Habu Mohammed, PhD.
Being Keynote Speech Presented at the KANO HEROES AWARD Ceremony Held at Kano Coronation Hall, Government House, Kano, Saturday, 14th April, 2018.
I am glad and highly honored for inviting me to present a keynote address at this important occasion. The topic of address, integrity and sacrifice, is timely. This is coming at a time when Nigeria is democratizing and in need of people with high level of integrity to make sacrifices for the nation and provide a credible, transparent, responsive and responsible leadership capable of taking the country to the next level. Integrity and sacrifice represent the key ingredients of excellent personality without which human self-esteem is hampered. By every indication, the organizers of today’s event have reaffirmed and fulfilled the clarion call made in one of the stanzas of the national anthem which says “… The labor of our heroes past shall never be in vain”. Our gathering here today can be located within the ambit of honoring the labor of public officials and national figures, both posthumously and alive, whose integrity and sacrifice as public servants and stakeholders in national development is not in doubt, either in the eyes of their immediate community or at the national and international levels. However, my task today is not to evaluate the performance of our past or present heroes. Rather, I am wearing the shoes of a moral philosopher whose ideas are to serve as searchlight for identifying personalities that best represent the epitome of integrity and sacrifice. Needless to say, Kano State is blessed with cream of personalities who uphold the virtues of integrity and sacrifice to humanity and have or are serving as role models for upcoming ones.
The Concept of Integrity and the Importance of the Heroes Awards
Integrity is one of the key concept and tenet of ethical literature because it is essentially the quality of a person’s character (Stanford Encyclopedia, 2017). It is a behavior tendency system that is mostly associated with professional conduct but its usage cut across various aspects of human life. The concept of integrity describes the fundamental role it plays in molding human values. It is also central to the understanding of good leadership credentials and excellence in public management. Etymologically, the word integrity has its origin from the Latin word integritas and integer, which means, whole and complete (Wajszczyk, 2014; Kang 2012). Therefore, integrity represents the picture of someone who is a complete embodiment of honesty and whose consistency of actions, values, methods, principles, expectations and outcomes are always guaranteed. Central to the features of a man or woman of integrity are consistency, honesty, truthfulness and accuracy of one’s actions (Kang, 2012). This is to say that a man of integrity sacrifices his life for being what he is and is always ready to safeguard his personal attributes regardless of any opposing values. Thus, having integrity means one is true to himself and will do nothing that diminishes or dishonors him. In a nutshell, we can say that:
Integrity is a function of moral values, belief system, ideals and sanctity of adhered principles of actions grounded in fairness, justice, equity and transparency
Integrity is not only about honesty but also the quality of a person’s character, which by all means is expected to be consistent in all circumstances
Integrity is safeguarded/protected and is not transgressed or trade-off for individualistic or personal ego or gains,
Integrity is a personal trait which is built over time through positive socialization and development of social values,
Integrity is acquired rather than ascribed
People with integrity neither compromise standards nor circumvent conventional and rational means of goal attainment,
People with integrity sacrifice their today for the tomorrow of others,
A person with integrity thrives under any circumstance because his power lies in his honesty, his wisdom is his light and the truth is his focus,
Integrity is self-respect and respect of others regardless of political divide, ethnic, religious or tribal leanings
Integrity can be lost completely and when this happens, it can hardly be redeemed,
Men and women of integrity are impartial and pragmatic, and have their ways when others refuse to weigh the truth,
The actions of men or women of integrity do not constitute docility or expression of fear but involve the art of exercising caution for rational choice
Integrity is humility in disguise, honesty in action, accountability in practice,
Leadership without integrity represents the highest form of lawlessness and bad governance.
Thus, given these principles, it can be said that integrity is both relational, attitudinal and, at best, a gift which not everybody possesses. Sacrifice, in whatever form and context, cannot be realized without integrity, which is an important element of the core values of Nigeria (Jega, 2018). Therefore, it is important to stress that in Nigeria, in general and Kano State, in particular, there are leaders with integrity; but in numerical terms this category of leaders are few. Celebrating the few people that have been selected for the Kano Heroes Award today is giving honor to whom it is due. The heroes are outstanding and represent the quintessential leaders in the past and present Kano, and would serve as models for future generations in the State. Regardless of differences in their style and approach to leadership, the heroes selected for recognition today share the noble cause of societal transformation through exemplary leadership, commitment to duty and public accountability. Individually, they demonstrated an excellent degree of selfless service to Kano State and the country at large. Arguably, they have consistently internalized and practiced the national core values or ethics of Nigeria, which revolve around “Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labor, Social Justice, Religious Tolerance and Patriotism” (See Section 23 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, cited in Jega, 2018). Tested and trusted as public servants and statesmen, the eight awardees represent to us what Lee Kuan Yew represents to Singapore; Mathatma Ghandhi to India; Mao Tse Tung to China; Nelson Mandela to South Africa, Sultan of Brunei to Brunei, or Fidel Castro to Cuba, etc.
It is important to raise and answer some pertinent questions about integrity within the context of Kano Heroes Award today. What form of sacrifice did a man of integrity displays to warrant respect of his people? What do we do to encourage our present and future generations to uphold the virtues of integrity and sacrifice? In fact, since the past is important in understanding the present and in predicting the future, it is expedient to understand what constitutes integrity within the context of public service and to observe what to do in order to learn from the impeccable heroes of our beloved state. Actually, by making deductions out of their selfless services, we will be able to proffer suggestions on how to consolidate the achievements of their heroism.
First, we need to know that the politicians among the selected heroes did not get the support of their parties or followers in return for money. Malam Aminu Kano and Abubakar Rimi are models of excellence and principled politics. The former not only left Maru Teachers College in the 1950s to join NEPU and fight for the commoners but also lived an exemplary life of decorum, consistent and principled opposition, honesty and sacrifice. He is revered today for what he stood for (Mohammed, 2017). The latter was another consistent fighter; a visionary and incorruptible politician, whose political life was full of gallantry and consistency in opposing the status quo. It was Rimi who, against the apparent show of displeasure and the political machination of his party, aspired for the office of the President in 2003. The late Danmasanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule is an icon of discipline, hard work, selfless service and an embodiment of wisdom. He consistently demonstrated to us that knowledge is useful only when it benefits the humanity. His oratorical speeches and unalloyed support of national unity and integration places him among the best public servants ever produced in the country. Also, it should be noted that Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s political determination, humility and loyalty as Deputy Governor of Kano State for eight years, and finally, as the Executive Governor of the State, whose openness has taken the State to the next level, makes him a hero with a distinction. He is respected today by all and sundry for his administrative acumen and sacrifice.
Second, the military and police officers selected for today’s award were visionary leaders whose patriotism and selfless service to the people of Kano State and Nigeria was never doubted. It is the visionary leadership of Commissioner of Police Alhaji Audu Bako that has made Kano what it is today. He remained focused and steadfast in his effort of making Kano a model city, even in the face of criticism from the people he was serving (Mohammed, 2017). General Murtala Ramat Muhammad is a son of the soil who gave Africa, Nigeria and Kano a befitting image in the international community. He championed the course of independence in Angola, Mozambique and Namibia, regardless of the position of world powers who policed the world for their national interests. At home, General Murtala represents a nationalist, a freedom fighter and a man whose zero tolerance approach to bribery and corruption is unparalleled. He died as a martyr whose belief in one Nigeria was premised on his idea of changing the attitude of public servants from the laxity of materialism to the entrenchment of public service integrity and sacrifice.
Third, the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero and his successor, the current Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II can both best be described as apostles of integrity and sacrifice. Undoubtedly, the late Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero was consistent on every matter that affected his subjects. He died as an epitome of peace, a reformer who sacrificed his life for the happiness of the greatest number of people in the state. In deed, if knowledge is wisdom, our learned Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Sunusi II has demonstrated the blending of knowledge with integrity and sacrifice, regardless of all challenges. He stands for truth and he proves to be the voice of the voiceless. His fearless and principled comments on local and national issues in the past, and in the present development of the country, showcase him as the same authentic person regardless of the prevailing situation.
Thus, the general perception of integrity and sacrifice in public service extols the virtues of human action as the agents of social change. Integrity is faith, an inner self-belief in the doctrine of destiny and oneness of Allah. Leadership with integrity is in short supply in Nigeria today because of the priority attached to material gains involved in the Nigerian politics and governance (Yusuf, 2014).
Consolidating the Achievements of Our Heroes – Matters Arising
There is the need to urgently consolidate the achievement of our heroes and to ensure that their legacies of enduring sacrifice are kept alive. For us in Kano, there is the urgent need to ensure that:
Celebrating our heroes should not be limited to public servants alone, serving and retired but should include heroes and heroines who demonstrated the absolute character of integrity and sacrifice. Therefore, I suggest that women, youth businessmen and other social groups who demonstrated a high sense of integrity should equally be identified and honored. We need to identify and honor teachers, women, the youths, the physically impaired and the civil servants with integrity.
Rewarding integrity and sacrifice is a form of encouragement and motivation to both the present and the future generation. Therefore, conferring the reward of excellence for service to humanity to personalities in Kano should best be celebrated when the awardees are alive, and not necessarily in the corridors of power. This is in order to ensure the sanctity and the integrity of the award itself.
Children should be taught the virtues of integrity and sacrifice at schools by establishing a library in which books on our heroes past are made available for wider readership by researchers, including pupils at primary and secondary schools. This will surely help the youth in imitating these role models in the service of humanity. The recently proposed Maitama Sule Centre for Excellence by the State Government is surely a step forward as it serves as a means by which to immortalize our heroes.
People should be sensitized and mobilized to elect public officers with integrity. Democracy requires probity and accountability, rule of law, due process, responsible and responsive leadership. These lofty ideals can be achieved if properly cultivated.
In general, integrity and sacrifice are twin concepts of leadership, development and national integration. This event is very important because it provides another opportunity for us to reflect on the role of our past and present heroes and to uphold the virtues of integrity and selfless service. Leaders at various levels in our State should imbibe the good qualities of those who have dedicated their lives for others to leave better. In a nutshell, the today’s event is a day to celebrate the legacies of honesty, consistency of action, trustworthy, fairness, thoroughness, simplicity, purity, soundness, sacrifice and credibility with a view to adopting these good virtues for the present and future development of Kano State.
Dr. Habu Mohammed is of Department of Political Science
Bayero University, Kano.