We celebrate our democracy day and children’s day a day apart from eachother. That used to be a joy while in primary and secondary school. At least not going to school two days in a week creates excitement in my infantile mind.
On a sober look, It’s no mere coincidence that we celebrate both successively and this year provided opportunities for reflection about our national existence and the future of our posterity.
At church on Sunday, my heart burned within me as I watched the kids display incredible talents in drama, recitations, songs etc on the Nigeria they desire to live in.
But what made my heart burn more than anything was when they painted different scenarios of what is possible for our country.
And the wake up call was “parents will you help us achieve our dream?”.
On first thought, I thought the call wasn’t for me. I’m not even married let alone parent a child. But before I could dismiss them, my mind reminded me how I’m in fact responsible for helping them achieve their dreams. I’m not excusable.
Through the choices I make, I am.
Choices such as whether to be a role model or to model the depravity of my generation?
Whether to live for myself or be self-transcendental?
Whether to marry for selfish reasons or to marry for greater purposes?
Whether to live as a producer or just a mere consumer of other people’s thoughts, ideas and products?
The truth is that my personal choices matter and they shape our collective existence.
When we talk about nation building, we often don’t drill down to the fact that the best way to improve our nation is to improve myself.
Too often in Nigeria, we think the problem is out there – the politicians, the corporate overlords, the system, the police etc. There is no end in sight to how far the buck can passed.
Covey often said that whenever we think the problem is out there, that very thought on itself is the problem.
I’m part of the problem. Yes I am. On sober reflection, I realize that even when I’m not the origin, I could have created or be creating the condition for the problem to foster.
Our thinking about the problem is often the problem because problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.
Sustainable change in our lives and nation therefore require a renewal of the mind, a new way of thinking that translates into a new way of living, the kind that when adopted by a critical mass will alter the destiny of our nation and children.
And the hypocrisy of changing the world…
It starts with the hypocrisy of wishing I can change the world/Nigeria without me changing first.
Our hypocrisy plays out in different ways.
Young adults reel off a long list of the qualities of the right woman or man they want, yet overlook their need to put in the effort required to be the right man/woman.
We pray for our children to live better economic lives yet we don’t care about creating enterprises that exist for purposes beyond short term profit and the ego of its founders.
We are appalled at the spirited pursuit of wealth without work yet we fail to encourage through our personal example that there is dignity in labour regardless of the endeavour and excellence is expected whether we sweep the floor or command a corporation.
We consume way more than we produce and living within our means (a first step towards channeling resources effectively, saving towards the future and creating wealth) is a concept that is foreign to us.
We nurture, through the various “gates” scandal and the failure to punish corruption, the belief that politics is a ticket to the good life and not an opportunity to serve.
We celebrate ostentation yet wonder the length at which people are willing to endanger the existence of another human to acquire wealth, not for the purpose of creating value for others but to exalt self.
We fail to show respect for the individual regardless of age, tribe or status and wonder why meritocracy is a floundering concept in our political and economic life.
Speaking from a skeptic mind, I doubt we can change the world. We can only model the ideals we will like to see and hope that others join the campaign. And that requires courage and integrity, hard-won qualities of the soul.
The change we desire will start with me, You.
Maybe one man can change the world. But only by example and then precept, influencing one person at a time.
By influencing the younger generation with the right examples, we prepare them to be good actors in society.
Our examples can nurture their conviction about what is right or wrong.
Once our example become their convictions, they will influence a few. The few will influence a wider few. The wider few will influence a larger few until we reach a critical mass.
Marianne Wilson wrote, “…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
If the younger generation will someday experience the Nigeria of their dreams, it will be that we have let our light (the nobler self in us) find expression. It will be that we have chosen to live for something beyond our personal preservation.
It will be that we have chosen to extended ourselves to enrich our nation through our deliberate choices even in our personal lives. For only our private victories can birth our collective public victories.
It starts with me
We ought to personalize and live with the consciousness of Woodrow Wilson’s words, “Layi is not here merely to make a living. Layi is here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. Layi is here to enrich the world, and Layi will impoverish himself if he forgets the errand.”
So next time I hear the younger generation asking for a better Nigeria and why Nigeria needs to change, I will assume they are talking about me and not the corrupt politician, errant minister or cleric.
And I hope you think so too.
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