When you step out of the Heathrow airport or you are at the tube station in London, you are alive to an environment where everything is fast moving and people go about their business in a professional and no nonsense fashion. You stop at either a Pret a Manger or a Costa for a cup of coffee and maybe a Croissant and you are met by attendants who are not necessarily happy in their individual lives, but put up a superb attitude and customer service in attending to the needs of those who throng their stores.
The point here is that, In spite of the fast paced and busy environment in that clime, respect, politeness and forthright attitude is what greets you in any (most) interactions engaged in.
It is on this premise that I will like to explore where we – Nigerians –are as a country when it comes to being of high value and civil conduct.
Conversely, from the fast paced city of London, take a tour of most service providing spaces within Nigeria, what you are confronted by are individuals weighed down by their personal circumstance, measuring people they come across based on perceived economic and social status of the individual in question.
It must be said that there are a good number of Nigerians who are exceptions to this rule, from the chap who cuts your hair and is asking you all the way if you are comfortable to the man who doesn’t jump the queue. It must be emphasized that perhaps this portrays only a minute fraction of Nigerians.
We are all clamouring for the development of infrastructure and social amenities to turn around the battered fortunes of Nigeria. Amaechi is being held to deliver on the Lagos to Calabar coastal rail line; the Lagos Governor has practically turned the state into a construction site. These are interesting and very commendable projects; however they are superstructures that should sit on the values we possess as a people. Values such as Basic courtesy, Respect for persons irrespective of their social standing, Time management and productivity.
It is important to at this juncture expand on some these values and how as a people we fare in exercising them;
Queuing and order
When the average Nigerian is not forced to maintain a queue, as he finds he has to in foreign embassies within the country or at corporate establishments such as the banks, he simply does not believe in the doctrine and efficiency of a queuing system.
Take a tour of Bus stops (apart from BRT), NYSC registration points, Exam centers, passport office, ATM points and so on in this country and you might find that there is some sense of queuing going on; however upon a closer look, you will find that this supposed queues are not formed by a people who understand and appreciate the concept of order; it is common sight to find fellow citizens get to a queuing point and murmur to the individual directly ahead of them saying: ‘Oga I dey your back’ and they then take a seat outside of the queue (instead of being at akimbo on the queue) waiting for the point where it is almost their turn.
Acts like this when they occur frequently and on multiple occasions concurrently, speaks loud of the indiscipline that pervades the country.
There need to be a renewal in psyche for the people to understand that order comes with development, fairness and respect.
It is usually said that you cannot give what you do not have. When it comes to basic courtesies such as saying ‘Please’, ‘sorry’, ‘thank you’, ‘do you mind’, ‘pardon me’, the average Nigerian is found seriously missing in action. It should be made clear that respect as we define it is not total, as there is a lot of emphasis on the physical attributes of respect, where the issue of contention will be whether ‘ma’ was added when Good morning was said.
Respect is about fair and equal treatment to all, irrespective of shape, size, age or color. The fabric of respect, fair and equal treatment is the basic courtesies spelt out in the paragraph above.
Basic courtesy should be like the law; it should be ‘blind’. Basic courtesy should not be selective but applied to all and sundry as at and when required.
Time is finite, Productivity is King
To move our country into the league of top countries, there is the need to fundamentally understand that we have to cherish time and productivity like the air we breathe. Productivity cannot be measured without time and time without productivity. Our days, hours and minutes need to start generating value at incremental rates, because this is the real currency of wealth and prosperity.
We need to in our daily lives hold time sacrosanct, as it is the key to productivity, while productivity is the key to relevance and without relevance; one is soon thrown away like tissue paper.
It might cross the reader’s mind that how do we begin to tackle these issues? Two plausible solutions come to mind and they are: a vibrant and active National Orientation Agency as well as robust Civic education at primary and secondary levels.
Firstly, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is an agency that could have done far more to contribute to the greatness of this country. It was set up primarily to orientate the people positively and create the platform to nurture the minds of Nigerians on how to be worthy citizens. There is need to as a matter of urgency go back to the drawing board to properly position this agency in conjunction with the Ministry of Information to sensitize and galvanize the people through different forms of messages and media to communicate the NIGERIAN STANDARD, and what is expected and otherwise of a true Nigerian.
The messages of the National orientation agency should be national anthems that touch on various aspects of life and living of the Nigerian. The messages should be hitting the average Nigerian left, right and centre, as he turns on his radio, as she tunes her TV, as he drives, as she goes online, we should be met by the encouraging messages of what is expected of a good citizen of the country.
Secondly, the schools (primary and secondary) are the points of knowledge absorption. How better to positively orientate Nigerians from young ages, if not through the schools. The National Orientation Agency, the Federal Ministries of Information, Education, Private School Owners Association and the Nigerian Union of Teachers should all be on board in designing and implementing civic education curriculums that will in detail spell out the attributes of being a refined and valuable Nigerian.
With these, we will grow as a people, where development will come from the heart and the head, and development will not only be measured by the number of bridges, airports built or rail tracks laid, but also by the quality of life we live and the refinement of our interpersonal engagements.
I will like to end the way I started with the courteousness of the city of London to say that the reason why so many tourists are fascinated and visit England is not only because of the development of the infrastructure and amenities there, but because of the development and refinement of the people in there. It can be safely concluded that there is a strong link between the refinement of a people and the development of the country. I therefore urge fellow citizens, that to take our country to a position of respect and true development, we will need to embark on the non-negotiable journey of refinement as a people.