At a two-day basic accounting training I facilitated two weeks ago, I shared the story of a final-year student of an all-female secondary school expelled, a day to her graduation, for breaking into the school’s scullery to steal a refill pack of ‘Milo’ chocolate drink!
My 42-member training attendees’ reaction to the story was rather intriguing. While everyone agreed (I imagined so) that what the female student did was wrong, most of them opined that the school disciplinary committee’s decision to expel her was too much for the offence committed. One of them actually said, “…It’s like killing a fly with a hammer!” Another one insisted that I should tell them the name of the school. When I asked why she wanted to know, she said, “So I don’t send my child there!” I left the training venue that day thinking, “There’s no hope for Nigeria.”
Just last week, I read an interesting and thought-provoking story that went viral on the internet. It was an account of the work experience in Nigeria of one Tim Newman. In my opinion, Mr. Newman basically chronicled his observations about the Nigerian people in the three years or so that he spent in the country. In the comments section, some Nigerians veered off from the salient points in the article and chose to attack the person of Mr. Newman for daring to write such things about Nigeria. Someone said Mr. Newman should have suggested the solutions instead of telling us the problems we know already. Another person, who was obviously too lazy to read the story, asked for a summary!
For the umpteenth time, I felt Nigeria is in trouble. You would probably come to the same conclusion when you consider the rather pedestrian comments people make on critical issues that bother on our collective growth and development. When you juxtapose the mindset of most Nigerians with that of our captors (not leaders), you would realize that most of us lack what it would take to wrestle Nigeria from her captors.
Just when I thought I had recovered from the headache brought about by reflecting on the burdens of living in Nigeria, my daughter came to me yesterday to tell me that there’s a petition going round to save one of her seniors from the Draconian decision of their school. It was about a senior female student expelled for smuggling a mobile phone into the school, contrary to the rules and regulations of the school. This senior student was one of the best students in the school (she made nine A’s in the 2013 Senior Secondary Certificate Examination!).
As at the time of her expulsion, the other students’ concern was whether the expulsion would affect her admission into Stanford University for which she got 100% scholarship! Apparently, the school informed Stanford University about the expulsion and this resulted in the loss of her admission, hence the petition that’s making the round.
The school’s decision was shocking but not surprising. My shock was because the school upheld its avowed commitment not to condone acts that amount to breaking the school’s rules and regulations. This is totally not-Nigerian. In Nigeria, we celebrate lawbreakers. For some split seconds, I remembered my experience with the training attendees about two weeks ago and I thought, “They would have considered the school leadership a group of sadists.”
Though the school acted justifiably, I found myself thinking that they should have tempered justice with mercy by not informing Stanford University about the expulsion. I knew I was being emotional but I couldn’t help it. I thought losing the admission wouldn’t be a loss to her and her family; it would also be a loss to Nigeria.
Hoping that the story wasn’t true, I put a call through to another parent whose children attend the school and he confirmed the story. He also took some time to talk me out of my being emotional about the matter. He made it clear that we must start addressing the decadence in Nigeria from some point. He also didn’t mince words in blaming the bad behaviours of pupils and students on the parents. That Nigeria abounds in brilliant people without character rang loudly in his comments. “We don’t need more of these same people,” he said. Time and space wouldn’t allow me to share other stories he told me over a telephone conversation that lasted 30 minutes.
The reputation Nigeria has in the outside world is that it’s a country where everything and anything goes. This reputation must change if we are to move forward as a nation and it is foolhardy to imagine that the positive change would cost us nothing.
The social cost of our deviant behaviour is way too much. This behaviour has eroded every iota of trust in the country. The lack of trust is the reason Nigeria is one of the most difficult places to do business in the world. Is it any wonder then that we’re one of the countries with the worst youth unemployment in the world?
The other day, I wanted to install PayPal (a global payment gateway) on my website and to my surprise Nigeria isn’t among the countries where the facility is available. It’s disheartening that people in smaller countries like Malawi, Gabon, Chad, Gambia, Togo, among many others, have access to PayPal while those in the ‘giant’ of Africa don’t have access to it.
The journey to the New Nigeria will obviously be a very long one. We however take solace in that the journey has begun (or so it seems). The schools have started taking the first steps to save Nigeria. Even though these are baby steps, the effects are reverberating nationally. In the words of the Chinese philosopher Laozi, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”