Here is where it all started: A 200 level undergraduate student at the University of Port Harcourt butchered a neighbour’s seven year old daughter for ritual, removed part of her body and attempted to dispose of the body in a garbage heap. Shocking! That sounds like a familiar headline right?
Welcome to Nigeria, a country where the primary mission of any individual venturing into politics is to loot public funds and have his share of the national cake; a country where leaders embezzle public funds without fear of censure; a country where members of the Federal House of Representatives buy cars worth millions of naira at a time when the nation is in the midst of a pandemic and a large percentage of the populace lives below a dollar per day. Here is a country where selfishness and greed runs in the blood of its citizens. You want to declare yourself saint? Alas! We are all culprits.
When you are given some gifts to share among colleagues, you take most of the gifts and give your colleagues the insufficient remnants. When at a party, you want to have a taste of all the delicacies. Your own plate scares you; you even buy polythene bags to take some food home as you care less about others. The greed in Nigerians makes a pastor request for tithes even during pandemics. Some Nigerians spend financial aids from Saudi Arabia meant to build mosques and feed the poor on personal needs. The thirst of greed will only be filled with sand. When you have selfish, greedy, discontented followers, you should expect selfish, greedy discontented leaders. As the Arabic expression goes, ‘Your leaders are a depiction of what you are’. Why are Nigerian leaders so corrupt and heartless? Here is the answer: they are what we are, the products of our existence.
Look at the electioneering process. About all elections I have witnessed consciously in this country are replete with vices. May someone inform me of that street, local government area, local council development area, tribe, region or state in Nigeria where monetary rewards were not distributed before (or after) the electorate could exercise their franchise?
The moral values of our dear nation has denigrated to that extent where the numbers of voters were inflated in some states; so pathetic a moral depravity. I was jolted into total despondency when students in a university, ‘the leaders of tomorrow’, almost killed one another just to get some stipends from a political ace; they are not distinct from social fads. This is because of greed that runs through each individual’s vein. I doubt whether the leadership of a nation breeding a generation such as ours could be better than it is.
The populace’s transgression is so innumerable that the young ones are exhibiting a level of expatriate more sophisticated than that of the adults. An exploration of the examination processes of secondary schools (both private and government-owned) gives one some bit of concern. Hardly will you find a school where students are not ‘helped’ with their exams (especially external exams). When our ‘future leaders’ are aided with ‘special centres’ now, it is obvious they would swindle to make the mantle of leadership theirs.
Parents are no more concerned with the mental alertness of their kids; they just want them to compete with their neighbour’s children at all cost. One may also check government parastatals where receipts are issued for payments made or services rendered. You will be stuck to discover that in some of such offices, receipts are doubly duplicated. Instead of having receipts strictly meant for government records, individuals who work in such offices also have theirs; they issue the ‘individual’ receipts and keep the cash for themselves.
There was an occurrence in some university that depicts the dispiriting effects of moral gaffe in our society. At the inception of every academic session, every student in a faculty is required to pay faculty dues which will be collected by the students’ executive council members of such faculty. That session, the President and the General Secretary of the largest faculty in that institution were said to have ‘laundered’ about three hundred thousand naira. They printed their own copies of the faculty due receipts, issued it to students and kept the money gathered for themselves. Greed, you say? Isn’t it a form of transgression for a nation that has such bad reputation to wish her leadership could be just and honest?
Let us take a journey to the ‘kingdom of justice’. The masses in this country have lost hope in the judicial system practised in this country. It is off-putting to witness court rulings where an individual who steals an amount as meagre as three hundred naira is tagged ‘thief’ and sent to jail while the one who steals $15 million is just a ‘money launderer’ required to pay fine. You would even be told that ‘you can get away with anything when you have the cash’. One could even say less when the Police or FRSC officers stop one’s car and starts exercising ‘legal distortions’ and ‘linguistic neologisms’. It may seem it’s still the government, but who is the government? Are they not humans and the manifestation of their whims and impulses?
An encounter with traders in selling arenas causes one to mistrust the scrupulousness of our trading system. During the ‘dollar days’, one could notice that traders decreased the quantity of goods, even goods not affected by the devaluation of naira, all in the name of profit maximization. The present covid-19 lockdown has also influenced the prices of essential goods. Is it not the same land that produces the food we consume before the pandemic that is still tilled? Apart from transactions, government-owned monetary-making entities are also always abused. In almost all dwelling places, you hear of individuals ‘tapping current’. The improbability of our having honest leaders stems from our overall non-compliance to rules and our dysphemistic behavioural composure.
You may affirm that selfishness is a universal human trait. Yes it is! The New York Telephone Company made a detailed study of telephone conversations to find out which word is the most frequently used. You can guess it: it is the personal pronoun ‘I’. It was used 3,900 times in 500 telephone conversations. This is true but, those countries that are considered ‘great’ minimised their selfish traits to be called ‘great’. Nigerians haven’t done that!
Let’s listen to Adler: It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring. Alfred Adler is a famous Viennese psychologist who wrote a book entitled What Life Should Mean to You. You may read scores of psychology texts without coming across a statement more significant for us. Adler’s statement is so rich that it proffers basic solution to human problem: It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring. There lies Nigeria’s problem; that’s what will not make Nigeria great.
Nigeria will not be great until we change our stance to issues in our society; until there is a redirection of our mindset; until each of us is interested in the affairs of his fellow Nigerian; until the leaders see the followers as brothers on the same voyage with the same goal; until the followers understand that their actions and inactions contribute to the development, or retrogression, of the nation; until we truncate greed and selfishness from our system; until the market woman stops decreasing the quantity of goods or hiking fees all in the name of profit maximisation; until the building developer stops using low quality materials in erecting the building which ends up collapsing and killing innocent occupants; until the housing agent stops heaping huge amount of money on the rent under the tag ‘agreement and commission’; until bike-men and bus drivers stop hiking transport fares just because the bus stops seem crowded with commuters; until private school owners stop underpaying their staff just for them to fill their own pockets and smile to the bank; until…
Until then, Nigeria will not be great.
Muhyideen Imam is a teacher, journalist, and author. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org