Ethics and Good governance- Which way forward? -By Odoji Oluwafemi Stephen

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |


Ethics may not be easily define but according to Josephson institute, ethics is define as Standards of conduct that indicate how one should behave based on moral duties and virtues.

Also Ethics can be seen as codes of behaviour established to protect human values. Ethical concern, to ensure high standards of behavior,is not a new phenomenon. Davis (2009) observed that demands for ethical conduct on the part of politicians and public officials predated the modern concern for the rule of law and could be traced to Greek and Roman times. In Africa, Dukor (2010) noted that the overriding role of ethics, religion and the supernatural in the formulation and application of the principle of justice was one distinctive characteristic of African philosophy. He further observed that in Igbo and Akan folk philosophy, ethical dynamics constitutes a check against the loss of control of the societal purpose by the community or its members.

Ethics may be said to be the code of moral principles and values that governs the behaviors of a person or a group with respect to what is right or wrong. It is about standards of behavior that tell us how human beings ought to act in the many situations in which they find themselves,

Ethics sets standards as to what is good or bad in conduct and decision making They are standards for thoughts, words, and deed that restricts a person to do what is right and good as against what is easy, comfortable and self-serving.

Unethical behaviors in governance and individuals

Without ethical conduct, regulations and codes of practice will not work. Individuals in positions of power will be able to circumvent rules and break the laws, and unless they act ethically, might be tempted to do something illegal or improper in order to obtain personal gain (corruption). Unethical and corrupt practices are sources of negative image to a government. Negative image of a country is even worse than corruption. Every citizen suffers from it especially those living outside the country. The litany of the evils of unethical practices is inexhaustible. The legislative committee on ethics is there to protect the values and image of the house and not public interest nor accountability. International organizations such as the World Bank have taken a strong interest in material corruption in recent years. Ethics in the public sector has become a key concern to the European Union. Davis (2009) observed that increasingly governments all over the world are recognizing that ethics is not just an issue for others but that it is necessary for them to clean up their own doorstep, often in the aftermath of revelations about the alleged unethical behavior of both civil servants and politicians. It is necessary to ensure fair and honest behavior of individuals and organizations acting in the public domain.

The most shocking part of the widespread corruption in Nigeria is the fact that it is not anymore within the parameters of how TI defines corruption; it is no longer limited to politicians or the public servants. It has become very common within every section of the society at every level. It is prevalent not only among the rich who are greedy in spite of possessing enough but also among the poor. The fact is that a huge population of Nigerians (Onyishi, 2012: p. 48) is now involved in corrupt practices in one way or the other, either due to greed or due to the so called unethical compulsion to amass public wealth. People have gone to the extent of adulteration of food-stuff such as milk, life-saving medicines, motor tires and food supplements (NAFDAC: 2010 report). The image and social integrity of Nigeria have been battered by corruption and Nigerians are seen as criminals in other countries.

Putting ethical leadership to practice in governance will go a long way to reshape the damaged image of the Nation and it people both at home and in the diaspora.