By now, every toddler I know seems to have come across Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. Yet, more strangely, our ways seem to be stuck on doing things the same way and expecting a different result.
The runway seems to have been flung open for models to prance around and display the apparels they desire to sell in this election season running up to 2023.
As expected, the presidential parade of the C-in-C wannabes is setting the pace. And it is raining aspirants.
You listen closely for why they want to be President even as a pall of darkness hangs over Nigeria and you realise that even as dark clouds bearing storms that pose an existential threat to Nigeria close in the aspirants are looking more like mannequins than people who have paused to reflect on what they can do in the role of President to fix some of a myriad of problems crippling Nigeria. They are coming the way they came yesterday which drove Nigeria to this troubled moment. Yet, they seem to hope for a different outcome. Insanity defined.
That we may not become that big asylum in which the colony of patients overthrew the doctors and proceeded to to certify themselves as psychiatrists before prescribing treatment to the overthrown senior members of the original care team, it just may be useful to evaluate why yesterday’s treatment did not yield intended results.
Let us begin with a few of the current results.
Fact. There are more absolutely poor people in Nigeria today than in any one country in the world.
Fact. Nigeria has now overtaken Iraq and Afghanistan as terror capital of the world.
Fact. The educational system seems disordered and far from having resemblance to what was praised by Oxford educator Eric Ashby appointed by Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa to head the commission on higher education in Nigeria and suggest a way forward
Fact. Robert Kaplan predicted our current insecurity more than 20 years ago but poor discipline of understanding and acting kept us from doing the needful.
Fact. Impunity has become our way but those who should prosecute are the main abusers.
Fact. The youth are the future but they have been shut out, brutalised and called lazy, evidence of wilful damage to that future.
Fact. As the ascendancy of China shows, obtaining a demographic dividend from your youth bulge by investing in their education and healthcare but Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. And the major feature of the university calendar is strike.
Fact. Most of the policies of forced savings, like National Housing Funds and pension funds which propelled Singapore to prosperity were introduced at the same time in Nigeria. Outcomes in both countries are like night and day. Light and darkness.
Why is this so? No serious person should mount a podium to canvas votes should do so without sober reflection on this question.
Most people who rigorously pursue a goal plot their journey to desired destination by mapping the obstacle course, checking their resource profile often denominated in strengths and weakness. In modern teaching of strategy, the goal drivers would look to determine exactly where or who they want to be, how to be different and keep ahead of others who desire the same thing and how best to align different functions to row in the same direction towards the destination. At the basement level of what propels are the values that determine how things are done. In the business of Competitive Business Strategy this is typically called Institutional strategy. Two consultants and academics called Jim Collins and Jerry Porass came to much fame for discerning this from a big research project that was made popular through a book they published in the early 1990s in a book titled, Built to last.
At the national level, this same phenomenon is captured in the Singapore case in a simple acronym that was their compass. MPH. Merit. Pragmatism. Honesty.
It would be beyond insanity not to acknowledge that the opposite of this embrace of values defines contemporary Nigerian culture.
Harvard University once hosted a conference on how values shape human progress. The book that came out of it is titled, Culture Matters. I have tried to get so many in Nigeria to read that book through the years.
The obsession with money, of having over being, in contemporary Nigerian culture, compounded by weak institutions that make for poor accountability and you see why graft is everywhere. You also see why state capture and massive goal displacement where private goals are made to replace public goals in government action. The evidence of how we have made so little progress relative to our potential.
I often draw attention to the motto of Government Secondary School, Owerri, which aptly reminds us that when wealth is lost, nothing is lost, when health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost.
There is evidently a massive loss of character in public life in Nigeria and it explains why Nigeria is lying prostrate.
It would therefore a definition of insanity for matters of character, graft and corruption not to be a big issue in the 2023 campaigns.
Nigeria needs to rise up again but it cannot do so when the people who should set the tone of culture are pantheons of corruption.
I know a thing or two about values and human progress and went out of my way to set up a Centre for Values in Leadership in 2004 to drive this paradigm shift from how we currently configure success towards a more honest society that values the rule of law, the dignity of the human person and social inclusion.
I can see clearly where the damage has come from and I can tell people who just want to get electric power, decent education for their children, motor-able roads, water and the simple things of live that most societies have come to take for granted they have to mobilise to change the narrative on success, fade out from view actors in public life that personify corruption and celebrate the simple life.
As a simple teacher with an audacious vision for a great Nigeria I cannot but give my all to see this brave new future of an ethically sensitive Nigeria. I know that goal, tough as it looks, will be a done task because it happened in Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere and they are reaping the benefits today.
Changing how political parties, especially APC/PDP currently operate as citadels of graft will help. INEC has a role here,
Utomi, political economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship, is founder of Centre for Values in Leadership.
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