A secondary school principal put it quaintly but succinctly when she said: ‘People want a well behaved and disciplined child, but are reluctant to go through the self- discipline and self-sacrifice that will produce such a child’. Some people even carry their parental irresponsibility further when they take their wards to boarding houses with their home grown do’s and don’ts that are at variance with school regulations.
Their wards cannot bathe with cold water; their wards cannot wash clothes, not even undies; their wards cannot eat certain kinds of food; and of course, their wards cannot be punished. Yet, they expect somehow, that their wards will turn out right. And when the miracle they expect does not happen and their wards become indolent and irresponsible, or worse, a cultist, the buck passing starts.
The parents blame the schools for allowing cultism to thrive and for not doing enough to rein their children in. The schools in turn blame the parents for breeding and passing on out of control children to them. The father blames the mother for not being there for the child while the mother blames the father for being a drunkard and a bad role model. The child blames everybody else, the parents, the school and the larger society.
This seems to be how we run our homes, our communities and our country. Everybody is intent on blaming everybody else for the woes in the polity. Or even for the ways their lives have panned out. Nobody questions his own contribution, his own culpability. Yet we all need to ask this simple question: just where does the buck stop?
A newspaper published a report from IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) a couple of weeks ago that said Ghana had moved ahead of Nigeria in a particular crop because of improved seedling. A senior government official retorted when asked, ‘let IITA go and sit down. What did it do to help us?’ Excuse me? What have you done to help yourself? Why should the onus be on IITA? But that is Nigeria for you.
After almost a century of nationhood, with half of it as an independent country, we still blame our colonial masters for the economic and political problems we have. Some even go as far as to demand for reparation. Assuming but not conceding that we were handed lemons instead of oranges or apples, why haven’t we made lemonade out of it like many countries have done? Why in fact, are we worse off than we were 50 years ago?
Criminals, pirates and out-of-favour workers from Europe were the early settlers in Australia along with the aborigines. See what they have made out of that country today. Early settlers in America were not much better. They were a potpourri of races, religions and tribes. See what they made of what we all now call God’s own country? Yet, I believe Nigeria is as endowed as America. If only we can begin to stand up and take responsibility for our actions.
The nation’s news channels were filled with pictures of what erosion has done in many Eastern States during the week. Yet those giant gullies must have started as little pot holes which in turn could have started because somebody or a group of people, decided to dam the natural flow of water, often for selfish reasons. A responsible community should not have let that happen.
A responsible State Government should have stemmed the gullies before they became a disaster. A responsible Federal Government should have done something before they became national embarrassments and death traps. It is all about responsibility and repercussions.
I lived in Festac Town for almost 30 years and witnessed first hand, the gradual degradation of the once model town. It was largely a result of impunity, lawlessness and irresponsibility. There was a buffer zone that allowed for easy drainage. The Authority and the residents looked away as people started building on the zone. Yet water must find a way. The result would be flooding and gullies.
When this happens, the same people would turn around and plead that ‘government should please come to our aid’. A man once built his fence on an underground electric cable in contravention of the rules. The cable got damaged and the whole neighbourhood was plunged into darkness. Yet he refused to bring down his fence insisting that NEPA should by pass the cable.
And when problems start with uneven balance of electricity which results in load shedding, he would be the first to cry out against NEPA. Many of us blame NEPA and many such public institutions without acknowledging our individual roles in the sorry state of these institutions.
For us to make progress as a nation, this buck passing has to stop. A grown up adult still expects his parents to continue to provide for his needs. The parent in turn expects the company he works for to take up his needs. The company expects the State to force feed it. The State looks up to Europe to send aids and grants. And this indulgent and irresponsible story goes on.
We have ceded education and medicare to different parts of the world. Our cultural heritage is being warehoused in Europe. Some were even blaming America for not sending vaccines quickly to help cure Ebola. When are we going to take responsibility for our country and its people?
Six months into the new administration, and we are still buck passing. What we want is a pronouncement of policies that will get us out of the woods. What we want is some ownership of strategies for change for good or ill. There is a saying that goes, ‘if not me then who? If not now then when?
’ if we want a change in the country, then we have to be prepared to become change agents ourselves. And we cannot become change agents if we do not first effect a change inside of us. A change that means we are prepared to own up and accept responsibilities for the repercussions of our actions. It is time, individually and collectively to look within us for the change we want.