The Little Things That Matter By Johannes Tobi Wojuola
John Maxwell – You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.
My friend hosted a symposium two weeks ago, and she asked me to be the MC. It was a first time request, so I reluctantly agreed. After giving my consent, I quickly asked about time and promptness of the event. She put the starting time at 9am, conceding all the same to the Nigerian factor on timing; the African time. I struggled to wake up as the sounds of raindrops held me back to my bed. Nonetheless, I was ready before 8:30am. But as a Nigerian, I called Debbie to ask if they had started and if people had started coming. Debbie’s reply was expected; “no, not yet, just one or two people”. It was an opportunity for me to do one or two things, targeting 10 am for my arrival.” I got to the venue at about 10:45am as the event barely kicked off. Debbie whispered, some people were here by 9am. I was shocked, were they foreigners?
The notion of the ‘African Time’ is wrong. And we have allowed the aberration become acceptable almost to the point of culture. Timeliness is one of those things that matters greatly. The average event in Nigeria starts at best 30 minutes, some times an hour after the scheduled time. Both the attendees and the organisers are guilty. In most cases the organiser have in mind that his attendees would come late, so he sets the time for 9am with intent to start off at 10am. The attendees too know full well that their fellow Nigerians would not be there till 10 am. Guilty, most of us are. I included. The culture of poor timing has held Nigeria down for quite a while. And in my reflection, I concluded that the trend must change. Change must begin with me!
Launched barely two weeks ago, the Change Begins With Me for me is long overdue. Some argue that the timing was not apt, and have consequently tossed the message and its pith; but better late than never. Launched in the high tide of events facing the country, the timing couldn’t have been better for me: Nigeria’s economy just got into a recession; the questions of restructuring and secession are being aggressively pushed; there is frustration around due to the hike in commodity prices; sectional divisions here and there. If anything would kick start getting us out of this fix, it is a positive mindset from every Nigerian towards Nigeria. There is the need for every Nigerian to see the vital role they must play in the wide spectrum of events. Society works like the human body – once every part is playing its role rightly, it would function properly.
I have read comments where some persons advocated that the Change Begins With Me campaign should start from the government, and its officials. The proponents of this argument seem to have missed the point.
Change Begins With Me does not exclude the government or its officials.
During the launch of the campaign, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, stood on the queue while he waited to sign-in to enter the venue like every other participant. Some may say he did that for the cameras. My reply: can we all live and act for the cameras? And in the long run, get used to doing things the proper way? Pretending to be ‘kind’, and after so much of the pretense, you indeed become ‘kind’.
Government officials at whatever level are part of the society – before becoming officials. They were extracted from the same society and still remain a part of it. Change begins with them, too.
I have made it a personal habit never to beat the traffic light, no matter how late I am, or what the time of the day it is. Many are guilty of honoring traffic lights more as rainbows and passing them without any regard for what they stand for. These are the things every Nigerian must do for Change.
The simple and little things matter. Honesty in all our affairs is germane. Tell the truth at all times and damning the consequences. Courtesy is important on this: a mind to genuinely say sorry; a cheerful thank you; a respectful phrase; please – they do not cost much but they matter in many ways.
Patriotism: respect for the country, in all that we do; regard for our national symbols and for security agents. Being ambassadors of the country in every way and wherever we are; are equally important.
Give what is due: pay for services rendered; say thank you – again; take the line, don’t shunt in a queue – at ATM’s, banking halls, in schools, at offices or wherever – it costs little, but it matters.
If anything has deprived Nigerians some goods, it is the little regard by many for the value of ‘honesty’. Indeed it is dishonesty and knavery that have caused leakages, costing Nigeria trillions of Naira. The product of little regard for honesty are the bad roads we see, the derelict public hospitals around us – where equipments have been transferred for private use, or even never supplied; the dilapidated public schools lacking in infrastructure, and starved of lecturers and teachers who are either not in class or are not giving their best while in: cheating the system, in other words. The dishonest conduct of many – leaders not excluded – has caused us greatly. If Change must have meaning to every Nigerian, eschewing all forms of dishonesty should be a starting point.
Be your brother’s keeper: in all our conducts, have one another at heart. While we take decisions and act, let us think of the domino effect of our actions: what would be the outcome? Who would be affected by my action or inaction?
Every Nigerian must matter – not just to their families or friends who know them, but to every other, because like us, they too are Nigerians.
Take for instance the devastation and ruin being perpetrated by the Niger Delta Avengers. While they seem to be passing their message through wanton destruction of government assets, in the bid to call government’s attention to their plight, their acts have brought about widespread damage and harm not just to the larger economy and polity, but also, and importantly the environment they live in. Pipeline-bombings by the militants have caused monumental degradation to the farmlands and water-bodies of the people of that region. At the end, everybody pays the price.
Change begins with me is not asking the Nigerian people to build roads, hospitals schools, or provide other social infrastructure for themselves, at least not directly. Its message is clear: change the little things that you do that have created chaos and made development almost impossible. Make Nigeria a better place through your positive, patriotic and right actions is the call.
The compound effect of the many little things that matter would give us the change that we clamour for – at least while President Buhari does his part, too.
Johannes Tobi Wojuola, lawyer and member of the Abuja Global Shapers Hub an initiative of the World Economic Forum, writes from Abuja