One of the reasons why I visit developed countries is I’m fascinated by good. I am captivated by beauty, knowledge and order. Like Aristotle once argued, knowledge can be an end in itself and can provide joy in itself. Developed nations understand that. Libraries are not wasted spaces. They exist to both delight and train the mind. Museums, galleries and parks are not optional. People fight to preserve them.
When things break down in those countries, the default response is to repair them. Things work because they should work, not because there is a financial reward. The people have embraced a value system that makes it so. Education then becomes the capstone; training, liberating and molding minds to do the work of nation building – whether in public or private service. In those societies, it is so called soft values – courtesy, love, tolerance and thirst for knowledge – that produce a working society. Hard values like vision, discipline and drive ensure that those values are enshrined in processes and repetitive predictable outcomes.
In Nigeria, the seeming absence of widespread values in the public sector, means Nigerians are depending on a few rare and committed public servants to change our nation. We’re waiting for the conscious and well educated to run for office. We’re waiting for a “critical mass” to put themselves forward. We’re waiting for personalities who don’t primarily work for money, but instead do so because they desire to serve. God knows public service in Nigeria doesn’t really pay one’s bills. So, we wait for people with national pride. But, what exactly produces pride in a Nigerian? What fuels it, so we can produce many more of these selfless souls?
As we wait, patients die because not enough great doctors exist. Public works go unfinished because there are not enough honest civil servants and contractors.
Without values as the operating system of government, we will keep expecting Nigeria to get better through draconian anti-corruption tactics. People will simply hold on until the next regime and then return to status quo. After all, no one bothered to engage their hearts. No one paid attention to values. No one reformed education – the pipeline for critical skills and thinking.
People say Nigeria is changing, yet we seem so skilled at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We heard the change noises before. We’ve witnessed our capacity to move two steps forward only to then move three steps back. We all know what incremental change looks like when it’s offered by tainted hands, incapable of excising the rot from the root.
“Human” numbers don’t lie. We hype GDP yet downplay GDP per capita. We shout infrastructure yet ignore unemployment. Who exactly will build and run our infrastructure. The unskilled? Expats? Repats? Meanwhile, Nigeria seems focused on being first in the race for child mortality, poverty and out-of-school kids. We really think we’re changing because individual stars succeed, despite Nigeria? We think we’re changing? Really?
I don’t have silver bullet solutions. But I do know that reforming education and culture will help. I know that fundamentally redesigning our political structures is a given. Many Nigerians know someone or a platform that is making great strides in reforming the country. Can we support them? Can we volunteer our time, money and voice to promote them? Perhaps, instead of guilt tripping people into doing “anything”, we should point them in the direction of people who are already doing “something”, so they can help them. That’s how critical mass is built. Split efforts won’t help Nigeria.
It’s sad, but sometimes we forget that nations are simply inanimate spaces, without the hearts and minds of the people. They last for millennia. If Nigerians don’t get their act together, Nigeria will wait for the next generation and then the next. It will outlive us and our nonsense.
For more of my random thoughts about life, you should get my book, UNSCRIPTED.Human numbers don't lie. We hype GDP yet downplay GDP per capita. We shout infrastructure yet ignore unemployment. Click To Tweet