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Change begins with me campaign: Revisiting the imperatives for success

By Sam Ohuabunwa

LAST Year, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) launched the new national orientation campaign called: Change Begins with me. In his address at the launch, PMB said “We must resist the temptation to fall on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long.” I am one of those who have consistently called for a national reorientation that will bring real change to how we conduct ourselves and present ourselves to the outside World  and particularly to  broaden and deepen the fight against corruption.

I had fully agreed with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron that Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt” and opined that merely focusing on the alleged corrupt election funding of the former ruling party was only scratching the surface. So I congratulated PMB for launching this campaign. One year down the line and with all issues that have arisen since the launch especially the latest-Mainagate, I am wondering if we are truly making significant progress. I will, therefore, like to reiterate my suggestions which I hope will help the campaign to succeed before it dies prematurely like its predecessor campaign-good people,great nation!

Preaching alone will not do: If preaching or sermonizing alone could change most Nigerians and make them imbibe “the long cherished and time-honoured, time tested values of honesty, integrity, hardwork, punctuality, good neigbourliness, abhorrence of corruption and patriotism” we will not need PMB at all. Nigeria has one of the greatest number of churches, mosques and other religious houses in the whole world. Our pastors and imams preach and sermonize every Sunday or Friday, including at mid-week prayers and crusade grounds, yet we can not see much difference in the moral tones of many Nigerians between 1983 & 2017. So, we need to do more than preaching or sermonizing. We must remove that ‘thing’ in our system that makes many people abandon the fear of God when they leave the worship centres.

Media campaigns alone will not cut much ice: Certainly the Ministry of Information & Culture has contractors who print flyers, posters and sundry documents to promote the campaign. Our airwaves have intermittently been filled with all kinds of messages on the ‘change begins with me ‘ theme. Government owned media like Radio Nigeria and the NTA have been carrying loads of slogans and advertorials in an effort to create awareness. If fliers, documents and radio jingles alone could be successful in stopping Many Nigerians from “dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and wide-spread impunity”, we will not need to spend our limited budget on such activities. All the Bibles, Qurans, television & radio evangelism, and religious literature preach the same message. Then all the investment made in fliers, radio & TV jingles by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) from the days of Prof Jerry Gana through the years of Prof. Dora Akunyili to this Lai Mohammed day would have made some meaningful impact. There must be something fundamentally wrong with our system that undermines these efforts.

Patriotism can not be legislated or enforced: To make Nigerians love their country and wish to die for it, can not be forced and achieved by propaganda. If they are cheated and discriminated against by their own country, they probably will prefer to be cheated and discriminated against because of their skin colour in other countries . If their Country loves and cares for them, they will love their country back.

I say these, because we have tried all these from the days of MAMSER till today and many people believe that Nigeria’s moral tone is worsening. Did we really undertake a proper study to find out why, before starting out with this new campaign?. May be or may be not, but I will reiterate the following imperatives.

  • Utmost sincerity: Because of the failed past attempts and the deep-seated skepticism of the Nigerian populace, the Leadership must be very very sincere in handling this very critical project. Such statement as” in other words, before you ask’ where is the change they promised us’, you must first ask how far have I changed my ways” may be interpreted in different ways. For some people, it will sound as if PMB was now passing the buck for the change he promised to Nigerians, that they must change before expecting to see the change he promised! And perhaps that’s why there seems not to be much change in our moral integrity since the campaign broke, because as he is waiting for us, we are also waiting for him
  • Leadership from the political class: Nigerians look up to their political leaders to lead the change. If they refuse to change,then we may have great difficulty achieving any change in the populace. When the political leaders act in ways that show them up as essentially seeking their own and their group’s selfish interests, when the political class terrorize and push out poor Nigerians from the roads with their motorized and militarized convoys or when the roads and airports are closed for hours just because the President wants to visit his farm, rather than inspire change, make ordinary Nigerians bitter. When ordinary Nigerians are losing their jobs and businesses and having difficulty feeding properly, to see political leaders keep theirs and continue to swim in affluence and pageantry will not inspire change!
  • Government and its agencies must join the queue: Literally speaking, government officials, including the police, the military and regulatory officials must join the queue. They can not inspire change when they beat queues, drive against the traffic, disobey court rulings, involve in extra-judicial executions and perpetrate impunity. The government must be hard on itself and agencies to lead a successful “cultural” or behavioural change. The kind of reluctance and dithering seen in dealing with corruption cases in the government does not inspire.
  • Motivate change by adopting carrot & stick: In Management sciences we speak of motivating change, encouraging good behaviour and discouraging bad behaviour. What incentives are we putting in place to make people see the benefit for change and what deterrence do we have to make people regret bad behavior? Without these, the change we desire may not be sustainable. At the minimum we must be even-handed in enforcing existing laws and regulations. How do we make the interest of the ordinary Nigerians to align with the interest of the nation? That will be the game changer. Normal people do not destroy what they own nor work against their own interest.




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