Values, as experience has shown, pervade the whole of one’s life. We all have values that dominate our behaviours even though we’re sometimes unconscious of this. Values are like ghosts behind our every day decision making process. As the quiet voice of our conscience, they spur us to act in certain ways. Everywhere, values affect our behaviours. They are at the heart of the rules which form part of our lives; underpin the laws the society wants us to obey; and in fact what is expected of us by family and friends. The question now is what are those values the society holds in high esteem and wants everyone to live by? What are the fundamental principles that guide our conducts as Nigerians? Why has the society displayed so much lackadaisical attitudes towards values that drives our society in the past when our country was always cast in good light?
When I was growing up with my older siblings around the mid-nineties, certain values were inculcated in us. Once we go against them, we’re assured of spanking. For example, unless called upon to talk, we shouldn’t interrupt when our mother was talking to her friends or elderly family members; we were to respect everyone especially as many people around us were older than we were; we were also taught that money is not everything. When money and wealth goes away, my mother would always say, the people would remain. Whether or not they turn to you in distress is now dependent on how you treat them when money and wealth are with you. As a result, we were told to respect those who made their money in a respected way and distance ourselves from those whose source of wealth are obscure and questionable, people who often prevaricate when asked about how they come about their wealth. Particularly, the head of elementary school once told us that if one sets out to look for money and runs into honour and respect, he should return home for if the wealth comes he would use it to buy honour and respect for himself.
But many of this type of lessons about life are no longer being taught by many. They’re being taught almost the opposite of what we were taught – how to disrespect elderly ones, and exalting money and wealth above all else. These days, money is everything and everything is money. Unlike what was obtainable in time past, money is now being loved more than people. Character and intelligence are no longer celebrated. Everywhere you turn, the theme at the heart of most discussion is how to make money and not how to develop positive characters that make other societies outside ours thrive. Positive values seem to have completely been eroded from every sphere of the society from family to work to religion and governance. The only goal the society now strives towards is that which has monetary value even as good governance had been strangled to death on the altar of pecuniary gains.
One reason that could be linked to the decline in positive values among youths is poor parenting. People like me are lucky to be born around the time the society was undergoing its final evolution from a simple to a complex society and we were able to meet some value oriented lessons. People born at the turn of the present century aren’t that lucky. As the society is now complex in all of its ramifications, families have also evolved. Women are no longer comfortable with laying the family’s responsibilities solely on the man. Alongside their husbands, they now pursue different career which often drifted them away from home most days of the week. Parents no longer have the time to teach their children some of the things that they themselves were taught. Nurturing is often laid on the shoulder of a maid who herself needs to be nurtured or sometimes a nanny who the kids doesn’t often listen to because she is not their mother. Unlike the past, neighbours can’t correct each others’ children. When we were young, neighbours would have strongly reprimanded us before our parents would be informed of what we had done wrong. They were even allowed to spank us as little children if need be. That has changed.
Some people occupying different apartments in the same house sometimes don’t know one another. These days, people always mind their business. The parents are not always around to teach their children neither are the neighbours because they’re not welcomed anyway. And those of the parents that are around are not good role models to their children. They don’t have any positive values to pass on to their children. Thus, they can’t rein in on their children when they are doing wrong because the children see them as unworthy of correcting them.
Most of the things youths of today are from the social media. They also learn some from the street when they have the chance to stroll out without anybody watching. Social media is not the best teacher especially for young minds. Many things are celebrated that should not. Many uncensored items are uploaded and when there’s no guidance, young people feed their minds on it. And the more they do so, the more their behaviours tilted towards that which they feed their minds own. They are inculcated with the values the street and the social media are preaching at the expense of that which had kept their parents going in their career and their relationships with others. A good number social media contents are laced with vulgarity to which poisoned the soul.
Another reason why our value system is failing is due to the role of music. Music at times reflect the society where it’s produced. Nigerian music has gone bad, the especially since the turn of these present decade. Gone are the days when music is used to teach morals, extol societal values, and the scorn the social ills. Nigerian music now promotes gangsterism, elevate female nudity, and gives smoking an elevated status against the warnings of the Federal Ministry of Health that smoking is bad and is liable to cause an untimely death.
Musicians smoke openly in their music videos while ladies of easy virtues dance with all their body parts exposed. This is not the African way and surely not the Nigerian way. The essence of clothing is to cover our nakedness and not expose them. The more people watch those videos, the more the tend to act like those they see in them. Many see them as role models and would readily do anything that’s preached in their music.
Even more worrisome is the way contemporary music acts now use money and wealth as the theme of their music. Some even encourage the illegal means through which money are gained such as advanced fraud known as Yahoo Yahoo. They don’t see anything in wrong in defrauding people to make a living for oneself. Wealth as against positive characters is preached. Like they say, if it’s not making money it’s not making sense. Like Victor AD aptly puts it, if you no get money wetin you gain? Apart from money and wealth, nothing else matters as those things don’t help anybody. This is not the type of values the society used to promote in the past. No matter the amount of money one amasses, it wouldn’t make him a better person unless he has positive characters. Character above all else is what keeps progressive societies going not the amount of wealth an individual possesses for they do rarely care by the way.
Music, undeniably, has influence on the person listening to it. Consistent listening to a particular type of music often shapes the listener’s mind in alignment with the message of the song. Current musicians and their songs have failed badly in upholding the positive values of the society. But the blame is not totally theirs. They are simply reflecting the people’s opinion in their music. After all, they’re members of the society and they need to sing what the society needs to hear in order to make their money.
Music mirrors the soul. When the soul found itself where positive values are daily being eroded, and is flanked by corrupted souls, it would have little choice but to conform. However, if they could see themselves as being capable of driving change through their music perhaps they would improve on the type of music they release for the minds of youth population to feed on.
In the religious circle, things are not so different. In churches and mosques, not much is being done by the leaders to address societal issues. How could they when the leaders themselves are found steeped in moral guilt? Who would take as important the words of an imam or a pastor that regularly assault their members sexually? Who would yield their hearts to what a lady evangelist or an alhaja that often treats her neighbour badly is preaching? Gone are the days when people go to church or mosque and return home in deep sober reflection on the sermon. The sermon would have x-rayed their lives, admonishing them to lead a new life. These days, many religious leaders are better motivational speakers than those ones some of their members paid thousands to listen to. Message of financial and business prosperity has replaced that of good neighbourliness and the importance of leading a life of positive characters. This is not in anyway bad. Of course, believers have not been called to a life of poverty. But at times, there are some things that are better than financial prosperity. The messages should be directed, sometimes, at correcting social ills so that those that are prospering in it could enjoy their prosperity.
Disturbingly, religious centres that are supposed to abhor corrupt state officials now give them chief seats among the congregation. Religion had been turned into business venture and religious leaders making money off the people at any slight chance. Many atrocities that are not even committed by secular organisations are now been committed under religious guise. Yet we call upon God as if ours is the only he created. Religious leaders flaunt their wealth so much so that they attract irreverence to their office. Many of them have failed in leading their followers unto the path of that which is good. Yet they care more about growing wealth than having a better society. The youthful population that needs moral guidance now turn elsewhere where they would not be met with hypocrisy and disappointment.
Only if our founding fathers could turn about in their graves, they would certainly be disappointed in this type of political leaders that are reigning after them, many of whom lack vision and are only in office for pecuniary gains. They would b disappointed at how far out leaders have desecrated both sacred and profane places without remorse. They would be amazed at how many of their actions now force the hands of the younger generation to do many unthinkable things. This wasn’t the type of society the great fathers of our country envisaged when they fought for political freedom and attained an independent status for her. They would be disappointed at how bad governance has taken over the country and leaving no moral guidance for the younger generation who now do as they please. They would be disappointed at how the youths are now so desperate to make money and would stop at nothing to make it happen, giving hardworking a new definition.
The society in general has failed the Nigerian youths. But the youths should not fail themselves. They should know that it is men of great characters that build nations and nothing would change if they only go about making money and not minding the rot of the present society. Progressive societies where they are so keen to e escape to are built on his character and doesn’t celebrate people of great wealth less than they do people of character and intellect. The youths should know there is so much to life than amassing wealth.
Parents should take parenting serious. They should be the true guardians of their children. No matter the amount of wealth they created, if they bequeath it to children that are ill equipped they would squander it. Singers and songwriters should produce songs with the intent of knocking down heavily on social vices and not exacerbating them by singing to corroborate them. Religious leaders should remember that prophets of ancient religion which we speak of today are social crusaders who guide people to choose that which is good and appropriate for the society in its entirety. They are intolerant of the social vices in their time and never mince words in speaking and calling attention to it. They did not limit their activities to the altar, guiding people to make more money so they could in turn give back to the church or mosque. Political leaders should lead by example. They are to build the nation and not to destroy it for themselves and the generation of people after them.
It is time to go back to the old values that put us on the global spotlight whilst ensuring that cultivating positive characters is at the heart of every message we preach, be it socially, religiously, or politically. If it’ going to be, then it’s down to all of us. We must all push ourselves to achieve that which is positive and acceptable as capable of moving our nation forward.
May God bless Nigeria.
Segun Ogunlade writes from University of Ibadan. He is a final year student of the department of Religious Studies. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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