by Nathan Uzoma
Man is a moral being, unique in creation possessing higher powers. His conduct is controlled by thoughts and emotions, by desires and intensions. His actions become the subject of his own and of other men’s criticism. These actions may be judged good or bad, praiseworthy or blameworthy, right or wrong. In the light of the above man is termed a ‘moral being’. Man is not just an animal, he is a person who can choose what he will do and who is in some way responsible for his actions. This is exactly what Ethics (which is derived from the Greek word Ethos meaning conduct or way of life) is all about.
Ethical science seeks to examine conduct and to deliberate on correct modes of conduct. Down the centuries man has speculated about what constitutes “the good life.” Socrates for example maintained that education is the secret of virtue for knowledge according to him is virtue, this was his famous dictum. The Epicureans, on their own, regarded the pursuant of pleasure and the avoidance of pain as the only worthwhile aim in life. Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe maintained that education constitute more than learning when he said, “By education I do not mean simply learning, I mean…Training…the head, hand and the heart…Training in mind, in morals and in hand that helps make one socially efficient”. In my term, if people are denied of books, I mean the right type of books that could help in molding them morally; the society suffers from academic malnutrition, starvation, moral atrophy and depravity. Such a society will produce a morally depraved leader, one without conscience, who on the other hand, will not allow his life to be guided by same. Like the sayings of Juan Aries, “I am free when I accept the fact that my life should be ruled by conscience”. Those leaders who disobey their consciences know without being told that they formulate new premises for life everyday which will in turn hunt them. Our conscience is an avenue through which the divine passes his message to us. It is unfortunate that some of our leaders belong to the school of thought which says that conscience is an expression of feelings of pleasure or pain.
The above school of thought tells us that an action is right if it is pleasure-producing and wrong if it is pain-producing. These philosophies belong to the ‘Hedonist School of Ethics’ and are very dangerous to our daily moral life. If conscience is just related to what makes us feel pleasure or pain, then life becomes entirely a matter of what we feel we like or dislike and there is no room left for God or for his will. It was this obnoxious thought that influenced the high level of looting the state treasury, abuse of human right and constant threat to life witnessed in Imo state. A situation in which a state Governor rules without conscience, constructing china roads and looting becomes the watchword. This in my opinion is political corruption which is the anti-thesis to our values ethics and morality. In the words of Philomena Agudo, “Values are so important to human beings, that without them, one cannot possibly discover a meaning to life”. In more or less different words C. Kluckholm expresses the same view as follows, “A selective orientation towards experience, implying deep commitment or repudiation, which influences the ordering of choices between possible alternatives in action”.
Political corruption is a social problem found in various degrees and forms in all but the most primitive societies. It is a characteristic of no one period in political history nor of any one country. It is endemic in both authoritarian and party systems of government. For James C. Scott political corruption “must be understood as a regular, repetitive and integral part of the operation of most political systems”. I am of the view that this phenomenon is more prevalent in the developing countries than the developed ones. Political corruption is the practice of politics without morality. What can we say then? If criminals rule as governors, Ex-convicts are in various positions of integrity and authority. In Nigeria a governor who builds china roads, loot state treasury to influence people can win an award of any type. Thieves are given places and titles of honour both in the churches, mosques and in the society, integrity goes for a pittance. In this country, there is nothing money cannot do. Oh, name your prize my dear and stop writing. This is the naïve voice of a mediocre in leadership who nevertheless, is not willing to abide by the true political philosophy of “the common good” which in the words of Mathew Hassan Kukah, “The common good makes being a spectator an act of treasury to (ones) community…No one can remain indifferent to affairs that affect the welfare of (ones) community”.
David Knostant described ‘the common good’ as “something that many people will find familiar but may not have had a name for”. David Knostant’s statement is informed by the fact that humanity ought to know what is right and wrong. Though it is obvious that there are leaders whose purpose of leadership is bereft of “the common good”. The ancient Romans variously called it ‘bonum Commune’, ‘utilitas’ communis’ while the Germans named it, Gemeinwohl or ‘Gemeingut’ which is to say that the reality was known to them. The great question today is where is the reality of this in our nation Nigeria? Where is the trace of this in my own state Imo state? It should be noted that ‘the common good’ is for the well-being of human beings living together in so far as they are members of a concrete human society, family, association etc. It was consequent upon the above that the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) warns, “If democracy is not to become a democratic tyranny in which the majority oppresses the minority, it is necessary for the public to have an understanding of the common good and the concepts that underlies it”. This is the bottom line! Democracy in Imo state is the practice of oppression, humiliation and suppression of opposition who are in majority. Extortion has become the order of the day but you don’t dear complain! O what a demon-cracy!
That reminds me; in fact Nigeria’s independence was only one year old when the leader of opposition (late chief Obafemi Awolowo) in the Federal House of Representatives called the attention of the government to the declining morals of the country. He maintained that the outstanding feature of Nigeria was a dangerous decline in moral values, whereby honesty was at discount and there was a high premium on corruption and mediocrity. “Prophet” Obafemi Awolowo was prognosticating on the future of our nation which today is highly conspicuous that great minds are asking, where are our values, morals and consciences? It was this situation that made Dr. Lawrence Ekpebu to infer, “In office the politicians turned the government treasury into large scale private gold mine. To remain in office, they used armed thugs to ensure better representation for their political parties and rigged elections in open day light”. What do you think? A governor within three years is forever out of penury, with hotels, houses and other related properties here and there. The get-rich propensity has become the watch word of our politicians. People’s consciences are bought with money to the extent that praise singers are now all over the place singing the glory of a non performing Chief Executive. The Chief Executive on his own is all over the media talking about great projects his administration has initiated and concluded. The sites where some of these projects are situated are still thick forest with local deities tightly sited.
The democratic process and the quest for human rights find their proper bearing and equilibrium in the common good rightly understood and interpreted by the Catholic Bishop Conference of England and Wales thus, “The proliferation of alleged ‘right’ can devalue the very concept. So can the amplification of rights without equivalent stress on duties, and without some concept of the common good to which all have an obligation to contribute”.
The principles of subsidiarity and solidarity are regarded as linked with the idea of the common good in our implicit, intimate and inseparable way. On its own part the intimate link between the common good and the principle of solidarity consists in solidarity understood as inter-dependence being embraced as a moral and social attitude. As John Paul II puts it, interdependence so understood is solidarity which “is a form and preserving determination to commit oneself to the common goal, that is to say to the good of all and of each individual because we are all responsible for all”.