For development to happen in any nation there is a need for a foundation of trust and to have trust, integrity is paramount. The nations of our continent Africa are in dire need of trust and people of integrity. The led do not trust the leaders to make decisions in their best interest, doubts exist at several levels in different contexts and the politicians do no help matters as arguably, the majority lack the virtue of integrity. Take Nigeria for instance. Globally, the perception once you introduce yourself as a Nigerian or present the green passport, to some you are considered industrious and hardworking but to others – perhaps the majority – there is that first look of ‘hmm…wait a minute Nigerian?’ and only time vindicates you. The ‘yahoo-yahoo/419’ angle further compounds and stains our reputation as Nigerians. Poverty, victimization and corruption have been given as reasons for this but no excuse can ever validate fraud. Several examples exist of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, and this creates a false perception of the path to success that one should follow. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification at the moment but it will never last.
There are of course consequences – negative – in an atmosphere devoid of trust as we miss out on some opportunities like taking longer periods to get a visa, going through an unnecessary search at the airport to name but a few. There is always an ‘extra’ check to be done and question mark attached by virtue of being Nigerian. Our different nations have a specific issue related to trust. Some people believe in African time which is something that does not exist. Let us call it what it is, late coming and not keeping to your words. For the millions of hardworking and honest African’s out there, an environment devoid of trust and integrity is an injustice that we must correct but first let’s understand the word trust and integrity.
Trust and integrity are two intertwined concepts although interconnected, they are different. Trust is the degree to which you can predict someone or something. The expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honoured. Do you do what you say you will do? Integrity, on the other hand, is behaving in accordance with morals, ethics and values. It is internal and personal. Since values drive your behavioural decisions, integrity could be said to be how well you live according to your values. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose. The more you are known to have the value of integrity as an individual, the more trust people can have in you.
I know from experience that the integrity lane is not an easy one or something you build in a day. In the past, when I lacked an understanding of how important it is to keep my words and be truthful at all times, trust was broken and trust broken is not easily regained. The building of trust begins with you and me and we can start today by showing up on time to agreed meetings, making your word your bond, not signing the attendance sheet for another person not present at a meeting, maintaining transparency showing up early to work and meetings, filling in the exact time you got to work in the logbook, using the allotted time for lunch and not extending it, doing work when you are meant to rather than socialising at the wrong time and so many more. What action can you take right now personally to start living a life of integrity? Integrity starts with an individual and gradually permeates into society. We should also start building trust by trusting other people, reinforcing it with our behaviours, stop making excuses for dishonest people and where you fall be vulnerable and open up about your struggles, deciding to be always truthful. Being truthful will require you to leave personal interest aside in favour of the truth at all times. Ask yourself deep questions about your motives before taking any action and decision. If the only answer you can come up with is for your personal and temporary benefit, think about Africa and our children coming after us. Care about the truth when it’s in your favour and does not affect you and when the table turns, still care about upholding the value of integrity.
In conclusion, with the high levels of suspicion among us as a people, being trusted as a person of integrity in my opinion is the most valuable quality anyone can have in their life and we can start now as ambassadors from our different families, tribes, culture and religion as we serve our nations to be agents that will uphold and promote integrity across Africa – a great continent blessed with great people. Will you join me today and stand for the truth in words and actions even if it means standing alone as we rebuild our foundation of trust?