The human existential condition has a habit of producing mainly two types of people in every society, conformists and deviants. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you go to, people relate with their society by either blending in or standing out. The only reason some places appear more advanced in thinking is because they have had a series of leaders with the balls to walk the part of the progressive thinking deviant. These leaders use their position of power and influence to pull the masses towards their ideals until it becomes the norm in their culture.
Imagine England before William Wilberforce or America before Abraham Lincoln. Granted some may argue slavery was only abolished due to the emergence of the industrial revolution, but the call by William Wilberforce for stopping the slave trade came years before it was granted. The average English man back then could not objectively see the reason why a black man had a right to freedom, he only complied with the new ways because the law said so. Today it is common sense that the color of a person’s skin is no reason to enslave them. The new British mass is no more intellectually capable than the old. The British call Nigeria backwards today because we have a discriminatory law against homosexuals. To think the same country was responsible for Alan Turning’s suicide after sterilizing him for homosexuality in 1952. This was a man responsible for leaps of progress in computing and cracking important codes in the Second World War saving lots of lives from Hitler’s army. But never mind the lives he saved, he was gay and had to be criminalized for that.
The point here is that leaders are not just responsible for maintaining order, they are also responsible for advancement of a society’s culture. In the case of Nigeria we haven’t had leaders that can even speak eloquently since the time of our founding fathers. The measure of a leader’s success is based on how little he stole. You hear Nigerians say things like ‘We don’t mind if he steals, we just want him to do some work or at least reinvest at home’. This is how desensitized we have become to corruption. I guess just as progressive ideas can become part of mass thinking, so can regressive ideas.
It is common practice to blame our leaders for our plight, shifting blame and responsibility is common human behavior. We will blame the devil for sin instead of taking responsibility, we will blame the examiners for our failure…you get the point. But ask yourself the question, when we trash talk our society citing corruption, materialism, intellectual laziness, lack of morality, etc., who is society? Society is the sum of individuals including you and me. So if our society is sick, it is because we are sick. Until we shift the definition of success in Nigeria to include more than material gain we would be tied to this cycle of ‘grab all you can’.
A society that places accumulation of wealth over integrity has sold its soul to an evil that will eventually devour it till all that is left is suffering and that is where we are heading. Leaders must emerge to change the status quo by redefining what success in leading means to Nigerians. You do not have to hold political office, in our own little ways we all have leadership roles we play. Waiting for things to change from the top will leave us waiting indefinitely. We must first change ourselves and our perceptions, then the society would be ripe to support people of integrity on our political landscape.
You want to change Nigeria? Start with the man in the mirror