INTEGRATING ETHICS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: THE IMPERATIVE OF VALUES-BASED FORMATION OF FUTURE LEADERS
THIRD INAUGURAL LECTURE OF GODFREY OKOYE UNIVERSITY ENUGU NIGERIA
DELIVERED ON THURSDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2017
BY REV. MSGR. PROF. DR. OBIORA FRANCIS IKE (Ph.D)
PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY
It is indeed my great delight and a special privilege to be invited to deliver this Inaugural lecture at the 4th Convocation ceremony of Godfrey Okoye University (GOU), a Catholic University in Enugu State. From available information, this is the first tertiary educational institution on the African continent under the proprietorship of a Catholic Diocese to be formally licensed as a Full University within the Laws of the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2009. As a Full Professor with Chair in GOU- an insider one would say– and by the Grace of God-someone who has been part of the genealogy of this institution, past – present and future, I claim with all humility, the audacity to challenge higher educational institutions globally to dare the current trend of a world developing in reverse and regression instead of progression and re-state the principle that ethics and values-driven responsible leadership are not a superfluous source but represent basic intangible assets of our civilization. Such values are nurtured in a university through its programs. The most important insight here is the identification of values as fundamentally important to the future of humanity and the prospect of its survival.
From a global perspective, there is noticeable consensus on the rejection of the world and its governance structures as it is currently experienced because many believe that it was meant to be different and much better. These situations do not leave humankind in apathy or lethargy but challenge to a renewed involvement in rational discourse for values-driven responsible leadership and action at all levels – Family, Society, Education, Politics, Business, Technology, Culture and Religion. The background of this presentation therefore finds its impetus in a statement of confidence in humanity, which has ability to gravitate intellectual and socio-ethical traditions inherent in the Christian worldview, but found also in other religions and cultures towards the center stage of discourse at a time when humanity faces fundamental questions of life and death. This urgent and dramatic situation refers to the apparent lack of meaning and the disorientation of values; of wars and the absence of peace; the growing abuse of the environment and the scandal of poverty in the midst of plenty. There is abundant evidence to show that whereas some people in some parts of our world are saturated with the advances made in technical, social, economic and political sophistication and have become ever more complex, some other parts of the world are still wallowing in horrendous superstition, physical and mental poverty, ignorance, curable diseases and lack of access equivalent to a bazaar of deprivation of all sorts.
The Global Ethics Forum of June 2016 held in Geneva, challenged universities worldwide to play a leading role in reversing this global slide through values-driven educational models for future leaders. Universities can apply -“Transformative Teaching and Research Methods; Students Network for Ethics in Extracurricular Engagement; Trans-disciplinary Ethics Curricular; Teaching Business Ethics as a stakeholder discipline for sustainable value orientation; Research Ethics issues dealing with plagiarism and Ghost-Writing; Publication Ethics; Governance concerns regarding Recruitment of students and staff; Committees for research; Green Campuses; Measurement and Quality; New Management Models and finally Anti-corruption policies” (GEF, Higher Education – Ethics in Action, February 2017).
The vision, mission and values of this university with the Brand-Logo: “Unity of Knowledge “echoes this realization because it places the unity of faith and reason in its consideration and adds management as if faith mattered to its agenda. This is the strength of higher education.
At this Fourth Convocation of the Godfrey Okoye University, we are challenged as a university, also through the contributions of this Inaugural Lecture to reflect on one core dimension of the raisön d’être and essence of a university. As is widely accepted, education is both a means to an end and an end in itself. It is also an economic game changer and the key to life’s many opportunities in the modern world. Permit me at this stage to ask the question: Why a University? To this question, there are many answers and they vary, like the old Latin would say: “Tot homines quot sententiae” – “As there are many people, so are there many opinions”.
For Humboldt, a German philosopher and diplomat, “a university has to do with the “whole” community of scholars and students engaged in a common search for truth. For Newman, it was about teaching universal knowledge. For Robbins, an economist commissioned by the government of the time in the United Kingdom to draw up a report on the future of higher education, universities had four objectives: “instruction in skills, promotion of the general powers of the mind, advancement of learning, and transmission of a common culture and common standards of citizenship” (The Guardian, London, October 2011).What do these concepts translate to? Essentially the fact that a University is serious business which must fulfil among other services to the community, a component of being a “Knowledge and Value Provider. It stands or fails in its ability or inability to deliver on this criteria” (Ike, O/Nnoli-Edozien, N; Development is About People, Business is About Ethics; CIDJAP, 2003, p.70). According to the Magna Charta Universitatum: “The University is an autonomous institution at the heart of societies differently organised because of geography and historical heritage. It produces, examines, appraises and hands down culture by research and teaching”.
This essentially implies the integration of ethics in the entirety of higher education policies and programs by integrating Ethics as a product and central derivative for the orientation of science, governance, economy, technology and culture with life sustaining values to guide students, teachers and community. The aim is to target Ethics in Higher Education as a primary agenda in preparing the youth – future leaders for responsible leadership roles in the larger society upon completion of studies. “Knowledge is Virtue”, so wrote Socrates. Virtue is the formation and moulding of character through conducts transmitted and from one generation to the next and considered “good” because they add to the overall good of Society (Aristotle, Nichomechian Ethics). Virtues correspond to values transformed to commandments, codes, rules of life and principles internalized by persons to achieve “the good life” – “Happiness – that which all men seek”. For those who aim at a humanity integrated in justice, equality, dignity, freedom, peace and progress, there is a belief that faith in these values compels them to action. This in effect means to stand up with prophetic courage, armed with ethical, intellectual, rational, moral and spiritual strength to give hope, serve those in need, pursue peace, defend the life, dignity and rights of all peoples and maintain a fundamental option for the poor who are the most vulnerable in society.
In 1858, the distinguished American sociologist Edward Banfield published a book titled – “The Moral Basis of a Backward Society”, and proved that in all countries of the world, the Crisis of Social Values is at the Root of the Economic Under-performance of the poorer societies and Nations. There is a correlation between High Ethical Standards and Economic Development. The higher the ethics and discipline, the more progressive a people and its economy. A society which allows its people to indulge in massive corruption cannot develop economically. Curbing corruption requires political will, public confidence, adequate time, resources, dedication and integrity (Banfield, E, 1858).
In 1997, Francis Fukuyama published his second book titled – “Trust – the Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity”. In this book, the polyvalent intellectual professor argues that the difference between poor and rich societies is the difference in the levels of Social Capital. Social Capital for Fukuyama is high Stock of Values like Honesty, Loyalty, Trust and Integrity, Discipline, Hard Work, to mention a few. Societies with substantial stock of these values are High-Trust and those where the values are absent are Low-Trust.
At the dawn of a new millennium in 1999, Harvard University organized a symposium to interrogate the powerful place of Cultural Values in Societal and National Development. The book published the conclusive papers which appeared in 2000 titled – “Culture Matters – How Values shape Human Progress”, edited by Lawrence Huttington who later wrote another book, namely: “The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of the World Order”. This work shows how South East Nations like Korea and Singapore make progress while Ghana and Chad and Nigeria in Africa don’t.
Ethics is about values and values are not merely utopian. Values define us, and let it be said, whether we accept it or not, that values define Institutions, Cultures and Peoples. The entire efforts of Industry, Economy, Politics and Societies towards worldwide re-construction in the name of Civilization may not work without a strong values-driven and ethical orientation. These values are universal – beyond boundaries and beyond cultures. Take for example the values of freedoms and truth. What is freedom if people cannot say or stand for the truth? And what is truth if it is not knowable and only relative? And how can there be inner liberty if people are not authentic? Is not inner liberty obtained if there is fidelity to truth? Is not a culture rich in values higher than a society rich in material wealth? And what value is wealth if it did not have health?
The implication of all these plays out on the slogan of Godfrey Okoye University: “Unity of Knowledge”. They pose questions which gravitate the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, initiated by the great scholastic philosopher, St Thomas Aquinas to make theory realised in action; to make faith grounded on reason; to make truth part of life; to make so-called illusions reality and to ensure, grace is founded on nature; therefore, that here on earth. God’s work is essentially continued and completed through humans who make creation their own and preserve it. These reflections introduce the argument for the imperative of integrating ethics in higher education – an agenda that is uncommon in the planning of curricula of many higher institutions of learning. The challenge therefore is to re-discover the imperative and significant role of ethics in higher education to produce future leadership who embrace “intellectual activism”, as theorised by Patricia Hills Collins and ensure teachers and students engage in value discussions that link knowledge with practices that serve the public interest. This is possible when universities ensure that using “moral reasoning” and the “power of ideas” students and teachers together can work for social justice and promote ethics in Higher education for values-driven-life concerned with sustainable development.
In this search for solutions to global problems and paradoxes, measurable actions set forth by the United Nations Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)2015 and the UNESCO education Framework 2030 include: 1) “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.2) By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development (SDG 4; UNESCO Education Framework, 2030). 3) Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms; develop effective, accountable and tgrnsèpernt intuitions at all levels” (SDG 16).
Four key areas emerge for universities to concentrate efforts on and make a difference through: teaching- to integrate responsibility in teaching in order to transform students into responsible citizens and future leaders; research – to integrate responsibility into research through ethical principles that create innovation and, promote scientific progress and respect the balance of the human and spiritual ecology of humankind; governance – to turn the spotlight into the institutions themselves by ensuring that codes of ethics and principles of balance of power driven by values is inculcated in the institutional framework itself and put into practice at all levels – teaching by doing; society – to integrate the notion of responsibility in the discussion with higher education’s main stakeholders such as regulators, Commissions, Ministries of Education and Governments. Is there any other viable alternative for humanity at this time? What future does society expect if the leaders of the future are not equipped with real life-skills during formation and training as medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, technicians, diplomats, academics, professionals, pastors, development practitioners, researchers, sociologists, community leaders, family members citizens of their countries?
Allow me, Ladies and gentlemen to express gratitude to the Legal Holder, Visitor and Trustee of Godfrey Okoye University, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Most Reverend Doctor Callistus Valentine Chukwuma ONAGA, a social ethicist and theologian whose book on “A civilization of work through love” published in Bonn, Germany continues to adorn libraries in Germany with solid research and add voice to values. His constant presence, support and prayers for the progress of the university shall be subject of a Symposium in due time.
I pay respects and salute the ebullient Emeritus Bishop of Enugu (1997 -2009), Most Reverend Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji, whose tenure and service saw to the needed support for the emergence and founding of the GOU by our own brother, friend and colleague, Professor Father Doctor Christian Anieke.
Christian is a highly acclaimed academic, a man of Letters and an Alumni of English Language Department and Lion of the first University of Nigeria (UNN); a professor at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT); an honorary citizen of Mitterkirchen, Austria; the Director of Godfrey Okoye Group of Institutions; including the Go-Uni-Radio 106.9fm; Director of Institute of Chinua Achebe Studies and Pastor/Rector of the Omnium Sanctorum Chaplaincy, Enugu. Christian is an Awardwinning Fellow of the Scholarship of the Jesuit fathers at Collegium Canisianum, Innsbruck Austria; concluding his doctoral degree studies in Comparative English Literature in the United Kingdom. Besides authoring works in German, Igbo and English languages, he is active in community and cultural development at various levels. A dynamic and dedicated teacher and leader, his time and talents are spent for the public good, and this realisation is expressed, without any exaggeration. We are here today because of him, – his loyalty and services, his hard work and skills at both human and resources management, and all this, achieved at an early age in life to the glory of God, the good of the Church and the progress of humanity. We appreciate your talents and good will.
To all Members of the Board of Trustees of the university, led by our dedicated and performing Chairman, Professor Bartho Okolo, emeritus Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, I pay homage and pledge continued support to the work of the Board. I recognize the Chancellor of the University, His Excellency Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Jos and President of the Bishops Conference of Nigeria. His role in this institution guides the geography of this institution towards Christian ethics and values of subsidiarity, solidarity, human dignity, personality and the common Good for integral development.
I acknowledge the members of Senate and Chairman of Council, a Legal Luminary and Professor at the Golden Gate University, California, Christian Nwachukwu Okeke for the great work done to advance the university and position the youth as future leaders – who emerge from this institution. Your belief in high ethical reputation for the university and your standards with codes of ethics grounded in rules and regulations make the GOU tick. My acknowledgement is hereby extended to all Faculties, Institutes and Departments within the institution; the entire Academic community and Congregation.
In a special way, I congratulate the graduands at this Fourth Convocation Ceremony for hard work which yields its due rewards. History has knocked very loudly on your doors. Will you answer? To all the students of the university, I call upon you to stand out and shine. It is your opportunity. Take the mantle of leadership and be the future we need in Nigeria and Africa for a better world! Here, you have the opportunity to be persons integrated in mind, body and spirit, graduates fully rounded, who, with confidence, can take their place on the world’s stage. We are inspired and cautioned by the words of Nelson Mandela, the greatest African, perhaps world figure of the 20th century who said in 2003 that “those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty”.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, all protocols duly observed, permit me now to present my Inaugural Lecture. I shall start by inviting you all to stand for a while, as we relish the thresholds of history, recall the unity of past-present-and-future, an action symbolic of our valuable traditional and authentic African culture which believes in commemorating the ancestors, gone before us, “marked with sign of faith”(St John, Revelations). These have sown the seed, watered the plants and worked hard to build the foundations upon which we stand today. It is the spirit of universality expressed as Catholicity and founded on the tradition of trans-generational rendering as Gift- Challenge – reason for Action.
We recall with gratitude, the memory of:
The Irish, French and German missionaries – uncountable in number, but led by that great man, Bishop Joseph Shanahan of Southern Nigeria, whose lives, selfless works and graves adorn our landscapes and parishes and schools. They laid the foundation stones for the Christian evangelizing enterprise in our territory which today has risen to become the largest garden of religious and priestly vocations for humanity. Those brave men and women, religious and laity, at home in Ireland, France and Germany as elsewhere, working on the African soil, gave Christianity its greatest success in 19th and 20th century missionary historical expansion (Vatican sources). While the British colonised the land, disrupted the local cultures, transgressed traditional institutions and took the people and their minerals without permission or adequate sustainable value added, these Irish, French, German and other missionaries planted the seeds of education, helped groom character, learning and knowledge which form part of the authentic beginnings of the Igbo emergence and rise within modern Nigeria, Africa and globally to this day.
Bishop John Cross Anyogu, founding Bishop of the Diocese of Enugu (1962 -1967) who started the first secondary school – St John Cross Seminary (founded 1964/65), located at Isienu, Nsukka for the training of youth in the territory of Enugu Diocese. He saw the future of an independent ecclesiastical circumscription built on well trained and educated youth, students, teachers, future clergy and pastors of souls. A majority of the clergy working in Enugu State– including the Bishops of Awgu, Enugu and Nsukka – and our humble selves – are products of the seed sown at that St John’s seminary.
Bishop Godfrey Mary Paul Okoye (1970 -1977), on whose name this University is officially licensed by Government and whose footprints on the sands of time remain indelible. He started such Foundations as the Daughters of Divine Love (1969), the Knights of St Mulumba and the Cistercian Monastery at Awhum (1971). At the end of the most brutal and fratricidal civil war dominated by genocide and committed against the people of Eastern Nigeria – in the Republic of Biafra – by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Bishop Okoye came from far away Port Harcourt, as the Second Bishop of the Diocese during a post-exilic period to challenge the general apathy in Igbo land and restore Hope to the people. He acquired property and lands for the Church, challenged the takeover of Christian Mission Schools by a hostile Federal Government, built infrastructure and sent many people for training abroad. His sagacity and openness to the world and the Church made him deepen the roots of cultural authenticity, theological writings and the dimensions of a local Church leading with integral development to the people.
Bishop Michael Ugwu Eneja (1978 – 1997), that saintly Servant of God and man of the People, a teacher who lived what he preached and practiced what he believed; the man who believed and established educational institutions as the core means of transmitting value, virtue and knowledge. Michael Eneja led within Nigeria and indeed the entire African continent as the “Servant-Leader” who saw tomorrow. He invested massively in the training and further studies of large number of priests, religious and lay faithful within the country and overseas, not comparable to any other territory at the time. Most of those who lead the local Church and society today in Awgu, Enugu and Nsukka dioceses, as Bishops or Clergy, Religious and Lay faithful are products of his drive and belief in Higher Education founded on Ethics. The Convocation Lecturer at this event and the Vice Chancellor of this University, to mention but a few, are what they are, because Bishop Eneja, believed and trusted in them as he did the youth, to take responsibility, allowing them the freedom to fly with two wings – Knowledge and Character; faith and reason, virtuous and entrepreneurial, human and divinely configured to grow into responsible leaders of the community. These fruits we reap today. This exceptionally humble and saintly man of God worked to protect the land for the permanent site of Godfrey Okoye University at Ugwuomu Nike, acquired by the Church from the good people of Ugwuomu Nike, which project was managed and vitalised through the instrumentality of the Catholic Institute for Development Justice Peace and Caritas (CIDJAP) as “Justice and Peace Farms” (1986 to 2006), until handover to the Godfrey Okoye University as a Permanent Site.
Father Professor Stanislaus Chiedu Ani, the innovator and catalyst, the mover of men and materials, who “conquered ambients” and saw to the establishment and legislation by Law of the approval for the Institute of Ecumenical Studies (IECE) licensed by Government and State House of Assembly in 1982, during the tenure of Chief Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, Governor of Anambra State. Stan Ani, being a man of culture and political astuteness, negotiated further land and buildings at the Thinkers Corner upon which we stand with various indigenous stakeholders such as Chief Chime and other names several to mention here. It is this heritage that the current administration has inherited and transformed by alignment of space ecology, miracles we experience daily here on this Campus.
Finally, Professor Julius Onah (Okosisi Orba), the first Chairman of the Planning Committee for this university, a man of knowledge and service for the public good who used his tools as the first professor of Marketing in Nigeria, to assist the process of facilitating contacts that helped alongside other actors, to the founding of this university by the Vice Chancellor.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in Peace, Amen.
3. A WORLD IN DISARRAY
This is no time for naive optimism – because the challenges facing humanity are stark, and the voices of hostility are strident. All across the world, there are rising levels of xenophobia and intolerance and a narrowing of political vision focused on parochial introspection. Most of us are witness to the dramatic events taking place in various parts of the globe, causing harm and pain to millions of people who suffer hunger, conflicts resulting in wars, forceful migrations, climate-related climate change and ecological disasters due to environmental pollution, the flagrant abuse of human rights, poverty and terrorism, the search for meaning in life and economic hardships. In the past few years, agonizing news items have confronted Television viewers, watching fleeing refugees and asylum seekers from war torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, North East Nigeria, Burundi, Colombia who seek acceptance and new life in new territories, albeit often rejection and unwelcome by the rest of humanity. Many of Africa’s youth have drowned in the bowels of the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe, leaving home to die far away from home, in an illusion of a better life beyond the seas, many of them buried without address. “The prevailing public mood in prosperous nations of the West is not one of compassion but suspicion, resentment and often outright racism”, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations wrote these words recently in an interview with the Newsweek Magazine of America.
Without prejudice or giving any judgment, we are currently witness to unpredictable, contradictory and mind-boggling events unfold in the United States of America under a President Donald Trump, sworn in as the 45th President of that large country whose utterances and actions leaves on one in doubt that populism is back on stage in our common globe. Across the world and within countries, global situations depict a growing lack of international and intercontinental integration, the reality of poverty, the horrendous dimensions of ignorance, lack of education, lack of proper information, the denigration of women and growing sexual abuse, neglect of children and the elderly, the denial of human rights and even the lack of participation for the citizenry. Outright oppression of minorities, refugees and migrants is on the increase, and the issues of drug trafficking, arms production and trafficking, corruption, and the business which thrives on a culture of death challenge the consciences of all truth seeking people. The situation in Nigeria is one in which the people were promised “Change for the better” by the leading political elites but received the “Reverse” in whichever form this is considered. In this connection, Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations leading the Elders Forum mentions that “universal values of human rights, freedom from torture and freedom of expression are imperilled when public discourse turns toxic, and racism and misogyny are legitimised by leading politicians”.
Mary Robinson, Former Prime Minister of Ireland and Former Head of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, writing in the Financial Times of London, January, 2017 as the World Economic Forum 2017 opened in Davos Switzerland stated thus “…it feels as if a lid has been taken off a simmering global pot of tensions and discontent, and views on race, gender and religion that only a few years ago were deemed unacceptable are now commonplace. Over the last twelve months, we have seen how public discourse is tarnished by harsh and ugly rhetoric…millions of people feel left behind by the actions of governments and corporations…If we are to have any hope of making any constructive progress in 2017, and stopping this rising tide of anger turning into destructive nihilism, all responsible politicians, civil society and business leaders must stand firm and reassert our basic, common values of dignity for all”. The great son of Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela urged the Elders to “Speak Truth to Power” and confront complex global problems by standing for what furthers the interests of our common humanity.
What is even more worrisome is the challenge to truth within institutions of higher learning, in the often scientifically postulated “post-truth-era”. The confusion of the present times and the lack of certainty, call it perhaps, the lack of a definite and sure orientation to guide people’s lives and societal destiny emerges as a great challenge. There were times, “in those days”, when people were sure of their beliefs and the customs of their fatherland. Today it is fashionable to question everything including oneself. Rightly or wrongly, many young people, lacking in family and moral background and without mentoring see a world where “the old certainties are gone. Virtue is not known. Truth is relative. Shame is non-existent. Integrity and credibility are meaningless and the traditional answers to questions believed settled in the past seem redundant. Thorny questions occur with ever increasing frequency. Today, the vocabulary of right and wrong, of duty and the neglect of duty, of sin or of shame has become difficult to use. In his Templeton Prize Award speech a decade ago, Michael Novak, the American democrat, intellectual and leading Catholic lay director of the Enterprise Institute made these scathing but revealing thoughts on what teachers teach the young, which bear repetition here: “There is no such thing as truth they teach even the little ones. “Truth is bondage “. Believe what seems right to you. There are as many truths as there are individuals. Follow your feelings. Do as you please. Get in touch with yourself. Do what feels comfortable. This is the language of the times and they speak thus who prepare the jails for the young. For, those who undermine the truth perform the work of tyrants”.
Our age is confronted by decisions, which previous generations did not have to face. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many people have rejected the traditional sources of ethical illumination. Yet a further source of complication is the new global and pluralistic environment. Globalization makes people live in a global village environment which sometimes gives the impression that culture is a thing of the past. John Scally in his editorial to the book: “Ethics in Crisis has demonstrated that: “Although pluralism is not new, the scale of it in contemporary society is marked by an almost bewildering proliferation of opinions, beliefs and world views. This pluralistic ambience is potentially of great value to ethics, bringing a more vigorous intellectual confrontation with basic ethical problems and a more open and public debate about ethical questions ” (refer “, Scally, Ethics in Crisis; Veritas, 1997, Dublin p.9).In the light of the moral diversity, and the proliferation of moral languages issuing from our plural and global world, what must remain central to humanity after the fact of relativity is acknowledged? Nothing? Something? What? Several questions emerge: Could legislation cover these ambiguities in life? Are any ethical principles universally applicable? What are they? How do we cope with the contending characteristics of our age, its evident cultural pluralism, its rapid social change, its linguistic distrust of authoritarian and centralistic claims?
These are the challenges young students face as they leave home for the first time and enter tertiary institutions. Some lose all they got from their parents in one week or semester. They imbibe the new slogans of the new peer environment, loose their original roots and end up with nothing new, as the bird called “Usu” the “Bat”, “neither here nor there”, using the words of Chinualumogu Achebe in Things Fall Apart (1958). Some join bad company, lose direction and end up without orientation, values or integrity. They become dropouts or even criminals – despite all the opportunity to become better citizens given to them by parents, guardians and the university environment– A great pity! And this explains the destructive nihilism of the present times.
4. NIHILISM – A PHILOSOPHY OF DISARRAY
Permit me to offer a modest rational attempt at an explanation concerning the confusion and crisis in which our society finds itself. It is an excursion into philosophy. Philosophy, from the Greek word “Philos-Sophia” -“love of wisdom” is the search for meaning, interpretation, knowledge and value in life. As “Philos” (love) it has continued as an “art” and as “Sophia (wisdom) it has remained a “science” to provide the intellectual and rational “humus soil” upon which theories and actions are founded.
The problems emanating from the lack of adequate ethical orientation in institutions of higher learning and university premises demand of a rational explanation and receive such in what philosophers call Nihilism, from the Latin ~ nothingness. According to Peter A. Angeles in the dictionary of philosophy, Nihilism in epistemology is: “The denial of any objective and real ground or state of truth; the theory that nothing is knowable. All knowledge is illusory, worthless, meaningless, relative and insignificant. No knowledge is possible. Nothing can be known “.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), the German philosopher of the 18th century spent his time speculating and writing on the powerful of an individual to change all that is inherited , thus, ideas of “transvaluation of all values” – “Die Umwertung aller Werte”. A professed atheist, cultural critic, poet and scholar of philology, Nietzsche’s body of work touched on religion, tragedy, polemics, irony, culture and science and his writings had a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. Some prominent elements of his philosophy include his radical critique of reason and truth in favour of relativism; his theory of the master-slave morality; his rejection and criticism of Christian religion and morality as pretentious; his existentialism which announced that God is Dead; his influential concept of the “Superman” – “der Uebermensch” and his characterization of the human subject as the expression of competing wills, collectively understood as the “Will to Power” – “Der Wille zur Macht”. Nihilism in epistemology has come to cover the philosophy that “everything is perspective or point of view and there is no valid objective truth”. This strange denial of truth and the faked belief in nothing positive or good helps to explain the survivalist Machiavellianism of political, economic, social and cultural bigotry and experimentation current in today’s subjectivism.
Nihilism refers to the psychological and philosophical state where there is loss of all ethical, religious, political and social-cultural values. It is this skeptical denial of all that is regarded as real or unreal, knowledge or error, being or non-being. Illusory and non-illusory that makes nihilism what it is – the denial of the value of all distinctions. Nihilism in ethics refers to the theory “that moral values cannot be justified in any way not by reason, not by God, not by intuition or conscience, and definitely not by the authority of any state, or law”. Moral values are expressions of arbitrary and capricious behavior; expressions of loose feelings and reasonless social conditioning and they are worthless, meaningless and irrational. Under this school of thought, what type of society would emerge? Where does law have its scope and space? How can one plan? And what type of world emerges?
Nihilism helps us also to explain the lack of intellectual vigour in high institutions which push students, rational beings to cultism, a condescension to various forms of abuses prevalent, such as violence, secrecy, drug addiction, drinking human blood, planning evil, harming people, sadistic infliction of pain and occulted tendencies. This nihilism manifests itself in other untruths, which has led the Nigerian State and people to failed orientation of values evident in the current socio-psychological cultural and historical realities of the country. The media is awash with such news and incidents. Boko Haram, the ignominious destroyer of lives and property in Nigeria, acting as a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization is one dimension of the phenomenon of nihilism. And there are many other examples – the failed utilization of resources and personnel as well as the cult of mediocrity and meaninglessness prevalent. The Nigerian environment is colored by primordial tribal sentiments and ethnicism, religious syncretism and bigotry; corruption of the entire system with bribery, inducement and mistrust in the civil service, the armed forces, business and industry, educational, social and cultural institutions.
Universally, studies show that people are fixed into “having more” instead of “becoming more”(J. P Satre). The random acquisition of property (having) even where the acquirer remains dwarf in his/her personal, spiritual and intellectual development (Sein) is an apt description of this current tendency. People spend time to grow rich in material acquisition of titles, honour, and land only to die, often in unprepared circumstances. How fulfilled? The “anything goes” philosophy of life lacking in any ethical principles, standards or values, apparent lack of patriotism and principles of life express this nihilism. Evidence of financial misdirection, false investments, misappropriation, materialism and acts which portray inferiority complex abound. These and many more are the banes of our society. How else could one explain a life-style that cannot stand the test of truth, of value, of liberty and the future, except to resort to nihilism as a philosophical hermeneutic, an interpretation of a paradigmatic phenomenon of cultism and its attendant scenario?
These problems resonate with the outline of the thematic issues around the topic of this presentation which essentially desires to explore the imperative of value-based education through proper formation of future leaders in ethics. Should we engage and how do we engage? The questions to ask and the lesson to derive are the following: What Core Values for responsible leadership could be applied to nations, regions and the global community that take its roots in Ethics and applicable for human Development? What values for practitioners could apply to particular contextual situations? The Global Ethics Forum in Geneva in 2016 proposed the entrenchment of evolutionary ideas that can spur our collective progress without the wake of destructive violence that threatens to undermine the huge but fragile political, social, financial and ecological infrastructure on which we depend and strive to build a better world.
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