Increasingly, it has become very fashionable these days for parents to openly complain about the negative attitudes of their children, particularly their deviant behaviour which negates family traditions and other social norms and values. They also worry about how these deviant behaviours affect the leadership and general development of the country.
It is agreed that the kind of children we bequeath to the nation determines the kind of leaders we get in future. But of special interest to these parents is what kind of adults will come of such children who lack respect for elders, and engage in all kinds of misdemeanours antithetical to development. Many of these children unfortunately end up as social perverts.
The kind of children we have today is completely opposite of what obtained before the civil war. In the good old days, children were known to exhibit good manners and avoided as much as possible anything that would drag the names of their families in the mud.
The first lesson I learned as a child, this was about some 54 years ago, was obedience and respect for elders. And I have lived with it ever since. Normally, parents would start very early, as soon as a child was born, to inculcate in them these priceless virtues, such that they would grow up simultaneously with them. Children on their part were ever eager to learn and follow instructions by their parents at home and teachers in school.
The cooperation between parents and their children produced some sort of synergy that helped them bond and checkmate deviance and other negative attitudinal behaviour. The end product was lesser crimes, better citizens and a greater nation.
Because of the unremitting commitment of parents to the upbringing of their children and wards many homes witnessed greater peace and harmony at that time. This also reflected in the wider society, which experienced tranquillity, law and order. As a unit of society, the family played a prominent role in the development of the nation. Therefore, law enforcement agents hadn’t much to do as crimes were at their lowest ebb.
It was easy then to observe that almost everything worked, including electricity, water, hospitals and other social infrastructure, etc. Students and pupils performed creditably in their studies and came out with impressive results in their final examinations. Everything was earned on merit: no shortcuts, no malpractice; and bribery and corruption were unfashionable. Jobs were readily available for the hundreds of graduates produced by the universities and polytechnics. Curiously, even secondary school leavers had jobs awaiting them. This was the Nigeria of the 50s, 60s and even late 70s.
Interestingly, in all of these, we had lesser deviants and a quieter and more progressive society, and, therefore, more development ensured.
But what do we have today? A total reversal! Complete opposite of what obtained in the good old days. Life in Nigeria has suddenly become hellish and brutish. Those virtues that promoted self-worth and enhanced societal development have been jettisoned overboard. Individuals and organisations have abandoned their civic and corporate duties in pursuit of self-serving endeavours to the detriment of the wider society.
Our country is the way it is today – full of difficulties – because almost everybody has chosen the path of easy life; acquiring wealth illicitly, disrespecting the constitution, disobeying constituted authorities, and desecrating and bastardizing our collective heritage so unconscionably.
Spare a little thought and consider the harm we have done to our country by our collective inertia and greed. A nation experiences retrogression when its citizens choose the path of infamy and slothfulness. Instead of working hard at whatever they lay their hands many of us have chosen the easy path (shortcut) to wealth: stealing of public money, profligacy and malfeasance. Wealth acquired through illegitimate and illegal means does not endure.
Millions of our fellow citizens languish in poverty and penury, and nobody cares for them. Go round the country and see the level of decrepit poverty. How can the Nigerian youth survive under these excruciating conditions? Our hospitals have become mere drug prescription centres, while millions of citizens are homeless. What kind of children can be bred under these pitiful conditions?
The government whose duty it is to cater to the needs of the people has been apathetic to their sufferings as well. It is as if the government lacks the solutions to the problems and has decided to resign to fate. Nevertheless, President Buhari speaking in Benin City on Tuesday promised that very soon things would ease off. Let’s keep hope alive.
Sadly, all the same, trillions of Naira is appropriated annually with little to show for it. Instead of utilizing the budget to better the lot of the people, our legislators engage in shameful acts such as budget padding. The National Assembly is afflicted by one form of corruption or another as can be seen in recent times. And nobody is doing anything to remedy the situation. And our young ones are watching.
Hundreds of graduates are also produced annually by our tertiary institutions with only an infinitesimal percentage gainfully employed in the end. Many of those not employed end up doing menial jobs. Those who could not lay their hands on even the menial jobs take to crimes or prostitution to make ends meet. The end products are, therefore, increase in the number of social deviants that terrorize the citizenry – probably as a punishment for neglecting them – insecurity, break down of law and order, and general disquiet.
I cry when I see many of our youths resorting to crime as a way round their joblessness. Kidnapping, which used to thrive in the South East of Nigeria, has now become fashionable among the youths in Lagos and other South Western states.
This same unfortunate trend exists in the political life of the nation where politicians constitute themselves into cabals to pillage our scarce resources. The calibre of leaders that has managed our affairs in the past 20 years is responsible for whatever backwardness and resentment we have experienced in the development of the Nigerian nation. Even the culture of violence that governs our electoral process has accounted for the increase in the number of political deviants that have made life unbearable for the people.
Today, the governorship election holds in Edo State, and it is feared that violence would be the order of the day. Why is it so? It is because the society has neglected its duties to the youth who are daily exposed to all kinds of risks.
Has anybody pondered the huge resources the nation has lost to a band of deviants which calls itself cabals and thieves! These deviants or cabals, as the case may be, are nothing but parasites that feed fat on the toils of innocent and helpless Nigerians. Their crookedness is steeped in ruthless scheming that keeps them amassing wealth they do not need.
What is happening in the Niger Delta as you read this piece is an indication that our youth population comprises mainly deviants who make life miserable for our nation. The blowing up of oil installations in the Niger Delta by Avengers gives a serious cause for concern. And the NNPC has already warned of dire consequences to the economy of the nation if the trend persists.
A key element of leadership is the readiness of a leader to give account of his stewardship at the end of his tenure of service to the people. But how many of our leaders are morally prepared for this task? Some leaders see the offices they occupy as their birthrights. This accounts for the laissez-faire attitude they bring into governance.
Because of the importance of leadership, nations across the world attach premium to the process that produces their leaders. Every serious nation should take the upbringing of its children very seriously, because they form the bulk of emergent leaders.
Even the process that produces the leaders should also be meticulous, transparent, just and credible. Since independence, Nigeria has grappled with its electoral process and the quality of leaders such a process has produced. Indeed elections have remained a very contentious issue in the development of the country, and have been responsible for the many crises that have bedevilled it, leading to loss of innocent lives.
In any case, the worrisome aspect of this development is that when elections are contested, such as the one in Edo today, and won they leave behind seething animosity that creates deviants and other belligerents that constitute an impediment to national development.
At every point in our national development, we have witnessed instances of chaos, insurrection and social upheavals, caused by either political, religious or ethnic differences that have left deep scars on our collective psyche. Each of these crises takes its toll on the peace, unity and progress of the nation and its citizens. This situation manifested sometime ago in the fuel subsidy removal national strike that almost destroyed the social harmony of the country. It took the intervention of God to bring the situation under control. The six-day national strike undoubtedly produced its own share of social deviants who will remain a torn in the flesh of the nation, so long as they live.
As indicated in the earlier part of this piece, the development of a nation depends on the quality of its leadership and other social elements that measure its progress. It can be deduced, therefore, that development in Nigeria is a factor of the people and the environment in which they operate. This then means that development is driven by the robustness and potentialities of the manpower available in any given society. And the manpower in question is a product of combined forces of demand and supply.
Put in simple parlance, development is attenuated by the level of deviance obtainable in a given society. Nigeria has not made much progress because of the existence of a high number of deviants that constitute an impediment in its wheel of progress.
What was Professor Wole Soyinka saying when he berated our presidential system and dubbed it wasteful and oppressive? Wastefulness and oppressiveness in this context simply mean the existence of a high level of social deviants that has constituted itself into cabals to expropriate our collective inheritance. It may be necessary to ask what the attitude of each Nigerian is to the Nigerian nation. If this question is put across to every Nigerian it may not surprise anybody that a majority of them will show apathy or total disinterestedness to the question. This could arise from indignation or frustration.
Patriotism is a burning desire by a citizen to show love for his nation. But patriotism does not come from sheer expression or utterance. It flows from an inner belief in one’s nation. How do you expect a person to be patriotic when his nation does not care if he exists or not? Just as loyalty, patriotism has a price. The price for patriotism is succinctly captured in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Every nation should provide its citizens basic needs on which to survive. Such needs include shelter, security of life and property, food and life. The absence of these basic needs translates into chaos and anarchy; which is what our nation is gradually sliding into.
This brings us to the Change Agenda of President Mohammadu Buahri. What he plans to achieve with the programme is to create an equitable and just society on which development will be hinged. The restiveness and insurrection in different parts of the country are products of injustice. Injustice, in turn, produces social deviants that create trouble and make life uneasy for other citizens. Change can only make sense when the majority benefit from the dividends of democracy. Where the majority are hungry, sick, ignorant and weak what follows is resentment and deviance.
One of the things Buhari should endeavour to pursue in his four-year tenure is any strategy that will eliminate the mistrust that exists among the various ethnic groups that make up the Nigerian nation. No ethnic group trusts the other. This is why they have engaged in a systematic plot to undo one another.
Why should other Nigerians that live in the North be asked by a militia group to leave or be eliminated? Why should an Igbo man, for instance, become an endangered species in the north, and has been at the receiving end in every conflict that had engulfed the region in the past 46 years? These unfortunate things happen because of the existence of a plethora of deviants who believes it could attain its orchestrated and devious agenda through intimidation and violence.
To eliminate the existence of these deviants and quicken the process of development, the government should ensure that those things that divide us are smoothened out. For instance, the distribution of national wealth should be based on a well-defined sharing formula that will foster mutual trust and love. Again, the government should provide employment for the teeming number of qualified Nigerians who roam the streets in search of gainful employment.
Social crises that, at present, threaten the corporate existence of our country will be eliminated once the government can provide jobs in high numbers. There is also the need to strengthen security across the country to deal with those who deliberately foment trouble and make life unbearable for their fellow human beings. Securing the nation comes with enormous responsibility both on the part of the government and the citizenry. There must be cooperation by and readiness of the citizens to volunteer information to the police and other law enforcement agents to deal with the increasing violence that has permeated the fabric of our society.
Another like it, is the need for the government to review the salaries and allowances of elected persons and other categories of public officers to ensure they are realistic and in line with the demands of their office. A situation where public officers take home the lion share of the resources that accrue to the federation account should be discouraged as it breeds deviance.
To develop Nigeria requires collective enterprise, and each citizen is encouraged to play his part in accordance with his conscience. We must be our brother’s keeper and shun any act capable of jeopardizing our hard-earned democracy.
Whereas we fail to do that which is needful to entrench social justice and equality in our nation, cater to the needs of our ever-growing population of youth, particularly in their education, the number of social deviants will keep rising and our nation will be worse for it.