(By Gbenga-Isaac Oni)
We should believe in the Nigeria project and stop looking for bread abroad. “…Cause you are surrounded with bread factories here at home…it is at the bottom of life, we must begin and not at the top nor should we permit our grievance to overshadow our opportunities.

WELCOME to the world of ever changing challenges. For over five decades since after Nigeria got her independence, we have been witnessing an identification problem, what someone has called a ‘stop go’ life cycle. The early 60s witnessed a hope of a great future but along the line things went wrong. Our problem does not lie now with the out-going generation; it is with us the in-coming younger generation. How? You might ask.

Issues of change have become an issue of cooperate importance. Over the decades, the word change and failure to manage it has been the undoing of most unsuccessful people on earth. What is change? The Longman advanced study dictionary defines it as “to become different or make someone or something becoming different.’’    A thought from a leadership school sees change as any move from the usual or any unexpected event which may or may not have been as a result of our fears but which affects our life and lifestyle.

As young people we need to know that things or events are not static, they change and sometimes not in our favour. Most of us don’t accept changes and will end up looking for whom to blame or in whom to find fault. However, people that must make it in life are those that create what they want out of non-existing pleasant circumstances, regardless of family background. Examples of where change is called for can be seen everywhere around us: In schools, the home, churches, mosques or shrines and the global community. When changes come the question we need to ask ourselves is: Is it from good to bad, vice versa or just to remain floating in life? You must learn the right skills and attitude needed to deal with change.

For you to manage change then you must learn from what Abraham Lincoln said: Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing. The following three WHATs’ are a tool that would be handy in managing changes: What I can do myself; what I can influence but cannot do; and what I can’t influence and cannot do. A lot of us have the wrong attitude to change like: being afraid of change which destroys initiative; not prepared for change; procrastination; expecting things to be the same and thinking ‘I am a failure’ (that’s personalising failure) etc.

There is need to have the right attitude to change. I called it FITS (flexibility, integrity, taking action and stepping on toes). Before, I proceed to answer the question why we the younger generation are to be blame for our present woes as a nation; I should quickly list 10 reasons why I think people fail to succeed. If our answer to any of the questions is yes then we must re-examine our actions. Someone said: “Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in another.” But can it, really? True effectiveness requires balance and I totally agree with that.

The questions are:  Do you have poor relationship skills; Negative attitude to life; lack of focus; unwillingness to change (from bad manners/characters); relying on your talents alone; short-cut mindset; lack of commitment; bad fit; poor response to information; and lack of personal goal. Heaven on earth is a choice we must make not a place we must find, they say.

Now to the big question that must be answered, I mean answered in a hurry by the outgoing generation, and we the younger generation: What essential value should a good Nigerian society be built on and how do we go about it? For me the answer is simply honesty, patriotism, integrity, cultural/religious appreciation and hard work. I call it my five star values that will get us to the Promised Land.

The next question is how do we achieve that? Let’s take a look at our National pledge; little do I know if millions of us reciting that pledge really know the meaning and havoc we cause each time we fail to abide by the pledge. Sincerely, if we all have been keeping to the pledge our nation would not have been faced with its many woes. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines pledge as a promise, a serious promise. As we know promises are meant to be kept— un-broken. The second line of the National pledge reads as follows: To be faithful, loyal and honest. How many of us are faithful even to ourselves, talk more of loyalty—before we start thinking of honesty. Is it public in the funds we misappropriate and call it national cake? Is it certificate, result or document forgery that makes us honest? Public office holders who are custodians of our resources after taking oath still steal from the resources. Our teachers/lecturers are paid for services they are supposed to render, yet they fail to put in their best or at best deliver below average. A contractor gets paid for work he is so sure he would not do.

When corrupt men and women are caught, we all, led by interested parties, shout it is politics. The suspects themselves keep singing and disturbing the peace of faithful Nigerians “I was used and dumped”. We know that it is nigh impossible to catch all thieves in one day. So, the corrupt says, “why me?’’ Our retort in palpable agreement with him is, ‘’it is all politics; it is political victimisation.’’ Where is the loyalty if we think thus instead of allowing the long arms of the law to sort out the issue? We have all agreed that corruption is a cancan worm killing us, but we still allow the trend of “If you cannot beat them, you join them” No! The order ought to be if you cannot beat them you stand out!

What many Nigerian youths, including our leaders don’t know is that you can get rich honestly and even in transparency. All we need do is to be honest in our definition of riches. The Nigeria society sincerely must have a re-think. Acquisition of mansions, cars and numbers of wives and concubines should not be a measure for true greatness in a community. Pressure by way of demands from public office holders by the community should be minimised. We all sing, “Rome was not built in a day”. Recognition should then follow that wealth must not be accumulated in a day. Honesty should be celebrated, just as we do to a Nigerian team winning the world cup.

Taking the next line of the National pledge, ‘To serve Nigeria with all my strength’, little do we know that we are serving Nigeria with no strength. Instead we expend our strength in stealing public funds, fighting and destroying goods and property. For Nigeria to get to her longed-for destination we must appreciate our diversity, as we march forward into a new Nigeria where honest men would walk the street proud of themselves. Working hard to achieve our dream Nigeria, we must not allow depraved politicians, who are corrupt and confused, and who entrapped in their depravity can only see quality leadership as a threat to business as usual. It is such people who are inwardly rotten who instigate religious/ethnic riots all over the place sometimes wearing religious mask. It is time when true worshipper of God, must interpret their religion with culture, and should not allow culture of certain individuals to becloud the interpretation of their religion. We should not allow weak religious men get entrapped by depraved politicians whose mission is to manipulate them for evil.

It makes me cry when I am opportune to travel across the length and breadth of the country from North to South, and to have cause to exchange views with supposedly young people who should ideally represent the great hope for this country and they seem to see no hope in the project called Nigeria.  Most have lost hope in hard work. A young man once lamented before me about five years ago that his father was poor because he chose to be honest. As I was to later find out here was a father who could train him in engineering in a prestigious University and who had other children in good schools in Ibadan. Another young man once said he needed only six months in leadership position to get rich through misappropriation of resources. Is that the kind of leadership we want? Where is our integrity? Where is hard work? Almost every Nigerian is looking for a short cut. But the truth of the matter is that, there is no short cut to success but to ruin sooner or later.

It is imperative to remind Nigerians who believe that their lot can be improved only in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of promoting our talents and products of the words of Broker Washington in 1895 during the post era of black’s freedom in the Unites States. He had said: “Cast down your bucket where you are…” We should believe in the Nigeria project and stop looking for bread abroad. “…Cause you are surrounded with bread factories here at home…it is at the bottom of life, we must begin and not at the top nor should we permit our grievance to overshadow our opportunities.” The government on its part should create a state of which all citizens would be proud so that while the state gets the benefit of the workforce, the workforce themselves would be made to see not only utility in labour but beauty and dignity in it.

Integrity, as explained by Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, is more than clear-cut universally associated standards of behaviour like lying, cheating and offering or receiving bribes. One other thing is that Nigerians in general lack the word ‘sorry’ in their vocabulary. We don’t agree that we can make mistakes, as leaders and apologise. We feel too important to say no to any offer that will seriously affect the hitherto honest pictures we paint of ourselves.

If the government has failed us, we must not fail ourselves. I always tell as many as would listen that the people we call government are not more than 20 per cent. The understanding therefore should be that if the rest of us that makes up the 80 per cent change for the better we would have reformed our government itself. A bad government will not thrive where the majority of the citizens are good.

Access to information as a tool of economic development is not only vital but are linked and it should be the most sought for to build a strong Nigeria. There is need for accurate information and genuine commitment in passing such information on. The only hope of an end to a crisis or to bring about change is taking access to information into consideration; Nigeria must learn to know more about their immediate environment and the country at large. We should know things happening or going on, what the government is doing, the community leaders that may include politicians, and religious leaders.

The last lines of the National pledge go thus: “To defend her unity. And uphold her honour and glory so help me God.’’ How do we defend her unity, when we kill one another from Kaduna to Kano, from Borno to Yobe, from Yobe to Benue, and from Nassarawa to Taraba? Plateau that was once home of peace and tourism has not known peace for over a decade now. Amnesty has saved the day to a large extent in the Niger-Delta. Hiding under ethnic and religious shell we have made Nigeria a country the minority and the less privileged no longer feel at home. Which honour are we upholding when we steal from foreigners, dismissing it without qualms under the cloak that after all it is the money belonging to our forefathers? Where is the glory to parade, when we cannot give a helping hand to our neighbours when it is blood bath here, mayhem, there; kidnap today and assassination tomorrow, horror that sweeps through all the nook and crannies of the country?  When other countries are advancing in technology, tourism, and astonishing medical/scientific breakthrough, we have failed on our own part to keep the promise of our National pledge despite the enormous resources at our disposal.

However, all hope is not lost; we must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the unsettling statistics of our failures. We must not continue in our wishful thinking. The cost of rising to the top again would be less than when we fold our arms in resignation. I slept and had a dream:

I have a dream of a new Nigeria where honest men shall walk the street proud of themselves.

A state where hard work and transparency shall be the watchwords. A new Nigeria where peace, tranquillity, equity, justice and integrity shall be celebrated as a prototype for the rest of Africa. I saw it!

A state where sacrifice shall be seen as a way of life. I have a dream of a corrupt free Nigeria. Therefore, challenge yourself to change and change others. Welcome to a new heart of Africa where we all take our future in our hands.

To achieve things that have never been achieved we have to be prepared to do things that have never been done, as the saying goes. We must make up our minds to be different today and dare tomorrow.

• Gbenga-Isaac Oni is a researcher/public policy analyst.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”