Thursday, 31 January 2013

Village Mentality --by Yimika Ilori

they carried the village with them to the city and converted the city to a village.
--Mensa Otabil

Though the practice of democratic governance is now widespread in Africa, one soiled attitude (termed the village mentality) has extended its roots into the mental fabric of several African leaders and is diminishing their efficiency at solving the continent’s problems. Over the years, each foregoing generation of leaders seemed to have passed on the baton of village mentality to its successors. As Mensa Otabil once put it, “they carried the village with them to the city and converted the city to a village. By “they”, Mensa referred to the ancient leaders who once lived in royal palaces.

Before I establish my thoughts on the transition of this meretricious mentality from the village to the city, let's make some facts known. Preceding the dramatic revolution in the political ideas of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the prosperity of an European country largely depended on the quality of its monarch (whether King or Queen).  If you had a good king, then you had a good kingdom. If the royal leader was a stupid one, then the kingdom followed that order.

Now, let's compare the good King’s frame of reference to the approach used at the founding of the United States, one of the societal entities whose democracy model has been adopted by many political states in Africa. The critical questions at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were not "Who should be the president? Who is the oldest? Who is the richest among us? Who would be the best King?" No, they weren’t. The founders of that country probably considered the processes that will help them create a system capable of producing good presidents long after they were dead. As a matter of fact, they rejected the good King model and created a constitution to which they and all future leaders will be subservient.

In Africa, the pre-colonial rule of thumb of the good/bad King model has continuously evolved. Now, there is a twist to kingly rulership. It is operating as the rule of thumb guiding a democratized setting. The "King" here is none other than our leaders, many of whom promote the school of thought that the King must be one of the oldest men in the land. When he speaks, no one must object to his decisions. He must be dressed in ways that show his domineering and authoritative position and the citizens must readily pay obeisance to him. These are some of the features of the village mentality.

This village mentality, which is popular among many African leaders, promotes the evolution and growth of the country in a way that is dependent on the president only. It makes them think less about creating an environment that would continually self-mutate from within; the kind that is propelled by the ability of citizens to exercise their individual initiative.

To lead efficiently, African leaders need to ask themselves paradigmatic and pragmatic questions like, “What processes can we create to continuously produce good leaders long after we are gone or dead?”  In most African nations, the citizenry perceive their leadership as the kind that concerns itself with overall power and personal profits. Also, a large number of leaders are said to be insensitively responsive and selfishly thriving on the ignorance of the populace. When they loot, instead of creating industries that can provide employment with the privatized public funds, they will rather build a tank or underground store and hide it for their personal use. The relative few who invest the stolen money prefer to build multiple gas stations that offer them lots of subsidy cash profits. Yet, they employ very few individuals and offer them merger salaries. Such employed persons are hardly empowered to build their own startups. Their principles are in stark contrast with what a visionary leader, the former CEO of Ford Motors –Don Petersen, termed as the three Ps: ...People should come first, Products second and Profits third". And let’s remind ourselves that looted funds are not the profits of democracy; the good welfare of the masses is.

In addition to the solutions necessary to solve this chief of Africa’s leadership problems, the customs, beliefs, and creativity of our tribes or social groups must evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century. We should seek diverse means of applying our education to improve the quality of our culture without removing its essence. This can be done in fashion, music, drama, business and even education itself.

Truly, the African leaders of this age are not just those at the helm of affairs because each and every African is a potential leader; at the minimum, most African youths will either lead a home or assist their spouse to do so. Again, we all are leaders in our own respect so there is a need to change our mentality for the benefit of our continent. If each child is thought leadership from the home and while in nursery school, then all future African leaders will be partly equipped for any position they may occupy later on.

Yimika Ilori is a purposeful and prolific writer living in Nigeria. His articles have been published on Nuggets for Nobles and CFA Leverage amongst several other e-platforms. He blogs at and can be reached through the same. His debut article with Deliberation & Contemplation can be read here.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Lest We Underestimate the Idle Uncles

There is a young man whom you do not know. But I know him and have received the permission to write about him. So, you get to read this story. When he was about 11 years old, he tolerated the rape of a young girl who had gone to watch cartoon in some "uncle's" apartment within their neighbourhood. The victim had cried to him for help with the evidence of an underwear that was heavily stained with sperm. Disgusted by the news, the boy went to confront the man in anger. The guilty man who felt ashamed and did not deny the accusation said, “I am sorry. It is the work of the devil.”  The boy wished he could chastise the “uncle” for raping his younger sister. He tried to fight him. But he was not his match. So, he went to report the incident to an aunty who lived in the same building as the so-called uncle. 
After narrating the story, the woman was touched. But to his amazement, she took no serious actions. She simply went over to the man's apartment to rebuke him saying, "Agbaya, e o kuku mo ju blue filmu lo laye yin..." Meaning, "You old-for-nothing man, all you ever do with your life is watch pornographic movies..." Then, she went over to the next house where the victimised 7 year-old girl lived and warned her to be careful with stupid unsolicited visits because they will not earn her anything less than what she had received. “If at this young age, you have started seducing men and watching blue films with jobless idiots, what will you do when you mature?” That was her judgement. Nothing else was done. The boy was disappointed. He wished he could have done something to punish the man and avenge his molested sibling. But he couldn't. All he could do was say evil prayers for the “uncle” and provide “sorry” and “stop crying” to his little sister.  Amidst sobs and falling tears, his sister asked, "Why did uncle XYZ ask me to sit on his lap? Why did he urinate on my pant? Why did he squeeze my chest with his hands? I told him to stop but he did not answer. He said I should keep quiet that he would buy me Mr Biggs. I told him it was hurting me but he did not answer. He told me we’re doing cartoon. Now, aunty is angry with me. What will mummy say when she comes? Daddy will beat me. Won’t he? She then looked her brother in the eye, “Are you angry with me too?” “No, I am not angry with you” He replied. “I am angry with uncle XYZ for doing this to you. He should be arrested and locked up in the prison. But I am confused by what aunty did. I wonder why she did not beat uncle XYZ or even tell the police.”

They had a house girl who had gone out on a date with one of her admirers. When she arrived, they told her too about the incident. She was surprised and raved madly over to the man’s apartment and nagged him for about thirty minutes. But again, she returned home to warn the kids not to tell anyone about the incident. She said, “If Daddy and Mummy hear, ah, they will beat you o! They will get angry and punish the two of you. That means, at Christmas, you will not travel with them on vacation and they will not buy presents for you on your birthdays. Even, they will go and report to your headmistress in school and everybody will laugh at the two of you during assembly.  Let’s just keep it secret among us. I promise not tell your Daddy and Mummy. Oya, you too promise me that you won’t tell them.” Out of fear, the kids promised to never tell their parents. The house girl examined the little girl, washed her in the bathroom and changed her dress before she incinerated the evidencing underwear. Later on, she gave them out of the goodies her boy friend had bought for her and calmed the little girl to sleep. The boy felt something was wrong somewhere. He knew what that uncle did was called rape and felt there should be a punishment for it. But he did not know what to do. He couldn’t predict how his parents would react if they heard about the incident. He wondered if his sister was guilty. He was confused and angry and somewhat ashamed. But he had to let it go. Of course, the parents came back in the night, as usual, when the kids had gone to bed. They never heard of the incident until the kids were grown-ups. The brother did not say a word about it until his thirty-something year-old sister couldn’t stop having relational issues with men. She had grown hatred and mistrust towards men over the years and it was affecting her at work and in her relationships. By then, “the idle uncle” had emigrated from their neighbourhood and gotten lost in the shoal of 150 million Nigerians. It seemed too late to mete out justice. But more importantly, the awful experience had left the victimised girl in need of a help she never received.

There is just one lesson I'd like to share through this story:

Quality time is a characteristic of quality parenting. If you are not parenting your own kids, you are jeopardising their precious future. Expensive gifts, costly education, professional housemaid, rich neighbours, DSTV, innocent drivers, etc cannot do the work for you. Such artificial style of parenting is becoming rampant in several urban centres today. Parents should remember that idle uncles (and aunties) are everywhere; and they hardly wear caution slogans on their foreheads.

Special thanks to whom it concerns for granting us publication permission.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Get Busy!

A friend once said during a chat, “Every result can be traced to an act of diligence; nobody goes up through idleness.” I absolutely concur. In fact, I think life is comparable to a tournament; some persist and win, others give up and lose; some are here to participate, others are here to watch; but whether or not you are living for something, time will tell it to the rest of us. You cannot do everything. But there is, at least, one thing you can do. That thing is (or those things are) what you must find and do.

No one builds tangibility out of inactivity. You cannot build a good history with idle hands. Only emptiness can be crafted out of idleness. You can not obtain productivity without positive activity. Hence, it becomes necessary for every youth to get busy at something worthwhile. It is only when you get down to work that you own the chance to get up with results! If you are yet to find anything to do for yourself, volunteer and help others do theirs. While helping others, you will have the room to discover the things you would really love to do too. To help cure anyone of the disease of not knowing what to do (idleness), engage them in positive activity.

A man who has nothing to pursue will have nothing to possess. Our possessions are not procured by our abilities but our actions. We must not only recognise our abilities; we must go ahead and act. The deeds of yesterday have contributed to where you are today and your status tomorrow will be a direct consequence of today’s action. Perhaps, it is true that you cannot eat your cake and have it. If you sow rubbish, you will reap rubbish. Input always determines output. Do not allow idleness deceive you; for while you give it your “today”, he steals your “tomorrow” from you. If you sacrifice the short term pleasure of idleness, you will enjoy the long term dividends of fruitfulness.

Friends, idleness offers nothing other than nothing itself. Doing what you ought to do when you should has many rewards. Till we connect again, go and fight the parasite of time. Go get busy!