Two weeks ago, I was lucky to catch up with one of my lecturers who was to sign my course registration form. He was with another colleague in the middle of a conversation which crept in on leadership and followership.
His colleague had attributed the problem of the university and Nigeria to leadership. But my own lecturer thought otherwise. From his wealth of experience just as he has never been found wanting when giving lectures, he used his household as an example. He cited a situation when one morning one of his kids had used a disparaging expression to address his elder brother. This expression according to him was introduced into the home by the elder brother. He did not fail to mention that he had always chided him for using it and he did not fail that morning to make it clear to the elder brother who felt disrespected by his younger one that it is the example set by him that had been emulated by his younger one.
But in his critically objective submission, he returned to note that to some extent, followership also leadership contributes to the menace and vice versa. He cited again what an expatriate had told a senior colleague of his in the department that the problem of Nigeria has almost everything to do with followership. I took that with me as I left his office.
Today, we are here. Human lives butchered to repay for about 300 dead cows, lives lost to bloody crack at Bodija Market, Ibadan, the young and old; poor and rich were roasted to after-life in a Lagos traffic. These are perilous times, the scene of charred remains itself is so disheartening.
According to an eye-witness account, a commercial bus which dropped off people at a “no-bustop had while attempting to return to the fast lane had caused the driver of the tanker to step on his brakes, hit the partition and tripped over….”
Meanwhile, this is not the time to crack excuses or blame the death on anyone. Not even praying or blaming God with “the lord giveth and taketh” would do. God wishes no man death; God does not require us to pray always when we have problems. Have you not read that faith without work is nothing?
Yes, God is not to blame. We should also be careful not to ascribe any Nigerian mentality to the voice note of dates, transport lines and airlines which got circulated yesterday on the social media shortly after the tanker incidence. Quite a lot of things would not have happened if we have responsible leadership and followership. The fire incidence is one irrespective of what some precious-holy-religious-opinion leaders say or prophesy.
The leadership is aimless; the followership is carefree and so we have a lawless society where religion and ethnicity are always at the centre of it all.
In organized countries, when traffic becomes daily newsfeed, the government has a duty to restrict the movement of certain objects to specific times. True, we have witnessed such restriction in this same Lagos under the administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola but we know that the dearth of continuity in governance has seen to the death of some worthy decisions by outgone administrations. Even at then, what is the duty of Federal Road Safety Commissions (FRSC) while these tankers are on the road during the day? Without meaning to redeem the commission, I must say that what someone posted on Facebook this morning only reminds me of the dangerous ways in which followership had spoilt this country. Romeo Oriogun wrote, “…without guns and adequate equipment, FRSC can’t deal with those guys. I know friends who have lost their lives because they tried stopping tankers to check their papers and road worthiness….” No thanks to the owners of these tankers who in the absence of responsible leadership choose to carry out their businesses against security measures at the expense of human lives. Do not even bother to wonder if these business owners are illiterates. Do not bother to tag them as selfish or inhumane; this is Nigeria. In the end, the leaders and the followers are responsible for the death of others. A leader was once a follower, they emerged from amongst us and this only relates to how bad followership is.
How can one negate this when we have peaceful citizens in a chaotic country, who look away in loving prayerfulness when all about them blood flows? How convenient is it for the follower to sleep in peace when there are injustice and unaccountability. A friend had in an attempt to crack a joke told me that my postponed test was to honour those whose lives were lost yesterday. But I smiled and ask,
“How many holidays do we have to observe till we all end up famished as a result of our actions and inactions?”
Another commented with a prayer on my Whatsapp status but I kept wondering why Nigerians love to bother God. He is not our problem; our solution as far as this country is concerned is not with God.
Is mourning anything novel to us? We will soon forget about these and move on as if we are save from death and loss of properties that won’t stop reminding us of how badly leadership and followership have failed. But before we forget, let us be reminded that the roads which those of us remaining here, our loved ones would have to travel on till the Lord comes as long as we remain in Nigeria swallowed up about 57 cars yesterday; cars filled with human beings.
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In as much as we are evidently concerned with numbers, let us not forget that daily, one or two persons die in hospitals, on our roads for the failure of the system, for the negligence of a doctor or nurse, a security officer, for the unconcerned nature of a neighbour, for the selfish and corrupt behaviour of many a leader and follower…for the silence of us all.
The government should do more in respect to security measures and road management. Rules should be defined, citizens should stop defying safety and security precautions in public areas and they should be dealt with; the rich or the poor when found guilty. As much as we clamour for good leadership, let us not forget as followers to check our own irresponsibility.
Rachael Ogunmuyiwa studies English at Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan. She can be reached via email@example.com