Nigerian value system and development

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A horse rider displays the Nigerian flag

Development experts had outlined three major indices: education, life expectancy and per capital income, as accurate measurement of national development. While these may be true,this writer feels the likely error in this is that the springboard upon which these legs stands – national value, had been overlooked and hence there is a need to re evaluate such yardsticks if wholesome national development will be achieved especially within Nigeria context.

A critical look at various opinions on what value system means and while the need to promote its expediency suggest national value system are principles, standards of behaviour and judgement of what is acceptable by all within a nation. A national value then is a representation of what the people generally considers and strictly adhere to as very integral to its national success. In many ways, this attitude reflects in their daily practice.

As an individual, I constantly ask myself what is our national value and how does these impact on our national development?  In most cases, many Nigerians cannot and do not know nor hold one other accountable to values we all jointly cherished. Often, there are none to be honest. A look at our lopsided appointment and reward system can make one sick. What about the value placed on a Nigerian life? There is an uneven quota system and federal character parameters which impede on speedy development plan and execution. Contracts are awarded based on ethnic or close relations basis while we ignore vital issues of merit. Many deserving Nigerians had been sidelined   from national honour while known public fund ‘thieves’ had been awarded. Our traditional chiefs are not left behind. Chieftancy titles are given to the highest bidder as long as they can show a level of opulence. Sources of such display are never genuinely queried.

Despite all these, we produce solid development plans every now and then with the hope of achieving them when fundamental issues of honesty, meritocracy, hard work, mindfulness and respect for others as well as putting others, the nation’s interest first before self had not been settled. Without these, we can hope against hope and  achieve nothing. The  springboard will have to be in place first. In my effort to find a case study upon which I could benchmark my position, I mean with regards to any country which had made  great strides in achieving faster development through strong national value, I stumbled on Prof. Seong Chess analysis of Singapore. It will be good to share some of Seong Chess’ reflections. At least for those who had not come across this.


Singapore, a multi-racial nation like Nigeria, may be smaller in population when compare with Nigeria but it had gone through some of the challenges Nigeria is going through. These challenges include national conflict, unemployment and political unrest. But the Singapore began its development strides with national value internalization which rests on national unity and common purpose. As a matter of expediency,  Singapore enshrined supremacy and legitimacy of civic right, justice irrespective of class or race. There was also community-wide mobilizations of resources for communal uplift. In all these, communities are seen as partner while government plays facilitative role. Singaporeans understood for this project to work, there must be establishment of merit-driven society. This demand for meritocratic society raises its standard beyond influence of race, class or culture. Every effort is focused on talents and economic efficiency with assurance of equity while reward will be based on performance and function.

To ensure this works,  legislation was tightened against use of religion for political ends. Government always and swiftly respond to activities that can sow the seed of racial and religious discords. In order to enhance economic security, Singapore placed huge commitment on educational standard of the population.

In addition the national value system also made effort and ensure people who gain political powers are imbued with honesty and integrity. To tame greed, corruption as well as attract quality private people into government, political appointees’ salaries are tied to what obtained in the private sector in relations to function and performance.


There was a deliberate entrenchment of a value system which promotes service to the nation for its sake and not for reward. How do we relate this to the ‘whistleblower’ strategy in Nigeria? Other issues solidly entrenched in Singapore national values which they borrowed from Confucius include respect for properly constituted authority, society before self, family as foundation of the society, respect for education and knowledge, hard work as virtue, frugality and judicious management of resources, sense of shame, delay gratification, fidelity among friends etc. We do know some of these may have its challenges, Singapore carefully took the good side in all these virtues and jettison the bad. Just to ensure continuous adherence, Singapore includes all these in their educational curriculum. But here in Nigeria, history and civic education which should capture all these are been stylishly eliminated.

If Nigeria’s development must be accelerated,  we may have to learn from Singapore experience. It is true, for national value system to help, it must reflect, promote community sense of identity as well as be internalised beyond the lip service. In Germany, there are things you do and everyone will shout ‘this is not Germans’ spirit. When last did we hear such language in Nigeria and in regard to what?

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