Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
In leadership, integrity is crucial because it is the foundation upon which trust and respect are built. When leaders exhibit integrity, they gain the trust and respect of their followers, which, in turn, makes them more effective leaders.
Integrity also ensures that leaders prioritize the interests of their constituents over their personal interests. Leaders with integrity are less likely to engage in corrupt practices or make decisions that benefit them personally at the expense of their followers.
In contrast, leaders who lack integrity can have disastrous consequences for their leadership and society at large. They lose the trust and respect of their followers, which can lead to protests, strikes, and other forms of civil unrest. In extreme cases, leaders who lack integrity can even lead their countries to economic ruin, political instability, and social unrest.
In the world of politics, power and influence often come at the cost of compromising one’s integrity, especially in a country like Nigeria where electoral malpractice is all too common.
In recent times, there have been many cases of political leaders compromising their integrity to achieve their goals, leading to distrust and disappointment from the electorate as seen in the 2023 presidential elections.
However, the recently concluded governorship election in Abia State was one that saw allegations of vote manipulation, violence, and bribery. Amidst all these, one person stood out and refused to compromise her integrity.
Even when faced with threats and intimidation, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer, Prof. Nnenna Oti who also doubles as the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Owerri, displayed an unwavering commitment to the principles of fairness and justice.
Despite being offered financial incentives to manipulate the election results she remained resolute in the face of heavy intimidation and threats.
Though her actions have been lauded as a model for future leaders, it is important to examine the significance of her impact in the success of Abia State governorship election.
The Abia State governorship election was a highly contested one, with several political parties vying for the top spot. The Labour Party (LP), led by Alex Otti, was leading by a wide margin after results from 16 local government areas had been collated. However, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state was accused of distorting the figures from Obingwa with the intention of rigging the election.
In fact, the INEC had also alerted the nation in an official statement that its office within the Obingwa LGA headquarters had been evaded by thugs, and its staff held hostage. It was later discovered that the so-called thugs were members of the PDP. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu himself had earlier been reported as storming the INEC collation centre in Obingwa in the company of his security details.
Despite all the threats she received prior the election, Prof. Oti stood her ground and was willing to do the will of the electorate, even if she died in the process, borrowing from the popular Biblical quote by Esther ‘If I perish, I perish’.
She revealed that she had never participated in any election before, but duty called, and she made her enquiries from Abuja. She stood on her ideals and principles not to short-change anyone and ensured that the will of the people of Abia prevailed, and their votes counted during the election.
Upholding the will of the people of Abia is an inspiring example of integrity in public service. Her actions demonstrate that with people like her, there is hope for Nigeria. Her forthrightness in the face of pressure and intimidation is a testament to her character and commitment to the truth. Her actions serve as a reminder that integrity is an essential quality for anyone seeking to hold public office.
It is heartening to see a public official like Prof. Oti who stood up for what is right and refused to be bought or intimidated. She should be a source of inspiration to other public officials and Nigerians as a whole to resist the temptation to compromise their values and principles for personal gain.
Nigeria has a long history of electoral malpractice and corruption, and this has had a negative impact on the country’s development. The lack of trust in the electoral process has also led to a loss of faith in the democratic system, and this has fueled political instability.
It is clear that integrity is a crucial factor in building a stable and prosperous society. When public officials are willing to put the interests of the people above their own personal gain, the result is a more transparent, accountable, and effective government. This, in turn, leads to greater trust and confidence in the government and the democratic process, which are essential for the long-term stability and prosperity of any nation.