The turnout of event in recent times has got me wondering, questioning and speechless. The average Nigerian is a victim of three witches, although not the very ones that visited Macbeth. We are unique and different but have similar experiences with regards to security, knowledge and contentment. The nexus between insecurity, ignorance and vanity may have blurred lines but the effects are clear to see – Corruption.
Can someone identify a bitter taste if he has not first known sweetness? Can something be corrupted if it wasn’t pure? Our experience as a nation is unique and complex because we have a distinct culture and history but are judged with foreign parameters. The West has gone through several stages of development. We are talking about wars, economic depressions, terror/ inhumanity, poverty and corruption to mention a few. They eventually came up with acceptable standards and went ahead to internalize them as drivers of society. These standards have been accepted and practiced by the majority over time. Based on their experiences, they have clearly defined parameters of appraising or assessing actions and labeling them accordingly.
Nigeria as a Nation-state is still evolving and as such, our multi- cultural background is playing a major role in the process. The challenge however is that we have not gone through the corresponding mental and spiritual refinement required. People want to be secured but then, their knowledge is relatively shallow and as such, we believe beating the system is the surest way we can be safe. We therefore continue to do things that don’t promote the commonwealth of the society but further cause insecurity for all including ourselves.
The concept of security alludes to more than the presence of security personnel, doors, alarms and locks. It is fundamentally about assurances. Assurance of the safety of our nation, community, properties and most importantly, our families. Within the last couple of years, most of our fears have come to light. Now I am not talking about the North alone; every sector has been affected. The desire to increase assurances has led to increased cost of production in the oil and gas industry by large proportions as installations and facilities are constantly under threat. Why? You tell me. I guess it’s a matter of get rich or die trying. In truth, our collective security is threatened by vanity and ignorance. Yes ignorance and vanity. The principle of cause and effect is eternal and as such, for every decision we make, there is a consequence whether intended or not. There is a dearth in intelligence and capacity for critical thought. We go to school to learn a lot of things but nowhere are we taught how to think.
In a bid to maximize assurances with regards to our state, jobs, finances, relationships, we find ourselves indulging in acts whose ripple effects cause a greater threat to the safety of the whole. A ready example is a civil servant that has quite a lot of responsibilities, dreams and aspirations and of course fears. A major area he feels he needs assurance is in accommodation. He wants to build a house and stop paying rents but his meager salary cannot help him secure it within the timeline he desires to. What does he do? He begins to indulge in certain unacceptable practices to raise money on the side not knowing that a mortgage bank can help him assuage his housing fears legitimately. These deals go on to have other effects on the state in general; and he is not aware. At this point, I will like to borrow the words of Jane Addams to capture the picture. She said “the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life”. Ignorance leads to misunderstanding and miscalculations because in most cases, a totally wrong formula is used and while they do so, strangers to the equation suffer. Seeing ignorance in action is very frightening.
Like ignorance, vanity is another catalyst for catastrophic occurrences in our society. Vanity in this context is the obsession for things lacking in real value. What happened to the love for a simple life; the love for values? There is a constant battle between form and function and unfortunately, form is winning. What we see playing out is that a majority of us are taking the advice of Captain Jack Sparrow in ‘the Pirates of the Caribbean’ when he said: “take all you can, and give nothing back”. No new knowledge can be attained when we continue to be carried away by frivolities. What really matters is creating value and securing the wellbeing of all.
As a people, we need to think beyond the present. We must stop now and consider our collective security because vanity will continue to be an impediment. We will continue to embark on journeys and undertake projects that don’t add value to our commonwealth and security. We mustn’t be Captains that are content with sinking the ship as long as they are drinking the right brand of champagne and their heads stay above the water. To overcome corruption and attain the heights reached by the nations we look up to, we must seek knowledge and aspire for things with value and also create value wherever we find ourselves. With this attitude, our abilities and the values we can create will secure us and invariably drown our fears in this sea of uncertainty.