WHEN INTEGRITY TAKES FLIGHT

Watching the charade that the testimony of the LCC managing the LEKKI Toll Gate has become before the Judicial panel set up by the Lagos state government to investigate the Lekki Massacre is not only comical but so typical of the falsehood that characterizes such incidences in Nigeria. Fifteen lives in the least were reportedly killed during the clampdown on the #Endsars protesters. Testimonies abound and we have an investigative report by @premiuntimesng detailing eyewitness accounts of the carnage. To resort to cheap coverups is at best a fickle attempt at hoodwinking the Nigerian populace by the political class. The more they do this, the more they lose the people, especially the young generation they hope to reconnect with.
‘Don’t worry so much about your self-esteem, worry more about your character. Integrity is its own reward.’ – Laura Schlessinger
I remember the first challenge thrown at me to take integrity seriously. Paul Nwolisa was a devoted parishioner in Rhema Chapel, Ibadan(my first pastorate) and would later become an Associate Pastor to me in Global Harvest Church. I fixed an appointment to see him on a particular day and time in my office in 1994, only to forget. Observing my indifference and nonchalance on discovering I had failed to show up, he admonished his Pastor(yours truly) about the importance of learning to keep promises. He warned about the dire consequences of people not respecting the words of their leader. He advised I always endeavored to keep my word. Before then, I only viewed forgetfulness as a common human attribute to be easily understood and forgiven by all mortals. That the words of a man will be the measure of his value to men and that trust in him will be determined thereby was beyond the consideration of my young mind before then.
Another encounter would straighten me further years later when on a visit to the home of the late WAEC registrar, Mr. Matthew Eperokun, he dived into the life and times of the late Opposition leader in the First Republic of Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Of all he said, the most outstanding was how the late sage never made promises he couldn’t keep, never went late for meetings and avoided situations of having to apologize for not keeping his Word. He was highly trusted for his discipline and integrity. A visit to Bishop Francis Wale Oke subsequently will find me hearing a similar testimony about the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E.A. Adeboye. His punctuality and knack for saying what he means and meaning what he says has endeared him to multitudes who attest to his honorable character. From then till now, it has been my quest to endeavor to keep every word that comes out of my mouth. I wish I can testify that I have attained, but I remain in pursuit of such noble character, sterling quality and inspiring leadership.
Contrast the above to the conduct of today’s politicians. When Mr. Governor feigned ignorance of the military intervention in Lekki, I was almost at the point of tears for him. His empathy at visiting the sick further endeared him to me. My support for his denial strained a couple of my relationships as I defended him stoutly. Alas, the military claimed they were invited by him. While I still expect that investigations will reveal he did not order the killings, we will never forget his initial claim of ignorance which has damaged his reputation and reduced trust. Other visits to Lekki, statements by our political leaders and the conduct of some of the dramatis personae before the Judicial panel of inquiry set up to unearth the truths about the incidence is unbelievable. That leads me to ask, where are the true leaders of today? Those who will respect their words, their people and their conscience enough to value their words enough to speak and keep them at all times.
Perhaps the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect. – Thomas S. Monson
One of the reasons for the elongation of the #Endsars protest and the metamorphosis to #Endswat and #Endbadgovernance campaigns is nothing but a lack of trust in governmental leaders to keep their word. The government had banned SARS a few times before only for it to have miraculously resurrected itself. To see a continuation of the trend and particularly the predictable unjust end of ongoing investigations is so unfortunate. Government leaders at all levels ought to be focused on how to rebuild trust at this time, not to erode it any. That will only be possible if there is a willingness to admit wrong, apologize for it, punish the convicted and compensate the deprived and aggrieved. A concerted effort should then be made to keep the promise of truly ending SARS, establishing truth and ensuring justice. That will be the first step in the journey to the recovery of lost.
Let leaders at all levels know that they are only as good as the words of their mouths.
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