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Ethical Reorientation for Positive Attitudinal Change: An Urgent National Imperative



Coalition of Northern Groups Intellectual wing











Nigeria’s image as the giant of Africa has suffered some setbacks as a result of anti-social and criminal acts. The decline and fall of Nigerians in behaviour has reached unacceptable level. Almost all aspects of our daily life is affected by one form of setback or another. Vices and crimes have become the order of the day. Our society is continuously degenerating and governments are becoming weak and weaker in the face of the present challenges. From the north eastern part of Nigeria where Boko Haram insurgency has virtually destroyed all aspects of human relations, to the north west where Banditry is destroying the very fabric of our existence and making our government and security forces helpless. In the southern part of the country too, secessionist movements, arson, kidnapping and attacks on security apparatus are undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria as a country. The recent activities of IPOB and the apparent silence of Political leaders of Igbo in condemning their activities is posing a serious challenge to government and its ability to deal with the situation.
At national level, nothing seems to be working. Corruption and general indiscipline are the order of the day. Corrupt politicians hold and control the levers of power and are perpetrating their heinous activities with impunity. Political leadership seems to be unpatriotic; sentiments, bigotry, ethnic and regional agendas have overwhelmed national interest. The youth that should have been in the forefront of the struggle to make things work are becoming too divided along ethnic, regional and religious lines. In all the regions, drug abuse and other forms of crimes are bedeviling the youths. Omoregbe (1993), gave a vivid and clear picture of the moral situation in Nigeria when he said: “it is clear to all right thinking Nigerians that the basic problem of the nation is a moral one. It is therefore clear that the state of moral decadence has led to the continuous cry for ethical transformation and value re-orientation.
Section 23 of the Nigerian constitution (1999) provides that the national ethics shall be discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance and patriotism. However, the lived experience of Nigerians is quite different from the constitutional provisions on ethics and values for the country. There is a lot of indiscipline in every facet of life in the country. Integrity is no longer cherished by many people. The get rich quick syndrome and pursuit of easy money has reduced the dignity of labour. There is high level of religious intolerance and the love for the country is waning. Many Nigerians have no respect for our institutions and national symbols. There is therefore a great need for ethical re-orientation.
The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) (2004) recognized this need and ethical re-orientation was one of the four key strategies of the development strategy. The approach was to “lead a campaign to re -instill the virtues of honesty, hard work, selfless service, moral rectitude, and patriotism.” Unfortunately, throughout the period of the NEEDS, very little was done to actualize the campaign. Ethical reorientation is a re-assessment, take a look again and put something back on course because it has gone off -course. Education, Economy, Security, Rule of law e.t.c have all gone off-course in Nigeria and the values expected from them is lost. There is therefore the need to redeem education, economy, security, e.t.c in Nigeria through ethical re-orientation in the systems now.
Conceptual Clarification
Ethics and Ethical Re–orientation
Ethics as a virtue enables an individual, group of individuals or a society to differentiate between what is acceptable and that which is not based on either communal, societal, organization, professional or national values, standards or code of conduct.
According to Bidi (2005), ethics is a body of beliefs about right or wrong and how these beliefs affect the way members of a society behave. Buttressing this view, Adewunmi (1998) opined that ethics connotes the guidelines of rules of conduct by which people aim to live, work and socialized. As a discipline, Malemi (1999) saw ethics as a branch of philosophy which deals with judgment as to the rightness or wrongness, desirability or undesirability, approved or disapproved actions or behaviours in a society.
It is instructive to note that actions and character traits of terrorist are virtues that are unethical as argued by Ogunleye (2000) that unethical behaviours occur when one acts without equity, fairness and impartiality and respects the rights of others, or when what one does is morally wrong or when decisions that are taken enables an individual or organization to gain at the expense of the larger society. Ethics is positively related to morality, and a morally minded person often lives ethical life as noted by Odunewu (2000); that while morality refers to behaviours that are acceptable, ethics deals with the criteria by which decisions about right and wrong are made. This implies that ethics judges behaviours of people such that those that are acceptable, good or right are within the context of morality. Nigeria has not been able to dismantle the culture of insecurity and terrorism partly due to the fact that both the leaders and the lead have not either inculcated or applied ethical values in the daily activities as observed by Ogundele (2010); that unethical conducts are negatively affecting our educational system, industrial development, international relations, and blocking commitment of foreign investors into the country. While Salisu (2001) posits that, it is the responsibility of individuals to apply the knowledge of societal ethics to particular situations in their day – to – day interactions for meaningful transformation.
Ethical re – orientation entails all efforts made by individuals, government and relevant agencies in re – directing, re – shaping or changing the thinking and behaviours of people or members of a particular organization or society to see the need to imbibe ethical values.
Historical Context of Ethical Reorientation in Nigeria
The core of every human culture or ethos of any culture is a mark of its fundamental values. The satisfaction of some desires and interests inform the values we placed on things or experiences that arise from them. The objectivity of value is a personal judgment with pronounced emotional tone (Titus, 1957 & Njoku, 2006). Certain values have been fundamental in all human societies across civilization, the base of instituting value seems to be the family while collective values of society makeup the societal value systems.
Consequently, value implies acceptable standards, ideal way of doing things and living virtuous life in society. Value cannot function in socio-cultural vacuum since there is need for it to serve societal purposes. The positive or dominant values that serve different societies along with Nigeria include respect and honour accorded to parents, elders, men and women of honour. Love and protection of the family and family name has been the practice in traditional and contemporary society of Nigeria. Nigerians have belief central in their life in God, Allah and Supreme Being.
The ability to feed oneself and one’s family instituted respect for hard work and productivity that has served different societies. Truthfulness, honesty and friendliness are renewable virtues that increase as they are used and add flavor to life. There is nothing as precious human life on earth and society has accorded overwhelming respect for sanctity of life (Titus, 1957). Hospitality has been part of societal life in Nigeria, even during inter-ethnic wars in the past and the civil war; we were generous to one another although, they have declined in our present circumstance. Nigerians have strong respect for authority and leadership. Our society was founded on people’s lives of chastity, temperance, peace, justice and courage which have given way to negative values in contemporary Nigerian society. The negative values have poised our society with pecuniary motives that structured the society to be concerned with individual needs rather than public good and purposes. The order in our society is lack of respect for parents, elders, men and women, there is inordinate pursuit of material acquisition and the worship of money. Our teeming youths have developed many unethical terms and slogans, they have made them as part of normal life. Slogans like “scope”, “packaging” “yahoo yahoo” e.t.c. are terminologies that are commonly used to perpetrate deceit and unethical behaviours.
The society is characterized by high level of distrust. Suspicion and everybody has become a suspect of misplaced value. Immorality and lack of sanctity of life have increased as murder and kidnapping have become daily occurrence that pervaded the society with infanticide, fratricide, Patricide, matricide and suicide in pursuit of materialism. The malady of corruption has polluted the character and personality of many Nigerians. Sometimes seemingly responsible Nigerians within the corridor of powers gather around themselves sycophants and praise singers. It is worrisome, in that those who dare to criticize the ugly trends are faced with open harassment or veiled security. It is regrettable that vices have taken the place of virtue and merit is scarified. These and other similar negative values have taken the place of dominant or positive values needed for development of our society. The factors that enhanced the emergence of negative values in Nigeria need to be properly explained to the youths as basis of negativity in value system in Nigeria.
Economic conditions in Nigeria have created moral vacuum in the lives of parents and youths that cannot meet up with their financial obligations. Harsh economic situations have encouraged cheating, stealing, bribery and corruption that ravage the society. Even mothers now spend lesser time in taking care of their children as they have to materially sustain their families. The economic crunch has greatly devalued Nigerian value system.
Considering these challenges that affects Nigerians moral value, Governments put efforts towards value re-orientation Imaekhai (2010) reviews series of attempts made by Nigerian leaders towards ethical revolution from independence to date. Notable among these efforts was the Massive Purge of the civil service programme of Murtala/Obasanjo administration. The programme was initiated to cleanse the public sector of corruption and indiscipline. Public servants that amassed wealth were decisively dealt with. In the second republic, the late President Shegu Shagari proclaimed an “ethical revolution”. Major General Muhamadu Buhari in 1983 took over the Government of Shagari and launched “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI) while Mass Mobilization, Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) was established by President Ibrahim Babagida. The aim of MAMSER, according to Onyia and Iyida (1987), was to get Nigerians to embrace the values embodied in the programme. MAMSER was a product of the Political Bureau that submitted reports to the Nigerian Military Federal Government on March 27th 1987. The Bureau noted with misgivings that “the behavour of Nigerians in the political process has been largely negative” adding that the negativism was easily exemplified in “a culture of helplessness, apathy, and indifference to the political process”. It therefore called for “urgent and concerted efforts towards the creation of the right political culture in Nigeria, which should be executed through a coherent programme of social mobilization and political education…” The Abacha’s administration which came shortly after Shonekan’s interim government reintroduced War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAI–C). The Goodluck administration came with a Rebranding policy agenda. This was in recognition of the continuous decay of the country’s image which emanated from poor attitudes and behaviours. The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari initiates the ‘Change Agenda’. Unfortunately, the so much desired change is not being envisaged. For Agbese (2016), what the country needs is regimentation, not empty sloganeering. According to Agbese, leaders drive regimentation by demonstrating their discipline, their incorruptibility, their obedience to the rule of law, their respects for the rights of others, including and especially the poor. Lack of all these, no doubt has exacerbated the level of injustice in the country, resulting to all sorts of criminality from various militant ethnic groups. Little wonder, that “Nigerians are politically angry, economically hungry and socially militant. Millions of Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty, existing under primal standards of living. No jobs for timid youths and graduates while individual and ethnic interests reign supreme” (Osagie, 2016). The aim of these policies was to inculcate positive values in the citizenry and build self-confidence and human dignity. The ‘reorientation’ is expected to be imbibed by everybody irrespective of social class. It is on the basis of this that this paper having realized the continuous failures of these consistent programmes in attaining the desired objectives examines critically and discovers that the implementation of these policies were not rooted appropriately.
Ethical Reorientation as a National Imperative
In Africa, the larger a country, the larger the problems in terms of governance. One of the difficult things to effect in Nigeria today is restoration of our national values and integrity especially when a negative attitude has been formed by past governments. Ethical reorientation means restoration or a change of attitude towards a number of things that have been identified as wrong actions or wrong attitudes.
Nigerians are suffering because of its non-social and criminal activities such as: “Boko Haram insurgency”, ”herdsmen/farmers crises”, “separatist movement” among others. Erinosho (2008) notes that Nigeria is listed among the most corrupt countries in the world today occupying number 157 in contrast to Ghana which is number 70 in ranking of countries worldwide”. Erinosho (2008) further states that Nigeria has earned a despicable reputation for all manners of fraudulent practices and vices. These are issues that bring degradation to a people.
Fraudulent practices in Nigeria are too numerous, so much so that people are at a loss on what to do. When one reads through the highlights of newspaper and magazine as well as watch television, one reads and sees stories of the many crimes that Nigerians indulge in. The decline and fall of Nigerians in behaviour is a well-known fact all over the world. Countries such as Britain and the United States of America have lost faith in Nigeria to the extent that the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron could declare Nigeria as ‘fantastically corrupt nation’ leading to total loss of confidence.
Insecurity in Nigeria which includes Banditry, Boko Haram insurgence, IPOB insurgence, Niger Delta militants, ethno-religious crisis in many parts of the country are few realities that requires urgent national action. For banditry alone, in the Northwest area of Nigeria particularly in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Niger, Kaduna and Kebbi States, the activities of Bandits have been particularly worrisome. The activities of these bandits’ ranges from kidnapping to murder, robbery, rape, cattle-rustling, and the likes. Their modus operandi involves maiming and killing their victims when they least expect. Usually, they mobilized themselves through the forests into the neighbourhood riding on fast motorcycles especially in the nights and shoot at will. Sometimes in the afternoon, once they were sure there were no security presence of the police or military around, they unleash terror in the communities. This growing threat is claiming victims in hundreds. Several children have been orphaned and women became widows overnight while the issue of food security as well as humanitarian tragedy will further make life unbearable for many Nigerians.
The facts are scary. While about “1,100 people were murdered in 2018 in the six states of Northwest Nigeria in 2018, over 2,200 were killed in 2019 and 1,600 killed between January and June 2020”. About 247,000 people had been displaced while their activities alone have led to the production of more than 41,000 refugees. In Zamfara alone, over 8000 people have been murdered in the last decade, 200,000 displaced internally and others fleeing to neighbouring states. The situation is so porous already that the religious leader and Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa ad Abubakar opined that “Bandits now move in the North from house to house with AK47 and lamented that the region had become the worst place to live in Nigeria…”In Sokoto, more than 250 people have been killed in about 20 attacks, just to mention but few (International Crisis Group Report 2020).
Government has responded at both state and federal level. The initial reaction was the bombardments of the various abodes of the bandits by the military and police under different code names, but this did not yield much significant result. The state governments have also tried to negotiate and give amnesty to repentant bandits. While this initially worked, the result did not last.
The way forward
Ethical reorientation is not a simple job, it is a multitasking activity that involves many aspect of human life. It involve the role of government which include good governance and quality leadership, rule of law, justice and fairness, maintenance of security, provision of basic infrastructures necessary for economy and social well-being. It also involve the role of parents in ensuring the proper upbringing of their children, the role of community is also important in this regards. The role of the media, religious organizations, civil society organizations and traditional rulers all have a significant role to play in ensuring proper reorientation. The following are some areas that requires urgent action to ensure ethical reorientation in Nigeria:
The Cuban Model
The 1990s were dark times for Cuba. The fall of socialism in Europe meant more than political isolation in the face of a global consensus that declared bipolar history to be at an end. It meant hunger, atrophy and want.
Losing its trading partner and economic support, the Cuban economy collapsed. GDP fell 35% (Figueroa 1995:120), foreign trade 85% (Wilkinson 2011), and the US government seized the perceived opportunity to hasten the end of Fidel Castro’s leadership by tightening the blockade (Bas 2006:65). The years that became known as the ‘Special Period’ were characterized by a darkness not only figurative but literal, with power cuts leaving electricity available only a couple of hours each day (Brenner et al. 2008:277). After relative prosperity and economic equality, Cubans faced a crisis affecting every aspect of daily life: transport ground to a standstill as petrol ran out; fertilizers were unavailable; medical supplies ran perilously low; citizens spent on average fifteen hours a week queuing for basics (Cole 2005:50); and thousands lost their sight from malnutrition (World Health Organization 2006).
It is noteworthy, then, that education spending increased during the 1990s, as a proportion of, an admittedly diminishing, GDP (Gasperini 2000:28). Fidel Castro repeatedly emphasized that not one school was closed (even in rural areas where the Revolution’s guarantee of education for all meant some schools had only a handful of students (Blum 2014:423)). As Special Period hardships attenuated, moreover, and the economy struggled towards recovery, education was an immediate priority. In the early 2000s, class sizes were reduced to twenty in primary and fifteen in secondary (Carnoy et al. 2007:32), massive investment was put into accelerated teacher training and ‘universalization’ saw universities opened up to unprecedented numbers, most studying part time in their own communities (Colectivo de Autores 2006). Cuba’s commitment to education as an alienable social good and a force for global development was underlined by the formation in 2005 of the Latin American School for Medicine. This institution has trained, for free, more than 23,000 doctors from across the world, on condition that they return to practise medicine in disadvantaged communities in their own nations (MEDICC website).
Placing education ahead of arguably more pressing material concerns may seem surprising, even unwise, to external observers, but is consistent with policy throughout the revolutionary period. Along with free universal healthcare, education has been a lauded success of the Revolution. While high-quality analyses published in the early years, (e.g. Fagen (1969) and Gillette (1972)), have been scant in subsequent decades, the basic facts are clear. Its achievements – primary and basic secondary enrolments of more than 99% (Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 2004); 99.8% literacy (world.bymap.org); language and maths scores outstripping most rich nations (Gasperini 2000:23; Carnoy et al. 2007:67); the highest teacher to student ratio in the world (Figueroa 1997:122) and university participation of 69.1% of 18–24 year olds in 2005–6 (Barragán Duarte 2015) – are wellknown and recognised even by many of Cuba’s ideological; opponents, such as former World Bank president, James Wolfensohn (Wylie 2010:32). It is equally clear that education is used to promote revolutionary ideology and develop civic and personal values compatible with that ideology, a purpose unapologetically acknowledged by the Ministry of Education.
From the above data, we can simplistically understand how education was considered as a political necessity in Cuba, even when the crisis they faced was far more enormous than the one we are facing in Nigeria or northern region in particular. To this end, if northern governors can unite to confront the present situation in northern Nigeria and have a common policy approach to these problems confronting the country and the region, then we could be able to achieve a lot. Any Ethical reorientation in northern Nigeria most be geared toward education. In other word, a powerful policy must be in place to transform the region through education. The need to improve the literacy level of northern Nigeria must be at the centre of any reorientation program.
The poverty level of most Nigerians has been predicated by school drop-outs and people living in isolated areas without civilization. Government should not lose sight of schools drop-outs rather it should establish schools and skill acquisition centres near to mechanic villages, slums and other isolated zones. The government at all levels should build linkage roads to enhance economic growth of the members.
Job creation must be a central objective of government policy and government should provide enabling environment for private sector to develop into entrepreneurs and enhance job creation. The current wave of the central bank of Nigeria’s drive to expand micro finance ought to be driven fast with all its vision. Group employment would increase the sense of purposefulness and ordered life of mainly Nigerians.

The Media
The media has viable role to play in enlightening the general public on the overall effect of negative values and need for hard-work, fair play, self-employment and law abiding citizens through advertisement, seminars, symposia and other measures. These no doubt would go a long way in repositioning the positive values in Nigerians.
Political Will
A strong political will is needed by the leaders to remain neutral in the fight against unethical behaviors and corruption. This will help in strengthening the institutions in the discharge of their functions.
The family unit is the primary focus of value re-orientation informed by parental roles, goals, values and manners that influence the children moral and of social behavior that influence the children (Bull. 1980). They should teach and train their children, adequately monitor their children, guide their behavioural patterns at home and adopt gradual and systematic process to sensitize their children’s initiatives as well as develop in them self-control in the absence of external authority. They should apply mild physical punishment, mild withdrawal of love, emotional appeals or threat of disapproval to develop in their children self-imposed discipline and obedience to rules and regulations. Also, they should decide the type of films and association their children be exposed to. In this way, the ideas and attitudes of the children in the home will reflect their performance with larger society.
Fight Against Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is a central causative agent of social vices and crimes. Drug abuse has reached an alarming level among Nigerian youth especially in northern Nigeria. It has truncated the promising future of most Nigerian youth, some of whom are commonly seen roaming the streets as lunatics. Thus drug abuse has remained a negative force driving anti-social behavior and the increasing deterioration of societal values and norms. Therefore, any serious attempt for ethical reorientation for positive attitudinal change in Nigeria must focus on the fight against drug trafficking and abuse among Nigerian youth.

This paper analyzed the patterns and trends of positive values decay in Nigeria and the ascendance of anti-social behaviours and criminality to the center stage of our national life, attempt was made to offers conceptual explanation on ethical reorientation. It then succinctly reviews the series of attempts towards ethical reorientation by successive government since independence in 1960 and showcased the imperative of renewed efforts by different critical stakeholders towards ethical reorientation for positive attitudinal change in Nigeria. As articulated in the paper, ethical decay has adversely inhibited the sustainable development of virtually all sectors in Nigeria. Hence the urgent need for ethical reorientation for positive attitudinal change among Nigerians both the governors and the governed especially the youth on whose shoulder the future of the country rest.








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