Tuesday, 27 September 2016 22:37

Hey, Nigerians, Let's Turn Around; Let's Change

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Heaven and earth will not pass away, if President Buhari along with his governing team, including the Senate and House Members, State Governors, CBN managers, and the so-called shakers and movers in my country,  gather all Nigerians around them to announce: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have tried this thing for 56 years with some success and some lessons to be learned. It is time for another team of young leaders to take over. We wish to exit now but we shall be around to provide pieces of advice as elder Statesmen and Stateswomen. Good Bye.” 

The aim of this essay is first to advocate a change in the ways we Nigerians do things and second; to recount ways this writer has changed as a person and college teacher. Change must occur within us before we can be effective change agents. Why must I attempt to change your and others’ behavior and attitudes and still remain unchanged? We Nigerians in politics and business are urged to metamorphose and see ourselves for what we truly are: WE ARE PUBLIC SERVANTS AND CHANGE AGENTS. These terms need to be defined.

Public is defined as being free, civic-minded, communal, open, or unrestricted. Servant is one who waits on others; a man or woman who sees to it that others are waited on in a timely and efficient manner. Public trust must be maintained at all costs, Therefore, every Nigerian who is elected or appointed to an office is there to cater to the needs of the general public at whose pleasure he or she is occupying the position. A servant is not there to serve himself or herself. While we're on the subject, the appropriate motto for all good Nigerian leaders is “First of all Servant of All.” Jesus  the Good Shepherd has told us that the first shall be the last and the last the first. We must change! Our song shall be:

One Two Three and Four! We’re Servants, working for Nigeria

In the name of the Country we shall all change

One Two Three and Four! We’re Soldiers working for our country

In the name of Nigeria we shall conquer   

To change demands that we alter, modify, vary, transform; that we revolutionize, adjust, amend, or modify old habits. Change is the spice of life and without change existence will be meaningless, without sugar, salt or condiments. A change is like taking bath in a warm milk and wearing a new flowing garb. It is like taking a purgative medicine like Castor oil or Epsom salt to clear our system of poisonous debris or rubbish that causes blockages leading to ill-health. Change is refreshing, creating easy-flowing bowels while when done right, while sameness produces aching constipation.

When we say change, we mean we should make a conscious effort at an about-turn, reversal, turnaround, U-turn, or improvement. We are suggesting that time has come for Nigerians to take an introspective look inward, to take stocks and effect needed changes in the way we think, behave, feel, and are. If you do not or cannot change to become a better Nigerian, my brother or sister, you have succeeded in becoming nothing. You are stuck in the birth canal of your mother and unable to come out.  If I can change and you too can change, we Nigerians can all change. We ought to demand that it is high time our leaders changed and stopped behaving as divine-right, despotic monarchs. It is time they started behaving as public servants. There is absolute strength is humility and servant-hood.

Oh, yes. I, this writer, James Agazie, have changed tremendously, and it makes me happy. As a young Professor with a bunch of degrees and little commonsense and a large ego inflated with crass arrogance so much one could easily mistake me for God’s gift to the world, I felt the world owed me a debt of obeisance; that the earth revolved, not around the sun, but around my little persona. Obeisance is the bob, nod, bend, or curtsy; the type the Yorubas do upon meeting their elders on the streets. I was mouthy, I was tough on students, and I demanded perfection as if my mother were named Excellence; my father Faultlessness, and my children were Rightness, Exactness, Precision, and Flawlessness.

Teachng was like being completely straight-jacketed.  A straight jacket has long arms which can be tied together behind wearer's back. The straight jacket is used to control the movements of a violent prisoner or patient who might do harm to self or others. I became my own worst enemy. I was a Mugabe of my little village named Zimbabwe where a dollar is worth a million Naira. My ego was getting the better of me. I was overblown with conceit. I was so stuffed up with excreta I couldn’t shit, and my feeling of self-importance was overbearing.  

I was like that until reality hit. Reality hit like Ebola.  I reeled in pain. You know: it takes force to move an object a millionth of a centimeter from its original position. It dawned on me that, like many Nigerian Presidents, State Governors, Senators, CBN Governors, and Department heads, I am finite, mortal, restricted, fixed, predetermined, as opposed to infinity, perpetuity, or time without end. I must change or I die an old fool of premature ruin. I must go through a complete change in order to survive in a changing world. My body goes through changes every passing second, despite how seemingly minute or insignificant the change.

At the beginning of each college class, I am lecturing my students about the new me; the changed me; and the self that is slowly emerging. It shall emerge  and shall last for the remaining years of my personal and professional journey n’elu uwa oma nkaa Chukwu kere (on this beautiful earth God has created). I feel lighter, less pressured, and more relaxed. I tell you this: there is tremendous joy in self transformation, self change, self renovation, or character makeover.

I dropped using the term “Doctor” before my name. I became James Agazie. The Chair of my Department became alarmed. He said: “You must go by Doctor Agazie because it’s a great honor that many people do not attain.” The more I continue going without the title Doctor, and being contented with Mister, the more I see my Chairman and Departmental secretaries get confused and alarmed. They yell Doctor and Professor after me while passing in the hallways. The Dean would call me Doc with a smile stretching from ear to ear. I said to him: “Dean, Sir, if ever I make a mistake, never hesitate to call my attention.” The Dean replies: “You’re alright, Doc.” I say: “Thank you for cheering me.”

I continue to announce to my incredulous class: “ I am not the boss around here. You are the Bosses. I am only a servant, the facilitator. I am here to see that you succeed and not fail.” The result is magic. The level of class attendance and participation increased exponentially. I requested that a student check the attendance, enter grades in the roll book, and come after me to elaborate on points that are confusing. I ask the students to evaluate me as a class project and provide suggestions on how to improve instructions and testing in order to make class more interesting.

Students ask that discussions and debates should be our pedagogical/teaching style rather than boring lectures. We are becoming excellent debaters. At the end of the semester, I am going to ask the class to make a Termination/Retention decision and take it to Department, recommending whether I should be dismissed or given further job. Although Change is frightening and makes us uncomfortable, the benefits are great. Change must come at all costs, no matter whose ego is bruised or whose job or salary is forfeited. Change is a lifesaving experience, involving rescue, resuscitation, first aid, protection, security, or shelter.   Leaders are charged with the responsibility to protect the nation and nationals.

It is often said that the greatest battle one can wage is the struggle to change oneself, including bad thinking, problem behavior, and unproductive adddictions.  When something is no longer working for you, what do you do? You change it, you switch it off and move on to something better. You turn off the offending whatchamaculit by manipulating the on-off knob.

You have been up all night studying for an exam till wee hours of daybreak and you need to catch some sleep before heading to the examination hall, Do you forget to switch off the light so you can shut overworked eyes in peace in darkness for a few hours? Remember your days in boarding school when the generator was shut down at midnight and students were ordered to sleep in order to avoid so-called brain fag (another name for depression caused by extreme anxiety).

No sooner had the generator been silenced than student after student brings out lighted kerosene lamps hidden in wooden prisons in order to continue cramming. Therefore when school officials turn off the generator to save money spent on gasoline or to enhance student’s mental health, the bad habit continues to exist underhandedly, deceitfully, fraudulently, corruptly, unfairly, falsely, or by lying. We Nigerians persist in cramming bad habits.

Often done by students when facing upcoming exams, especially as the last minute plan, cramming is often frowned upon by educators because it results in hurried coverage of  large amounts of material and tends to result in poor long-term retention and great forgetfulness.  Most common among high school and college-aged students, cramming is often used as a means of memorizing large amounts of information in a short amount of time.

Crammers are often forced to cram after improper time utilization or in efforts to understand information shortly before being tested. Procrastinations and cramming are closely related in that the victims often waste time partying with and chasing after lovers when they should be studying. Now they are running helter scepter, burning the candle on both ends when they ought to be resting from throbbing headaches and painful, watery eyes in order to deal with confusing examination papers in the morning. Cramming is a product of laziness and improper time management.

We Nigerians are often cramming when anyi na etinye akwa n’ile na ofu nkata ( we put all of our proverbial eggs in one straw basket). Don’t we know the eggs may crack each other when the thin shells are in close proximity or the basket may develop a tear and the eggs fall to the stony path? Consider our love affairs with gasoline dug from oil wells as a type of addictive cramming.   

Almost 90 percent of the Nigerian economy depends upon manu (oil, petrol. gasoline).  If something happens to oil, the whole Nigeria will grind to a shrieking, squeaking, squealing, screaming halt.  This writer texted a friend who is seeking employment in Anambra State and who is armed with the MA in Economics, MSc in Political Science; and the PhD in International Relations and Development. “How now about jobs in Nigeria?” I asked.

The response was: “ It has been two yrs since I have been in Nigeria . The current dollar is absurd.  Nobody is hiring at the moment due to economic recession… I applied for a job at the university  of which I have not received  positive response because of a freeze on hiring. I don’t know the governor nor anybody in power.”

The Nigerian government at the Federal, State, and local levels, are filled with persons who are inexperienced in identifying needs of the communities they serve, particularly in the areas of employment and social services 

Crammers are incessantly given to procrastination. Wikipedia defines procrastination as the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable one. Pleasurable tasks in Nigeria and for Nigerians include town meetings where everyone goes by Chief, Alhaji, His Highness,or some other abracabra titles;  there are lavish weddings where trays of goat meat are placed in the middle of the floor for guests to marvel at , and alcohol beverages flow like River Nigeria. The mood seems to be: “Let’s eat and be merry for tomorrow Nigeria will ease to exist.”

Ever wonder why State governors and politicians are crammers who pat themselves in the back when their so-called highest accomplishment on record has been building beer brewers all over the State to keep folks drunk to death so they forget their worries? Ever wonder why cattle herders destroy people farms or why politicians cannot think outside the restrictive box?  They create few employment opportunities for the young. They see little use for good roads. They see nothing wrong with telling their people:  “Starve if you cannot make bread with cassava or garri. Why are you crying for wheat?”

However, a politician, who truly wants to be a change agent, grabs a hoe and heads to the garden to till the stony, stubborn soil; sow a seed; and pray for rainfall. Nigeria can change if each of us follows these small, simple steps:

  • Dialogue with each other about the need for change.
  • Identify areas where change is needed and initiate action that should not be interpreted as being violence or supportive of insurrection, uprising or the forceful overthrow or change of the Nigerian government.
  • Confront your elected and appointed office holders in offices and demand for town meetings to discuss areas needing change in the community
  • Cease, stop,  die away from, bring to a halt your ignorant worship of power just to eat a plate of rice and bowl of chicken pepper soup.
  • Shy away from singing the praises of and dancing “sweet mother” or “owambe” at the homes of thieves who manage to defraud your government of public funds
  • Turn your back on pastors and juju priests who preach pie-in-the sky sermons and and produce foul smelling concoctions to attract riches, or protection from arrests.

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By James C. Agazie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , See Blog: jamesagazies.blogspot.com 

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.