I have been thinking deeply about integrity and ethics these days. With all the allegations of corruption and other manifestations of social ills swirling ominously about, we need as a society to interrogate ourselves over where we lost the plot.
Why is it that some people fight so passionately for leadership and when they get it, all they do is shamelessly loot and brazenly plunder the resources under their watch?
Apparently, voters have not been keenly looking at the integrity and morals of those contesting for leadership positions.
Bereft of these fundamental attributes, one cannot claim to be a leader of any stripe. If anything, a leader who is not guided by a moral compass is a danger to the ideals that the society is striving to attain. As American author Zig Ziglar says, “It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.”
Ziglar’s position is echoed by former American President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
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Leaders without integrity are bound to promote vices such as corruption, ethnicity, nepotism, racialism and bigotry. They fan ethnic hatred, establish networks of corruption and sacrifice meritocracy at the altar of mediocrity. It is imprudent to expect morally-corrupt people to provide virtuous leadership and manage public resources in a transparent and accountable manner. To them, position of power is not an opportunity to serve the society but an avenue to enrich themselves, their tribe and clan.
Indisputably, laws are central to a civilised and orderly society as well as democratic governance. But however wisely crafted, laws cannot instill ethics and values. These qualities are imbued at home, school, colleges, universities, churches, mosques and other social and religious centres.
Experts have lamented that the kind of education provided in our universities is devoid of values. This, they say, is responsible for the current situation in which the society is spiraling into moral decadence. I can’t agree more.
There is therefore an urgent need to embed teaching of values in our education system, right from primary school to universities. Another former American President, Theodore Roosevelt warns us that to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” How true, considering that some of the sharpest brains apply their expertise to steal public resources. Some computer wizards and talented engineers have been recruited into the ranks of terrorist gangs to wreak havoc on humanity.
Are we doing our part as parents, teachers and religious leaders to ensure that our children are growing up to be responsible members of the society? If what we are witnessing is anything to go by, one can rightly say that we have abdicated this cardinal duty. The traditional systems that played a crucial role of imparting discipline among the youth, ensuring that they grew up to be upright citizens, have largely broken down. There is also little left of the family values. Our children therefore have severely limited opportunities to soak up the society’s values. Left to their own devices, some have grown up to be a menace to society.
However, no matter the regulations, rules and legislation a country or county can come up with, crooks will always find ingenious ways to beat the system. They will corrupt the institutions that are meant to prevent and punish graft as we have seen in Kenya. Our Constitution has dedicated an entire chapter to integrity. This is a good thing. However, the efficacy of such legal provisions can only go far. Without anchoring our behaviour on sound rectitude and placing ethics and integrity at the centre of all our actions, legislation will not bring much success.
Is all hope lost? No. There are bright spots in people out there who have stubbornly refused to be sucked into the quagmire of corruption. All these revelations about graft have been made possible by patriotic Kenyans who cannot countenance compromising their values and beliefs.