Path to a Better Nigeria by Wale Adefarasin
Many would describe Nigeria as being in a crisis, with the intractable problems of terrorism, insecurity, corruption, stagnant economy, epileptic power supply, unemployment, poor governance, breakdown in healthcare delivery and the education system amongst others.
The stupendous amount of wealth acquisition by the few to the detriment of the many – by way of cronyism and plain corruption flies in the face. I believe the church can make an invaluable contribution to the transformation of Nigeria.
The Nigerian church is gradually freeing itself from the ‘locked-in’ syndrome, which in the name of building formidable and mega churches made the churches focus on ‘our brand, our image, our programs and our members’, and consigned us into the four walls of the church building, competing with each other for members and seldom venturing out except in the most dire of circumstances. This syndrome has resulted in growth in numbers, but not in quality.
It is common to find people professing to be Christians whose character and lifestyles do not emulate the life and character of Christ, and leave much to be desired. It could be said that our standards have been lowered to accommodate all comers. Thankfully there is the understanding that the church is relevant in every facet of human endeavour, that the church can no longer be consigned to the sacred, but is indeed responsible for influence amongst the secular. Indeed, most of the systems that modern governments employ, such as judicial systems and separation of powers are rooted in Christian doctrine. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and bemoan the travails that Nigeria faces; it’s time we wake up to our responsibilities as the salt of the earth and the light of this world.
It is often said that ‘as goes the church goes the nation’, and truly with the numbers that claim adherence to the Christian faith, the church should be one of the most influential institutions in our land today. It follows therefore that the church must become whatever it wants the nation to be. If we desire to see more transparency in government, commerce and industry, then we must take the lead by demonstrating transparency through our own operations, leading by example, in other words, we must become the change we desire.
At the root of our national malaise is a systematic erosion of our value system. We will continue to return to ground zero if we simply apply quick economic and social fixes without tackling our social order and value system.
Education promotes economic growth and social order by providing the adequately trained manpower with the skill sets that are relevant to national development. Education opens and broadens the mind, changes the perspectives of its beneficiaries, and should be the quickest way to climb up the social ladder. Our prospects as a nation will increase geometrically if genuine and purposeful reforms in education become our top priority. Educated people are not easily manipulated, controlled and influenced, so it stands to reason that corrupt and inept administrations will only pay lip service to good education knowing that genuine reforms will be their own death knell.
We must demand adequate funding for the education sector and insist that it is managed by willing and competent hands. Teachers the world over are treated with respect and adequately rewarded for their services, because it is understood that they mould the custodians of our future. An urgent review of the standards of remuneration of teachers and lecturers is imperative. We must encourage our youth back to school, paying special attention to those who abandoned education because of the allure of the opportunity of quick money to be made on the streets. We must promote the advantages of a sound education to our children; it is the only lasting legacy that we can bequeath them. The value of a quality education cannot be over emphasised.
Honesty is a virtue that many Nigerians not only disavow but despise today; they see the honest downtrodden, while the dishonest prospers. Honesty is the best policy, and an equitable and just society can only be built on an honest foundation and, despite our present experience, dishonesty must never be seen to pay. We must sanction those who benefit from dishonesty and promote the value of honesty. We must take the campaign for honesty to our schools and colleges, our children should grow up with the credo ‘honesty is the best policy’. Our governments must join in the promotion of honesty as a core value for the Nigerian people.
The value we place on punctuality is evidence of our total disregard for one another. Whenever we are late for an appointment we disrespect and dishonour those who were on time. If we could put a monetary value to the man hours lost through tardiness, both at an individual and national level we would be shocked at this huge drain on our resources this disposition represents. I am in the process of launching a campaign to applaud those who are always punctual and to name and shame the tardy. We must change the paradigm that makes Nigerian time acceptable, and re-orientate our youth in particular to the value of punctuality. Time is a valuable resource that cannot be recovered.
Our sense of identity must not come from what we do, but from what we believe. We are who we are because of our sense of values, because of the things that we give priority to in our lives, because of our perspectives and paradigms.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria we respect and admire people for what they do and not who they are. A good doctor is good because of the inner qualities in him; these inner qualities would make him a good engineer if it were his calling. A driver that works in a bank calls himself a banker because that’s the way he believes he can earn the respect of others. We must teach him that there is dignity in labour and he need not be ashamed of the work he does, as he does it as unto the Lord. I remember when WC’s were not so common in Lagos and night soil men (the men that emptied our local toilets) all wore masks to cover their faces, as they worked under the cover of darkness. They didn’t want to be recognised by the work they did because they were ashamed of people’s response to their work.
The church must work for a change of mindset; we must work ardently to teach people to value others for who they are and not what they do, or what they have. We must teach our people to take pride in their work, whatever it is, and do it as unto the Lord. This calls for subtle changes in the way we extend recognition to people who attend our churches, and our attitude to the titles that people append to their names, not acquired by the dint of hard work, but purchased with money.
A book I read many years ago entitled ‘The richest man in Babylon’ changed my attitude to savings and investment. I recommend it to you, it’s a 30 minute read, but can be life changing. We must encourage the development of a savings and investment culture and persuade our people to buy into it; we must teach them the various options that are available to them. No country has attained development without the widespread practice of savings and investment. We must learn to place value on the culture of savings and investment.
The rot in Nigeria is deeply rooted and we must not imagine that things will change overnight or without a fight. Indeed, we as Christians are called to daily warfare against the forces of darkness. We must commence the work to extract Nigeria from this quagmire, it will take time, as it is often said that it takes seven years to repair the destruction done to a nation in one year. While I do not dispute this, I do have confidence that with God, all things are possible and that God will do a swift work in Nigeria when He finds enough willing hands. We must take the battle to the gates of hell as it is written, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.
Pastor Wale Adefarasin, former National Secretary of PFN and the General Overseer of Guiding Light Assembly, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
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