By Clifford Ndujihe
Mr. Joko Okupe, social crusader and founder and Convener of Mindshift Advocacy for development Initiative has been a brand strategist and a marketing expert for over three decades. In this interview, he speaks on the state of the nation and how Nigeria can wriggle out of insecurity.
On raging insecurity in Nigeria
It is a very complex situation to analyze. But my opinion is that the insecurity that we have in the nation now is as a result of insincerity of leadership in relaying matters exactly as they are, confessing their weaknesses and limitations, and relating with citizens with openness. There’s also insincerity of leadership in saying one thing and doing exactly another.
If we look at these things that I’ve outlined, they give birth to many ugly children. When we talk about insecurity, we need to have a little mind shift because we look at security and insecurity in terms of protection of lives and property.
The government needs to protect citizens with the whole gamut of security apparatus- security personnel, arms, ammunitions, as it were.
Currently, as a nation, there are many areas of our lives being threatened that do not seem to receive adequate attention.
What about food insecurity? What about insecurity of the infrastructure that we operate and live in? In the last couple of years we’ve had more states in the nation getting flooded, like they never used to be. Erosion has eaten a lot of lands in eastern states. People’s houses are collapsing and lives are being lost.
What about insecurity to our lives due to lack of proper handling of counterfeiting and adulteration of products in Nigeria – a situation in which many Nigerians are using fake drugs, eating poisoned foods, using fake vehicle parts, fake building materials and so on? We hear of houses collapsing in some parts of the country. Why are the houses collapsing? Probably, because some of the building materials used to build these houses were of inferior quality.
Guns and bullets cannot solve these problems of insecurity that I just spoke about. Why is there so much insecurity? A good number of the people engaged in acts of crime, banditry, and terrorism are available tools in the hands of some people who use them at will to carry out their evil plans because most of these young people are not gainfully engaged.
How did we get to a point where a bulk of the population is not gainfully engaged? Something went wrong somewhere! When we look at this insecurity, my personal opinion is that it is caused by the insincerity of leadership.
When you operate in sincerity, there is no deception or hidden agenda, where if you’re going to the right, you make people believe you’re going to the left.
The President Muhammadu Buhari Administration has been there for six years. Can you assess it in relation to what you’re talking about sincerity?
The government has not been sincere with us. We should never see telling the truth or accepting our faults publicly as a weakness or failure. There is greater weakness in deception and insincerity. In many nations, it is not unusual to see Government officials apologizing publicly to the citizens on errors of judgement or implementation of policies.
What do you think makes the government not to be sincere?
Hidden agenda! Make-belief! Deception! In many situations, there is a deliberate act to deceive and misinform. You know you can deliberately deceive. You know that the things you’re saying are not true, You know that you’re not going to fulfil your promises, you don’t even intend to make any effort in that direction, but you make people believe you’re going to do it, just to get your way. This is what has strengthened the notion in people’s minds that politicians never think of the people’s good.
Does what you’re saying apply to the refusal of the Federal Government to restructure the country and devolve power as it promised while campaigning in 2015?
As I mentioned earlier, insincerity is a deliberate attempt to deceive. Whenever there’s ambiguity in communication and in expression, the majority of the time, it’s because there’s a hidden agenda. So, we have a lot of unclear communication by leadership because there’s a deliberate and calculated move not to make emphatic promises that can be held on to. These things can cascade to any level. A lot of Nigerians are insincere; in homes, in families, in businesses, in transactions, in just about everything. Those in leadership didn’t fall from heaven.
Where does this sort of behavior come from – attitudinal, the society or social?
It is just our mindset as a people. In every home, facet of our life, you see this thing at play. I see and hear a lot of people talking about restructuring. I am not against restructuring, but I keep on asking a fundamental question; let us assume for a moment that those asking for self-determination or restructuring get their wish or desire, as long as we remain who we are now as a people and do not restructure our minds and our present pattern of thinking, even if Nigeria becomes 10 countries, we will just replicate the present problems of Nigeria in 10 places.
If we are still the way we are -greedy, self-centered, nepotistic, dishonest and the likes, we shall then begin to witness the inter-play of the problems of Nigeria as intra-play within those new entities.
The average Nigerian has an “oppressor’s mindset” and just desires to oppress his fellow citizens. The oppressor mindset cuts across all socio-economic strata. So, whether he’s a gateman or a managing director, he just desires to be an oppressor. He wants to lord something over the next man.
Are you saying there’s no merit in asking for the restructuring of Nigeria to promote balance among the six regions?
There’s a need for balance, don’t mistake me. There’s a need for restructuring. In life, at a point in time, restructuring is always necessary to advance and get better. Why do businesses do strategic reviews every year? To do better. The strategic review sessions in some of these small, medium sized companies take days. So, sometimes when I hear that the Executive Council meetings of the nation meet once a week for a few hours, I ask myself what could they really be discussing there? If businesses with small operations hold management review meetings for days, sometimes to address issues, we should begin to ask; where is the thinking function for the country?
What do you think is this thing about Nigerian mindset that makes them behave the way they do?
The propensity to be unlawful is in everybody but what the law does is to curb that propensity. There’s crime everywhere. Crime is not peculiar to Nigeria and Africa alone. You need to know the crimes that are happening in Britain or in the United States of America. Our own major problem here is that there’s no consequence for unlawful behaviour or criminality. If there’s no consequence for unlawful behaviour, the offenders go scot-free with whatever wrong they do and if they know they will go scot-free with whatever they do, the bad behaviour simply increases.
In Nigeria, most times there is neither consequence for unlawful behavior, nor reward for lawful behavior. The environment doesn’t encourage good behaviour or goodness nor does it punish unlawful behavior.
So, how do we resolve that situation?
Our Leadership and Government, as it obtains in sane societies all over the world, must ensure that there’s a consequence for unlawful behavior. People should know that if they steal or do something that is contrary to the law, there are consequences for it. When there are no consequences for unlawful behavior, the government becomes a toothless bulldog and gets ridiculed.