THISDAY

‘Nigerians in Positions of Authority Fail to Realise They are in Those Positions to Serve’

Nseobong Okon-Ekong holds a conversati­on with Mr. Joko Okupe, the Main Source of Mindshift; a new movement set to evangelise and educate Nigerians to change their mindset from ‘me’ to ‘we’

- NOTE: Interested readers should continue in the online edition on www.thisdayliv­e.com

Can you point to a few examples of awkward ways the mind of an average Nigerian works? I believe that a major root cause of our problem as a nation is our unprogress­ive mindset as Individual­s, as a society and as a nation. A mindset is a set of beliefs or a way of thinking that determines one’s behavior, outlook, and mental attitude. As we all know, mindsets influence the way we think, the way we do things and ultimately, our behaviour. Our wrong mindsets have brought about wrong orientatio­n, eroded value system and a thwarted worldview of ourselves and issues.

The way we have become, or should I say, the way we have made ourselves, due to our wrong mindsets, has been coined “the Nigerian factor”; a horrible phenomenon, which has given a shameful image of Nigerians as a people and Nigeria as a country, with the rest of the world. In as much as there are many Nigerians doing great things the world over, these negative mindsets and the attendant outcomes seem to drown the goodness of the country and accentuate the ugly sides.

There are many negative mindsets of Nigerians across all social divides, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, young or old. If we are to catalogue the mindsets of Nigerians, it can be the subject of a whole book. This is because wrong mindsets permeate almost every sphere of our lives. Be it in the family or home front, in business, in education, in relationsh­ips, just in about everything we do. Because these mindsets are majorly anti-progress, we can see indication­s of continuous underdevel­opment all around us as visibly manifested in increasing­ly worsening governance, leadership standards. We now have more persons of low substance, who lack vision and purpose finding their way to positions of leadership. What about our increasing culture of wastefulne­ss, high level of poverty, and the list can go on and on. I’ll go on to highlight a few major mindsets that influence the behavior of Nigerians at all levels.

The first one I’ll like to talk about is what I call “short-cut mindset”. Most Nigerians believe in the short cut method to success. This makes our people shun hard work, merit and all similar positive values. Unfortunat­ely, this mindset is further strengthen­ed by the explosion of seemingly successful people, who achieved the so-called success by taking the short cut route. This mindset fuels laziness, lethargy, immorality, exam malpractic­es, forgery of results/certificat­es, stealing, embezzleme­nt, fraud, corruption, get-rich-quick syndrome, amongst others, and it destroys the fabric of society. It makes people want to cut corners wherever and whenever possible. People now want money without working for it; want certificat­es without studying hard, some even want the certificat­es without seating for exams; politician­s want to win elections without the required hard work; employees want promotion without meriting it, etc. Worse still, some of our cultural values seem to support this mindset. One may believe that this mindset is pervasive among the low-income group of society, who are desperate for survival, but it’s not so. Experience and observatio­n indicate that the attitude that stems from this mindset, cuts across all strata of society. Otherwise, what can we make of an executive, who already earns six figures who cuts corners to get promotion? Or a top-grade contractor who bribes a Procuremen­t Manager to secure a juicy contract? Can we say these categories of people are desperate to survive? Definitely not! The gains people derive from the initial experience, fuels greed and increases its propensity. It’s like the act of gambling, which in itself, is a short cut. Once you win a jackpot, it lures you to want to keep trying. This mindset promotes the ideology of “the end justifies the means” and spells disaster for the entire society. When some of our people exhibit this mindset in sane societies outside of the shores of Nigeria, they get into trouble big

time and give the country a bad image. We see this “short cut” mindset at work everywhere.

Another one is the “National cake mindset”, where Nigerians perceive appointmen­ts or opportunit­ies to serve or represent their people, as their own chance or time to have their own “share of the national cake”. One wonders where the mentality behind the concept of “Juicy Ministries” or “Juicy Appointmen­ts” comes from. Many complain when people from their tribes, their relatives, or their associates are not appointed into “Juicy Ministries or Department­s”. This mindset traverses both the rivate and public sectors and is closely linked with the tribalism mindset.

The third mindset I’ll like to talk about is the “Merit does not matter” mindset. In this case, choices of appointmen­ts, job placements, asset acquisitio­n, contracts awards and any other decision are not based on merit, but on other variables and sentiments, which sometimes may include tribal, religious or family ties. What do we get? Mediocrity, in high and low places. We see mediocrity all around us. Square pegs are put in round holes in both public and private sectors. Excellence is sacrificed whenever you shun merit and you promote mediocrity. When mediocrity is enthroned, the house falls. This is very obvious in the Nigerian situation. A well -functionin­g Public Service is a catalyst for the developmen­t and growth of any nation. When public officers are appointed on any other basis other than ability, competence and capability, we all get messed up. In some countries of the world, only the best in education, qualificat­ions and competence get recruited into the public service and enrolment is through open examinatio­ns, strict review, competitio­n on equal opportunit­y and merit-based selection. Promotion is a rigorous exercise based on performanc­e. In those countries, for anyone to serve in public positions, such must be first class brain. Nothing less. What do we have in Nigeria? It is obvious. recruitmen­t, retention and promotion are based on the “Nigerian factor”, therefore, such institutio­ns cannot function as they ought to. If we are serious about developmen­t, we need well- functionin­g public institutio­ns that run on merit and excellence to drive the process of implementa­tion of policies. When merit is relegated in the process of recruitmen­t in such institutio­ns, then the future is bleak and developmen­t is just a mirage.

The entire concept of the type of “Quota System” we practice and the method of implementa­tion needs to be reviewed and overhauled, if we are to make any serious progress. It sacrifices merit and promotes the culture of mediocrity. Should it matter where capacity is available?

The last one I’ll like to talk about is “You’re under me” or “I’m your master” mindset of the leaders. This mindset makes most Nigerians in positions of power, authority or leadership, power-drunk. They fail to realise that they are in those positions to serve people. Rather, they believe they are above the followers and these followers are under them to be oppressed and trampled upon.

Leadership across board have this wrong mindset, especially the political leaders. They see the citizens as subservien­t to them and as people they should push around. They actually see themselves as “Lords and Masters” over the citizens.

What do you think influences the thoughts of the average Nigerian on issues concerning the country? Is it religion, ethnicity or personal welfare?

It is all of the things you have mentioned. But the issue is not really those things you mentioned, rather, how the average Nigerian mindset works - in relation to ethnicity, religion, or personal welfare. It’s just greed and selfcenter­edness. If he thinks about ethnicity, or religion, it is on how it benefits him and how it improves his lot. It is about ‘Self.’ Although there are some exceptions, there are still Nigerians who are selfless, but the majority are self-centered, and this drives their everyday lives, and everything about them - whether in government or in other spheres of life. When Nigerians talk about religion it is not in respect to spirituali­ty and service to God. It is as it can be a tool to foster self-interest, mislead, manipulate and oppress others. Our religious leaders are also guilty of this self-centeredne­ss. Just watch their lifestyles against the standard of living of their followers. It all says the same thing. Except for a few of them who are truly focused on serving God and humanity, others are just using the platforms to enrich themselves and their families. This is the situation in all our spheres of life.

What do you think assures peace to the average Nigerian – money, position or power?

The average Nigerian wants to be an oppressor – whether he’s a gateman or a managing director – he wants to be an oppressor. For him, it is all the above – money, position, and power. He is not thinking of general peace but his own peace and security. He wants to lord it over the next man. So, you go to a place where a gateman unilateral­ly begins to decide who goes in and who comes out. He sets the rules and does what he likes. You get to such a place to see his boss and he tells you; “sorry, sorry. He’s not available”. You cannot see him”. And you can’t reach him to know whether he’s available or not. And right there in your very own eyes, somebody else comes and asks for the same person and the gateman will open the door and let them in. This oppressor mentality in Nigeria cuts across every class. When some people do not have access to money, position or power, these traits are subdued in them. Once they have access to power, money or position, like when a driver becomes the ‘Chief Driver ’, you will see a different animal. This is not supposed to be the case, but that is the case, with very few exceptions.

What do you wish Nigerians to understand about themselves that you think they currently don’t?

I would appreciate Nigerians to know that they are gifted and resourcefu­l. They need to know that they do not need excess wealth, position, or power to live the good life. They need to know that contentmen­t is the juice of life – that they should be content with what they have, and also to be joyful in the process. For the leaders or those that occupy political positions, they need to know that the production and equitable distributi­on of public goods for the common good is the essence of politics and leadership. Political office holders need to know that they are in those positions to serve the citizens. Nigerians should hold one another up for the developmen­t of the country. In Mindshift we are set to evangelise and educate Nigerians to change their mindset from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ We should meditate on our national anthem and pledge and internaliz­e the ideals to direct our actions.

I would appreciate Nigerians to know that they are gifted and resourcefu­l. They need to know that they do not need excess wealth, position, or power to live the good life. They need to know that contentmen­t is the juice of life – that they should be content with what they have, and also to be joyful in the process. For the leaders or those that occupy political positions, they need to know that the production and equitable distributi­on of public goods for the common good is the essence of politics and leadership. Political office holders need to know that they are in those positions to serve the citizens. Nigerians should hold one another up for the developmen­t of the country

 ??  ?? Okupe
Okupe

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria