I was at a funeral ceremony, that of Mrs Helen Ogbobine, wife of the late Justice Rufus Ogbobine and biological mother to Peter and Paul Ogbobine, on Thursday and Friday, 13th and 14th instant.
A woman of class, she was a pioneer in her chosen profession of catering management and rose to become the General Manager of the then Bendel Hotels Limited.
I sat and listened to speaker after speaker. One thing that struck me was the fact that mention was not made of her relatively affluent background, professional success and worldly accomplishments. What everyone was talking about, was her care and concern for others. As at the time of her death, she had over 20 people feeding off her, not one of these is her biological child.
Such was her life style. May her gentle soul rest peacefully in the bossom of the Lord.
Marcus Aurelius wrote: “The only wealth you keep forever is the wealth you have given away”. If this is so true, why do we labour and so much run after vanities?
Man, it is said, tend to gravitate towards areas that he will derive maximum pleasure and least pain. But the activities of the world have become increasingly competitive, such that those who must forge ahead must enjoy pain, albeit temporarily.
While other countries are working hard to forge ahead in this direction, Nigerians are plunging more into delirium, looking only for pleasure and avoiding the pain that comes with foundation building.
Look at our leaders: they come into office lean and trim, but by the time they are leaving office they look bloated like an inmate of the celebrated Calabar fattening room. Not one amongst our leaders is looking ruffled, even those in the trouble-prone Boko Haram states.
What is it that makes the Nigerian love fun and enjoyment so much? The Bible says those who love pleasure so much will not be rich; that is, they cannot enjoy luxury because they are wasters. Wasters do not build or create, they destroy.
Even those who profess progressivism and socialism amongst our governors do not have any qualms gallivanting over the whole place in chartered aircraft when there are other competing and pressing needs for funds in their various states. It is a sad state indeed. What is it that makes Nigerians love pleasure so much?
The other day I was watching our Nigerian Super Eagles during the concluded CHAN competition, a team awash with talents capable of ruling the world; so much skill, so much energy, so much agility, but what did we see – complacency. Yes – complacency that is ingrained in the Nigerian psyche.
Every one of the players wanted to display his skills and play at the highest level but the discipline to see to its fruition was not there. And so even when they had the opportunities ( numerical advantage) to bury the Ghanaians in their semi-final match, they resorted to wastefulness. Opportunities squandered were 100% and that sent us crashing out of the competition.
What is it that makes a Nigerian love pleasure so much? We have in the National Assembly people who only report for duty when allocations are to be given. These are people representing whole constituencies, some running into millions.
They give out allowances that are extraordinary to themselves without caring a hoot about the masses. Some ministers and heads of governmental agencies have up to eight cars allocated to them. Some of these cars are packed in their villages.
Public officers will buy their official quarters at heavily discounted rates, the same quarter is rented to government at prevailing values, and so on and so forth.
Why is this so? Some have traced the cause to our colonial background, that we did not really struggle much for our independence and so when the freedom came, we were unable to manage it
It has also been traced to our first set of politicians and managers who took over from our colonial masters. Our leaders were trying to become more white than the White man in their thirst for luxury cars, living quarters, salaries, allowances, etc.
They refused to factor in the fact that these White officers were expatriate staff in this country, a lot of them without their families. These “white” officers in black man’s skin were trying to outdo the White man in his own culture, and with it came corruption.
We note also that, simultaneously, our society was undergoing re-structuring in terms of our culture, values and mores.
The stronghold of the traditional authorities has been whittled down, so they have limited control over their subjects. The governors, civil servants and politicians became the real owners of power.
And so values of the family, community, kinship and others were dropped; people resorted to doing strange things without fear of consequences. This was something new, the moral basis of our culture was destroyed in the process.
We must not forget the role of the military in all of these; people who were trained to be out of the public glare suddenly found themselves in position of power. They destroyed whatever was left of the Nigerian culture; we began to witness open brigandage and looting the effects of which are here with us today.
Finally, in the midst of the above, the discovery of crude oil brought in unwholesome practices; traditional businesses like farming, craftsmanship and the likes totally gave way to the rush for oil money. People abandoned their businesses for the city to engage in white collar jobs and contracts; everybody wanted a part of the oil money.
And so our values died. People do not want to work because those who work very hard get nothing, while the lazy ones get rewarded for their scheming. This was prevalent during the military era as godfathers, ethnicism and other extraneous circumstances became a factor for promotion. It left everybody in situation of “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
This is why the country is in perpetual motion without movement.
What should be done to remedy this situation? Our leadership should gauge events happening around the world now. If they cannot provide good and focused leadership, they should not bother to come out as what happened in Egypt will be a child’s play.
With a focused and corrupt-free leadership in place, the authorities should embark on serious enlightenment campaign to sensitize people on the new thinking. An example of this, is how the Lagos state government sold the tax issue to the people during Tinubu’s reign.
Heavy sanctions and punishment must be implosed on anyone found guilty of corrupt practices and people with unexplained sources of income investigated.
Our traditional institutions should be used to build new values at various community levels, a mechanism to reward only the deserving should be put in place.
With proper orientation and effective implementation, we can make the country better.
Mr. Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.