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Nigerians and the search for purpose

The failure of almost all institutions in this country is largely due to this fundamental problem; the lack of sense of purpose.  Many are oblivious…

The failure of almost all institutions in this country is largely due to this fundamental problem; the lack of sense of purpose. 

Many are oblivious of the fact that we all work in a closely knit and interconnected system in which each and every person will one day -perhaps in the near future- require the service of the other and that each and every one of them serves a higher purpose than his/her job description and owes the system a responsibility to make the system work by doing his/her work diligently and efficiently. 

What saddens me most with this attitude exhibited by most of us is the feeling most workers and officials (both public and private) have that they are doing you a favor by doing exactly what they being paid for. You will notice that even from the way a typical Nigerian official/worker looks at or talks to you especially when you require their service for the first time and ‘you don’t know anybody’. The resultant effect of this sad vicious cycle is that for one to fully get the service he/she is due, one needs to know someone in that institution or else your precious time will be lost to flimsy excuses, unnecessary bottlenecks and useless formalities; or you may not even get that job done. The end result of all this is the current near collapse of all institutions and systems in the country.

Sense of purpose is that feeling of contentment with pride of the role everyone plays for the collective progress of a society regardless of cadre, class or profession and the realization that it is our supra-additive collective efforts that will make the system work and that it is in everybody’s interest for the system to work. Without the right sense of purpose, if you like fill all the mantles of leadership in the country with the people of highest integrity in the world, and I assure you the system will never work. Bottom-top change in attitude is the most effective and sustainable solution to our problems rather than the lazy notion that ‘once we have good and sincere leaders, all our problems will vanish into thin air’ (case study; post 2015 Nigeria).

It is in this regard that I remember a conversation I had with a not-so-optimistic-about-Nigeria friend of mine who once opined thus; “assuming we hypothetically take all the people in one of the most industrially advanced and developed countries in the world like Germany and replace them with Nigerians with our current mindset, we would within of five years (or less) cause a total collapse of the all the German institutions despite the formidability of such institutions. Similarly, if we replace all the people in the geographical area called Nigeria (despite all our failed systems and institutions) with all the people currently in Germany, give them just five years and you will be surprised to see the progress they will make”. This line of thought, though too extreme (one may say), may not be far from the truth if one ponders deeply about the general attitude of Nigerians in comparison with people of other nationalities.

It is my belief that until each and every one of us understand and appreciate the role we all play for the collective progress of the system, our quest for meaningful development will continue to be a mirage. We all need to be like that Janitor who helped send Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin to the moon by doing his job. Our jobs, however small, are parts and parcel of what collectively propels our system to greatness, the speed of which (or lack thereof) largely depends on the willingness of each and every one of us to play his/her own role and discharge his/her responsibility diligently and effectively regardless of the circumstances or the people involved and without fear of favor. Let’s all find our sense of purpose for the general good of the system!

Dr Abdulkareem Kabir Masokano  [email protected]

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