The local media is alive to its constitutional duty of diseminatig, informing, educating and entertaining the Nigerian audience with rich body of stories on issues of the dwindling value system in contemporary Nigeria. There is hardly a day passes without some of the very vibrant national dailies running stories about examples of how some Nigerians debase and devalue our cheerished moral and traditional value system like the sacred value attached by most traditions of Nigerians to life. Nigerians, traditionally attach respect to the value of hospitality and high moral rectitude. Traditional Nigerian communities also respect the value of honesty and in those days persons who ran into questionable huge sums of money and therefore live ostentatious lifestyle are ostracized but in our time, many people who amassed wealth through odious and inordinate means are accorded first class treatment in most communities and are awarded different traditional and religious titles and the populace have lost their sense of rage so much so that when high profile government officials are charged to courts for eye popping financial heist and theft of public fund running to tons of billions of Naira, the members of the general public are not known to have publicly denounced these bad immoral and criminal offences.
In the twenty first century, the devaluation of our traditional moral values reached a new high when some new generation founders of places of worship of some of the foreign organized religions have converted their positions as means to amass material wealth even when most of their followers are deprived of ome essential services necessary for decent lives. Some of these organized religious groups that set up higher educational institutions using donations raised from their members have made access to such institutions almost impossible for children of most of their members who are so economically deprived that they cannot afford the exorbitant tuition fees charged by some of these religious run private secular universities. It is a fact that some modern day religious leaders in Nigeria who hide under the cover of religion to raise substantial and stupendous wealth through donations from dubious sources have bought for themselves different choice jets and automobiles to a point that a famous religious leader in Nigeria has more than half a dozen choice jets that he is contemplating starting a commerial airline registered in his family name. Such is the high level of criminality and devaluation of our value system in Nigeria.
On Friday 27th April 2012, the online version of Daily Trust carried a story that an Upper Area Court in Gwagwalada, Abuja, remanded a 40 year old man Mr. Charles Ikeji in prison custody for allegedly defiling his teenage daughter and the house maid. This type of abominable sexual depravity which offends our African traditional value that completely rejects incest and rape has become common place in our contemporary time in Nigeria so much so that more than five teenage girls are raped across the country in every one hour.
Most Nigerians have also lost touch with the sacredness we traditionally attached to life so much so that people engage in inter-ethnic and inter-religious violent killings which has become a bigger challenge with the emergence of a deadly armed Islamic religious insurgents in perts of the North that is responsible for the mass killings of thousands of Nigerians through bomb explosions and targeted attacks of government institutions, places of Christian worship and other public institutions including media houses.
Worried by these crises that have enveloped the Nigerian society caused largely by the apparent collapse of family and traditional Nigerian value system, the Wife of President Good Luck Jonathan Mrs. Patience has used her privileged position to hold several enlightenment advocacy programs to educate Nigerians on value re-orientation and the need for Nigerians to avoid creating violence.
Incidentally, the problems of lost value system had occupied the intellectual attention of some egg- heads and scholarly minds who took time to extensively reasearch and write rich educational books on the qualities of good family values. The fast eroding value system is not only a problem afflicting the Nigerian society but is also a big challenge in the developed western society that has lost touch with its proud Christain tradition and the people in the Western Countries are so individualistic now that the pursuit of material things or consumerism has replaced their ancient traditional value system.
The writers of the widely circulated, highly scholarly and widely acclaimed Book, 'the World Book Encyclopedia' wrote that; 'family' is the oldest human institution. These authors also said that in many ways the family is the most important of all human institutions. The family according to these distinguished authors, is the most basic and strategic unit or component of the larger society.
The above factual points find support in the tripartite roles which the family plays in the civilization episodes which the human race has passed and which humanity will inevitably evolve. These three roles pointed out by these scholars are as follows: firstly, the family is the means for producing children and continuing the human race; secondly, the family provides for the protection and early training of infants who are the most helpless of all creatures and thirdly, family sets up a division of labour so that each member contributes something.
The strategic roles which the family plays in the general affairs of humanity were also expounded explicitly by most leading philosophers and the theologians.
Aristotle (384-322, B.C.) who is regarded as one of the most wisest men the World has ever seen said that; "Between man and wife friendship seems to exist by nature; for man is naturally inclined to form couples even more than to form cities, in as much as the household is earlier and more necessary than the city, and reproduction is more common to man with the animals".
Aristotle proceeded further to state other salient qualities that members of the human race enjoy far above the irrational animals. He wrote thus; "with the other animals the union extends only to this point of reproduction, but human beings live together not only for the sake of reproduction but also for the various purposes of life; from the start, the functions are divided, and those of man and woman are different so they help each other by throwing their peculiar gifts into the common stock".
He was of the considered view that It is for these reasons that both utility and pleasure seem to be found in this kind of friendship.
But Aristotle was quick to add that this friendship may be based also on virtue, because in his profound estimation, if the parties are good; for each has its own virtue and they will delight in the fact.
He then proceeded to add that children seem to be a bond of union (which is the reason why childless people part more easily); for children are common good to both and what is common holds them together.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74 AD) who took special interest in the scholarly works of Aristotle and who perhaps ranks as one of the greatest medieval thinkers wrote thus; “that is said to be natural to which nature inclines, although it comes to pass through the intervention of the free will; thus acts of virtue and the virtues themselves are called natural; and in this way matrimony is natural, because natural reason inclines then in two ways. First in relation to the principal end of matrimony, namely the good of the offering; for nature intends not only the begetting of offspring but also its education and development until it reaches the perfect state of man as man..."
Like other distinguished Scholars, Thomas Aquinas who built upon the intellectual foundation established by Aristotle stated that members of the human race derive three things from our parents namely existence, nourishment, and education.
Arguing further he wrote that; "Now a child cannot be brought up and instructed unless it has certain and definite parents, and this would not be the case unless there were a tie between the man and a definite woman, and it is in this way that matrimony consists".
He stated further; "Secondly, in relation to the secondary end of matrimony, which is the natural service which married persons render one another in Household matters for just as natural reasons dictates that men should live together, since one is not self-sufficient in all things concerning life, for which reason man is described as being naturally inclined to political society, so too among those works that are necessary for human life some are becoming to men, others to women....”
Milton A. Gonsalves observed that family functions traditionally as an institution to control sexual activity and relations; to provide a stable setting for the reproduction of offspring and so for the continuation of society, to nurture and integrate the children into society; to nourish and develop the adults emotionally; to furnish a setting for economic activity; and to assign social status.
Gonsalve authoritatively asserted that these noble roles are been challenged and subjected to changes as a result of the impact of society's high mobility, questioning of sex roles, the move to cities, industrialization and technological developments that provide reliable contraceptives and promote increased longevity.
As pointed out by Milton Gonsalve, I too believe strongly that these contemporary deviations from the long established traditional roles of the family are the remote causes of the on-going socio-political upheavals everywhere in the world and in Nigeria to be most specific. The ease with which persons in top government offices amass wealth and deploy their privileged offices to subvert and undermine the rule of law so they could escape justice and go home in peace to enjoy their wealth, became more pronounced when fifty years ago, Nigeria discovered crude oil in commercial quantity and successive Federal administrations have institutionalized corruption in the extractive and crude oil industry so much so that the huge foreign revenue derived from the export of thes massive crude oil resources are not properly accounted for. Corruption and lack of good governance which has afflicted Nigeria in the last five decades that crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity, further eroded the family value system that traditional Nigerians held so dear to their hearts.
In Africa for instance, the traditional background of the family encouraged all members of the respective family units to respect the basic African cultural values like respect for elders; community fellow feeling as reflected in communal land tenure and ownership; live-and-let-live philosophy; altruism (including economic and medical variants of it); and hospitality. Instead of all these noble traditional African values, most Nigerians are in the blind pursuit for inordinate wealth and the large scale regime of impunity has allowed too many crooks to get away with serious ecnomic crimes against the Nigerian state and the Nigerian people. The judiciary harbor a lot of corrupt minded judges that collect bribes from corrupt government officials and compromise the hearing and determination of several high profile cases of financial indiscretion.
I strongly argue that since the family builds the World, all African families and families everywhere in the World, should promote those attitudes which project the common good of humanity such attributes includes peace, unity, love social justice and truth. People who work in all the arms of gvernment and the private sector have no choice but to rebuild our crumbling moral value system.
This is the only way to build a peaceful world and a peaceful Nigeria. The philosophy behind the introduction of the widely cherished pro-people and pro-peace advocacy campaign by the wife of the current President like the other humanitarian projects introduced by the previous wives of past Presidents are commendable and must be institutionalized so that the members of the Nigerian family units would embrace value re-orientation and experience renewal of our moral value system. I sincerely appeal to the wife Of President Jonathan to extend the existential impact of this excellent programme to all the rural and urban families in Nigeria, and especially to the unemployed family members because most times unemployment leads to restiveness among the younger members of our community in Nigeria. This is the common man's aspiration. The justice system must be strenghtened to provide for harsher punishments for abominable offences like incest and rape.
Emmanuel Onwubiko is head Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria and writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com.