I’ve always insisted that both actions and inactions will always have consequences, no matter how long it may take them to materialize. There are times when the repercussions take so long, one could be forgiven for believing one had gotten away with it. But we never really do. I’m reminded of my early boarding school days in the UK when I would go home with school reports which I knew would do nothing to endear me to my parents. Till this day, I blush when I remember my headmaster, Mr McDonald’s remark to sum up one of my reports.
To put it in his exact words, he said, “Dapo seems to think the whole school is one big playground”. Chai! I knew the consequences of that. Did this oyinbo man not know how such a comment would sound to a Nigerian parent? I was in big trouble. Now, if my dad was the type of person whose nature it was to thrash out matters that don’t sit well with him instantly, that would have been good. Unfortunately for us, he was not.
After handing him my report at a time when I believed the joy of seeing his son for the first time in almost two months meant he would sheath his sword for a while, I would then proceed to reading his body language on a daily basis to gauge if he has read the report. A whole week would pass and my dad’s countenance would give nothing away. Just as I begin to convince myself that I had gotten away with it, he would pounce. He caught me off my guard every single time. I never escaped the consequences of my actions.
As a people, we have over the years perfected the art of turning the other way, in the presence of very obvious infractions by our leaders; adopting a conspiracy of silence with the hope that when it’s our “turn”, others will do the same and not “pour sand in our garri”. We carry on with the less than wise attitude of “what’s my own, if it doesn’t affect me directly? Let me just maintain my lane.” I believe that’s the current parlance.
The frightening global warming situation the world finds itself in, only affirms my position that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions; one day, as sure as it is that the sun will rise in the morning and set at dusk, the proverbial hen will one day come home to roost. Bringing it local, the recent Coronavirus pandemic has exposed our country to no end. The inadequacies of government hospitals and the public health care system in general is obvious for all to see. Stories of those who lost their lives to Covid 19 because of our lack of preparation for possible eventualities are heart breaking.
There’s one glaring thing this tragic period should teach us however and it’s this. Failure to do the right things at the right time will almost certainly result in unpleasant consequences. That’s not the end of it though. Failure of those standing by to insist on the right thing being done when it should be done, will produce adverse results, not just for everybody else, but for you too. To adopt a nonchalant attitude to the infractions of our leaders and people around us, because it doesn’t affect us in the immediate, is nothing short of foolish because a day will come when we will all pay for it.
Time has shown that whatever we do now will still catch up with us in the future just as surely as what we did or omitted to do in the past is haunting us right now. There is no better time for us to teach our children the way that they should go. There is no better time than now to ingrain in their psyche a society focused attitude rather than a self focused one, because as the dreaded Covid 19 has clearly shown us, there may come a time when neither money nor privilege will save us; despite our almost absolute faith in them.
The majority of us find it difficult to see any need in investing precious time and resources in inculcating these values in our children. We attach scant importance to getting our children to read material that will teach valuable lessons and positively shape their minds, and we certainly don’t see the need to involve them in activities that will help them to learn these things experientially. Instead, we invest only in the things we believe will help them to “get ahead”. Things, we believe will put them at an advantage over their peers; and even if it so happens to give them an unfair advantage, well, that’s the name of the game.
Someone must lose just as someone must win. There’s nothing like a “win, win” situation. I find this prevalent attitude of “let our society take care of itself and let me take care of me”, not only to be myopic, especially when the same society makes it so difficult for you to enjoy in peace what you may have gained by “getting ahead”, but also defeatist. Regarding the myopia, I don’t believe it to be a coincidence that in the last few years, those who have abandoned the ship called Nigeria to seek greener pastures abroad, have increasingly included those who by all means of measurement would be regarded as prosperous. In a number of cases, the man may stay in Nigeria to continue his hustle while he spirits his wife and children to a country which functions better as a society, and affords them all more peace of mind. So, for us to think all that’s required we do, is to help our children “get ahead” while failing to stimulate in them a desire to evolve a better society, the more fool we.
Concerning yourself with only what will “get you or yours ahead” is also defeatist. Why? Because it clearly indicates that one has given up on one’s country. As far as you’re concerned, it can’t change. It can’t be better than it is, so what’s the point in trying. Why not just yield to the appealing notion of “joining them if you can’t defeat them”? A much easier option and certainly a more expedient one. But a wise man once said, “a soft people will vote for those who promised a soft way out, when in truth there is none.” There is indeed no substitute to character.
To quote from my book, Shifting Anchors, “Every parent owes the nation a duty to bring his or her child up well, by inculcating them with the right values. We Yoruba will call such a child, “Omoluabi” (and I believe “Ezigbonwa” in Ibo. I’m yet to get the Hausa equivalent. Maybe someone can reach out to help me with this). Once you abdicate this responsibility, you lose the moral right to complain about the state of the nation because when your child grows up, his behaviour will only compound the problem. It behoves you to do your bit. But first, you must lead in the way you would want to be led.”
William Wordsworth’s genius was put beyond doubt when he reminded us that indeed, “child is the father of man.”
Changing the nation…one child at a time.
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA and author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.