Nigeria can produce the highest quality individuals to run the most efficient governments and private institutions if the right values are taught in schools, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said Tuesday.
Osinbajo said this in Abeokuta, Ogun state, while delivering the centenary lecture of the Baptist Boys’ High School (BBHS).
He said beyond teaching the right values in schools, Nigerians must only in institutions of learning, but also imbibe a national ethic of hardwork, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, among others.
Speaking on the topic “Values: the difference between success and failure,” Osinbajo said an ethical revolution is necessary to fast-track the country’s development towards becoming a great nation.
He said 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.”
“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,” he said.
He said the values of integrity, hard work and trustworthiness are what make individuals, institutions and nations great.
“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.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Osinbajo also highlighted the ‘incredible legacy’ of the Baptist Boys’ High School in producing alumni that have attained national and international recognition in academia, business, politics and civil society including the first premier of Western Region, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; the late Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election; and a one-time Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola.
“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,”’he said.
On Prince Bola Ajibola, the Vice President 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.
“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.”