Most of us were posted to different far-away lands in Nigeria for the compulsory one-year service to our dear nation. I clearly remember my experience in Kebbi State. It was just like yesterday when I was posted to a school to teach lovely and amazing kids who had little or no knowledge of the English language. It was real service!
But what we need to know is that service is not just an action, or a year, or just any word. Service is a state of mind; attitude, behavior, lifestyle — all of it.
All the sectors of the economy, the people, the statutes, laws and cultures make up Nigeria and no matter how rich our diversity is, we must take responsibility for not resting on our oars.
One area that I think leaves much to be desired is in our mental capacities to serve Nigeria. Nigerians are one of the most critically thinking peoples in the world. This is a sentimental and factual statement at the same time.
We think, we plan and we actually do execute our plans but more often than not, I have observed, we do these things because we stand to gain something for ourselves first.
A good number of lecturers may churn out same information to students year after year for over ten years despite the global shifts that may have arisen in that field. Some leaders wear more expensive attires, have more partners, give friends and family money indiscriminately and then fly to London every hour like it is the back of their house.
Getting to work and watching games or eating porridge at your desk when it is not lunchtime is very far away from that ‘Nigerian dream’ we seek. Going to work and waiting for the pay-check without commensurately working for it is not serving Nigeria with your strength. It is more like ‘To serve Nigeria is not by force.’
Evading taxes and expecting to reap the benefits of paying taxes does not come from a heart of service. Underpaying your staff when your organization can pay more adds to the increasing percentage of poverty levels in the country. Engaging in Bureaucratic procedures when the lives of citizens are concerned prioritizes the systems over the people instead of creating processes to help the people live better and easier lives.
Stealing, false weights and balances, deceit and all morally decadent behaviours are not in the best interest of our dear country.
Being in the diaspora and not representing Nigeria well is not cool.
I believe in the dual nature of the world that we are in. The ‘other side’ that we cannot see with our naked eyes and this physical world that we can see, feel, hear, touch and taste. Being of service to Nigeria may also mean being sensitive to this ‘other’ dimension of the world; knowing that there are forces that exist to derail Nigeria from her path and also; knowing that there is a God through whom everything exists.
How often do we really take time out to pray for Nigeria? Praying for Nigeria to me, sorts out the ‘unseen’ and creates an enabling atmosphere and environment for the success and progress of our hard work when we genuinely put our minds to it. I am trying hard not to sound religious, because I am not. I simply recognize that prayers are as essential as hard work is. The balance there must be resounded for emphasis.
One of the greatest statesmen in Nigeria I know is Babatunde Fashola. From the way he governed and still leads, you know that he is stretching his mental capacities. I wonder if some of the leaders actually know that ‘sands’ of time are actually ‘rocks.’ Time knows what we do. Time knows who we are. Time records things. Time never forgets.
Nigeria is a country to be reckoned with in the grand scheme of global things. Serving Nigeria means being a good citizen and showing the world how great this country really is. Thinking about yourself is harmful for Nigeria. Thinking about Nigeria is beneficial for all of us.
By Oludara Ogunbowale