All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, (suicide) losing, cheating, and mediocrity are easy. Stay away from ease. -Scott Alexander
One major way to measure the degree of development in any society is the value she placed on human life. Even animals operate with the instinct that human life is sacred. This is the reason they initially exhibit fear and flight when they encounter human beings.
Consequently, every progressive human society focuses on the double task of preserving and improving the lives of mortals.Some European and even Asian nations have perfected in this crucial task to a high degree that the elderly cohort (65 and above) form a significant part of their population. In other words, the life expectancy of such nations is high. For instance, the UN 2015 world life expectancy of Nigerian is 52.29 years, UK is 80.45, and Japan is 83.74. The main reason for this divergent disparity in the life expectancy of nations is based on the different values these nations place on the lives of their citizens.
Every institution is a reflection of that society. Consequently, these institutions (family, education, governance, business etc.) become the extensions of the society. They are the vox populi of the larger society.
Two years ago, a national newspaper reported that Nigeria spent over $2 billion annually on educating her citizens abroad. The painful and embarrassing aspect of this ugly event is that, many Nigerian students prefer to obtain their education from poorer West African countries such as Benin, Cameroun, Togo and Ghana than Nigeria. Yet, there was a season in this country when Nigerian universities attracted foreign students from Africa, Europe, Asia and America. One would ask, what went wrong with our educational system?
Simply put, it is the result of substandard thinking and living. Our priorities and value system shifted from supporting quality education to wastage of resources. The increase in the number of universities in Nigeria isn’t commensurate to the quality of degrees produced. The malignant cancerous tumour which has infested our tertiary institutions is hydra headed and come in the form of leadership ineptitude, poor funding, lack of equipment and literature and deliberate neglect. The rut and rust in our educational system started from the primary and secondary and now at the tertiary level, it has festered and is generating fetid odours.
When teachers welfare, training and equipping are neglected, pupils and students study under terrible classroom conditions, parents encourage examination malpractices and both teachers and students engage in clandestine activities, then the result can only be a feast of doom.
A look at the Nigerian business and commerce institutions leaves much to be desired. Sharp practices mark the delivery of goods and services. Such notorious practices like, manufacturing and marketing of substandard products go on unabated in spite of the acclaimed efforts of the designated government agencies such as SON, NAFDAC, customs and exercise departments. Conspiracies at the local and international levels go on to achieve profiteering targets against the citizens of this country. One obvious manifestation of this conspiracy is the intractable difficulties perpetrated against the programme of achieving regular availability of power to the Nigerian populace. The result is that every Nigerian family patronises generator companies.
Like someone rightly said, every Nigerian family assumes the status of a local government because, she generates her own power, supplies her water, provides health services for her family members as well as constructs her own road network. This is a very unfortunate state of affair. The result of such individualistic pursuits is substandard living.
Consider this scenario – in spite of the quality and version of the vehicle one acquires it will ply the same bad road every other Nigerian uses. Many of our roads are either totally neglected or partially maintained. The wear and tear on the vehicles are almost inestimable. More dangerously too, these bad roads facilitate the occurrence of many accidents which claim the lives of our citizens.
The degenerating state of the Nigerian health sector is incalculable. Stretching back from the period when one of the reasons for military coup was because our hospitals had become mere consulting clinics till today, the health institution in Nigeria is almost reaching a comatose stage. The proofs are there for everyone to see. These include, the scarcity of quality drugs, and equipment, the increasing tendency of our people to patronise quarks, the unabated practice of our rich elite and government officials to patronise foreign hospitals, the poor remuneration and delay in the payment of salaries of medical and paramedical personnel.
Perhaps, one may not find any institution in our country that is corruption free. Think of such sublime issues in our country like, mortuary workers, cleaners at our airports, law enforcement agents, lecturers and legislators, and the electorates, executives and executors all demanding bribe in order to offer service undue benefit to people. We have developed a culture of profiteering instead of providing quality goods and services; one of usurping instead of investing, one of harming instead of helping others.
The list of proofs of substandard living in our country is inexhaustive. The big challenge is how to engage ourselves in a turnaround programme which will produce citizens in pursuit of quality living and nobility. Like Alexander Scott counselled at the beginning of this discourse, we should stay away from a life of ease. The life of ease honours laziness but despises diligence, promotes mediocrity over excellence, encourages the notorious lifestyle of the Nouveau riche which like a putrefying sour has bred numerous worms in our nation. It is time for Nigerians to resolve to pursue excellence, nobility, and such virtues which add value to life. I believe that we are able because when Nigerians travel abroad, they confirm and even excel beyond the dictates of the laws of those foreign nations. Several Nigerians are excelling abroad in almost every aspect of life. From arts, Information technology, pharmacy, medicine to engineering, business, governance and religion, Nigerians who live outside the shores of this nation prove beyond all reasonable doubts that they can pursue and achieve a life of all round excellence. Can charity begin at home?
Dr. Passy Amaraegbu is a clinical psychologist and author, lives in Lagos, Nigeria.