For two years running, the Ogun State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations had chosen to be futuristic in the choice of its annual colloquium by focusing on what it perceived as the major source of the intractable socio economic malaise plaguing Nigeria.
The professional body recognized in clear terms the pivotal place of ethical revival as a panacea to solving our collective challenge as a nation and as a people. In unmistaken statements, it is metaphorically clear that when the tree is good, the fruits it bears will also be good. It has become clearer to us in the face of the present realities that we must return to where we were without asking too much questions as to how wegot here. It is impelling that all of us have to be introspective and know that if national progress or an acceptable society would be attained, we as individuals, like the popular saying of Sage Mahatma Gandhi, must be the change we wish to see in Nigeria. In other words, we all need mind re-engineering now, more than we have ever had.
In this context, the launching of the “Change-Begins-with me” by President MuhammaduBuhari is quite apt and welcome, but with some pieces of admonition. In launching the campaign President fingered lawlessness and loss of value as the major challenge impeding Nigeria’s socio economic progress. According to him, the erosion of the nation’s value system was largely responsible for the state of affairs and consequently called for attitudinal change of all Nigerians starting with himself.
Of course, this would not be the first time that attempt would be made by our governments for re-conscientisation or moral cum ethical regeneration of Nigerians. We could still recall lucidly the War Against Indiscipline (WAI), which was initiated and doggedly pursued, albeit with some criticisms under the President himself as a military head of state. The project was interrupted by the inception of President BadamosiBabangida regime. One could also recall that Mass Mobilisation for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSA) and the National Orientation Agency under the ebullient Professor Jerry Gana. Without a doubt, Late Professor Dora Akunyili added to the moulding block by championing the Brand Nigeria project. The essence of this recapitulation is to establish the fact that the ethical renaissance crusade is not novel. But what all these initiatives lacked was majorly the moral deficiency of leadership to push the campaign through, as well as destitution of right strategiesfor them to be ingrained in the consciousness of Nigerians. But having sparked the moral revival campaign again, the proponentsthe campaign this time around need to take a deeper look at the ethical decay more holistically and deeply, rather than treat it as a mere campaign slogan which may further inoculate Nigerians, without curing the age long virus. To me, no one paints the depth of our national decay and the lack-lustre disposition to it than erstwhile President of Singapore, Late Lee Kuan Yew. Recounting his attendance of the 1979 Commonwealth Conference in New York in his book “From Third World to First”, Lee said many African Presidents, including Nigeria,arrivedthe Confab in special aircrafts. According to him, “I wondered why they did not set out to impress the world they were poor and dire need of help”.
Expressing his shock to his company to the conference, the official did not express same emotions as Lee. He merely took a furtive gaze at Lee and retorted that “the poorer the African countries, (including Nigeria) the bigger their jets and Cadillac of their leaders”. From that time on, Lee said he made up his mind never to indulge himself in such life of luxury as Singaporean President and he kept the oath till he left office. This should be the mindset of good leaders who would be respected and whose words would carry weight with the followers. The implication of this is that the new campaign must start with the leaders who should be the avant-garde of the desired ethical change. Leadership is about influence as well as connection with the followers, not only in words, but in action.
The cruciality of leadership is that followership takes its colour and character per time. Let it be understood that the decay we are witnessing today did not start with the followers, but more with leaders. Our political leaders were the enunciators and masterminds of self-destructive policies, some of which were antithetical to morality and saneness. They were the ones that removed moral education from the school curriculum in secondary and primary schools. They were the ones that started the monetisation of politics and do or die crave for political power and remolded the mindsets of Nigerians towards foreign tastes, the implication of which is now staring us in the face.Definitely, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Nigeria as a geographical entity, but we have to understand that there is no nation that could be greater than its people-content. We have regrettably departed from those basic ethos that makes nations great and we are now on the path to nowhere really.. I wish take up the obligation to remind us all about where we were yesteryears, to the extent to which I personally witnessed some of these and also read from the story books.Once upon a time, honesty was our watch words. Our parents and guardians told us it was the best policy; but what has become of this now. It’s now a mere rhetoric as dishonesty and unethical conduct is now the norm in our national life.
Once upon a time, anyone being called a thief, like a pariah, finds it difficult to live and move around in our society. But what has become of this now? Being labeled a thief most times now makes one a celebrity or even earn a chieftaincy title!One upon a time, it was a taboo for our women or young ladies to go half clothed even in the neighborhood, now nakedness is the fax, not only among young ladies, but even elderly women and grandmas.Once upon a time, our university campuses had robust intake of foreign students who swoop on us for qualitative scholarship, the reverse is now the case. Our young ones now rush to foreign lands, even including the tiny Republic of Benin to study. What a shame!
Once upon a time, no one forces or preaches patriotism to us because we had sufficient bond to cherish as a people. Our favourite football clubs were IICCShooting Stars, Rangers International of Enugu, Racca Rovers of Kano, Mighty Jets of Jos the famed Stationery Stores of Lagos, etc. But now our taste has shifted 360 degrees and we are now suffering from Euro centrism. We all now relish foreign leagues to the extent that even some of our political leaders pride themselves as fanatics of foreign football teams while the local teams are dying, dead or gasping for breath.
It is regretful that we have over time developed voracious tastes for what we do not produce and dislike what we produce. Without a doubt, the negative implications of all these changed mindsets and orientation are steering us in the face. You all can bear witness with me that our naira which used to exchange for a pound has become sheet money in the foreign currency market because our mindsets and tastes also contributed to it. Without sounding pessimistic, these challenges facing us will not abate, until we all resolve to have a changed mindsets, part of which President Buhari is retuning us to.
For positive effect, the campaign should not only be parroted but be seen as reflecting in the changed mindsets and attitudes of our leaders. The culture of “do as I say” must be jettisoned for “do as I do”! and this should expectedly start from Mr. President. It will be quixotic to have our leaders asking us as followers to patronize local hospitals while they jet out to best hospitals in USA, Dubai, India or Israel at the symptom of minor malaria. It is not enough for our leaders to ask us to patronize made in Nigeria goods only for them to reek of foreign dresses, food, and choice of cars, etcetera, all around them.
Perhaps those who would take up the campaign from here must realize the need to coopt relevant institutions and bodies like the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations who have value and impeccable standing to be conveyors of the lofty vision. All said, it must be admitted that Mr. President has taken another bold step in resetting the mindsets of Nigerians for a better nationhood.
****Adaramola is the Chairman of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Ogun State Chapter and a public affairs commentator