By Dele Bodunde
Penultimate Friday at a busy road T-Junction in Lagos, an accident involving a commercial motorcycle (aka Okada) and a quarry truck occurred that seemingly claimed three lives.
It happened when traffic officers stopped motorists coming from Badagry road, heading towards Orile, and beckoned on those coming down a bridge to move on.
But, as has become commonplace in Nigeria, an Okada rider with two passengers — an elderly woman and a little pre-primary school girl in white frock — did not heed the “stop’’ alert of the traffic wardens.
The motorcycle sped into a collision with the truck that had been given the go-ahead signal. All three on the motorcycle lay immobile, with the rider bleeding from the mouth, most probably from a broken spine.
Within seconds, many of the ubiquitous and highly belligerent commercial motorcyclists had blocked the roads with their motorbikes and were attempting to drag the truck-driver out of his cabin. He received a few blows to the head and, but for the intervention of naval officers in a vehicle trapped in the melee, he could have been lynched.
Disregard for traffic rules and outright indiscipline on the part of the motorcyclist was obviously the cause of the avoidable loss of lives of three Nigerians. Traffic warning disobeyed, the law that forbids having more than two passengers on an Okada was not followed, much less those on the wearing of crash helmets by riders and passengers, and not having juveniles on motorcycles.
Nigeria has laws, but the average resident sees breaking these as fad. As a Military Head of State in 1984, Muhammadu Buhari introduced the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) awareness campaign. The objective was to encourage Nigerians to obey the minutest of rules and laws — both natural and statute.
WAI was launched in five phases: A. Queuing (March 20, 1984); B. Work Ethics (May 1, 1984); C. Nationalism and Patriotism (August 21, 1984); D. Anti-Corruption and Economic Sabotage (May 14, 1985); and E. Environmental Sanitation (July 29, 1985).
Just when Nigerians have started keying into the ideals of WAI by queuing at everywhere and for everything requiring “first come, first served’’, the Nigerian military had a change at the top and Buhari was replaced in 1985.
So much has happened since then, and the “successors’’ of WAI had been many. Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice, Self-reliance and Economic Recovery (MAMSER); and War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAIC) had been the most noticeable.
But all had proved less effective and the nation had been driven deeper into the quagmire of corruption in all its ramifications; disobedience and nonchalance dug every sphere of our daily living.
When Buhari assumed office as the civilian President in 2015, the ills and woes that bedeviled Nigeria in 1984 were not merely still around, but have multiplied. The Augean stable he inherited was 100 times messier than the rot he tried hard to clear 30 years earlier.
Buhari, whose electioneering campaign was hinged on “change’’ must have been troubled with how to persuade fellow compatriots to embrace change.
On 8 September 2016, Buhari launched the national re-orientation campaign — “Change Begins With Me”. Many Nigerian adults saw this as a “rechristening’’ of WAI as they have similar objectives, majorly, that we, Nigerians, do things right.
“Nigeria today is passing through a challenging moment where hardly anything works in a normal manner. Many have attributed this phenomenon to the total breakdown of our core values over the years.
“It is safe to say today that honesty, hard work, Godliness have given way to all kinds of manifestations of lawlessness and degeneration in our national life. This is why we have among our cardinal objectives `change’, which implies the need for a change of attitude and mindset in our everyday life,” Buhari told the gathering.
He appealed to Nigerians “about the need for us to see change not merely in terms of our economic, social progress but in terms of our personal behaviour on how we conduct ourselves, engage our neigbhours, friends and generally how we relate with the larger society in a positive and definitive way and manner that promotes our common good and common destiny, change at home, change in the work place, change at traffic junctions, change at traffic lights, etc’’.
Buhari was emphatic in explaining to Nigerians that moral persuasion, not coercion, would be deployed to make Nigerians realise that they all have contributions to make by believing that the change the nations needs begins with each individual.
The current Buhari-led government’s anti-corruption push has unearthed so much rot in every area of public life in Nigeria. Politicians, military officers, academics, even journalists, are on trial for allegedly mismanaging public funds in the tune of mind-boggling and jaw-breaking figures.
For the first time in the history of post-independence Nigeria, people hitherto, considered untouchables and sacred cows are being arraigned. Top politicians and senior military officers; learned judges and senior lawyers are in the dock as accused persons!
The President, at a meeting with Nigerians in Dakar, Senegal, on December 6, 2016, urged the elites to change their old ways of doing things to guarantee prosperity in the nation. That is, put an end to “business as usual’’ syndrome. The corruption-ridden old ways have brought the nation to its knees. As the saying goes, “for the rich to enjoy their wealth in peace, the poor must be relatively comfortable’’.
A poll by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (FMIC) on “Do you think the ‘Change Begins with Me’ re-orientation campaign came at the right time?’’ has 73 per cent of respondents saying ‘YES’, 24 per cent ‘NO’, four per cent “INDIFFERENT’’.
The bottom line is that Nigerians welcome change begins with me, but old habits are hard to break.
The FMIC, as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) had been in the forefront in explaining to Nigerians the necessity of embracing change. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, unveiled the “Change Begins with Me Campaign’’ to a packed audience of “Corporate Nigeria’’ in Lagos on Oct. 6, 2016. President Buhari said at the inauguration of the campaign that the private sector is a “major stakeholder’’.
He said the unveiling would not only deepen the private sector’s understanding of the campaign, but would also make it possible for that critical sector to know how they could key in to it. The simplest of corporate responsibilities is in obeying laid down rules.
At a popular area of Lagos Metropolis, close to a higher institution, many users of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card formed long queues in front of a bank, while the ATM in two banks nearby had only a handful of patrons.
Why? The regulation that says that banks should deduct an extra N65 for ATM withdrawals of other banks, after three withdrawals, is not being honoured by most banks. Maximum profit at the expense of the masses and disobedience of statute order is here amplified.
Billboards, handbills and posters, films, drama, music, etc, are being used to sensitise Nigerians on the need to key in into the campaign. Institutions of learning — at all levels — are already incorporated to spread the message. After all, “charity begins at home’’ and every child should “remember the son of who he is’’. Each tribe in Nigeria has its core values rooted in its culture, including festivals, languages, proverbs, greetings and idioms that condemn indiscipline and corruption.
Faith-based gatherings in churches, mosques and ancestral shrines should all preach “love your neighbor as yourself’’ for anybody who practises this doctrine, no matter his religion or faith, will not extort, maltreat, cheat and be corrupt in any form, to the detriment of fellow Nigerians and the nation.
The earlier some of the corruption cases in the courts are concluded, the better. If justice is served, only the guilty will be convicted and serve as deterrents to would-be criminals.
Isn’t it unusual to come across a university graduate that writes the word Nigeria with a small letter `n’? Imagine the deceitful road he must have trodden, gradually ruined by a corrupt system, including contributions, by commission or omission, from parents and guardians.
We know that the image and integrity of President Buhari has been able to give Nigeria a good perspective, both within and outside the country since May 2015. But, the change Nigeria needs cannot be effected by just one person; it requires attitudinal and behavioral caution from each individual, young and old alike.