was busy shopping for bullet proof doors for the mansion he was putting up in his home town – what a value system? The trip was meant for spiritual education and rejuvenation. The irony of the story was that about two or so years after the trip, as the Commissioner was coming back home from a late night outing, he was confronted by hoodlums at his gate and escorted to the house. He used his hand to open the bullet proof doors for the visitors to have a field day.  What an irony?

Personal Experience

As a young primary school boy I used to trek from my house opposite Okorodafe Junction to the now Oharisi Primary School, Ughelli. I lived with my uncle, late Jacob Akporhonor who was then a Modern School Teacher. He rode a “White Superb” bicycle. He usually went to work with Khaki short, a well polished black shoe and white long stockings with a biro on it. I was entitled to one shilling every week for snacks/food. This was usually more than enough, as during break time you could buy food – rice half a penny and beans half a penny. The food was usually more than enough. If properly managed I could have personal savings of up to five pence for sweets, sewing gum, biscuit, and sundry. On this faithful Monday, I decided to stop at the garage (Motor Park) to buy cigarette chewing gum. As I got out of the shop, there was my uncle before me. The ground refused to open for me to fall in as I had wished. I pleaded guilty and was disposed of not only the chewing gum but the balance of the allowance. For some weeks I was deprived of allowance for food during break time. The punishment was relaxed a few weeks later as I was now allowed to go to school with a cup containing ‘ewa” (beans) and garri. This was discipline. It sent a message across. I never eyed the shop again anytime I was going to school. That was inculcating the right value system on a little boy that was just thinking of growing up.

Respect for Teachers

In those days, children are reported to teachers who were embodiment of both discipline and forth rightness.  Children were made to stay with teachers either throughout the school days or just during the holidays. Without fear of molestation or sexual harassment the girl child was made to cook for the teachers/Headmaster.

In the community were trekking was the order of the day the wealthiest man was the teacher who had a “white superb” bicycle.  White superb is what the silver coloured bicycle was then called.

The respect and attention for the teacher was because he was the moral thermometer of the society then and an epitome of both personal and societal value systems.

But today what do we have teachers who connive with students and parents and engage in examinations malpractices; teachers and principals who extort money from parents and their students alike; teachers who take undue advantage of their female students; teacher who engage in all forms of immoral and unprintable acts. Who amongst you will all send your child to the present day teacher for moral and proper upbringing except under duress? Your answer is as good as mine.

Religious Perspective

This is an information got from the social network unacknowledged fees charged by universities operated by religious organisations
Bowen University        N650,000.00 per semester
Covenant University    N640,000.00 per semester
Benson Idahosa University    N500,000.00 per semester
Babcock University    N450,000.00 per semester
Redeemers University    N450,000.00 per semester
Ajayi Crowther University    N350,000.00 per semester
Madona    N350,000.00 per semester

They all have one thing in common. They are all universities built from tithes and offerings of the common people who now can’t afford to send their children to these universities. Where are the morals of the church going?

“The schools were built with the sweat of their church members who kept sowing seeds; special offering seeds; first fruit seed, redemption seed, thanksgiving seed, harvest seed, tithes, pastor’s birthday seed, church building seed, evangelism seed, mothers’ day seed, children’s day seed, pastor’s cake seed, olive oil seed etc.   These schools are now elite schools, only for the rich andpolitician’s children. Those who profit from it use the proceeds to also buy private planes and fly up high in luxury, while Warren Buffet who has a company that builds jet still flies around in public and commercial jets. Meanwhile their members sleep hungry and the next Sunday they will read Malachi 3:6-12 – if you think this is unfair, like me please pass on this message on because this is reality and we should start the change now!  May God deliver us”.

If these scenario pointed above is true, then the question is, where do we turn to for moral rearmament? Where do we run to for spiritual upliftment and rejuvenation? Where do we turn to for the re-enactment and propagation of our value system for societal development? The churches and their leaders have failed us.

There are cases of church leaders harassing wives of members; leaders stealing and embezzling church funds and cases of the leaders engaging in criminal acts. These are leaders of bodies that are supposed to be epitome of purity, leaders of bodies that are supposed to be shinning examples of positive value system. The questions are legion and your answer is as good as mine.

In the past, churches were some of the last hope of the common man. When children were growing up they are thought to be religious. They were sent to Rev. Fathers, pastors, bishops, etc. for moral and religious teaching. With the present situation in the society which of you in your right frame of mind will hand your child over to a pastor for moral upbringing? Which of you will for example allow your girl-child to stay with a pastor and help him cook overnight? If you are not careful the result of such a visit will manifest after nine months. As it stands while in the past we had positive value systems, which cannot be said about later day religious practitioners.

Dele Momodu in Letter to the President

“Sir, for every one billion Naira we waste on frivolous projects, the dream of a fresh thousand millionaires would have perished. If you hand me the N2.2 billion Naira you are about to spend on building a new banquet suite in Aso Rock, I will instantly create 2,200 brand-new millionaire farmers from our large army of brilliant but unemployed youths. Each of them would be able to employ 10 to 20 people in production, preservation, processing and distribution. If you think I’m joking, please hand me the money and I will urgently invite applications from potential beneficiaries. I and my team pledge not to earn a kobo from the project”.

“If I may ask, what is wrong with the banquet suite you presently have? Is it not better to spend money on providing jobs than trying to show off to visitors that we are prosperous in the midst of want poverty? I’m writing this letter from Cambridge University, one of the oldest surviving institutions of learning. The buildings of most Colleges here are as ancient as history, yet there is no plan to demolish them and build new ones. The problem with us is lack of a maintenance culture. You can rehabilitate the old banquet suite with less than N100 million and turn it into an architectural masterpiece. I’m sure you won’t spend your personal money the way ours is being poured away like rain water. Do you know how old Buckingham Palace is? If it was in Nigeria, we would have demolished it many times over in order to award some horrendous contracts”.

“I gather you want to build a new home for the Vice-President at over N6 billion. This is sinful in a nation with over 12 generations of unemployed and unemployable graduate. What is wrong with the current Vice-President’s home, Akinola Aguda House and wherever Alhaji Atiku Abubakar once lived? It smacks of gross insensitivity to waste resources in this manner. Please, give us that N6 billion and I will give you 6,000 productive millionaire entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Imagine each of them employing 10 people within the first year or two, we would have taken more than 60,000 youths off the streets”.

Again, how can a government proposed to spend N8.2b on such projects.  A government with the right focus and value system will not engage in such. Nigeria has been dying gradually and it is still dying.

Now the Police Force

(Got from social Network)

“Omo, police don upgrade ooh! Dis na the call center numba – 112. There was a robbery incident in my neighbour’s house and I called them… The next thing I heard was

“Welcome to Nigeria Police Emergency Centre… for English press 1, for igbo press 2, for Yoruba press 3.

Then I pressed 1… then another voice came up… for car accident press 1, for armed robbery press 2, for Boko Haram please hang up…

Den I pressed 2. Anoda voice came up…. If they are with knives press 1, pistols press 2, AK 47 press 3, machine guns press 4, bomb press 5, all of the above press 6.

Then I checked and saw they were with all of them then I pressed 6…

Anoda voice came up saying… Hmmmm! My brother, if your brother dey police you go gree make im come?”.

This may sound funny, but the message is clear. The Police is not committed to their duties, because we do not take adequate care of them – No value system. These are the same Policemen who go for peace mission in other countries and excel and win medals. The difference is clear. Those countries either have value systems that have permeated down to the common man or started from the individual value system to societal value system.

The Voice of a Lone Ranger

“This is a voice, the true voice of the people of Western Nigeria and all the voices are saying very simply:
Akintola, get out;

Akintola, get out and take with you your band of renegades who have lost with you any pretence to humanity, and have become nothing, but murdering beasts.

Take with you your goons, who would sooner kill and maim, than acknowledge that you are all now an outcast to human society. The lawful government of Western Nigeria is the UPGA government, elected by the people of the West.

Let every self-seeking impostor get out now before the people, losing patience, wash the streets in their polluted blood. Get out, and take with you your lepers, your things, your army, your police, in their kits and armoured cars frightening old women in the markets, pumping bullets through the doors of female students and dragging their brave bodies down concrete steps because they dare protest.

The children loathe you; mothers curse you; all men despise you. And the youths of this country long for the moment when your presence will no longer pollute their home for a decent future.

In the name of Oduduwa and our generation, get out! Before the frustration of ten million people, their anger and their justice in an all consuming fire come over your heads.

And to you the Police, who think you merely obey orders; to you, the Army, who commit these crimes in the name of obedience and to you, our Obas who have lost shame, honour and dignity; to you the civil servants, Radio, Press, who think more of your bellies than the legacy you have bequeathed to our generation; to you, the intellectuals, who sit while acts of horror are committed before your eyes; to you, priests, bishops, imams, who do not use your pulpits for the benefit of our generation: we remind you that the floods that have waited many years to break loose will not have the leisure to choose between the hovels and palaces…”

This is the voice of a lone-ranger, the voice of a dogged fighter for the enthronement of a just and egalitarian society. A man who already had his personal value system and wanted societal value system. Things went wrong during the period and the man did what he did. That was the voice of the Mystery Gunman.

Prof. Wole Soyinka was arrested, tried and set free against the expectations of the government in power. After the judgement the Judge had this to say: “The trial was over. And, in so far as I was concerned, the law had spoken and the justice had triumphed”.

“All that remained was for me to wait for the consequences of my defiance of the authorities, of principalities and powers, who were involved in the attempt to influence me to pervert justice. One thing was certain, I slept well that night. My conscience was clear. I had not failed principles though I knew I had failed principalities. These principalities were those, who, in my judgement were around to subvert justice. I had done justice to this man, Wole Soyinka, who stood trial in my court. I had done justice to the state that prosecuted him, and justice to history to which everyone, judge, counsel, witness and the accused, and indeed everything belonged. I had demonstrated in my quiet way that the Rule of Law knows no fear”.

The above was an indication of the place and future of the judiciary in the orchestrated emergent democracies, most especially, as in this case, its place in a country which had just been granted political independence and which had set out with fanfare to operate a model written constitution.

These were the words of Justice Kayode Eso who died just recently. He was brave and courageous till death (a minute silence).

This was an encounter of a young judge, a novice in that part of the establishment, who, just a few months before the incident, had been given the honour of an appointment to the High Court bench of his country, with very high hopes for the judiciary. It was a triumph of a young Judex, the institution that is, the judiciary itself, and the strength it took to achieve this triumph. This again seen to support my assertion that personal value system is the most important.

The present day judiciary as a collective has failed us. There is communal value system in the Judiciary except personal value systems of some individuals.

The Way Forward

Nigeria is dying gradually and it is still dying. We have all watched the fall in the face of hope. The average Nigerian has lost faith in the nation.

The economy is in a bad state, unemployment pervades the country, break down of law and order in the face of serious insecurity of lives and property, corruption is in every nook and cranny of the nation, the value of hard work, integrity, honesty and accountability is lacking. The country needs a whole lot of rejuvenation. The nation needs a Value System. A transformation agenda without a value system is doomed to fail.

There is the need for a vigorous pursuit of value reorientation that will value hard work, honesty, accountability and integrity. There is the need to revisit our national culture as it applies to national character and image. There must be a conscious effort to integrate national values and system into our primary school curriculum which is the beginning of formal education, because as soon as you are born, you are old enough to die.

Prof. Temi Akporhonor
Saturday, 15th December, 2012