On Attitude And Development: Tracing A Missing Gap In Nigeria
For a while, I have borne on my mind the serious effects of attitudinal deficiencies among Nigerians, but I got sufficiently motivated to comment on it when I saw different videos of the effect of the downpour in Lagos yesterday. In some places, there were no drains and in many other places drains were obstructed by filth so there was no flow and that resulted in different levels of challenges for commuters and residents in Lagos. What do we deduce from this?
Even with appropriate drainage system everywhere, if we do not become human beings with the right attitude who understand that filth should not just be dropped anywhere and everywhere, it would keep looking like we do not have a working government even when the attitude of the citizens may be causing a greater hindrance to the development of the country than the inaction of the government. How does the government come into community members stealing materials supplied for the construction of roads for their own use? How does the government come into the vandalisation and abuse of public infrastructure by the citizens who use them? Is the government also to blame for the "big man" who winds down from his car to dispose of his soda can or who defies traffic light because no one is watching? Is government the reason you eat your orange as commuters and throw away the pith from the bus? Is government the reason the bus driver increases fare because there are many commuters?
Even if the government will have a portion of the blame to take, other stakeholders like parents, teachers and religious organisations have a greater responsibility in the face of our character deficit and attitudinal bankruptcy. This takes me to what education should do for any man. Education captures knowledge, skills, attitude and values which make one a functional member of the society. Ironically, education in Nigeria at this time, at all levels, seems to place emphasis on knowledge and skills at the expense of values and attitude. Sadly, the attitude and value neglected will render the knowledge and skills possessed useless. This is because becoming a star is not as difficult as maintaining stardom. Whatever level competence takes a man to, character is instrumental in sustaining the height.
In psychology, attitude refers to a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviours toward a particular object, person, thing, or event. Attitudes are associated to experiences or upbringing and they have a powerful influence over behaviour and affect how people act in various situations. Some two years ago, I recall trying to rush towards a professor to help with his bag and by the time I was close, another colleague who was at the time an associate professor had got to him before me to collect the bag. I asked to collect from him and he said "we were both his students so let me carry it too". This is the way many of us were raised but we hide under modernity to shy away from this style of living and call it barbaric, outdated and excommunicated. I cannot forget how a student walked with me from the car park to the second floor of my office building discussing with me without even offering to help with my bag until another colleague challenged him then he said "Oh, my mind did not go there?". We have become a generation of people who know what we want from the society but do not know what the society deserves from us. Values and virtues such as hard work, perseverance, dignity, integrity, humility servitude have been replaced with expressions such as "na who know way know book", "if you no know person you no fit reach there" and this mindset does no little to our setback.
I do not mean to bring politics into this, but when an American wakes up, he says "God bless America". This is a mindset and an attitude. How do you see Nigeria? It is okay if you do not like, trust or believe in some political leaders but it cannot be okay when this dislike extends to your country and you can utter expressions such as "this country cannot be good again.", "Nigeria is finished", and even ask people questions such as "why will you believe in this kind of country?".
So much is connected to attitude that we cannot afford to be silent on its collapse in our society. We must work collectively on attitude repair by doing what is right and urging others to do same. Parents must train their children with the right values. Teachers cannot limit their tasks to teaching just the contents of their subjects. Preachers must tell their congregation that they are members of a whole and must live right in the society. Government too must show the right attitude by making the citizens feel the benefits of being patriotic.
I will close this piece with the story of the man who promised to change the world in ten years. He failed then pleaded for another ten years to change Africa. He failed again then asked for yet another ten years to change Nigeria. When he failed this time, he begged for the last chance of another ten years to change his state. After failing at the state level, then he said to himself, "Instead of wasting forty years trying to change the larger society, I could have begun by changing myself then my household. My household would have changed our neighbours and our neighbours would have affected our community positively." Let the change we all desire begin with us. Repair your attitude!
(c) 2023 Ganiu Bamgbose writes from the Department of English, Lagos State University.