WHAT I WISH GOVERNMENT AND ASUU WERE DISCUSSING
It was a month ago when I saw a very funny post on the Facebook wall of a friend and brother. It was about how ASUU strikes are now comparable to the World Cup football competition that holds every four years. From 2009 to 2013 and now 2017, it seems that there is no end in sight to this malaise. Students are grounded at home again, hoping and praying that the matters will be resolved. After some weeks, agreements are signed, but in a nation where people are more concerned about present fixes than long term solutions; administration image rather than the country prosperity, the agreements are ignored after a while and agitations begin again, then another rounds of ‘praying and hoping’, long meetings and agreements’. The strike is already in its fourth week and the resident doctors have joined the party while NASU and SSANU have started their own agitations.
While a lot has been said already by the Intellectuals in the education sector, my personal concern in all of this is how Nigeria can still be struggling with strikes as the most important agenda for our educational sector while there are pressing challenges that are more relevant. Put differently, if by this time we are still struggling with strikes and expending the best of our strength and mental prowess and prayers on resolutions of strikes, when do we begin to deal with more pressing issues?
First, the number of people writing JAMB increases every year and very soon the number will reach the 2 million mark. Universities are already expanding( legally or otherwise) their admission capacity, sometimes by making a branch of a discipline an entire discipline on its own( justifiably or not), creating mass of departments, all in the attempt to get more students in. Graduates from our tertiary institutions are increasing as the number of institutions accredited increase (standard or not) and the number of graduates per institution increases. NYSC also bears the brunt as a lot of bottlenecks are created and maybe very soon, we will have Batch C, stream 1 and stream 2. Many Corps members are posted to schools where you will be told categorically that they don’t need Corpers and even those accepted sit all day in some ministries or institutions, waiting for the closing time. And thousands of N-Power applicants will also be posted to the same schools. How do we deal with these issues? How do we create a viable economy that can withstand this ‘load’? How do we make maximum use of our large working population to harness our environment and ensure greater productivity? How can we be like China?
Some experts are already forecasting that Nigeria will be the third most populated country by 2050. It means, we will have more people in the working population than we have now with the possibility that our oil wells will be very dry then and if there is no rapid economic development, it means massive unemployment. Is someone today thinking of how to make this country livable in those coming times? Are our professors and intellectuals collaborating with other visionaries and political leaders on charting a better future for today’s students and youths? This is an urgent issue that should engage us
Secondly, we have all heard one employer or the other complaining that Nigeria graduates are not employable. While this statement should not be used to falsely declare that there are enough jobs just that people are not qualified, it is a statement that should be taken seriously. We live in the 21st century where the nature of Jobs and employment are changing. This requires that the nature of many of our disciplines needs to change with more relevant syllabus and curriculum that are in tune with the world we live in. Look at any job portals and you begin to notice the massive changes in the nature of jobs. Jobs like Digital marketing, Social media marketing, Content writing, Copywriting are fast becoming trends. And there are even more jobs online now than offline. With fields like Graphics Design, Website Design, Apps design, Search Engine Optimization, Writing and Translation becoming hot cakes. Even traditional jobs like Accounting, Finance, and Engineering are taking new dimensions with modern innovations, softwares and knowledge base required.
But yet, many students are still being taught with ancient syllabuses and curriculums that add no value. If the purpose of Schooling is to prepare students for the larger world, it makes no sense that Schooling will be static when the larger world is marching on. There was a time I had to tell my friend I won’t attend any taxation class again because they were teaching 1990 tax principles when there was already a new one in 2011, and the example could be multiplied. When was the last time ASUU, ASUP, NUC, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Youth development sat down to think through these issues? When last did they come together to discuss how to harness technology, globalization for the benefits of our young people? When last did we dialogue on how to teach real, modern and not just textbook, old hands craft based( as important as they are) Entrepreneurship? Are we merely concerned about being conservative and keeping the old ‘traditions’ and notes that were bequeathed to us by our own teachers then? We need to think
Thirdly. Sad to say, in my own interactions with young Nigerians, I cannot but notice that there is a massive dearth of patriotism. There is little or no passion among those we are educating for the country. Many feel they have been failed by their country and have not really benefited anything from it. Many are watching those of in power and the lack of honesty, the corruption, the heartlessness and selfishness we see are drawing down our own resolve to believe that this is a nation worth serving. In fact, many who enroll for the National Youths Service Corps program are doing it because we really don’t have a choice. And for many, they just try to enjoy themselves as much as they can and get out. There is a lack of passion to serve this nation and be committed to its future. Many are only trying to make it in their own personal lives (that is where the country has dragged us). For the few who care to even discuss issues related to the country, such discussions are not different from what uneducated people discuss. They are also marred by disgust, hate, ethnicity and all. When we look at the politics on our campuses and how it’s done, do we see any hope for the future?
These are important issues that leaders, commentators, visionaries and lecturers should be talking about. Are we breeding a new generation of ‘future leaders’ (one of those clichés) that end up caring nothing about the future of the nation? What can be done to restore hope, patriotism and a vision for their country in the hearts of the present youth going through our institutions? Is there really a future when the youths care less about that future and only for their own personal successes? Are we doing enough, leaders and lecturers alike to lay good examples? How many students can point to some lectures and leaders as role models? Are jobless so called celebrities filling up that void to the detriment of society with their immoral, obscene, meaningless songs and videos? These are more pressing issues
Fourth. There is a lack of intellectual depth among many students in our institutions and youths at large. (Note: This (like the point above) is not a generalization. There are still a handful of exceptions). The present culture has engulfed us and made us believe that unbridled hedonism is what brings meaning to life. Coupled with the Relativism that believes that everybody is right in what they believe or do, at least ‘it’s his/her life’. We seem to live in a world where the only moral and ethical thing to do is to enjoy your life( whatever that means) and care less about other things. It is a world that lacks the intellectual depth to deal with many pressing political, moral, ethical and spiritual challenges of the world we live in. The youths of today largely do not show that mental astuteness and moral commitment as well as depth of convictions that is needed for 21st century leadership. Sentimentalism, emotionalism, relativism, hedonism are the order of the day. Many of our educational institutions are only schooling us, they are not educating us to be people with values, deep convictions and commitment to ideologies and worldviews that we have thought about. Life seems to be all about pleasure and success. Those who even try to have these intellectual discuss are regarded as jobless people with no future. For example, I remember how members of the Democratic Socialist Movement( they believe Karl Marx Socialism is the answer to modern day challenges) on campus are always looked down upon as jobless people who should spend their time reading( to pass, of course) or ‘enjoying life’. Even though we don’t share the same convictions, I love their passion for their convictions and always sought to understand their beliefs. But that kind of intellectual dialogue are being eroded today.
This is another issue that should be consuming the attention of today’s intellectuals and visionaries. How do we educate a people with great values, morals and convictions? How do we get a generation of students that can be global leaders and deliberate on issues of 21st century importance? How can we have young leaders from Nigeria who are thoughtful and have enough courage to be on global agendas? Or are we just going to have another generation of people who are merely religious with no deep moral and spiritual corpus, people who are bigots and will listen to anyone who claims any kind of authority without personal reflections, or believe any particular ideology without much thoughtfulness? These are issues that should be on the agenda.
So, while ASUU and the Government still spend time deliberating on strikes over and over again, how I wish that these more serious agendas will be on their table. How I wish that Nigeria will one day get past strikes and more germane, relevant and complex issues will be the lot of our intellectual dialogues.
But if we can’t still take care of issues that have lingered for minimum of 8 years. If we are still struggling with issues like allowances and retirement age and staff schools, I wonder when we will begin to discuss serious issues. I hope there won’t be another ‘world cup’ and this one will be the last. I hope after this, more relevant issues will be on the table of our leaders, but till then, let’s continue to watch this year’s world cup, hoping that there won’t be another fixing but a total, complete and final solution that paves way for the more important issues. Till then, like my friend wrote on his wall, “may the best team win”
JAMB CUT OFF MARKS: SOME REFLECTIONS
A lot of things has happened in our country over the past few weeks. The arrival of the President from his medical trip, the statement from Garba Sheu about the rodents in the President’s Office that will make him work from home, ASUU strike, the primary election for the upcoming Anambra Gubernatorial election, talks about revocation of Nnamdi Kanu’s bail. Nigeria is always a theatre of dramas, the good, the bad and the ugly; though many times, the latter seems to always rule the day overshadowing the former. One of the recent issues that have generated interest and comments across board is the decision of JAMB together with the representatives of various tertiary institutions to reduce the cut off marks of eligibility to apply to Universities from 180 to 120 and Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, from 160-100. Much Ink has already been expended on this issue by commentators and other concerned parties. Yet, I offer some reflections on this decision from a bigger perspective
1. It seems that the episode with President Muhammed Buhari’s health has not taught us anything about the importance of keeping the populace well informed. When genuine quality information is not available, insinuations and rumours take over. When these thrive, they are difficult to contain. The initial announcement by Jamb lacked substance. The decision was announced without any information given on the reasons for such decisions, the justification of the reasons and how it will benefit the education sector. If JAMB had released a statement or document giving a detailed analysis of this decision and its desired ends, even if people will disagree at least they will know what they are disagreeing with and why. As a result of Jamb’s failure to do this, many rumours and insinuations was spreading. One of these is that the purpose of pegging the cut off mark so low is that JAMB has colluded with our Institutions to help them raise much more money from their PUTME exams by increasing the number of applicants. Whether this is true or not is not the issue, it is the reality you have when we are not proactive with the release of credible, quality information
It took days of rumours, speculations, anger before JAMB released a statement detailing the reason why they took the decision. This a reactive policy that is not good for any institution. Nigeria has definitely not learnt any lessons. We still fail to value the citizens
of this country and think that they deserve to be informed of happenings within government institutions. Information is key to any democracy
2. The reactions to this decision by JAMB among the citizenry shows us that many people no longer trust our institutions. There was nothing like the benefit of doubt. The initial reaction was negative and from a distrustful perspective. I hardly read any commentary that said something positive or at least persuaded us to wait for JAMB to speak up on the issues, so we can know what their reasons were. Almost everyone saw this as another step downward in the slippery slope of the entity we call Nigeria. It is hard for a nation to triumph when its citizens are distrustful of it and its institutions. Nigeria has a lot to do to restore the confidence and trust of its citizens in its institutions, their credibility and integrity, if they are worthy of such confidence and trust to begin with.
3. JAMB finally responded and they gave the basis of their decision on three things as I understood it. A) O’Level is the most fundamental condition for admission but some institutions admit students who meet the cut off mark but do not have O’level when the right thing was to admit those who have O’level but were on the lower rank in the JAMB scores b) Schools admitted students who didn’t write Jamb through the back door and students who didn’t meet the 180 cut off marks. C) High cut off marks and b) above has led many Nigerian students to study in ‘glorified secondary schools’ in neighboring countries. JAMB thinks then that a reduction of cut off marks to 120 and 100 is the solution to these highlighted problems and situations. Well, let’s see
4. It is understandable that without a complete O’level, there cannot be admission to any tertiary institution. JAMB has admitted that O’level is the basic qualification and that the exam they conduct is merely to rank those who are applying since the applicants are more than the capacity.
One will think that a simple and more credible solution to this problem is just to restrict the JAMB form to only those who already have the 5 credits that are mandated. If this is the case, then there will not be any issue of admission without complete O’level. It then means that everyone who applies for JAMB are qualified for admission. But this is even if we assume that the percentage of those that apply for JAMB without O’level is large. What percentage of students who apply for JAMB have awaiting results?
I still don’t understand how a cut off of 120 will solve this problem. Take a school like Unilorin for example. Let’s take 2015 for example. 77, 169 students were qualified to write their Post Utme with the 180 cut off mark. Out of that number, it will take an overbearing of this institution to admit even 15,000 students. At the end, 62,460 registered for their PUTME while 61,471 wrote the exam. The students who scored 50% in this exam were 30,384. Going back to JAMB justification. Unless we assume that 60% of those who passed didn’t have WAEC result (assuming this school can take 15000), I don’t see how this particular school can even admit anyone outside of those who had 50% in their PUTME. Even the remaining 50 %( who already had 180 but didn’t pass PUTME) are enough for admission. Even if we factor in the different capacity of different departments, this School cannot admit outside of the 30,000 who passed, if they needed more, they would probably look at those who wrote the PUTME and didn’t get 50%.
Or take OAU who had 20,631 students who wrote their PUTME in 2015 and had 58% who passed (200 above). OAU’s capacity at best do not exceed 7000. For OAU to admit people out of those who passed its PUTME, it will mean that more than 30% of those who passed didn’t have a complete OAU. Even if that is so, they still have 10,000 students who scored more than 200 in JAMB. Or do we have to assume that those ones too don’t have O’Level
How does 120 cut off mark help this condition. Are there really institutions that the percentage of those who passed their PUTME and had their O’level is lesser than the number of people they can admit? And if so, does it mean the extra space cannot be filled by those who had 180 but didn’t pass PUTME? The common scenario is that even those who meet all admission criteria (O’Level) are more than the Institution’s capacity. Even If the percentage of people without O’Level is high, the number of those who pass the PUTME and have their O’Level is still higher than most institution’s capacity. Unless JAMB believes that many institutions are not utilizing their capacity, an indefensible option for those who at least have been to any of our institutions (at least the public ones). Even with 180 cut off mark, most institutions have enough headache on how to screen and rescreen the ones that even pass their PUTME among those that qualify with 180 and ready O’level. And this is even assuming that those who don’t have O’Level at the time of applying for Jamb will not have had it by the time their Institution of choice begins screening
5. On schools admitting without JAMB. Why is that? Is it because of official corruption within the system? IS it the result of institutions illegally overburdening their capacity because of money? If JAMB believes otherwise, then we need data to justify it. IS JAMB saying that there are institutions where those that have 180 and O’level are still far below their capacity? This is the only reason why a lower cut off mark could be justified.
Admission without JAMB is not as a result of lack of O’level but part of the Institutional regress in some Institutions. The solution to this is stricter monitoring of the admission processes by the Nigeria Universities Commission, which I personally believe is one of the idle institutions in Nigeria. It’s a real problem that JAMB has identified but because the cause is misplaced, the solution is also misplaced.
But even if JAMB can show us that there are schools who can only maximise their capacity with lower cut off marks, where do we place quality. Should we absolutize quantity at the expense of quality. A crumbling education system needs high quality among students to be preserved. As much as our education sector is failing, reducing the quality of student will not suffice. We need students who will always aim higher even if that is at the expense of one more year at home.
6. If high cut off marks are leading people to neighboring countries to study, how is that within the purview of JAMB. High cut off marks may lead to many unadmitted people but a compromise with low cut off marks will also overburden our already burdened institutions. Infact, a reduced cut off mark is not justifiable by this. This is a national problem. The past leaders of this country did not plan for the future dynamics of the country they were presiding over. Lower cut off mark is just an unreasonable solution to large applications for JAMB. Nigeria did not plan for its present condition and I hope those leading at present are planning for the future. Overburdening our institutions is a wrong solution to this real problem. If at the end, Jamb still want as much people as possible to be considered for admission, then the need for JAMB is eliminated. Then let everyone apply directly to their institutions of choice and let those institutions do the screening for all their applicants, if that is what JAMB wants. At least, that will be a relief to the Federal Government.
7. A 120 cut off mark will also increase the possibility of corruption within the admission system. The level of lobbying and bribery to get admission will be higher and since the people involved has increased, the number of people with merit who lose out will definitely increase.
8. JAMB qualified their decision by saying the Institutions can set their different cut off marks as long as it is not less than 120. The question is which School even wanted a lower cut off mark to begin with. JAMB should give us some data on how many institutions complained that they are not filling up their capacity and the solution is lower cut off marks. How many Institutions before this decision would have even thought of using a 120 cut off? These are the real questions we should ask. Of the PUTME forms already out, the cut off marks has still remained at 180 and 200 for some institutions. If this is the case, then who asked JAMB for help? Well, maybe we should wait and see. This 120 cut off mark will not do any good and may probably open the door to mere money making, lobbying and lack of merit in institutions
9. In the released results for 2017, 569,395 students out of 1.7 million that sat for the exam had 200 and above. That is a pass rate of 33.5%. We were also told that 76.2% scored above 160. That is, 1,295,400 that scored beyond 160. We were not told the number of students who scored beyond 180. But with the data given, it means, 762, 005 students scored between 160 and 199. Let’s assume that 40% of those scored within 180-199, it will mean that we have 874,197 students with more than 180. Then the next question will be, what’s the NUC approved carrying capacity of our various institutions? NUC executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie was quoted as saying, “Out of the 1.5million students who write UTME every year, we are barely able to make provision for only about 400,000 students” (Universities alone). Currently, I heard it’s now 500,000. That is just about 57% of those who scored above 180. This means then that unless more than 60% of those who scored 180 and above do not have O’Level and will not have it before screening, Institutions have enough on their hand. Even reducing to 160 will mean we have 1,295,400 chasing after 500,000 spaces. And 65% of those people have to lack
O’Level and never will get it before screening to justify reducing the cut off mark even on JAMB’s terms. All this does not make sense.
Possibly, 40% of those who scored 180 and above may not get admission to Universities and that will leave Polytechnics and Colleges with at least 700,000 students who scored above 160. Is that not enough load.
If we are wrong on this, the burden of proof is on JAMB to justify their statements.
At the end, we must all acknowledge that the problems that JAMB has identified are real and we need to deal with then. JAMB has tried, though unconvincingly to tackle these problems. Let those who are stakeholders in the Education sector sit down and engage with these issues and develop long lasting, realistic and effective solutions. Though University Education is overhyped, yet the number of applicants is booming and will continue to. It is time we sit down and think of how we can reform our institutions with 21st century curriculum that meets 21st curriculum needs (which includes entrepreneurship and relevant skills) while improving Infrastructure availability to enhance the capacity of our Institutions. Nigeria leaders have mostly lost the trust and respect of the citizens, this might be a road to recovery.
If we will be the third most populous country 2050, we need to start thinking of how to make life comfortable for those people. We need thoughtful leaders who can forecast and think about the future while making adequate preparations. Don’t Nigerians also deserve a good, worthy, decent and comfortable life in the 21st century? A lot rest on the shoulders of our leaders and their institutions. Let’s go beyond mere party politics, slogans and politicking and be forward thinkers.
HOW DO YOU EVALUATE YOUR CHOICES?
At the most basic level, who we become is after all, the product of our choices. Man as a free moral agent uniquely has the inherent power to make choices. Every choice we make accumulates to define who we are ultimately. Whether in terms of our health, our social and relational life, our mental abilities, our emotional intelligence, how we fair in all these fundamental areas of our lives is largely dependent on our choices. Even studies in Epigenetics has shown us that by our choices we can overturn a lot of inherited attitudes and habits. By our choices we can form new patterns of behaviors, thoughts and actions widely different from what our inherited make up is.
Therefore, it is important that we make the right choices in every facet of life. But even more important is the fact that our choices are nothing more than the product of our particular ways of evaluating our options. There can’t be a choice unless we have at least two options that diametrically opposed in the case of moral and ethical choices or more than two options in the case of economic and aesthetic choices. Whatever way, the method or principle by which we evaluate our options to make choices or evaluate our choices after making them are critical to the quality of choices we ultimately make.
Another reality is that many times we just find ourselves with some certain patterns of life and conduct that we didn’t consciously choose but have just become a part of our lives perhaps because of the society we live in, the friends we keep and the various influences that surrounds us. But sometimes we need to confront even these sets of life patterns with the right principle of evaluating choices
I have noticed considerably that many young people today seem to evaluate their choices from a negative perspective rather than from a positive stance. That is, we tend to try and prove to ourselves and to others that this particular pattern of life does not really have as much negative effects on our lives as others think. Instead of considering and thinking hard on whether a particular life pattern have any lasting positive impacts on our lives, we tend to evaluate our choices in a defensive way that only care about whether evil is minimized rather than whether good is maximized
Consider this example. Just some days ago, I was listening to a conversation between two roommates on Alcohol. One of them drinks Alcohol and the other don’t. The argument was on a pragmatic level: what are the effects of the drinking of Alcohol. The person who don’t drink tried as much as possible to show the health hazards and mental hazards and social hazards of Alcoholism to try and dissuade the one who drinks. While the one who drinks tries to defend why the negative effects are not as bad as it seems. What were his arguments? That there are many people who drink and still have good health and many who don’t who still have bad health. The problem with this kind of argumentation is that it says nothing of the positive values of Alcohol (if any). It does not tell us how it promotes good health, make us live better lives with sound minds and intelligent emotions (if it does). There was no cost benefit analysis, it was only an attempt to show that it’s not as negative as people think. A negative argument rather than a positive one or at least a cost benefit analysis
Or take another example. There is a friend of mine who loves to watch horribly violent movies. One day, I was discussing with him on the effect of all the portrayed violence on the mind and the frontal lobe and how from that point it affects our whole being in an unconscious way without making any positive contribution to our lives apart from the tons of time that is wasted. His response? He didn’t try to persuade me on the positive benefits of these horror movies and try to show me how all these positive effects outweigh the negative, he only told me why he as a person is not easily affected by what he watches and why he can watch anything without any impact, consciously or unconsciously. He was evaluating his choices not from the positive impacts but from how minimal the negative effects are
And I can go on with more examples of discussions I have witnessed or engaged in where this same pattern occurs. One last example is music choices. Music with no coherent musical lyrics, or worse, with obscene and unintelligible lyrics are defended by those who hear it because they feel it doesn’t really have any negative effect on them. They seldom attempt to show very good and cogent reasons why listening to such music is important to their lives and beneficial to them to begin with
The point is readily seen. In many facets of life, we tend to evaluate our choices from the wrong perspectives: how it is not that negative rather than how it’s so much positive. But many times in these conversations, many tend to use entertainment/relaxation as the justification for measuring their choices in such ways. We tend to believe that anything that seems to entertain us is intrinsically good irrespective of whether that thing itself is inherently positive and if the positive values outweigh the negative. I believe that evaluating our choices from a positive standpoint is not antithetical to relaxation or leisure time. There are many things that can relax us and still inherently add great values to our lives without the negative add on.
The problem is not that we don’t have better choices, the issue is whether we are willing to go beyond what Society and peer group has defined for us as entertaining and enjoyable or as compulsory for us to be true members of society or our particular informal groups. Society seems to have defined for us what is enjoyable and many of us just flow along and then try hard to justify our choices
Are there better and more productive ways to relax and enjoy apart from Alcoholic drinks, horror movies, unintelligent and obscene music and immoral relationships? Are there no other things that make our lives better- health, mind, emotion, social relation and still relax us? But apart from that, we must even acknowledge that life is not all about being entertained but living a life that make great impacts on the world. While there are times we need to relax our minds and bodies in our leisure/free time, there are better ways to do this while not making it primary to what life is in its essence
As Amy Tan puts it, “Free time was the most precious time, when you should be doing what you loved, or at least slowing down enough to remember what made your life worthwhile and happy” or as James Garfield puts it, “ It has occurred to me that the thing you have, that all men have enough of, is perhaps the thing that you care for the best, and that is your leisure- the leisure you have to think; the leisure you have to be let alone; the leisure you have to throw the plummet into your mind, and sound the depth and dive for things below.” More specific is what Mahdi Khmi says about movies, “Since you are spending time to watch a movie, make it a useful time for a great movie, not just a good movie..movies are like food, some meals are delicious and some of them satisfy us and fill our stomach, but not every meal contain vitamins.” Or as E.A Bucchianeri puts it, “Free time is a terrible thing to waste. Read a book” These writers all agree that our free/leisure time can still be used in ways that relax us while maximizing the values we get from them.
Truly, man is not a totally rational being and no matter what, we will still make choices for different reasons apart from good, calculated reasoning. But as much as possible, we can do better, we can evaluate our choices from the right perspective, and we can relax even in beneficial, productive and non-harmful ways. It is not easy to swim against the tide of society or cultivated habits, but we can strive to make more healthy choices and evaluate our choices from positive perspectives. We can seek to always get the maximum value from all we do as much as it is within our power, whether it is our business, our profession, our social relations, our whole lifestyle, our free time. In all of this, we can get more from our lives
And lastly, we must stop evaluating our lives from where we are in comparison to others but where we can be. We should not be content because we seem to be healthier than others in spite of our unhealthy choices but we should think of how healthier we can become in relation to our present status. We should not be content with the fact that despite our wrong mental choices we are more intelligent than others but think of how more intelligent we can become in relation to who we are now. We owe ourselves and our society and our Creator the duty to always strive to be the best we can be.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy but Jack can even play in such a rewarding way that he is better, brighter and greater.
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CULTURAL SHIFT: FROM SELF CONTROL TO SELF AUTHENTICATION
Many rapid changes are taking place in our culture. Many of them are easily discernible and their causes easily identified, but many others, which turn out to be the most widespread and dangerous, are not clearly seen and easily discerned. The ideologies and conceptions and thought patterns that shape human behavior in a particular cultural context are not easy to see sometimes because some patterns of behavior come to us not through intellectual theories and convictions but subtly, these patterns of behavior become ours while we don’t even know it. Most things that happen to us are not a result of clearly reasoned out worldviews and convictions but a subtle erosion of our moral compass by the culture around us
I illustrate this particular shift with some examples. Firstly. In a movie, two young men are part of a training program to become operatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). These two were roommates and seems to have a lot in common. One of them, indifferent to religion, the second, a devout Catholic. The former, a Briton, the latter, a Chinese. The Briton secularist was an openly gay man who had gay relationships with his “partners”. The Chinese Catholic as it unfolds seems to also have those leanings too. The Briton, one way or the other seems to have known that the Chinese had homosexual feelings and leanings but he is determined to overcome the feelings and not engage in the act or yield to his leanings. He seems to have placed his conscience above his feelings and was committed to overcome. But the Briton was always torturing him. He believes that the strife of the Chinese with who he is (the Briton’s expression) is not necessary but he should rather give full expression to what he feels. In nice convincing words, he constantly told the Chinese that self-authentication was more important than self-control and there is no need to struggle with who we are as defined by our emotions and feelings. The Briton was so dedicated to ensure the “conversion” of the Chinese and it was a constant struggle with the Chinese Catholic between his conscience and his feelings and leanings.
Second, as I was going through the front page of an online Forum, I saw a topic that I was interested in. The original Poster gave reasons most of the times the ‘good girls’ are the ones that get married very late and even some never do. Good girls, in his view will be people who are chaste, decent, moral etc. He gave many range of reasons and then, many comments and opinions began to pour in. The comments were diverse. Some were concerned about his definition of good, some felt pretense was the issue and some felt some good girls are too extreme and are always contained within themselves. But there are some who seem to suggest that good girls are people who are not just being true to themselves. Some suggested that the good girls should stop trying to pretend and that they should be real and authentic and true to themselves. Again we see the same trend. It is assumed that those who live with certain moral boundaries and control over their feelings and emotions are not just being true to themselves and should learn to express who they are and be authentic.
Or take any discussion on Virginity, notice who end up as the Villain. It is assumed that the girl who keeps herself is just not being true to herself but rather she should feel free to explore as a mark of true maturity. It is the Virgin that now gets marginalized among his/her friends, it is the relationship based on abstinence that is now being laughed at and ridiculed, it is the guy that does not drink or smoke that is now the bad person, he is the one that is now being made to be ashamed and feel out of place and out of the real world. It is assumed in today’s culture that real men drink / smoke, real women party hard and sleep around, real married men keep other girls outside and vice versa, real people give expression to their feelings or even their weaknesses and that those who strive are the unreal people
Third, on the same online forum, I was surprised to see a topic that reads so convincingly that “Nigerians are Hypocrites”. Interested in what that could be as a Nigerian, I opened the thread. At the end I discovered that the person who made the statement was a Single mother that had participated in a TV show where she and others were involved in obscene acts while she was specifically noted for some immoral acts. This made some people to lash out at her immorality and the morality of the show as a whole. Her point? Many of those who criticize the show are hypocrites. People do and will always do terrible things in the world she said and they adding to it seemed to her not a big deal, they were just helping people find self-expression. They are not like the unreal people out there.
I think the point here is readily seen. We have come to that time where self-control has been substituted with self-authentication. This does not mean that everyone should live as hermits isolated from society, alone with ourselves so we can control ourselves, for one thing, that does not work, our struggles and weaknesses are not just because we live in a sinful world but that we ourselves are sinful. And secondly, it will be a life where we cannot make any real good in the world. The world has been changed not so much by ‘perfect’ people in hermits but by people who in spite of their weaknesses and failures lived with great aspirations and lived lives that made a difference. Mother Theresa recorded her own struggles but still made a huge difference in the real world. The solution is not just mere self-introspection.
This does not mean also that we should hate ourselves with fury. This has led many to suicide and to live their lives in uselessness. Many have been led to hate life itself and all that it stands for. This is also a wrong approach. Apart from the fact that it changes nothing, it makes us useless to ourselves and to the world around us. We must hate our sins and weaknesses and strife against them but we must not hate ourselves and drive ourselves to insanity, drudgery or suicide.
But why even bother? Does it make any difference after all? The ultimate issue is a discussion about Moral Conscience. In a relativist postmodern world where morality is a matter of choice rather than authority and responsibility, more and more, 21st century man is without a real moral conscience. Moral conscience is what drives us to self-control rather than selfauthentication. A man without a real, informed, active moral conscience will end up giving expression to every of his leanings and feelings and emotions. A man without this moral conscience live for the moment and his life is dictated by his urges. It is the man with a living moral conscience who puts his convictions, his moral convictions above his feelings and places his body ‘under subjection’
What then makes a moral conscience? It is Moral Responsibility that leads to a moral conscience. Moral responsibility also arises out of a sense of moral authority or of a moral necessity. I believe there are three things that should make up a living conscience: a) A sense of moral responsibility to God, our creator (moral authority; b) a sense of moral responsibility to our neighbors/Society (moral necessity) c) a sense of moral responsibility to ourselves. God as our creator has moral authority over our lives and we must always live with a moral consciousness of his demands for our lives. God is not just the person we all pray to for our lives to get going on, he is a holy God who has demands upon our lives. Secondly, none of us “lives to himself”. We are all bound up in our common humanity and we have moral responsibility to others living around us. Society cannot even be possible without this understanding. I can’t live anyhow as I like because I live with others who are also humans created in God’s image who also have their rights. Our actions or otherwise affects everyone around us and that should spur us to our moral responsibility as a part of our moral conscience. We are our brothers’ keepers. Thirdly, our lives are not our own. We are created to live for a purpose and our lives are only meaningful and productive when we live with that purpose. We have a moral responsibility to live for that purpose for which we have been made.
But if we continue on our path of self-authentication, there are of course consequences. Firstly, we sin against our Creator and separate ourselves from him. Secondly, we create a society on the verge of ruin. There has never been in documented history a nation that had given rein to self-authentication and passions more than the Roman Empire. Rome was the definition of selfauthentication itself. There was no limits to the debasement of the flesh. And Rome became a shadow of itself. Its self-authentication also became its destruction. No society can live without a moral conscience and not destroy itself at the end. That, we should be more afraid of than even wars. What destroys us from within is more dangerous than that which destroys from without. Thirdly, we end up destroying ourselves. Alexander the great did not die at a young age because there was a better opposing commander or a lack of good strategies on his part but because he failed to live with self-control. We cannot live apart from our source and purpose for too long without destroying ourselves.
Self-Control does not mean we always win but that we always try. Not that we don’t fall but that we rise again. Not that we have got it all sorted out, but we are willing to live subjecting our feelings and leanings to our living moral conscience. At the end though, a strong will does fail, seclusion from society does fail, rigid rules and ascetism does fail and a sense of our own value does fail. But Christ promises to give a new birth to those who trust him, transform them with a new will, a new disposition, new life, new desires and through his Spirit constantly help them to become who he wants them to be, not from self-introspection or hatred of self or ascetism but by a constant gazing upon the love, grace, mercy of Christ, we are constantly transformed not with drudgery and fear and regrets but with the Joy of Salvation and a trust in and cooperation with the active power of the Holy Spirit that will not fail
Owolabi Paul and Kassarachi Chinemerem Favour
One wonderful thing about this generation is that there is a lot of knowledge flowing around. There are motivational writers whose jobs it is to dish out tips on how to succeed, there is wisdom in the media and funny still there is wisdom on t-shirts and memes on the internet.
Some of these words of wisdom are: “hustle now, play later”; “first learn, then remove the “l””; “work hard till your landlord becomes your tenant”. The way these are being drummed into our subconscious everyday makes it seem a wonder that people are still lazy and not willing to work. Where exactly is the problem coming from?
I believe there is a subtle double-standard and hypocrisy that has formed the root for the distaste for labour. It has been the purpose and concern of these series to expose this distaste and then point towards the right way society should be going. In conclusion, I will like to make the following points:
Skills, Talents and Creativity
Modern society is filled with many evils and unemployment is one of the worst. There are no jobs. It therefore behoves that skills and talents should be emphasised all the more. It is the case that whenever there is a talent hunt, the emphasis is on “can you sing, dance, rap, tell jokes, come and show them off.” Society needs to turn around. Of course, there is need for entertainment but if everyone were a singer who would do the listening? If everyone were a footballer, who would do the watching? If we spend the whole day listening to comedians, what do we do when hunger sets in?
We need to refocus on productive skills and encourage those who have these. It really hurts me that when we hear that one politician or the other has organised a skill acquisition exercise, the funds allotted to it are meagre hundreds of thousand but then the very same will spend large sums to sponsor upcoming musicians. Our mindset has got to change.
Back to the Farm
Aka aja aja na-ebute onu mmanu mmanu is an Igbo proverb that translates that sandy hands bring oily mouths. It is similar to a proverb that says that dirty hands are a sign of clean money. There must be a concerted effort to change the orientation of the youth and I believe that it must start with making them see the dignity in labour, especially with farming. Farming may be the job most hated by the youth. In Nigeria, there is a cry to return to farming to save the economy. Farming is really essential as any nation that cannot feed itself has started on the path of failure. When Buhari came in he promised indigent Nigerians #5,000 stipends. At a later point he said they have to go to the farm to work for it. Nice approach. Money does not come free. But wait, five thousand naira for how many hours of work?
We must start ensuring that all these menial workers are paid well. Then and only then that the youth will be attracted to them. The truth is that this generation might always be materialistic and if we want to make a change it has to be to make them see they have to work for the good things they want.
Blowing and Growing
Success in this generation is defined as blowing. The youth see success as suffering for a while and then suddenly having a windfall and life will never be the same again. Of course, sometimes it happens sometimes but very rare and we cannot all be waiting to blow.
Sometime ago, I read Robert Greene’s Mastery and I was really touched. He talked about apprenticeship and he was talking especially to students who have graduated. Here is an excerpt from the book:
“You enter a career as an outsider. You are naïve and full of misconceptions about this new world. Your head is full of dreams and fantasies about the future. Your knowledge of the world is subjective, based on emotions, insecurities, and limited experience. Slowly, you will ground yourself in reality, in the objective world represented by the knowledge and skills that make people successful in it. You will learn how to work with others and handle criticism. In the process you will transform yourself from someone who is impatient and scattered into someone who is disciplined and focused, with a mind that can handle complexity. In the end, you will master yourself and all of your weaknesses.”
His advice was that to attain mastery (I would substitute that with ‘success’) the student must after learning still submit himself to another “apprenticeship” at the work place. That is not the case with the youth of this generation, no one want to begin at the lower end of the ladder. Everyone wants to blow!
Society has to make sure that the emphasis is on growing and not blowing. Growing is an instalment process, it might not be as fast as blowing but it is way better. If society would do this, those who have been diligent at their work and their calling must be appreciated. I want to place special emphasis on the pensioners. It is disgraceful to owe pensions and gratuities to someone who has given the best of his life to society. He must be repaid. The youth don’t want to work because when they look those who are working are owed salaries and after they retire they are not paid their dues. How on earth do they become motivated to work? Rather they will want to be politicians, musicians, footballers, comedians, rappers because at least they are not owed.
THE NEW FACTORS OF PRODUCTION
It has been the burden of this series not just to emphasise the dignity of Labour but also to define what “Labour” really is and we cannot deny that in this modern world, it includes a lot of things. But as it was emphasised, the baseline for anything that qualifies as Labour is that it must be productive, add value to the individual and the society and within the moral and ethical boundary of society and conscience. There have been so many calls for people to go back to farming and harness potentials in this field and other primary industries. While we agree with those calls (as stated above), I believe that there are other important areas that should be explored in the developing world. Tope Fasua, an economist, consultant and public affairs analyst, wrote an article some months ago titled, “The New Factors of Production”. In this article, he posits that the traditional definition of Factors of Production as Land, Labour, Capital and Entrepreneurship will not suffice in this age. He believes other more relevant factors should also be our focus: Technology, Innovation, Knowledge/Learning, Intelligence/Aptitude, Talent/ Creativity, Information/Data. To create Jobs for a nation of 180 million people with a high working population takes more than farming or mining. All hands must be on deck, all brains activated on innovative ways and means whereby productive activities can multiply and people get engaged. Those who are especially educated have to stop thinking of their advanced education as something that places them above everyone else but as something that makes them responsible to the world around them, using the skills learnt, knowledge acquired to continuously innovate ways to make society better
I remember reading a post on a Whatsapp page where the writer gives us the period of time (in days, months, years as appropriate) it takes for different set of people to make a certain amount of money( I couldn’t recover the post). It compared the Politician, the celebrity, the government worker, the Yahoo boy and others I can’t remember. But the point is actually obvious. It goes back to the points made all over again, the tendency for the modern world to place priority over money and material wealth as the definer of success and even of anything good in life. This mentality is not only misplaced but dangerous. Many of the most successful people in life who have changed this world were not men seeking after money but men committed to making their society better and making sure it mattered that they live. Some of them went on becoming rich, some did not but all of them were fulfilled and are remembered by society. Martin Luther might not have been wealthy, but he pursued a course that changed the world, William Wilberforce, John Wesley and the rest. Even people like Steve jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did not set out pursuing wealth but a dream, a drive for fulfilment and purpose. The wealth came but for these people, that is not what defines them. Let’s make a difference in our sphere of influence through diligence, hard work, integrity, commitment to values, love and empathy, let’s find something to live for and probably die for, then we have started living and then we will find that there is a life better, sweeter than a life lived merely on materialistic self-pursuits
DIGNITY, FOR ALL MEN
There was a day, a friend of mine, then a 200 level Law Student came to me and told me her uneasiness about some facts she has learnt. She said I should compare a graduate who earns #30,000 monthly with a petty trader who earns (I think), #1500 daily (Not so sure again of the figure, but it’s a figure that multiplied by 30 is more than #30000). According to her calculation, the petty trader ends up earning more money than the graduate. She feels this is not fair. Away from the University campus, I have also heard government workers that think it is not fair that a mechanic, carpenter, bricklayer builds his own house before them.
This reveals a very bad mentality amongst the educated elites. We have come to think that we having the privilege (Yes, it’s a privilege) to be formally educated means we are better than everyone else. Reminds me of a Corps member (lady) who came to Nairaland to complain of how she was treated by an “illiterate soldier”. Because she is a graduate she thinks she deserves to be honoured above everyone else. She should be respected because she is human not because she is a graduate and the soldier is wrong not because he is Illiterate but because people should not use power anyhow. If your education means anything, it means you should be more respectable and do all you can to make life richer for those who don’t have the privilege
Every worker is to be treated with dignity whether corporate or menial, white collar or otherwise. No one is more important than the other. It takes the same values to succeed in both. And who told you, you have to be richer because your work is corporate. You should be doing the corporate work because it brings you fulfilment and makes best use of your skills, education not because it makes you more human than anybody else. Everyone committed to the dignity of Labour, working day in day out to bring productivity is to be treated with dignity whatever our categorisation of workers.