Sometimes pessimism seizes me and I feel we are a doomed people. At some other times, my belief in a better tomorrow waxes strong and hope bubbles up inside me.
But the fact is that our ways are hardly what they should be. Everywhere I turn, I still see vestiges of the old order, yet everybody wants a new experience.
Because it seems that we are fundamentally depraved, every generation breeds its own monsters and social terrorists.
From the benefit of hindsight, I dare say that the campaign launched by then Information minister, Mr Walter Ofonagoro, Not in Our Character, was rather hasty and unduly protective of our shortcomings as a people.
Yes, there is no perfect society or people here on earth. But the flaws we see everyday amongst ourselves clearly indicate that we need much more than the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to change our ways.
I will not even talk about the very harsh deprivations and unkind cuts we get from our so-called leaders who are deeply greedy and selfish in their pursuits and exploits, those who hide $1million in septic tanks or those who steal N558 million every month from a system… etc, but to show that these flaws run in us, I will cite some very few and recent “lower case” examples that show clearly that we need redemption.
I was at a company’s ceremony during the week, somewhere in Delta State. The company had built a wing of a health facility and donated it to government as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. One of the top notch managers of the company had told me how the Chief Medical Director of the Hospital had laboured to frustrate and almost ruined the entire project because he wanted to be “settled”. The manager complained that “he (the Chief Medical Director) kept asking what is in it for me?” My source lamented that but for his insistence on seeing the project through, the CMD would have caused them to have an abandoned project.
At that same ceremony, the little reception organized for the few people who came witnessed another show of our depravity. Some refreshment packs had been arranged for the guests. Apparently, a catering outfit was contacted to put the victuals together. When it is time for refreshment, one of the organisers stood by the catering personnel and the sharing of the refreshment packs began. I noticed that as soon as the organisers turned their back to attend to some other ceremony concerns, the caterer immediately stopped sharing, tied up the bag and ordered another staff to take it to their waiting van, despite the grumbling and protestation of the unserved people.
That caterer had been paid his/her full charge to serve a certain number of people. After collecting his/her money, he denies the guests of his/her service. Yet, that same person will be loud in criticizing our leaders in Abuja.
What do we say of even clerks in government offices who are in the habit of hiding the files of contractors who don’t “settle” them? For months and even years, works are stalled simply because files of certain projects are missing. But whenever the contractor comes around and does the “needful”, that same file missing for a long time, surfaces the next day.
I am also aware of many communities where either government or oil companies want to execute developmental projects. And rather than being grateful and enthusiastic about such projects, some nefarious community leaders draw up long lists of appeasements and settlements before they can allow the project to take place. Instead of facilitating the coming of projects to their communities, they frustrate and repel development efforts. They do not care if by the project, the community will now have pipe-borne water, or good tarred roads or stable electricity supply. Like that CMD, they are more concerned with the banal and baleful consideration of “what is in it for me”?
I guess it is in a nature; I don’t want to say it is in our DNA. I recall back then in the university, how some selfish and notorious students will ransack the library for any good resource material on any course. And whenever they find any such valuable book, helpful in any course, they will take it from where it is shelved, say in Humanities shelf, and go hide it in Civil Engineering shelf. At other times, they even go barbaric by slicing off the relevant pages from the book, just so that no other fellow student benefits from the book. Such people get out of school and become a danger to the larger society.
Recently too, a taxi driver who took me from the airport was lamenting the fuel scarcity and told the story of how the taskforce members set up to monitor compliance of Independent marketers (fuel station operators) with approved prices, collect bribe from the same people they are supposed to be checking and then turn the other eye when the marketers start selling above the approved pump price, even though on the meter, they retain the approved N86.50k per litre; but use a calculator to reckon what your bill is, aside what the meter shows.
So from where will the angels come down to re-order our lives? The NNPC management puts a taskforce in place to check nefarious marketers. The taskforce people are paid salaries and allowances, yet they connive to sabotage a system because of their illicit search for “what is in it for me”? So if the taskforce members are unable to tame the rougish marketers, how can Kachikwu (NNPC GMD) be able to rein in the crooks in the system? Who says we don’t need redemption as a people?
All that is discernable from these examples is that it appears inherent in us to cheat, undercut and even rob others, a phenomenon described as “Adamic Nature” in Christendom.
So, many of those who shout loudest today over system failures and acute corruption, are more likely going to follow suit or even do worse atrocities. Only those with a very strong sense of discipline and self control will yet stand straight when tested. Little wonder that even the younger politicians in various offices have, as they say in conversational parlance, continued to “fall our hands”.