Nigeria can produce the highest quality individuals to run the most efficient governments and private institutions if we teach the right values, not only in our institutions of learning, but also imbibe national ethics of hardwork, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, among others.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said this in Abeokuta, Ogun State at the Centenary Lecture of Baptist Boys’ High School.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria spoke at the lecture on Tuesday on the topic: “Values: the difference between success and failure.”
Prof. Osinbajo urged that an ethical revolution is necessary to fast-track the country’s development towards becoming a great nation indeed.
According to the the professor of Law, there was the need for a national consensus, especially among the political, religious and business elite, in accepting and implementing minimum ethical standards “where we establish a national work ethic, of honesty, hardwork, thrift and the deferment of gratification”.
Explaining this, Osinbajo said: “It is what is taught and learned that shapes the character of individuals and nations. But it is not just teaching, governments must lead this ethical revolution, by rewarding ethical behaviour and ensuring speedy punishment for misconduct.
“The religious elite must reinforce the ethical direction agreed by showing that wealth, and influence are built by hardwork, diligence and the deferment of gratification and not just by miracles. The religious elite must also reject and ostracize public officers and persons whose wealth cannot be explained or is clearly from shady or suspicious sources. Every modern society has had to deal with corruption, and enthrone minimum ethical standards to succeed, we must do the same.”
The Vice President, referencing the earlier section of the ceremony where the Commemorative Centennial Obelisk with the names of the distinguished centennials inscribed upon it was unveiled, observed that the same values of integrity, hard work and trustworthiness are what makes individuals, institutions and nations great.
He said: “The difference between men and women who attain significance and those who do not is values. So, it is also the case that the difference between successful societies or countries and failed or failing countries is values.”
Noting the examples of countries in Asia and Africa with huge deposits of natural resources and human talents, the VP said: “While geography plays an important role in the success of people and communities, they are not defining features; otherwise, the countries with the largest deposits of mineral wealth would be the most prosperous.”
Defining values as ethical principles by which individuals and communities live, work and interact, including honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, perseverance, hard work, diligence, discipline and respect, the Vice President emphasised: “It is values that determine the success or failure of individuals or societies.”
According to him: “Venezuela has one of the largest oil deposits in the world but the UN estimates that 94% of its citizens are poor. The Great Lakes region in Africa has some of the world’s richest mineral deposits, yet the countries in the region are some of the poorest in the world. On the other hand, some of the wealthiest countries in the world and those that have the most companies listed on the Nasdaq are Israel, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Singapore — none of which have any natural resources.
“Every one of the great and successful economies of the world share the same characteristics, they emphasise hardwork, integrity.”
Prof. Osinbajo also highlighted the “incredible legacy” of BBHS in producing alumni that have gone on to attain national and international renown in academia, the professions, business, politics, and civil society.
He narrated stories of four of such alumni, emphasising their strong values.
They are the first Premier of the then Western Region, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo (SAN); former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election; and one-time Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN).
In his early days in public service, the VP, then in his early 30s, had worked directly for five years with Prince Ajibola, who also later served as Judge of the International Court of Justice and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
On the first three names, the VP noted: “I mention only these three men because they stood resolutely for principles even in the face of great temptation to compromise, they made personal sacrifices or suffered for their beliefs.
“They possess something that set them apart. They seemed to have imbibed something that made them so resolute even in the face of sometimes fearfully daunting challenges: standing by one’s belief and principles even if it means pain or punishment.”
On Prince Ajibola, the Vice President recalled some defining events while working with the former AGF that exemplified the exemplary values he embodied.
He said: “The first was a situation where a foreign contractor that had won a lucrative contract from the Federal Government gave a car to Judge Ajibola’s son who was then in university abroad. Judge Ajibola’s son told him about it and I had never seen him – Ajibola – so angry. Not only was the gift returned, the man was reported to his government. I remember when he came to the Ministry to apologise, he looked like a rain beaten chicken.
“The second incident was a commercial aircraft arrested in Nigeria for carrying drugs. The office of the Attorney General was responsible for the matter. And a very successful lawyer who claimed he was acting as intermediary for some interests came to offer the AGF a large sum of money in FX. When I recall how Prince Bola Ajibola shouted at the lawyer and ordered him out of his office, I still remember the shame and fear on the face of the man.:
The VP also narrated how in later years, Prince Ajibola decided that his life work will be the establishment of a university.
He added: “He sold every property he had in Lagos and moved to his home in Abeokuta. He established the Crescent University with all the resources he had. I asked him why, he said at the end of the day wealth means nothing if it doesn’t positively impact the lives of others.”
Speaking further, Prof. Osinbajo noted that the successes of these four BBHS old boys who attained significance and greatness was not based on talent, or opportunity.
“They all worked hard, but they showed courage, and integrity, they fought for what they believed in and in three of the four cases were unjustly jailed for their beliefs or for reasons of their views or positions being considered threats to the authorities of the day,” the VP stated.
Congratulating the school’s past and present management over the years “for producing men of outstanding ethical standards through the years”, the Vice president thanked the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the BBHS Old Boys’ Association and Alake and paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, who was present; and the National President of the Association, Prof. Kayode Oyesiku, for the invitation.
He then wished the Institution several more centuries of positive impact on Nigeria and the world.
Prof. Osinbajo was accompanied to the event by the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.