The Applause and Acceptance of Mediocrity



By Marie-Therese Phido

On the 19th of April, the Abuja airport opened. It had been closed for six weeks as we all know. The reason was to repair the run way. A question many of us asked then, was why it needed to have been closed for that long and why it had to be closed at all, because we know that in other jurisdictions, it would have been done more strategically, with less pain and loss of man-hours.

We got used to the pain and challenges of going to Kaduna first and then undergoing a harrowing three hour journey by road or two hours by train to get to Abuja. As promised, the airport opened on the said date and everybody praised the reopening, especially because of the fact that it opened on the date officials had said it would.

I found the profuse praises following the reopening very irritating. Did they not say they would open on the stipulated date? Why did we think it was such a great achievement that they opened on the date they said they would open? What was so special about the fact that they kept to the date? In my view, if they had opened before the stipulated date, then that would have been a reason for praise.

In another situation, my husband travelled by Arik a few weeks ago and came back commending Arik for taking off on time on both legs of his trip. He was so glad that he did not have to spend the whole day waiting for Arik to take off. Is it not expected that airlines should leave on time and should we not take it for granted? I remember when Virgin Atlantic made us all punctual and instituted the culture across the aviation industry of ensuring that passengers got to the airport at least thirty minutes before their flights. It took a foreign airline to do this. Before then we all strolled to the airport and some even had the power to stop a plane from taking off.

As a people, we have accepted mediocrity. Let’s look at other aspects of our lives where this acceptance has seeped in. Take power as an example. When we have power for two days at a stretch we start to extol and boast about how good the power situation is where we live. Or when power is restored, you hear resounding shouts in some neighbourhoods. Even yours truly, on one of my trips to South Africa, teased a few friends of mine that they do not know how to manage power cuts. I told them that “in Nigeria, when power goes, life continues. We do not depend on government or power companies, we all have generators at home and in business establishments”. All of this bragging was because I experienced a power cut on one of my trips, where everything ground to a halt because there was no power and most people were not equipped to manage such a situation.

The question is, should this be deemed normal? Are we meant to power our homes and businesses ourselves? Many of us also have to provide our own water. As a normal occurrence, when planning to build your house, you have to factor in the cost of a borehole. Almost all homes have their own borehole and pumping machines.

In many parts of Nigeria, communities are also building their roads by themselves. Should this be? Are these roads safe or up to standard? What about our healthcare system. People are dying due to mediocrity and poor regulation.
A few months ago, my daughter fell ill. Tests said typhoid and malaria, but it lingered. We were then told to go for a scan. We were also advised on where to do the scan. We got there and the Sonographer fiddled and fidgeted under my eagle observation. I am one of those people who questions medical care being given to me and family members.

On enquiry he said, he suspected hepatitis A. You cannot begin to imagine the fear and depression we all felt, even though we knew it was not as fatal as hepatitis B or C. When we got back to the clinic, I asked for a second opinion and a referral to a gastroenterologist. When the specialist saw the report he was livid. He said it was impossible to determine nor suspect hepatitis A with a sonograph and sent us for further tests. These tests came back with negative results and cleared all suspicion. Many others would have accepted the first result and caused more damage to their bodies.

Our education system is another area where we seem to have accepted mediocrity. The quality of education has deteriorated to an all-time low. Those who can afford better quality circumvent the system by sending their wards or children to private schools or abroad. Some of these private schools are poor quality and sub-standard. How long will this continue? How can we improve on the quality of half-baked students graduating from our institutions at all levels? You see people who claim to have secondary or graduate qualifications not being able to read, spell or write properly. We have all accepted it or seem to have given up.

My heart is bleeding as I write this article. We need to do something we must change the approach of accepting sub-standard actions and applauding behaviours that are detrimental to the well-being of our people, culture and country.

In some areas, we are dead. Sports are areas that have gone beyond mediocrity to death. When I was growing up, I knew and heard about Bendel Insurance, Rangers, IICC Shooting Stars football clubs. Today, it is Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. Nigeria is a nation of footballers, where football is played in every nook and cranny on holidays and weekends. But, because of the mediocrity and mismanagement of our local leagues, Nigerians have adopted foreign English Premier leagues, Bundesliga, Serie A and the likes.

We all seem to have given up hope of winning the World Cup in football. Why? Is it because we do not even qualify? This is despite the fact that we have excellent football players making waves globally. Let’s not talk about how dead our prowess in boxing has become; a sport where we once excelled.
I’m sure many of us are wondering whether I will mention the “big elephant projects” our politicians build and announce with fanfare on traditional and new media. A governor builds a single and sub-standard road during his tenure and it is hailed by all stakeholders.

People, what is wrong with us? Almost every aspect of our lives has become mediocre. Service providers and product manufacturers know we have no standards. They will continue to treat us with utter disrespect and impunity because they know that we will “manage” when things do not go as agreed by the service level agreements and will celebrate them when they achieve the agreements in the service level agreements – banks, schools, manufacturers, telecoms, broadband, agencies of government, tailors, hairdressers, etc will continue unless we take a stand.

My people, let’s start to question and reject mediocrity. Until we do this, we will continue to suffer. We have the power to make this change. Let’s do it!
– Marie-Therese Phido is Sales & Market Strategist and Business Coach
tweeter handle @osat2012; TeL: 08090158156 (text only)