By Rufus Kayode Oteniya
Warning: I beseech you not to read this piece if you are content with the way Nigeria is; you are only advised to read if you desire a better nation.
At independence, the dreams of our past leaders were to build a great and united nation devoid of ethnic and religious strives; an egalitarian and prosperous society that would be respected in the comity of nations; a land where everyone would be his brother’s keeper regardless of the inherent differences and a people who would respect the laws of the land.
Fifty years on, we are farther from these dreams than we were at independence.
As a concerned citizen who is not only tired of where we are, knowing pretty well where we could have been, but who is also tired of hearing the older generation tell the younger ones of an epoch of prosperity, peace, decency, transparency and accountability in our national life that many of them never knew, I’ll be dedicating this series to building Nigeria of our dream.
In this first part, I’d be addressing CHANGE which is one of the most important elements in realising the Nigeria of our collective dream.
It is universally known that no one can be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. The only way to get a different result is bychanging the approach.
If you don’t like the way Nigeria is, ‘Just Change It.’ The power to do so lies within you and the change starts with you.
Nigeria is unquestionably in a critical state where all that we desire now is nothing but a change. Up till now, it’s unfortunate that the more we need change, the more it eludes us and the more we hope for it, the more we remain the same.
The kind of change that we need will not come from the north nor from the south neither will it come from the east nor from the west, it will only come from within.
If you think that the change will come from the political class who are benefitting from the current rot, it’s certainly an illusion! Nobody benefits from a system and wants it to change.
We have been looking up to Aso Rock for too long for this change to come without exploiting the real instrument of change that lies within. The real and lasting change will not come from up down, it will be forced from down up.
The presidency that that claims several billions of Naira in security vote within a year without having to account for it will not push for a change and neither will the executive arm of government that enjoys almost an absolute power as it has carpeted the parliament.
Do you think the governors who have uncontrollable access to the state funds will cause the change? No way!
Is it the parliamentarians who illegally award themselves emoluments that are many times beyond what Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) legally recommends for them thereby making them the highest paid legislators in the world? No, it’s impossible!
Is it the local government chair who manages the LGA’s funds as if it’s his personal fund and still go ahead to singlehandedly award contracts to his companies and those of his cronies or a councillor who illegally earns more than a university professor? No way!
People get the kind of leaders they produce and Nigeria is not an exemption. A leader is just a reflection of the society. A president do not start corruption as a president, neither does a VP start manipulation as a vice president. Nobody starts stealing as a governor or a chairman of a local government. A CEO of a company does not develop the habit of inflating figures as a chief executive and neither do others in the position of leadership. They all started long before they got to the exalted positions and offices. They started corruption, manipulation and stealing as ordinary citizens. A corrupt executive must have been living a corrupt life probably as a junior or senior officer or even as a cheating student.
If you are living a corrupt life today in your little world, who knows what tomorrow holds for you? A corrupt seed breeds a corrupt fruit. A corrupt student today will certainly become a corrupt leader tomorrow unless he changes. A corrupt officer will become a corrupt governor and a corrupt lecturer will become a corrupt president.
Every highly placed citizen once occupied a lower position; every top official was once an ordinary member of the society.
An Inspector general of Police convicted of corruption must have started as a bribe taking officer. Governors convicted of stealing state funds didn’t start stealing as governors, they must have started stealing as ordinary citizens.
A genuine change starts with you. If the people change, the office holders too will also change.
“People always get the leaders they deserve, the only way to enhance the quality of our leaders is by changing our own attitudes, values, personalities and mindset. It is highly unlikely that a nation of thieves, murderers, liars, rapists and thugs would be able to raise successive leaders who are saints by all accounts; far from it! The stark reality is that the leaders of the people are more likely to be like the people they lead/govern. This is simply because these leaders are chosen from among the people who exhibit these negative character dispositions.” – Rev. George Ashiru
How can we change the system?
Change yourself first!
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
When you change yourself, you have initiated the process of changing the society. For everyone who changes from the corrupt way, the society becomes saner. Stop waiting for your turn to embezzle; stop giving and collecting bribes; stop inflating prices and the values of contracts; stop cheating; stop being selfish; think of a service that can benefit the society and engage yourself in it; do your work diligently; do not cheat the government; get paid for only work done; pay your tax(es); teach your children and dependents moral values; teach them that the societal evil they have grown up to know is alien to our culture; teach them to practice what they are taught at the worship centres and teach them to do what is right at every right time.
When you start doing these, then, start preaching them. Doing so, a new culture has begun and the evil culture has begun to die. The impact of small positive changes in different individuals in the society cannot be overemphasised.
When these positive acts are multiplied by several millions of people in the country, a whole transformational process has begun.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Bishop Desmond Tutu
Until you start doing what is right, you have no right fighting for your right. And not until you are right that you can have your right. When you do the right thing in the society, you will not be at peace with people doing evil. Do the right thing to make Nigeria right!
It is your right to know what the government is doing; it’s your right to know how your money is being spent; it’s your right to demand accountability from the public office holder; it’s your right to demand that the civil servants do their work diligently and it’s your right to demand that your common wealth is well spent and accounted for.
It’s never your right to wait for your turn to have the national spoil. As long as you have this mentality, you are not only selling your birthright for a pot of porridge but you are also auctioning the future of your children and your children’s children.
Folks, we must change this mindset such that we would be able to bodly ask for transparency and accountability from authority that be and let the office holders know that they are not bigger than the electorate for whom they hold the office in trust.
Let the junior workers do their work diligently so that they can demand their rights from the superior officers.
God Bless Nigeria
To be continued…
Rufus Kayode Oteniya – firstname.lastname@example.org