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Excellence must be intentional

I’m very sorry to burst your bubble but we will not get very far as a nation if things remain the way they are. About 13.2 million of our school-age children are said to be out of school. How is a child deprived of the opportunity to confront the rigours of education expected to strive for excellence when he or she has not been given a chance to know what it means? How can a child unfamiliar with the precision of understanding required to solve a Mathematical question, possibly comprehend the concept of perfection? Four plus four will always equal eight and so if you get nine, “Ah! O de ti da to” (it is good enough) simply will not work. There are no two ways about it. For it to be correct, it must be exact.

In this same vein, families, organizations, and nations require leadership that sets a standard of excellence for members, employees, and compatriots respectively to follow. I will not mince my words; excellence must be incorporated in our value system if it is ever to become ingrained in our minds. The lack of this both at the micro-level of family and at the macro level as society goes a long way to explain our present predicament as a nation. One wise man put it so succinctly when he said, “Nations develop or decay in response to the value system they operate by.”

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Professor Vincent Anigbogu in his book, The Grand Design, further reinforced this for me when he said this of Lee Kuan Yew’s remarkably successful government in Singapore:

“By enforcing rigid requirements which created an enabling environment and an appropriate corporate culture, Singapore emerged from being a Third World nation to her present status as the 9th wealthiest nation in the world, with a GDP per capita income of over $63,000 US.”

This was a man, nay, a leader who made it a duty to major in the majors and to focus on substance with fanatical discipline, instead of chasing shadows. Not one to give beautiful but vacuous speeches, he meticulously drove issues beyond mere rhetoric but to positive, tangible, and measurable conclusions. Each time he successfully turned the fortunes of a particular sector around, whether it be the financial sector, manufacturing, or his drive to attract foreign direct investments, he would look back at it, review it, and conclude that “it was good”. A clear testament to a Total Quality Management System.

You will never hear of such countries owing their pensioners for months or even years on end, while political office holders live large.

The Good Book tells us that the period of Micah was a time when “everybody did what was right in their own eyes”. Can the same not be said of our dear country where there appears to be no commitment to a nationally recognized benchmark of excellence? Where there is no collective expectation of a specific standard? Excellence is a concept closely associated with godliness. Contrary to the belief of many though, godliness cannot be attained by merely following all the church routines and formulas such as attending all church services, vigils, special programs, fasting, and so on. All these are good but mean nothing when one is devoid of Godlike character. On the other hand, we have some nations of this world who just seem to be doing so well but are far from being Christians. Excellence has for long been their standard. So what is the “magic”? They have come to understand what it truly means to be Godly.

They have come to understand what it means to be righteous; doing what is right in the sight of God. They realize it is not about following any religious formula but about assuming God’s character. Loving their fellow man as themselves. Governments providing for their people, showing them that they care. Placing a premium on the lives of their people by upholding justice. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause,” said Isaiah. Giving justice to all, irrespective of their station in life. Looking after their aged by according them due privileges as senior citizens. In some countries, this can take the form of free bus passes and sundry subsidized social services.

The good book says, “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you”. Dutifully, they have embedded this precept in governance by recognizing the fact that it goes beyond just looking after one’s biological parents. God will always honour such. You will never hear of such countries owing to their pensioners for months or even years on end, while political office holders live large. In such countries, you will not hear of state legislators selfishly proposing a bill for them to collect life pensions, as they did some time ago in Bayelsa, while the state government still owes civil servants months of unpaid salaries. No, merely going to church does not make you Godly. Kudos to the Governor for refusing to sign that odious bill into law back then. So, the progress and prosperity of these societies are not founded by magic after all, but by faithful adherence to the word of God and His principles. Godliness. They have taken up that mantle of excellence and it is evident for the whole world to see.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time

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