By Amene Ter'Hemen
Some may feel insulted after reading this; to such, my apologies. It is not my intention to insult anyone, but provoke us (if I can) to a more responsible people.
This piece came into life because of something I heard this morning (14 February 2013). A certain individual called in on a phone-in programme on radio and said that in his area in Katsina State Nigeria, there are no Road Safety officers (Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC) as such every road user is on his/her own; drive as you will without regard to any road sign (if any exists) or even road safety regulations. The first question that came to my mind was "are they goats", but then I realized even where I am, it is the same; 'it is do as you will when the officials are not there or not looking!' Are we goats? Only goats will disobey even when the disobedience puts them in danger.
As an individual who enjoyed the privilege of growing up in the village, I know a few things about animals, especially the domestic ones. One group of animals that are extremely difficult to control are goats, especially the he-ones; when you think of mischief, they rank first; for destructive tendencies, they are first. Goats are a special kind of animals when it comes to disobedience. When you are standing there and looking at them, they can 'pretend' to be the most obedient of all animals but the very second your back is turned on them they will become their normal mischievous and destructive self.
Have we Nigerians gradually become goats? It has become evidently clear that MOST Nigerians will NOT obey even a simple instruction unless there is an enforcer standing by!
I believe a few examples here would suffice: 1. Vanguard Newspaper reported on 17 July 2012 the 'arrest' by the Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola SAN of an army colonel (a law preserver turned law breaker). His offence: using the BRT lane to beat traffic when he thought no higher authority was looking; 2. Yesterday (13 February 2013), it was in the news the dismissal (and probable prosecution) of three police men (in Niger State, Nigeria) for their role in vandalizing and selling NITEL and PHCN cables (when they thought no one was looking).
I started with these law preserving individuals who turned around to break the law when they thought there was no superior power to call them to order, to show you how difficult it is for a Nigerian to obey the law except there is a law enforcer watching. For a law enforcer to himself break the law when there was no superior enforcer looking says it all.
Other examples: 1. In Nigeria: a junctions with traffic lights, MUST also have either a police man (or men), Road Safety officers or the like standing to make sure road users obey the lights. If this is not done, the lights will NEVER be obeyed (I have witnessed it several times). I don't know how true, but I once heard (on radio) that Gov Fashola of Lagos State, Nigeria gave a new cab (as reward for good behaviour) to a taxi driver who obeyed the traffic light at an odd hour in the night when no one was there to arrest him even if he diobeyed the traffic light; 2. MOST motorists will NEVER use their seat belts until they approach points where they know law officers normally stand to check its use, and the moment that point is passed, the belt goes off; 3. It's rare to see motorcycle riders wear helmets except they know Road Safety officers will be out checking the use of helmets (or in some barracks where it is mandatory to wear helmets); 4. It is a common sight to have people struggling to cross the road right under a pedestrian bridge even when there are bold signs telling them to use the bridge!
Like the goat, I believe most of us Nigerians have developed a penchant for flouting orders. The very thing we know we are not supposed to do is what we want to do, by all means. It is the point carrying the notice "Please, Do Not Urinate Here" that congregates the most number of 'free-to-air-users'. Why? Have you noticed (if you presently stay in Nigeria), that the points with the sign "Do Not Dump Refuse Here" almost always end up with mountains of refuse? WHY? May be like the goat, disobedience is something we just can't do without! May be the long years of being told to obey, while the ones telling us to obey disobey those same laws have turned us into silent rebels, striving to outdo each other in disobedience?
Do we continue like this and expect that we would have a brand new nation? It can't happen! We will NEVER have a new nation unless we first CHANGE into new people. We can amend the Constitution every four years without ever having a visible difference in the way the nation is run and in our progress towards a developed status unless we start with a change of attitude. It is not the mere presence of laws that makes an ordered society; it is the obedience to the laws.
It is the citizens that one day become leaders. If as citizens we do not take orders, obey rules and keep laws, is there any wonder the leaders we have today pay little attention to the letters of the constitution and the moral dictates of their offices? It is logical: when they were citizens like we are today, they never made it a point to obey the simple instructions handed to them; so as leaders, they find it difficult to obey even the laws they themselves make.
There is no perfect human, as such there can NEVER be a perfect society; but a society that its players are WILLING to do their bit to make it work better can/should be said to be perfect or walking to perfection. Perfection is not necessarily in the achievement of a flawless status, but the possession of a drive and to be seeing working to achieve that flawless status. We all make mistakes and it would continue to be so as long as we still live in this imperfect and frail human body, but we should be seen striving to become better; except if we want to say the developed and ordered societies are made of beings other than human. They are humans like us, aren't they?
Until EVERY Nigerian (leaders and followers alike) points a finger to his/her chest and say, "I hold the key to make Nigeria better", we cannot have a better nation. When I say, "It is my duty to make Nigeria better" and you say, "But, it is my duty too to make the nation better", we would have a better nation in no time. It is until EACH of us does his/her bit, a new and beter nation will continue to elude us! So long as we think it is the other person's responsibility to make Nigeria better, I would advise us to stop fooling around and kiss a better nation good-bye. Yes, there are some that MUST be coerced and forced to fall in, that should be an exception rather than the rule. It is true leadership has a part to play, but like I said earlier, it is the citizen today that becomes the leader tomorrow; a bad citizen will ultimately make a bad leader; whereas a good citizen may eventually make a good leader. Each right action you and I take moves the nation forward; each and every wrong step stagnates the nation or throws us backwards.
A new Nigeria is POSSIBLE, but it MUST start with me and then you.