(By Macdonald Amaran)

It is the lackadaisical attitude that has allowed what looks like trees to grow on the pitch of the prestigious National Stadium, Abuja. This sin is so grave that within it you have grand sins. The first of that is the indiscriminate disposal of waste. I had thought we had grown beyond this after our experiences with floods, which were compounded by blocked drainages. Alas, I was wrong. No lessons had been learnt!

I see the Promised Land; I may not get there with you but one thing I know is that we as a people we will get there – Martin Luther king Jnr.

GREAT leaders never think of themselves; to them the people come first. The Nigerian dream is steady power supply, good roads, good housing scheme, among others. They are mere manifestations or, if you wish, dividends of the Nigerian dream.

My dream of Nigeria is to someday have a nation founded on true, effective and selfless leadership, where the principles of justice, equity and good conscience prevail, where all men are subject to the same law, where citizens and not indigenes can pursue their individual dreams from any part of the country provided same is legitimate and is for the benefit of humanity.

Nigeria is a great nation, no doubt, her problems are not the gruesome acts unleashed on its citizenry by an individual or group of persons by whatever name called. The problem of Nigeria is not corruption, insecurity, violence, injustice, mediocrity, irrational dispositions, attitudinal and behavioural patterns unbecoming of a civilized society wherein it is believed the principles and doctrines of democracy and the Rule of Law thrive. These are mere symptoms traceable to a more endangered ailment.

My observation over the years has enabled me reach the inevitable conclusion that children learn faster from what they see adults do or say than what the adults teach them to do or say. The little things we think do not matter are the little bad seeds we sow in the minds of children, the kinds that turn into bad trees in their time. It is of paramount importance we do not pursue the symptoms of our problems to the neglect of the actual ailment – the ailments I call the Nigerian sins that yearn for repentance for the Nigerian dream to thrive.

Manifestation with orchestrations founded on internal self-motivation and innovative disposition is a veritable tool in this quest. Sin No.1: The ‘I don’t care’ attitude. This is the attitude responsible for most of the problems confronting our beloved nation, Nigeria. It includes the careless disposition we exhibit to government facilities. More often, people walk into government offices, parastatals and agencies and find the cooling system working, but they would fail or neglect to shut the door behind them. That act of carelessness is a “seed” sown by an adult and is observed and taken in by the child whose hand the adult might be holding. When the child grows up, becoming an adult, it takes after the mother, not seeing anything wrong in the behaviour it cultivated from its mother or guardian, as the case may be.

Indeed, it might even build lobbies in such a way that there would be no need for them to have doors, how much more air-conditioners. No need to be surprised, seeds naturally become trees. This is the attitude that negatively snowballs into situations where you have people stealing bulbs from streetlights to re-sell, and rails made of aluminium on bridges fixed or built to protect them. Little wonder concrete handrails are what you find on bridges in the part meant for pedestrians.

It is the lackadaisical attitude that has allowed what looks like trees to grow on the pitch of the prestigious National Stadium, Abuja. This sin is so grave that within it you have grand sins. The first of that is the indiscriminate disposal of waste. I had thought we had grown beyond this after our experiences with floods, which were compounded by blocked drainages. Alas, I was wrong. No lessons had been learnt!

It would interest you to learn that barely a week ago, I observed four passengers in an SUV all drinking and driving on a federal highway. That was bad enough, one would say. The worst came when they threw, one after the other, the cans right in the middle of the road, thus jeopardizing the safety of other road users, apart from littering the environment. It was an ugly and sad sight, to say the least.

Sometime in 2006, I was in Calabar for a conference and a gentleman, for some reasons, dropped an empty water sachet on the ground. It was a sunny day and the weather was hot. Understandably, his throat may have been patched. However, when he looked around and realised that it was the only trash on the floor he quickly picked it up, which was commendable. It is really not what happens in the gathering of the so-called people who matter but what they do about it.

Sin No.2: Discourteous social disposition. We went to the cinema the other day and to my utter amazement, I saw two people seemingly in their mid or late 30s – a man and a woman – that I thought should know better. They placed both their feet on the headrest of the seats in front of them. I was wondering whether they would think of doing that assuming the cinema hall was filled to capacity. I soon observed that all the decent people entering the hall gave them a good distance.

My worry was that if you don’t call these people to order, some others might think it is appropriate to place feet in that manner. But hold it. In less than three minutes, another set of people, also in their late 30s. What did they do? Within seconds of their sitting down, my worry became a reality. I noticed two ladies, after looking towards our direction, placed their feet on the headrest. Within seven minutes, over seven others joined them in the bad and ugly habit. It was nauseating! Little wonder we are where we are today as a nation. Bad practices spread rapidly.

Sin No.3: Walking across the lawn. This is a grand sin that is habitual. This sin suggests a lack of care and disrespect for plants and the environment. To maintain a lawn, a lot of time, effort and resources are required. It is highly vexatious to see people, sane people, walk across lush green lawns with reckless abandon. Yet children are watching. When they grow up, not only are they going to be driving across lawns, there would even be no lawns to destroy because it would never cross their minds to cultivate grasses in the first place. Should there be lawns by any means, they would not maintain them.

Sin No.4: Reckless and discourteous driving. It is absolutely appalling to see full grown-ups, and sometimes some with grey hair, drive recklessly even when they have children or youngsters in their vehicle or in the vehicle of the other driver endangered or already complaining. Any attempt to caution them is usually met with fierce and inconsiderate response, which leaves the complainant in a state of shock. By the time he recovers from the shock, the unrefined man has zoomed off.

It is important we stop and repent of this act, not just for our sake but also for the sake of future generation. If I may humbly suggest, we should have self-imposed rules for ourselves when we drive, such as: Rule1: When I get to an intersection where there are no traffic lights or warden, I must allow at least five cars to go through before I make a move. If we have this mindset, 60 per cent of traffic chaos in Nigeria may be solved.

Rule 2: If anyone drives against traffic and tries to enter in front of me, I shall refuse him or her, except it’s an emergency. Drivers such as these are always in a hurry; you must not pity them. They should have left five minutes earlier if they knew they had time to keep. The goal is to discourage them if we stay on line. It is obvious if everyone were to stay on line, the traffic would flow and we would move faster. It would interest you to know some people have never stopped before a Zebra Crossing. They like to drive and park on top of it. They are just used to it and they are influencing you. Reject their unwholesome influence. Rule 3: I will never get tired of doing the right thing.

Sin No.5: The sin of ‘who you know.’ This is the sin that has enthroned mediocrity over qualification, merit and hard work. It’s ok if you know someone and you are qualified for the job, bid or contract, but it’s not right being given the job on the basis of influence without being qualified for it. Jobs being given to unqualified people is largely the cause of collapsed bridges and houses, with victims presumably dying in hospitals.

In cases of miscarriage of justice, some may get imprisoned for incidents they know nothing about. One way or the other, we are all victims of unqualified people handling affairs – students fail exams, planes crash, accidents occur, roads are not motorable, railway services are not functional, supply and distribution of power is inept, among others.

The attitude ought to be, ‘if I didn’t do well or wasn’t convincing enough at the job interview or in my presentation, do not give or award it to me. That would spur me to sit up and do better at the next opportunity.’ This sin has encouraged tribalism, nepotism and sentimentalism, and has indirectly created bitterness and bad blood, insecurity, cruelty, hatred, violence and kindred evils. The 1999 Constitution, the supreme law of the land, provides in Section 42 (2): No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability of deprivation merely by reason of the circumstance of his birth. The section speaks for itself.

Sin No.6: Erroneous perception of the term, ‘government.’ This is one sin I find very annoying. You listen to people make comments like, ‘if the government can help us clean the gutter.’ What the government in power is to do concerning drainage is to build or construct it. The duty of the citizens is to maintain same.

Sin No.7: Purchasing pirated, adulterated and substandard products. The government has a duty to create the enabling environment for creativity to thrive, to ensure that adulterated goods are discovered and destroyed. It is to ensure that fake and substandard goods do not find their way in to the market. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) must not only go to work, it must also remain at work. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) should do the same. The citizens themselves should understand that they ought not buy these products.

Sin No.8: Maltreatment of customers. Some banks frequently treat their customers with utmost discourtesy, as if they are beggars. They don’t seem to understand that if all these customers refuse to go to the bank, the bankers have no job. Some transport businesses are also found wanting in this issue.

Sin No.9: The sin of giving up on Nigeria. It’s important you don’t commit this sin. At all times, participate in processes that pursue national interest. It would amaze you the number of people who have given up on the Nigeria, leader in them, needless to mention the Nigerian Dream in them. They seem to be tired of talking, and the Sidon look attitude has crept in. The time to stir up the Nigerian spirit in you is now. I am talking about the spirit of patriotism. I know it hurts, especially going by the way people drive.

We must not give up; we must keep pushing for what is right, leading by example and hoping that someday we would get there. It is possible. Look around you, there must be something you can do. Just do yours, let me do mine and together we can make this work. Today can mark the end to Nigerian time if we stand by the universally accepted time, such as GMT. It begins with you and I. Helen Keller said, “Alone I can do so little, together we can do so much.” The Nigerian Dream is you!

• Macdonald Amaran, a legal practitioner, unpublished author/motivational speaker, wrote from Port Harcourt.

“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.”