• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Reform requires attitudinal change

Nigeria’s diversity is a source of strength, innovation – Odjenima

“Reform can be accomplished only when attitudes are changed” – Lilian Wald

In 1982, some scholars alongside a researcher and psychologist called Philippe Zambardo conducted studies on buildings and other properties in different areas. They came up with a theory called the “Broken Window Theory,” quoted in many studies and books of sociology. Summarizing the theory:

“That neglecting to address any problem in an environment, no matter how small it is, will negatively affect people’s attitudes and behaviour towards that environment, leading to bigger and bigger problems.”

“The opposite is also true: addressing small problems quickly will lead to a better environment and better behaviour.”

We can’t continue to defend poor leadership – the main reason why there is no change in our societal situation – we must begin to hold them accountable. It’s difficult not to agree, according to Chinua Achebe, that the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.

There are scholars who believe that leadership is not a position of authority. They argued that leadership is a mindset. Mindset, according to some behavioural experts, is considered a type of attitude. “Mindset refers to a person’s established set of attitudes and beliefs that shape their thinking and behaviour.” It is a mental framework that influences how individuals perceive and interpret the world around them.

Once leadership sets the right tone and walks the talk, you can’t fail. It becomes a benchmark that every subsequent leader wants to surpass. Singapore is a highly admirable country, and the people set the right tone from the first day of Lee Kwan Yew’s leadership.

Leadership is key. If the leaders in Japan and South Korea amongst others didn’t lead by example, their countries won’t be making progress. I read Lee Kuan Yew’s book From Third World to First World and his description of some of our leaders many years ago was not encouraging.

Most people would rather prefer to be envied for their material success than respected for their character

Compare the change Lee Kuan Yew was able to make in Singapore to what African leaders did and are still doing today. The citizens of Singapore are not saints; most of their leaders are able to succeed by good example, determination and clear vision. It will be a disservice not to hold our leaders accountable.

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Nigeria is a country that is rich in culture, diversity and resources. Throughout history, our leaders have contributed to the successes and failures in governance. That is why Leadership in Nigeria is the focus of this article.

There was a time in the history of this country when most people loved Nigeria more than they loved themselves. At that time, the environment was conducive for people of various social groups to excel in their chosen endeavours. But suddenly, a “virus” entered the country damaging every fabric of our society. Good governance was murdered and those who were of good attitude were annihilated. Individual integrity was eradicated and mediocrity was installed.

In the last 10 years or thereabout, we have seen how many individuals given the opportunity to lead have disappointed the people they lead. Let me state clearly that reforms would be unsuccessful and no policy will work if bad attitudes are rampant in a society most especially among the leaders and followers. Generally, the citizens of a country must have the right attitude for any meaningful reform to take place in the country as reflected in the above quote.

There is a decay in public life. The question many public intellectuals are asking is: How did Nigeria get to where it is today? We got to where we are today because there is a “virus” that is currently ravaging our nation’s political and economic landscape. This “virus” carries greed, arrogance and baseless ambition which will destroy the country if nothing is done to stop it. Of great concern to many patriotic Nigerians is: How are we going to get rid of the “virus” that is contagious in society?

Leadership is to serve the people and not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed. When there are no consequences for actions or inactions motivated by greed, we observe that greed metamorphoses into baseless ambition with the passage of time. When mere mortals have achieved baseless ambition, then arrogance comes next. With arrogance, people do not care about others and conduct their affairs with impunity. With impunity, human beings demonstrate excessive political power. They behave as if they are supremely powerful, while passionately disobeying laws in Nigeria. Whenever I look around our society, I realize with regret that most Nigerians are already infected with this deadly “virus”. Today, the standards and measures of what constitutes “success” have changed from what they used to be. It is all about wealth, status and power.

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There are several definitions of greed. Greed as a secular psychological concept, “is an inordinate or insatiable longing, especially for wealth, status and power.” The greed we currently witness in our society is not about the rich alone. Poor people also display greed at the slightest opportunity. Greed fires up the kleptomaniac spook in individuals to take something that is not truly theirs.

Precisely on 17 March 2015, this column provided an article titled, “Greed- A catalyst of blurred vision of leadership.” In the article, it was reflected that “……a man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things in their roundness or wholeness and his successes become failures. It is greed that has blurred the vision of most of our leaders that what they refer to as ‘success’ has been assessed by the people they govern as a complete failure….”

Several decades ago, Nigerians were more quality-conscious than celebrating images of people. These days, “successful” individuals are given prominence because of the images they project rather than the true values they represent. This has altered our culture such that for many in our society, success has more to do with public image and the appearance of success than it does with the quality of our work and our character.

Read also: Nigerians left cold by Tinubu reforms as investors applaud

Today, success in our society is divorced often from real substance. Most people would rather prefer to be envied for their material success than respected for their character. The display of greed, arrogance, and baseless ambition are signs that an individual has lost his or her character. And when a character is lost, all that the individual has is lost.

If it was true that the “earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed,” why are there so many cases of greed in our society? It is the love of money, and not money itself, that is the problem. On a daily basis, we see and read about greed displayed by people increasingly in all forms for money, life, love, and knowledge amongst others. If we’ve got to reform our society, followers and leaders need to have a positive attitude. So ignoring the small problems today will lead to much bigger problems in the future. Thank you.