A stitch in time

When I first began boarding school in the UK, I couldn’t help liking the teachers because most of them seemed to be so patient and caring. It was strange to see how every child’s issue or concern was taken so seriously, even when some of those issues appeared to be so minor to me.

It wasn’t long before something about the behaviour of the teachers started to make me change my mind though. I noticed that they all had this tendency to threaten the whole class for the misdeed of just one person. Why? As long as all my classmates maintain their lanes and don’t do anything that’s detrimental to me, why should I care what they do? What’s my own? That is the teacher’s headache so he can sort that out himself. There was one problem though. None of the teachers seemed to be willing to spend too much time investigating to identify who the culprit was. They had a much easier way of handling the matter.

If the culprit didn’t quickly own up, they would simply punish the whole class. I thought this was so cruel and totally unfair. Why should I be punished for someone else’s wrongdoing? I didn’t find it funny at all and would often make a huge fuss about it. Well, that was until I grew up and began to understand things a bit better.

Oyinbo believes responsibility is a collective thing and it is not enough for you to behave; you must make sure others do too. We were told that turning a blind eye to bad behaviour simply because it doesn’t directly affect us isn’t good enough and though we may not be involved in the act, keeping quiet about it doesn’t exonerate us. Ignoring it doesn’t demonstrate any sense of responsibility and instead, reveals one’s short-sightedness in believing the consequences will start and end with the culprit alone.

The Oyinbo teacher would opt for collective punishment to teach a lesson that it is foolishness not to stop or correct the self-centred individual who doesn’t care how his actions may eventually affect others. The teacher wanted us to know that if you didn’t stop him, correct him or squeal on him (if he refused to listen), then we would have inadvertently become his accomplices and should therefore not complain when we bear some of the punishment (consequences) as well. Back then, Oyinbo was teaching us that when we grow up, it is our collective responsibility to make sure the society works because if we normalize bad behaviour by turning a blind eye to it, we will all eventually become victims of that dysfunctional society. And dysfunctional, it shall surely become. Ignoring nonsensical behaviour because you feel it doesn’t concern you or affect you directly is foolishness because it soon will, in one way or the other. If you’re in the habit of keeping front row seats in church for a leader who we all know is a thief, that makes you complicit and part of the problem.

Attending parties of rogues who collude with public officials to drain the national treasury and drinking their champagne purchased with ill-gotten wealth, only to then post pictures on social media, so the world can see how we rub shoulders with the movers and shakers, instantly withdraws from us, any moral right we might have had to complain that the roads are bad, the educational system is in shambles or the hospitals are empty shells with obsolete equipment. For all intents and purposes, we would have taken our own share of the national cake already.

The rot in our society cannot be placed on the doorstep of our leaders alone. Most of us have done something along the line which has directly or indirectly contributed to it and so the sooner we wake up to this fact and begin to hold each other accountable and hold ourselves to standards we expect of others, the better. The earlier we come to the realization that all we need do, is condone the irresponsible behaviour of one person in our “classroom” for it to trigger off the process of corrupting everything else, the better. We just need to say “No!” Not “maybe”, not “I don’t know”, not “it doesn’t concern me” and certainly not just to keep silent. It must be a loud and resounding “No” to sleaze and general misconduct or we will all continue to bear the punishment of poor governance. It is a choice we all have to make. We either collectively draw the line and say “no more” or we keep quiet and may even try to cut out a slice of the national cake for ourselves and bear the collective consequences that will surely follow. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or that you’re a major power broker, you will pay for it somewhere. We all ply the same roads and live in the same crime infested environment. Wisdom says, “a stitch in time saves nine”. If we don’t stitch on time, at least one of the “nine” consequential problems will affect us. No matter who we are.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.

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