Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome

The BBC English Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and firm in your moral principles.” It further explains the integrity of something such as a group of people as “its quality of being one united thing.” This understanding of the word calls forth several pictures and moral questions that border on the quality of our leaders, the strength of their moral fibres and their commitment to the survival and integrity of the nation.

Each time a group of Nigerians mount the stage either as our democratically elected leaders, or take up the reins of state power by strokes of fate, they have almost always received the full moral and material backing of a majority of Nigerians in our bid to preserve our territorial integrity and national sovereignty. But the reverse has always been the case in terms of reciprocal actions from our leaders across board. There appears to be a lacuna in our art of governance time after time. In the absence of the right expletives, let’s call this anomaly “Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).”

This syndrome is rife in our body polity. Its endemic nature threatens the very fabric of our corporate existence. One can hardly delineate where our leaders firm up their moral principles and where these are banally sacrificed on the altars of inordinate ambition to the detriment of the nation. The chants of change daily rally our minds, the intended imports of which are most desirable, but with outcomes that are far cries from the norm in other climes.

This syndrome is rife in our body polity. Its endemic nature threatens the very fabric of our corporate existence. One can hardly delineate where our leaders firm up their moral principles and where these are banally sacrificed on the altars of inordinate ambition to the detriment of the nation. The chants of change daily rally our minds, the intended imports of which are most desirable, but with outcomes that are far cries from the norm in other climes.

Presumably, the quality of honesty desired of our leaders in delivering us all from the unwavering grip of the twin evils of corruption and lack of integrity in national life is in question. Else, our hitherto bright skies would not be so troubled by the darkly slithering clouds of double standards exemplified by the sesame of executive impunity, legislative rubber-stamping, and the ineptitude of the judiciary in the face of tyranny. Most troubling: corruption rears as the common denominator in the three tiers of government. What with recent allegations about judges taking bribes, the Presidency becoming the accuser and the judge through arbitrary arrests, and the

alleged budget padding saga in the National Assembly, among other sundry burning national issues? As varied and complex as the issues in the public domain are, they strike the imagination as issues of integrity crisis – where the good is overshadowed by the bad – where truth wrestles ineffectually against falsity in the dialectics of power. Who bears the brunt? Needless to say, the poor masses – those who go out under rain or sunshine to cast their votes not minding if these count or not in the final analysis.


We’re “the colours of our deaths” as Sam Ogabidu hints in one of his poems. There’s something about the Nigerian psyche that is intriguing. He is an expert in the mimicry of things that seldom matter but never in the things that edify his identity. Here he falls short of expectation simply because he is deficient in integrity quotient. Most of our leaders are guilty of this sin whether we admit the obvious or not.

Without ascribing an iota of moral authority to oneself, it is pertinent to say that nations are built and managed on the integrity, dedication, focus and visionary quality of their leaders. Nothing short of this can safeguard Nigeria’s raft in turbulent currents. In this regard, the custodians of our democracy, the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary ought to know their spheres of influence and the extent of their engagements in the democratic space with the view to manifesting the dividends of the social contract through upholding its sacred values.

We may build skyscrapers, usurp the public till, craft laws to our advantage, lead in draconian ways, do whatever we choose with the public trust we seem to enjoy at the moment, but power is a very transient thing – it may delude you with its grandeur this moment and in the next it’s gone beyond your reach. So what truly matters at the end is the legacy of honor you leave behind, for posterity shall never be lenient with those who had the chance to change our common destiny for good but frittered the golden opportunity away through Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome.

Dear readers, I admonish you to ponder on this and let ‘the change begin with you’.

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