• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Taking Responsibility

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Nigerians as a people have never really taken responsibility for the health of our nation. We complain about how bad things are; how they are getting worse, how ineffectual and insincere our leaders are, our political process,  a bloated and corrupt government and the myriads of other complaints we have become fond of; we pray and then we do nothing. We all wish for a better nation yet most of us are unwilling to do anything to make that dream come true. Complaints and wishes have never gotten anything done.

The Nigerian problem is not leadership or corruption it is the apathy of the Nigerian people especially those we would consider the elites. This complacency in the national psyche has allowed all sorts of ‘evil’ to be done to the Nigerian state. By ‘evil’ I refer to all that is wrong with our nation, from corruption and fraud to rigged elections and the rise of jungle justice.  In the words of Edmund burke “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”, collectively we have done nothing and so evil prevails in our land.

To make a better nation we need to tackle our complacency and passivity. We complain and pray and leave the rest for God, saying politics is for politicians and social engagement is for activists. But we cannot abdicate our responsibility and role in nation building and somehow expect that things will get better, most likely things will get worse. God expects more from us than just prayer. Yes we should pray but active engagement in all facets of our nation’s political and social life is a must if we are truly to make our society better.

The question of leadership is easily solved if we become active participants in the electoral process. If we all join a political party or group,  know and judge our local political representatives, properly scrutinize political candidates, propose and support worthy candidates for political office, vote, hold elected leaders to account, and demand ideas from political leaders and not sentiment, then we will get better and more responsible leaders. 

The fault for the corrupt and visionless leadership we have had lies at our doorstep. Though we have not been blessed with great leaders like Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Washington or Lincoln, we have to accept the fact that as a nation we have not encouraged the emergence of such leaders. When we would rather kowtow to men of questionable ethics and wealth in the quest for financial largesse than follow men of integrity and vision then we shouldn’t complain when we get leaders that are more interested in lining their own pockets than in building a better future. John Adams, one of America’s founding fathers, said: “Because power corrupts society’s demand for moral authority and character increases as the importance of the position increases.” If we do not demand moral authority and character from our leaders, from local government councillors to the president, then even the good ones among them will get corrupted by power.

We will also have to take responsibility for turning Nigeria into a less corrupt society. It is true that the war on corruption should ideally start from the top but we should also remember that corruption thrives in Nigeria because of the existence of a pervasive culture of corruption.  If every Nigerian begins holding themselves and others around them to account, if we begin to refuse every semblance of corruption in our everyday lives, if we begin to shun those with ill gotten wealth making them social outcasts, then at the very least it will become uncomfortable and difficult for the kind of blatant and unchecked corruption that exists today to continue. Why should we toe the path of integrity and character while our leaders continue to loot the national treasury? Because if we don’t then there is no hope for us, because doing so will force our leaders to follow suit, and because we should.

It is time for the Nigerian national consciousness to awaken, it is time we all stand up and take responsibility for all that we want to be better in society. Our nation can be so much better, Nigeria can be great if only we all Take Responsibility for making it so. In our homes, offices, schools, churches and clubs we need to begin to speak out about the things that matter to us. To paraphrase Albert Einstein Nigeria will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything.

PATRICK AWODU