Mr. Bamijoko David Okupe, the founder of Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative, a non-partisan organisation working to transform Nigeria into a first world country with prosperity, freedom and justice, in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, says unless citizens have mind reorientation restructuring would not benefit the country.
Nigeria has faced the blight of insecurity for many years now, especially under the present administration, what is your assessment of the state of insecurity in the country?
It is a very complex situation to analyse. But my opinion is that the insecurity in the nation now is as a result of insincerity of leadership; insincerity of leadership in relaying matters exactly as they are, insincerity of leadership in confessing their weaknesses and limitations and insincerity of leadership in relating with citizens with openness.
There’s also insincerity of leadership in saying one thing and doing exactly another. If we look at a lot of these things that I’ve outlined now, they give birth to so many ugly children.
When we talk about insecurity, we need to have a little mind shift, because we look at security and insecurity in terms of protection of life and property from crime and violence. The default thinking is that government needs to protect citizens with the whole gamut of security apparatus; security personnel, arms, ammunitions, as it were.
But, presently, as a nation, there are many areas of our lives are threatened, but do not seem to receive adequate attention. What about food insecurity? What about insecurity of the infrastructure that we operate and live in?
In the last couple of years, we’ve had more states in the nation getting flooded, like they never used to be. Erosion has eaten a lot of lands in our Eastern states. People’s houses are collapsing right under them and lives are being lost in the occurrences. What about insecurity to our lives due to lack of proper handling of counterfeiting and adulteration of products in Nigeria – a situation in which many Nigerians are using fake drugs, eating poisoned foods, using fake vehicle parts, fake building materials and so on.
When you operate in sincerity, there is no deception or hidden agenda, where if you’re actually going to the right, you make people believe you’re going to the left.
How will you say the federal government has fared in the last six years through the prism of sincerity you talk about?
The government has not been sincere with us! If you check it out, you’ll discover that the governments of many great nations of the world are sincere with their people.
We should not ever see telling the truth or accepting our faults publicly as a weakness or failure. There is greater weakness in deception and insincerity. In these nations, it is not unusual to see government officials apologising publicly to citizens on errors of judgment or implementation on the part of government. They simply apologise to citizens and say “we are sorry, we missed it and got things wrong”. That is sincerity of government.
What could you pinpoint as predisposing factors that make governments not to be sincere?
Hidden agenda! Make-belief. Deception. In many situations, there is a deliberate act to deceive and misinform. You know you can deliberately deceive. You know that the things you’re saying are not true, You know that you’re not going to fulfill your promises, you don’t even intend to make any effort in that direction, but you make people believe you’re going to do it, just to get your way.
This is what has strengthened the notion in people’s minds that politicians never think of people’s good. They’re just about themselves and their pockets. There is a general belief that it is a mere illusion that politicians have the interest of the people at heart.
It is even an illusion that they are capable, interested or willing to do any good for the people, who voted for them. It is generally believed that politicians neither have any good intentions for the people, nor do they have the capacity, ability or willingness to do good for the people.
Leadership sometimes forgets the havoc they’ve done to people, but the people affected don’t forget. Majority may forget, but some don’t forget failed promises. These days, there is ample information available to all, thanks to technology. What has been hitherto hidden from the public glare is now open to all. Things will never be the same again.
You sound as if alluding to 2015, when this administration campaigned on the promise to re-structure Nigeria, including devolution of power. Does that mirror the insincerity you’re referring to?
As I mentioned earlier, insincerity is a deliberate attempt to deceive. I can actually tell you “A” when I mean “B” and I can make you believe whatever I want you to believe.
According to Abraham Lincoln, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people, all the time. For example, whenever there’s ambiguity in communication and in expression, majority of the time, it’s because there’s a hidden agenda.
So, we have a lot of unclear communication by leadership, because there’s a deliberate and calculated move not to make emphatic promises that can be held on to. That in itself is insincerity! Even among leadership, when you watch proceedings, and read their body language, you perceive a lot of insincerity.
Are you relating leadership problem beyond the leaders, but even among ordinary Nigerians?
Yes, it happens amongst the citizens, the followers, because most of the times servants become leaders. Looking at Nigeria today, many people leading us were the followers of some past leaders.
Now, we have had both sincere and insincere followers from time immemorial. There are followers that follow just because of what they are going to get or what they are going to extract, but make leadership believe they are following with their whole heart.
All the cross-carpeting in politics and the politicians that we have; fighting tooth and nail yesterday and the next moment they cross-carpet to the side they were fighting with yesterday. These things are absurd. Even at the foundation of basic relationships, when there’s no sincerity, there cannot be trust, truthfulness, honesty and transparency.
The absence of these virtues breed mutual suspicion, which in itself is very dangerous for good relationships.
What then is your take on the calls for re-structuring Nigeria on the basis of promoting balance among the six regions?
There’s need for balance, don’t mistake me. There’s need for re-structuring. In life, at a point in time, re-structuring is always needful to advance and get better. Why do businesses do strategic reviews every year? To do better! The strategic review sessions in some of these small, medium sized companies takes days.
So, sometimes when I hear that the Executive Council meetings of the nation meet once a week for a few hours, I ask myself; what could they really be discussing there? If businesses with small operations hold management review meetings for days, sometimes to address issues, we should begin to ask; where is the thinking function for the country?
Every country, as an entity that wants to grow and develop, must have a deliberate thinking machinery to grow the country. We can never solve all the problems of course. Even though I’ve not been to Federal Executive Council meeting before, but I wonder how much solution-driven thinking can be achieved in those short weekly meetings.
What is that thing about Nigerian mindset that makes them behave the way they do?
The propensity to be unlawful is in everybody, but what the law does, is to curb that propensity. There’s crime everywhere. Crime is not peculiar to Nigeria and Africa alone.
You need to know the crimes that are happening in Britain or in the United States. Our own major problem here is that there’s no consequence for unlawful behaviour or criminality. If there’s no consequence for unlawful behaviour, the offenders go scot-free with whatever wrong they do and if they know they will go scot-free with whatever they do, the bad behaviour simply increases.
Majorly, in Nigeria, there’s neither consequence for unlawful behaviour, nor reward for lawful behaviour. The environment doesn’t encourage good behaviour or goodness, neither does it punish unlawful behaviour. It’s just a free-flowing environment. When that persists, it strengthens unlawful behaviour, knowing that whatever you do nothing happens. You will do it again and again and again until it becomes habitual.
So, we are in a country where unlawful behaviour has become habitual, simply because there is no consequence.
So, what is the way out?
Our leadership and government, as obtains in sane societies all over the world, must ensure that there is consequence for unlawful behaviour. People should know that if they steal or do something that is contrary to the law, there’s consequence for it. When there’re no consequences for unlawful behaviour, the government becomes a toothless bulldog and gets ridiculed.
Where does Mindshift factor in all these?
Everything starts from the mind. Whatever a man becomes is an outcome of his mindset. There have been efforts in times past to try to shift this mind-set. A lot of efforts that government has engaged in in the days of War Against Indiscipline (WAI) and Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSER).
Governments have engaged in those efforts to try and change mindsets, but major problem is that government does not seem to understand the way the minds of the citizenry work. When you don’t understand the way someone’s mind works, how can you make attempt to shift his mindset?
The other problem with these reorientation efforts is when leadership does contrary to what it is preaching. It becomes a hard task to convince the citizens. The mindshift perspective is a tough task, but we believe that if we begin to consciously and deliberately work on the minds of people to begin to reflect, rethink and do things differently, then we can begin a recovery journey from the deep pit of mess that we have plunged ourselves.