Thursday, 29 October 2015

#MustRead: Values and ethos: A new Nigeria is possible (2) by Eugenia Abu


IN a special edition of THISDAY to commemorate the first 100 days of Buhari, ace NTA broadcaster, Eugenia Abu, spoke so passionately about how indiscipline, disorderliness and poor national ethos cripple the potentials of our nation. In her piece, “The Need for Value Re-Orientation,” she narrated her experience at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, trying to board an international flight, and observed how some Nigerians had no regard for order, decency and protocol. “There has to be something in the brain of those who think everyone else except them are smart when they jump queues, break traffic lights, deliver poor customer service, are rude in public spaces, have poor work ethics and everything else in between.”

At home and abroad, this sort of loathsome behaviour has for a long time come to define what it is to be a Nigerian. For many foreign nationals, Nigeria is simply a jungle – a place where common-sense is in acute shortage, where the laws of reason do not apply and where decent people cannot fit in. But this is not altogether true.

According to Abu, “Nigeria is a good country and can still be if the national ethos is transformed.” When WAI was launched on March 20, 1984, the campaign was designed to address the perceived lack of public morality and civic responsibility in the Nigerian society. Unruly Nigerians were ordered to form neat queues at bus stops, under the watchful eyes of whip-wielding soldiers. Civil servants who failed to show up on time at work were humiliated and forced to do “frog jumps.” Minor offences carried long sentences. Examination malpractices in schools were severely punished. Counterfeiting, arson and drug peddling could lead to death penalty. Continue.......


Nothing beats national values taught to children from when they are very young to ensure it stays with them for life. I am over 50 but I cannot bring myself to throwing paper/rubbish out of my car. My father who has long left us insisted when I was a kid and it has remained with me. We must do something to get young people to hold on to our positive values and traditions and to do the right thing.

The crackdown on indiscipline was announced by Buhari’s second-in-command, Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbon. “I want you to bear in mind,” he said, “the need to emphasise self-discipline and leadership by good example. Begin by drawing public attention to little but important everyday manifestations of indiscipline such as rushing into buses, driving on the wrong side of the road, littering the streets, parks and dwelling compounds, cheating, taking undue advantage of scarcity to inflate prices for quick monetary gains, constituting ourselves into public nuisances, working without commitment and devoting little or no time to the upbringing of our children.”

Thirty-one years later, things seem to have gone from bad to worse, partly because of the poorly conceived strategies for waging the war against indiscipline, and partly because of the failure of successive governments to rein in the demons of lawlessness. Our leaders share a lot of the blame because they have failed to lead by personal example. In Achebe words: “Leaders are, in the language of psychologists, role models. People look up to them and copy their actions, behaviours and even mannerisms. Therefore, if a leader lacks discipline the effect is apt to spread automatically down to his followers. The less discerning among these (i.e. the vast majority) will accept his action quite simply as ‘the done thing’ while the more critical may worry about for a while and then settle the matter by telling themselves that the normal rules of social behaviour need not apply to those in power.”


Thirty-one years later, things seem to have gone from bad to worse, partly because of the poorly conceived strategies for waging the war against indiscipline, and partly because of the failure of successive governments to rein in the demons of lawlessness. Our leaders share a lot of the blame because they have failed to lead by personal example

Clearly, something needs to be done to instil public morality and restore social order in Nigeria. We need not just public outrage against the brazen public display of indiscipline in our society, but also a national conversation that will crystallise in the value re-orientation that Abu strongly advocated for in her piece.

For her, parental upbringing of children is crucial: “Nothing beats national values taught to children from when they are very young to ensure it stays with them for life. I am over 50 but I cannot bring myself to throwing paper/rubbish out of my car. My father who has long left us insisted when I was a kid and it has remained with me. We must do something to get young people to hold on to our positive values and traditions and to do the right thing.”

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