Ololade Ajekigbe: The search for integrity

by Ololade Ajekigbe

It starts with a promise. “To have and to hold, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us apart.” Everyone in that space can’t help but shed a lone tear. He looks at her. She stares at him. They made it! Theirs will be different. They will show others what a real union should be like. They’ll school intending married couples on how to treat the significant other in a marriage. Two years down the line the story is different. Daggers are drawn, the once inseparable lovebirds can’t stand the sight of each other anymore. One of them has reneged on all the vows made that fateful day. The situation degenerates to a point of no return. A divorce is filed by the party who just can’t take it anymore. Another once-promising union bites the dust.

A couple is blessed with a child. They are ecstatic parents as they should be. The wife who has just been delivered of a beautiful baby had a torrid pregnancy – all the nightmares pregnant women became her during the seemingly endless nine month period. Nausea, vomiting, endless saliva secretion, back pain, swollen legs, rashes, indigestion; all the works! The new parents are thankful that they finally have a healthy baby and mother. They dedicate the child to God. They promise to raise him to be responsible, a model for others to emulate. Twenty years down the line, that once innocent baby is arrested for armed robbery and rape. He has become an albatross to society all because 2 people neglected to do what they were supposed to do.

She was jobless for seven years after graduation. She applied to different companies, but in spite of her decent grades the situation remained the same. No luck. She had gotten to her wit’s end. All her contemporaries had decent jobs, they were already cruising their second or third cars while she was still “begging to apply.” Finally, mother luck smiled on her in the form of a benefactor who found her something tangible to do in a reputable firm. She thanked him desperately, tears cascading down her eyes. He wasn’t interested in being seen as a messiah. All he required of her was that she did her job to the best of her ability, and not make him look like a fool to his nephew who is the HR Manager at the firm. Of course, she vowed to give her best, both professionally and character wise. But, no sooner was she employed than she began to show her true colours. She became the office gossip, all rumours and conspiracy theories in the organisation emanated from her little corner. The word she gave only “yesterday” a distant memory away.

All the scenarios painted above are not far-fetched. You only need to look around you. The root of the problem in each case is a lack of integrity. Integrity is one character trait that is fast going into extinction. The quality of being honest and sincere in our dealings with others is something that is sadly lacking in far too many people. From the tailor who swears your outfit will be ready in a week, but leaves you at a loss as to when you’ll finally have the finished work one month after, to the boss who assures you that he will recommend you for your long overdue promotion, but remains mute at the meeting called to deliberate on which staff deserves to be promoted, to the young man who promises Heaven and Earth when he is trying to woo a love interest only to begin to take her for granted when she eventually accedes to long-standing interest. People just don’t keep their word anymore.

The dearth of integrity is a phenomenon that has permeated all facets of our lives. Perhaps the most obvious is the attitude of the political class who come to woo the electorate every four years with promises of a better life. Better infrastructure, a longer end of the stick for the impoverished masses. They disparage their predecessor’s achievements, and swear that they are different. During electioneering they are accessible, and polite, and empathetic, and kind. But, as soon as they get what they want from the people, they automatically transform into different beings. It just might be easier to find your way to Mars than get a one-on-one audience with a Nigerian politician.

And it starts with the little things; telling someone you would give them a call at a couple of times, and failing to keep your word each time. Almost always cancelling a meeting or appointment you scheduled for no concrete reason. Even telling your children one thing and doing another. It’s these “little things” that produce the big ones in the mould of securing a contract to build roads only to abandon the project midway after receiving payment for mobilisation. Avoiding clients because you simply cannot deliver on the many promises your organisation made when you were trying to get them on board.

Imagine how wonderful the world would be if most people were forthright in relating with others…if everyone tried their best to be as honest possible. I know that sometimes the situation is taken out of our hands, and we simply cannot live up to something we had earlier promised to do. However, if you find that you always have to apologise for going back on your word or have had people tell you (even jokingly) that you are not reliable, then you don’t need anyone to tell you, you lack integrity.

Tell the truth. Face your problems head-on instead of avoiding them. Don’t promise what you can’t or won’t deliver. Let your word be your bond.

Be a person of integrity.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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