It was Roy Bennett who said that “Real change is difficult at the beginning. Without the familiar to rely upon, you may not in as much command as you had once been. When things are not going your way, you will start doubting yourself. Stay positive, keep the faith, and keep moving forward-your breakthrough may just be around the corner”. Change is about attitude and the way we handle our personal and public affairs. Making a change requires that there is a turnaround or departure from a certain way of doing things to a better method or approach that will produce better result different from what was the case before the change. It cut across all sectors and segments of the society including individual and family and the larger society. Change also implies readjustments to the realities of the time and prioritizing our needs.
Attitude therefore, is the most potent weapon that will determine the success or failure of the change process because change is an evaluation of a person, object or idea with a view to making a difference. It has nothing to do with political party or government in power but it has a lot to do with people and the custodians of the State. While leaders come and go, the society remains. Those who travel out of the country know that soon as they arrive Heathrow airport of the United Kingdom, or Kennedy International airport New York City or Frankfurt airport Germany, for example, they immediately align themselves to the rules and laws of the land. They will obtain their tickets to access the buses or trains, respects traffic regulations if they are driving, stand on the queue to change their currencies or pay for things in the shops, you drive into a gas station even if there is a queue, you be on the queue until it is your turn to refuel your car, among other things. Citizens obey the laws because for there to be peaceful and secured environment for business and protection of life and property in any society, the laws of that society must be obeyed and respected..
In the classical period, when philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle held sway in the Greek city-states, human ethics was centred on man, and aimed at happiness, and development through correct attitude and social behaviour. In African societies of the period too, (long before colonialism), a network of taboos, customs and traditions, based on rules and regulations hinged on the ancestors and local deities held people in check and ensured sound moral attitudes and social behaviours. But after sometime, people began to change their attitude towards the way they conducted their affairs and those of the public. As humanity sought for reasons why people change their attitude, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74 AD) said that human beings are rational and have great potentials; and that man was created by God at a level a little lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and honour. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) then emerged stating that man is inherently selfish and greedy and needed a tough absolute ruler to tame him. He warned that if strong laws were not made and enforced by an absolute sovereign king, the life of man will be nasty, brutish and short. John Locke wrote his brain teaser in 1690 AD titled “Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, in opposition to Hobbes and argued that human beings at birth possess empty minds, and that they acquire knowledge through learning, socialization or personal experience. The debate is endless. In the contemporary Nigeria, the behavioural and attitudinal disposition of many Nigerians is believed to be as a result of the example of those in successive positions of leadership in the country hence Professor Wole Soyinka once asserted that “the truth of our present political existence is that too many attempts to realize the dream of man for a community based on trust, fair dealings and equitable distribution of resources have, in the long history of human existence, been plagued with a betrayal of those very ideals….”
It is argued furthermore that the human problems impeding the development of Nigeria, and the growth of our democratic culture, are not biological with Nigerians, because many Nigerians outside the country have done so well that they won international medals and recognitions in all spheres of life. Our problems are within us and it is only ourselves that will change the negative dispositions to positive ones the moment we accept that Nigeria is our only country and we have no other country to return to. That is the principle of patriotism. Citizens change their leaders through democratic process but the change of leadership does not bring any miraculous positive change to good governance unless the people including those in positions of leadership change their attitude to the laws and regulations of the society. The drug seller who puts out expired and fake drugs for sale knows that there are laws prohibiting sale of expired drugs; the bus driver who abandons his broken down vehicle at the middle of the road knows that such attitude obstructs traffic and would slow down moving vehicles against traffic regulations; the Police man who is ready to shoot a bus driver for not giving him N50 knows that he is paid serving that citizen and not permitted by any law to shoot an innocent citizen; the Judge who accepts bribe to pervert justice knows that he is destroying the last hope of the common man, the Governor who exports his state’s money to his foreign account even when he is unable to pay salary of workers, knows that as a servant of the people he does not have right to mismanage public resources at the expense of the enjoyment of the people; the public servant who diverts public funds meant for developmental projects knows that he is stealing against the people; the political thug hired to kill his masters’ opponents knows that victory in a democratic election does not depend on how many people killed as those killed ought to be the same citizens to be served by his master if he were to win through a democratic means; the electoral officers paid to rig elections know that their duties were to conduct free and fair elections to consolidate democracy and not to compromise the process. What of the young man from an affluent home, who received the best training in education, yet accepted to become a tool in the hand of terrorists to bomb an airliner which had nearly 300 people on board including himself? Not respecting traffic lights by public officers and some motorists, disregard to Courts judgments by those in the position to ensure compliance, sale of vacant positions in the Civil Service or use of mediocrity against merit to employ people into public service, avoiding payments of taxes which are revenues to government, etc are among the things that we need to change in our attitudes. All these and other similar ones constitute negative attitude and behaviours that must be changed if we are to move forward, as a people. I agree with Philip Ujomu that, the great challenge before us is to reconstruct the image of the Nigerian society such that generations born and unborn would inherit a nation free from exploitation of many by the few. The goal is to cultivate citizen-rulers with expert knowledge, having the ability to formulate reasoned positions, as guides to action. This would imply that the person would be capable of living out internalized roles and be able to meet the expectations of others through his or her occupational roles (and attitudes)”. It is true that the society and indeed the Nigerian nation will change for better if we as citizens including our leaders (leading by example), will allow the positive change to begin with each and everyone one of us. Today may be tough and challenging, tomorrow may surely be better, our attitude matters.
Hi Melody, thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment!
I hear what you’re saying – our actions and energy can make a difference in the world. But I’ve found that all the change in the world has been a direct or indirect result of the change in ourselves.
We can’t try to force the world to change, but we can force ourselves to change.
An example – we have a problem with fox hunting in England, and there have been numerous reports of aggression and sometimes violence between groups of opposing opinion.
Now, if the anti-hunting activists continue to lobby, continue to protest and disrupt planned hunts, they won’t get anywhere. They won’t change the world by force, because the pro-hunting group will resist them and fight back. However, if the fox hunters change themselves and develop more compassion and kindness as a result, then they’ll see the hurt they’re inflicting on the foxes, and stop.
They changed themselves, and so the world was changed as a result.
Hope this helps Melody 🙂
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