Excellence must be intentional (Part 2)
A Third World country which genuinely harbours any ambition of stepping up to First World would not be so nonchalant about holding the unenviable record of being the number two public defecating capital of the world. It would as a matter of urgency immediately set about making available to its citizens a more than adequate number of good, well maintained public toilets, which members of the public would not hesitate to use. A country with such ambition would feel ashamed that it has one of the highest numbers of out of school, school age children in the world. In which direction can the country’s future possibly be heading when so many of it is potential assets remain uneducated? Such country would not appear to watch helplessly as it is unemployment rate jumps to an alarming 33.3% from 23.1% two years earlier and 18.2% a year before that. Neither would it stand on the side-lines as its national drugs problem gradually descends into the current crisis where almost 15% of its citizens have become regular drug users. Thankfully, the new drugs Czar, Brigadier General Buba Marwa, whose reputation as a serial performer precedes him, has lived up to his reputation once more and is already scoring high marks in that area. Certainly, the people of a country with such lofty ambition to become a First World ought to reflect similar ambition in their behaviour. You definitely would not expect them to senselessly throw empty bottles out of moving vehicles because they would take greater pride in their environment, not to talk of consider the danger such thoughtless act would portend to the life of others. To encourage the habit of doing the right thing too, dustbins would be found dotted all over, starting from bus stops. So, at least passengers on public buses will always know they can get dispose of their bottles and other litter at the bus stop where they alight. An enabling environment must be created before you can realistically expect people to cultivate the habit of discipline, decent and civil behaviour. In the absence of discipline, excellence for the most part, loses its meaning. And that is where governments need to come in because to achieve this, it will on one hand require educating the people to understand why each person must play his part and why what is good for all is also what is best for each. And on the other hand, it must be backed up with diligent enforcement, dishing out unpleasant consequences for those who willfully decide to breach.
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Governments with First World ambitions will not publicly announce that in alignment with what obtains in developed nations, one can now renew or apply for a new driver’s licence online, only to then subject would-be applicants to untold frustrations when the portal refuses to work; compelling them to take the usual cumbersome manual route which ends up costing them about twice the official rate. Naija sha!! Worse still is trying to apply for a new international passport. What is the big deal, right? Have you ever tried getting blood out of a stone? Then I suggest you do, as your chances of succeeding are far higher than trying to get your dear country’s passport. What is the usual story? “There are no booklets.” But booklets miraculously appear when you agree to pay double the official price. Isn’t that just amazing? And some people out there doubt if miracles still happen. They happen here every day. Live! There was a time when the fear of shame and the jealous preservation of one’s family reputation deterred Nigerians from less than noble acts but nowadays we are told we should hide our faces only if or when we do not have money. Hmmm…how can excellence be present where values are absent?
An enabling environment must be created before you can realistically expect people to cultivate the habit of discipline, decent and civil behaviour.
Excellence is an engulfing spirit which must transcend all aspects of life. In France, if the popular state of the art TGV train is billed to leave at 10am, the doors will automatically shut at 10am on the dot. Punctuality and precision are key and this conditions the mind of their people. A lackadaisical attitude like African timing and the permissive nature which makes us accept it even when we are the receiving end can never produce a culture of excellence. Like just about everything worth having in this life, to get it, you must consciously pursue it. Excellence and national transformation, which it would ultimately culminate in, is not an exception to this rule. Do not be deceived into believing it will fortuitously fall on your lap; much like breakthroughs you have not prepared or worked for. It’s simply not Biblical. Neither is it logical. Rather than wait for a poor system to evolve into something better, it makes more sense to simply replace it with a better system. Like Lee Kuan Yew discovered, in order to transit from Third World to First one must intentionally forgo Third World habits to pick up First World ones. And that is why a wise man once said, “nations develop or decay in response to the value system they operate by”. One would be hard pressed to find a country which affirms this assertion more than ours.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time