Why are we impatient and forgetful?
The euphoria with which we welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari’s government into power barely 11 months ago, and the incredulity with which we all reacted to the uncovering of the blatantly wicked looting of our treasury during the better forgotten last administration, have all fizzled out like dispersed clouds. How quickly we have forgotten that up until December 2015, the marked improvement in electricity supply to many homes and other palpable improvement in other sectors made people conclude that the President hadn’t done anything, but just his body language had brought about change in public service delivery. Fast forward to April 2016 and the story is different.
The Oxford English dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. Most Nigerians are quick to quote the popular aphorism – “Patience is a virtue”, but very few actually live by these words. For me, the most apt reference to patience comes from the famous novelist Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace) who said: “The strongest of all warriors are these two: Time and Patience.” Without patience and time, we cannot really expect to achieve anything. Positive change can be painful, but it is our ability to endure the pain patiently that guarantees success at the end of the day. Patience is therefore a state of persevering in case things take time or get delayed without negatively reacting or becoming sad or feeling provoked.
I recall a change management programme I attended some years ago when the trainer opined that the best corporate measure of a people’s patience quotient is in their driving habits. One, therefore, only need to drive on Nigerian roads to know that Nigerians are generally impatient. After almost two decades of rot and institutionalised corruption, the very green government of President Muhammadu Buhari is bringing about a positive change and we are not prepared to exercise the desired patience to go through the pain barrier. One of my uncles, of whom I am very fond, made a philosophical statement many moons ago when he said in Yoruba “Ibi Trebor l’ati n mo omo t’ó máa ní sùúrù” ( it’s from the Trebor mint that we recognise a child who would grow up to be patient). When asked to explain this, he said a child who would be patient would patiently suck on the mint until it finally dissolves in his mouth. The impatient one will chew it as he/she can’t wait for that delayed gratification. He/she wants it now! No pain, no gain, is a common saying.
I was dismayed, almost to a state of despondency, when I read with horror, a post on one of the popular social media that we should bring back corruption! The writer concluded that with corruption, he had at least five hours electricity supply a day, he had petrol to buy, Naira was N150 to the Dollar, and so on and so on. In his myopic, little mind, things were better then and if “Corruption” was allowed to continue ruling, these things would still subsist today. What arrant nonsense!
It is bad enough to be impatient, to then add forgetfulness to it, is bound to have a deleterious effect on our national psyche and development. How quickly we forget where we are coming from? We suffer from collective amnesia, which is made worse by our deluded expectation of overnight riches by some divine miracle, without working for it. Positive change takes time and we all must work hard to achieve it. We have lost our age-old value of Surulere (meaning patience has its rewards) and gone for immediate, instant gratification.
I have been privileged to witness some of the amazing changes that this government is bringing about. The most obvious is in the area of agriculture. Having been almost suicidal in our reliance on the black gold for decades to the neglect of other sectors of our economy, I was open-mouthed throughout my tour of the rice fields in Kebbi State the other week. On the scale I saw over three days of touring the state is enough to convince me that Nigeria is on the path to greatness. Kebbi State alone will supply the West African region with its rice needs over the next couple of years! This is no exaggeration.
Our country is blessed. With each state focusing on such areas of the economy in which they have an obvious comparative advantage, there is no limit to what we can achieve. The government has a big role to play in this. Patience is essentially anchored on hope – the hope of a better tomorrow. One of the most critical success factors of any change initiative is to get people to buy-in. This in turn is a function of the effectiveness of the government’s communication strategy and channels, especially in the power of the spoken word to galvanise a people and spur them to collective action. One can see two extremes of it in Hitler’s ability to use the spoken word to hypnotise almost the whole of the German population to buy into his evil ideal and Winston Churchill’s clarion call to the British people to endure the ravages of WWII without surrendering. Bringing it nearer home, we have the famous “I have a dream” rousing speech by Martin Luther King Jr. It is not about oratorical eloquence, it is more about the message, the sincerity of its delivery and the body language of the person delivering it.
One doesn’t have to be a prophet to see that good times are ahead of us in Nigeria. The commitment of President Buhari to improve outcomes for the majority of Nigerians cannot be questioned. To every change agenda, there is bound to be resistance. Those benefitting from the existing order of chaos will not tamely give up power.
The road to that desired change will be long and testing.
• Akin Olukiran is the Chief Executive of the Institute of Voluntary Sector Management (IVSM) and can be reached on email@example.com