Every transformational experience, be it success, financial freedom, academic excellence, was driven by a personal decision that often comes with a great cost to the decision taker. Etiquette as a road map for personal or professional success is not dependent on environmental factors, the avowal sometimes entails a tough call with a huge demand for sacrifice to defend commitment to cherished values.
The prolonged reign of corruption in our clime is directly traceable to the dearth of ethical leaders and role models, reluctant to trade short term pecuniary gains for long term benefits. The top down approach which should define organizational and national practices of excellence continues to elude us.
Our nation today is in dire need of change agents, people who will act as catalysts for national orientation by playing pivotal roles that will revive our pride as a people.
Social integration which was a taboo for blacks who suffered years of racial segregation in the United States was achieved because of one actor’s insistence on the tenets of etiquette, which stipulate respect and consideration for others. Rosa Parks’ heroic stance and refusal to surrender her seat to a white person sparked a civil rights movement leading to a bus boycott that lasted over a year until the United States Supreme Court delivered the landmark judgement that adjudged the enabling law of social inequality as unconstitutional. Her audacity was abundantly rewarded on all fronts, ultimately leading to the inauguration of a black man as the President of the United States a few years after her death.
The focal point of this column is based on a deep seated conviction that etiquette is integral to life; if you get it right with people, you get it right with life. By implication, the code of behaviour runs pari passu with human development and common good.
The upheavals rocking our world today have their roots entrenched in the breach of human relationships. More champions are needed to boot out evil tendencies that undermine the pillars of etiquette.
Recent events make it imperative to declare a state of emergency in the education sector to further reinforce late Nelson Mandela’s famous quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Everything wrong with society is growing unchallenged in our educational system, which has become a breeding ground for deviants of society. If truly education is not just a preparation for life but life itself as espoused by John Dewey, then we must pay more than a passing glance on the institution that grooms not just the torch bearers of posterity but which also shapes the actors of the present. The principles of consideration, respect and honesty which form the bedrock of early learning are today viciously violated in the institutions of learning. The OAU incident in which Professor Akindele, a lecturer at the Accounting Department demanded for sex in exchange for marks from a female student is a rapacious assault on the conscience of the nation. The lurid details of the leaked conversation is an eloquent testimony of the putrefaction that best describes the school system in Nigeria, which must be roundly condemned by all and sundry. While we commend the the university authorities for applying interim sanction by placing the randy lecturer on indefinite suspension, a full scale investigation involving all stake holders must be initiated. The National Universities Commission (NUC), Federal Ministry of Education, the Students Union, every professional body to which Richard Akindele belongs and the religious institution where he serves as a cleric must be actively involved. Justice must be seen to be done in this matter. While it has been established that the female student involved is a postgraduate tutee, the unnamed lady who has refused to appear before the panel for fear of reprisals must be encouraged to step forward as history beckons. To this end, massive support from her constituency, the SUG, NANS, Parents Teachers Association (PTA), the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) and the Ministry of Women Affairs is earnestly solicited. This is the time for solidarity marches from human rights groups and other non-governmental organizations to press for the much needed change in the ivory tower. It is instructive to note that the Rosa Parks-inspired Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 served as a springboard that launched the career of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a civil rights icon having backed Rosa Parks to the hilt in the struggle. The female scholar in this saga must not be allowed to crumble in fear. The #ME TOO campaign should be launched to encourage past and present victims of sexual harassment to name, shame and press for charges against these miscreants in the academia, who desecrate our core values.
The punishment of Professor Akindele is not just to serve as a deterrent, it is for the emancipation of our educational system which will ultimately decimate the social ills that shackle the progress of Nigeria.
Let’s give these taboos a boot.