And we are all leaders in our spaces and in our everyday activities!
Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 says:
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land when your king is the son of nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness.”
You are doomed as a family, people, society, and nation, if those who superintend or manage your affairs are children with the mindset of eating, enjoying, and celebrating, at the wrong time (the time they should be working, they are eating) They are spending money not earned. They can’t wait to bake the cake before eating. They are eating just because food is available, not because they are hungry, or they need strength.
They steal government money because it is available and they have access to it. It is not because they have a need for it. But you are blessed if your leaders are honourable people with the right values. They eat at the right time (work first, earn and eat in the proper time) and for the right reasons. They don’t eat because food is available, they eat for strength and not because of abundance.
Bob Marley described them in the best possible way. “In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty”.
This is our tragedy.
In the early 1960s, Walter Mischel and his graduate students gave little children from Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School the choice between eating a marshmallow IMMEDIATELY or WAITING and getting a second marshmallow after fifteen minutes or so if they could hold out. Videos of the torments the children went through as they stared at the marshmallow have been an enormous source of entertainment for adults, but more importantly, Mischel found something more.
Those who held out typically did better later in life, with higher SAT scores, less likelihood of substance abuse, and lower body mass index thirty years after the test.
Another study at the University of Rochester qualified Mischel’s findings. The researchers found that for children in crowded homes, surrounded by predatory older children and with no adults around (no leaders), the only food or treats guaranteed are the ones they have swallowed. In contrast, they found that children from stable homes, where parents promise and deliver on foods, the children are more willing to wait. They have better self-control, dignity, decency, and patience, emanating from the belief that the world is stable and reliable.
While Mischel’s original study was conducted on children in the prosperous Stanford University community, its broader implication is that strong stable families prepare children for a better life by giving them a healthier worldview. Leaders (parents, teachers, minders, and others), play important roles in building, shaping, and birthing, a stable society and nation, with the right attitudes and values.
In Nigeria, there was a time when people across the country lived within their means and were satisfied with the little. Public funds were largely used for public purposes. The government offered scholarships (home and overseas, subsidized feeding and housing in schools, gave cars and housing loans to Civil Servants, built hospitals, roads, railways, airways, and other basic infrastructure. Public officials were somehow scared about touching public funds and misusing government properties and assets. Government vehicles were used for official purposes and were parked at government offices.
In the 70s when my dad was the Supervisory Councillor for Education, in the old Otukpo Local Government, his official vehicle was always returned to the Council Secretariat no matter how late he arrived home from his tours. The government kept inventories of assets, and people were not allowed to go on retirement taking along with them government assets.
Families and Schools had values and discipline. Parents were not so rich in money as they were in attention, love, compassion, and care, but they inculcated the right values in the children. Schools reinforced the values taught by parents, and enforced disciplinary measures against breaches of the value code, with the tacit support of the parents. Religious organizations were more concerned with raising God-fearing people than money. As children, we were taught repeatedly not steal, tell lies, bear false witness against others, and do anything that will make God angry with us. We were told that if we commit sin and die in our sins, we will go to hellfire. We were taught to obey and respect our parents, and those in authority over us – teachers, pastors, elders, community leaders, and others.
Families, communities, people, and the country had values. Thieves were not welcomed and respected no matter how rich they were. Good names were preferred to money and gold. Parents were proud to remind their children about the good names of their families and urged them to keep the good names.
Teachers had power over pupil and students. They taught them to be good citizens. They taught them the virtue of patience and delayed gratification. Sayings like “a patient dog eat the fattest bone… honesty is the best policy… a good name is better than gold”, were drilled into the children.
Everyone and everybody were striving to be good and God-fearing citizens.
Stealing became smartness and fastness. Money became our god. The more money one had, the more powerful and important he became. No one cared about how the money was made. Schools lost the power to discipline children. Parents started going to schools to beat up teachers who dared to discipline their children. Religious organizations lost focus on their real mission. They turned their focus on money irrespective of how it is gotten. Position and recognition depended on money. Traditional institutions started dashing out Chieftaincy titles to questionable characters in the society because they have money. Money became the king of our souls.
Gradually we began to puncture the sayings we were raised on. We said, “a patient dog will eat no bone because smart people would have eaten all bones”. We said “money is better than gold because money will give you popularity” we Crowed “honesty is not even a policy not to talk of it being the best policy”. We ask “who honesty help”?
We crowned money king.
We lacerated the poor. We attacked honest people in public service as dull people. “The man dull well well. For years he was in government and nothing to show”. Public service became for many, opportunity to steal and better their lives.
Our election became a game for the money guys. We started selling our votes. We ignored the character of the people seeking to represent us. We just want money, and if a thief and murderer will give us the money, he or she will get the votes and go and do damage. We lost the ability to do the right thing because we simply can’t wait for the right thing.
Money is our object of pursuit.
From the researches above, we saw the importance of family and school in building the character of people and nation. We saw how children were taught to wait and sacrifice instant pleasure for a rewarding tomorrow. As we know, marshmallows are loved by kids. Few kids can resist the temptations presented by marshmallows. The kids who waited for fifteen minutes to be rewarded with another marshmallow suffered from momentary painful pleasure deprivation, but got more and learned that patience is worthwhile. They also turned out better.
Building a successful and progressive nation – with the right values is a deliberate thing. It is the responsibility of families, schools, religious organizations, and the government, to carefully design a system that will inculcate the right values in the children and people. People exhibit their predominant values in daily activities. In our government we have too many people fighting to appropriate public funds because they come from backgrounds of “survival of the fittest” and “the more the merrier” even without need. Successful nations don’t just happen, they are carefully constructed and designed by a system of values inculcated in people.
For Nigeria to come out of the current moral morass, she needs to hit the reset button of the moral-value system she once had and build on it. She needs a Moral Majority.
What moral-value are you going to work to instill in your coming generation?