• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Why it matters


In a world where societies are continuously looking to be more inclusive, ours seems to be going in the opposite direction. Following the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations that seemed to engulf the whole world, organisations and major corporations in the US have started working on ways to include more blacks in a way that all Americans will have a sense of belonging. Some have introduced more inclusive company policies while others are sponsoring programs to better position members of the black community to take advantage of business opportunities. Meanwhile, we live in a nation where in a cabinet of forty three government ministers, only seven are women.

In a world where we have a forty-year old woman, Jacinda Arden, proving herself a most competent Prime Minister of New Zealand, we’re yet to produce the first female State Governor after twenty one years of uninterrupted democratic governance. And in case you’re wondering, Arden became Prime Minister at just thirty seven years old. I don’t think we need to say too much about the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has been leading one of the world’s economic powers (and by far the most powerful European nation) for the last fifteen years. Permit me to also mention the wheelchair bound Governor of the richest state in the world’s wealthiest country, Gregg Abbot.

Mr Abbot, Governor of California, has had to make use of a wheelchair since he suffered a freak accident while jogging about three and a half decades ago. A tree fell on him during a storm and paralysed him from the waist downwards. This didn’t discourage him from running for Governor and neither did it stop him from winning. I think that says something about his society; but here we are, struggling to appoint just seven women into the country’s central government. This doesn’t give us too much to feel proud about.

I came across the amazing story of a blind South Korean percussionist the other day. His name is Kyungho Jeon. It was incredible watching this chap play so superbly even though he couldn’t physically see what he was playing. He said it has been his long-time dream to one day play in an orchestra, but how would he follow the lead of the conductor, like the rest of the orchestra would? No matter how beautifully he plays, how can he possibly play in harmony with the other instrumentalists? And so his dream has remained just that, a dream. But it’s looking like it may not remain like that for much longer.

let me ask you this and I would like you to please answer honestly. If the President was to have a Rawlian “veil of ignorance” placed over his head, rendering him temporarily ignorant of his background and place in society before making his appointments, do you think he would appoint the same people?

The Haptic Baton was developed by a musical designer, Vahakn Matossian and his father, a composer. They were moved to invent this device when they heard the story of the young Korean man and his unfulfilled dream. The baton used by an orchestra’s conductor works with two bands that the musician wears; one on each of his thighs. The bands have a vibrator in them so as the conductor waves his baton; the bands sense it and instantly vibrate. As the conductor switches the baton from one hand to the other, so does the vibration move from one thigh to the other. This enables a blind musician to follow the lead of the conductor even though he can’t see the conductor.

Quite incredible, isn’t it? With this invention, the ceiling that had been placed above this blind South Korean and anyone else in the same boat as him has been shattered. Previous limitations to his ambitions, dreams of self-actualisation and society saying, “this is how far you can go in life” have been stripped away. All because some people out there thought it unfair that the composition of orchestras don’t truly reflect society. They refused to accept the status quo which says some people should be precluded because of their peculiar circumstance and not because they’re not good enough. These men cared enough to take it upon themselves to find a solution that would help bring into the fold, those whom circumstances had hitherto disenfranchised.

For the last five years, our President has been criticised for making lopsided appointments which appear to grossly favour a particular section of the country. Despite several appeals made by well-meaning Nigerians, the unevenness of the appointments just seems to be increasing. No reasonable man will dispute the fact that the majority of the appointees are more than qualified but what about the optics? For a country whose progress has for decades been stunted by stifling tribal sentiments, I sincerely believe all should be done to make everybody feel they belong. If we’re to look at Rwanda, where incidentally, 50 percent of the government ministers are women, we will find that it’s against the law and even labelled “divisionist” to claim your tribe before your nationality.

Inclusion seems to be the name of the game there and going by all indices, it certainly appears to be working for them. Ethiopia is the only other African country that can boast of as many women with ministerial portfolios. Is it a coincidence that in a continent where the majority of the countries are flailing economically, the performances of these two represents the very few beacons of hope? Expectedly, some may put up the very valid argument that a “tribal blind” person shouldn’t be at all concerned about where the President’s appointees hail from and like I said, it would be a valid point.

However, let me ask you this and I would like you to please answer honestly. If the President was to have a Rawlian “veil of ignorance” placed over his head, rendering him temporarily ignorant of his background and place in society before making his appointments, do you think he would appoint the same people? I believe I can leave you to answer that all by yourself.

There’s no gainsaying though, that the day Nigerians from all walks of life, of all religions and all tribes, agree that they are at last enjoying the pleasant fruits of good governance, that’s the day they will stop worrying about where their leaders hail from. All round good governance will automatically provoke a sense of belonging and from that point onwards, no one will really care where any leader comes from anymore.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time