It Takes Character to Build Institutions

Anytime I read about the shenanigans of our country’s politicians, I wonder whether my generation will break the cycle of impunity to do better.

I ask questions like, “Are we any better than our politicians? Have we handled money and power well? What impact have we had on the people and institutions around us? Have we left them better or worse?”

I’ve been an Executive Director for over a decade. I’ve hired and fired people. I’ve handled corporate finances. I also serve as the Treasurer of an investment cooperative, so I make financial decisions there too. The positions scare me. I am reminded that it takes character to build an institution, because you must envision a system that protects the institution from the leader. When we speak about systems in Nigeria, we sometimes forget that it is the leaders who are tasked with developing them. If they lack character, they won’t subordinate themselves to the rule of law. A man that is determined to steal, will simply design a system to make it happen.

I’m convinced that many of our politicians didn’t learn corruption in Abuja or whatever state they operate in. They learnt it at home and in their private businesses. Bad character does not spontaneously generate. Life first of all tests us with small doses of power, before we become flush with opportunity.

We are always being tested. I remember that life first taught me about the value of sexual discipline in college, before it introduced me to the diverse sexual delights of the Internet and international travel. Life taught me about generosity at home. When I learnt tithing was a choice, I took a break to recover from the trauma of compelled giving. But then, I returned to my giving ways soon after.

Temptation is a school and it has degrees. It’s better to pass the exam early.

As I ramble through this post, I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: Take your youth seriously. Take life’s preliminary tests with urgency. They may well define the man or woman you eventually become.

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