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One beautiful thing about one’s character is that no matter how much you try to hide it, it has a way like a flame of showing its true self. A character can be a virtue or a vice. A child’s character is developed by nurture and by the structure. Nurture is the way a child is being trained by his parents or relatives. Like a plant, if the child is reared with love, he/she blossoms and flourishes, while if otherwise she/he withers. The structure is the enabling ambiance, an environment that cultivates certain characters in a child. Nigeria is a beautiful structure that bends its citizens to the way they develop. There is no ethnicity in Nigeria that does not frown against stealing. Many offer the maxims that emphasize the reward of hard work and the consequences of stealing. In our moonlight stories, the proverbial tortoise, ‘ijapa’, ‘anashe’, depending on the ethnic group, shares in all of his adventures, his victories and his downfalls. Yet, in all of Mr tortoise’s braveries and successes, we are left with many lessons and reasons we shouldn’t be immoral or commit a crime. Many would laugh at the opinions of our politicians who probably have forgotten this very first life lessons. Casting stones at Diezani and crew would make us similar to the Pharisees, however ignoring to shine the beam on those who successfully work the right path may incline us to the religious Sadducees. That said, we keep celebrating characters that are inherent to our culture. We applaud the rich man who gets his money through dubious means and scorn those who represent our true cultural values. Integrity is that status of being morally upright and fair, having a personal choice of ethical principles that separate the rightness and wrongness of one’s action. @Raynergy who returns 7 million naira to the bank, the security man with UBA who returns 10 thousand dollars to its owner, Ms Ugwu, the airport cleaner who returns 12 million naira she found at the airport toilet, are all exemplary characters in our nation’s narrative. They are one in a zillion number of Nigerian citizens who have Honesty as their watchword whatever may. Yet we are perplexed when we come across them. We wonder how, why they decide to uphold their integrity in the era of economic recession. We forget that Integrity is our national DNA. Remember trading in the ancient markets days, where cowries are kept accurately by the buyers without supervision from the traders. Days of transatlantic trading where our words equate value as there was no reason to tell a lie. Memories of our parents who retired with a pair of a wristwatch to show for their long active years of service as no one was tempted to add what wasn’t there. The Holy book, which most Nigerians believe in, relates that the “Blessing of God maketh rich and added no sorrow”, but many are comfortable with the extra change that ends in their pockets that are not theirs. In all, we need to deliberately and consciously remind ourselves and the coming generation what we seem to have forgotten; Integrity is in our DNA.

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This article was first published on 22nd August 2017


Adepeju Adenuga is a writer (considering where you are reading this, makes perfect sense). She holds a Masters Degree in Literature in English from the University of Lagos.

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