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In today’s Nigerian (and most African) society with everything going on, from politics to terrorism to religious and ethnic intolerance and corruption of epidemic proportions, it is very helpful if we as a people learn to start respecting other people’s opinions, views, position, outlook, and rights, etc.
Oftentimes disagreements and heated debates start between people because they have differences of opinions toward a certain subject. In my years in this world, and with my upbringing, education, and life’s experience, I have learnt that just because someone has a different opinion from your own does not mean that their opinion is wrong. An opinion is not a fact, therefore there is no right or wrong view – it is just that, an opinion. It is the same thing with a view; just because someone does not view something the way you should not degenerate into an argument or debate with them about why you are right, and they are wrong. Because they think you are wrong and they’re right.
Respecting other people’s opinions, views, rights, and dispositions also show that one is well mannered and that one shows respect for that person as well. If someone has a different opinion than yours and you reply with “I understand and respect your opinion” rather than replying with your opinion and why it is right and why they are wrong, the person who has a different opinion than you will respect you in return.
I have for most of my short life believed in respecting people. And by that, I am saying that one should treat other people as one would like to be treated. One should expect them to be as good as oneself, as smart as oneself, as caring and so forth. And one should respect their right to have an opinion.
But I think that opinions should not be free from criticism. And they should only command what respect they have earned. In other words, if one respects another person and that other person does not return the respect, then, they do not deserve the respect that has been shown to them, and the respect should be withdrawn.
In our Nigerian society, one of the reasons why we find ourselves in the dire situation and environment that we are is that acute absence of respect for everything we do. It is plain DISRESPECT! I am not talking about the Respect we often mouth in our culture, e.g. respect for elders. Look at it the following way:
We do not respect each other, and that is why people appointed or elected into positions of trust and authority decide to take us for granted and steal public funds meant for the development and betterment of the population at large.
Our rulers (I really hate calling them leaders, because, in the real sense, they are not leading anybody) do not give us respect. Yet, we respect them a lot, in fact, we treat them like gods. If they respected us, they will not be treating their people like they have been doing for over 50 years. They will not be stealing our money; they will not be cheating and riffing or gunning their way to power; they will be providing us with good governance because we trusted and respected them; and to crown it all, if these people respected us, they will not be tempting us to vote for them by distributing rice, garri, bread, palm oil and vegetable oil and a few Naira to us. It is people you do not respect that you induce with such mundane things (maybe not to some people), but you see, they know what they are doing. They have made sure we are in perpetual poverty of stomach and mind and that’s where they left us, so come election times, they will meet us in the same position and we will be susceptible to their bribes. It never fails to work. We will even maim and kill for them to get to power.
We do not respect human life, even our own life, and examples are replete on our streets and roads – governments and officials with responsibility refuse to fix the roads; careless driving; ignoring safety rules while carrying our normal daily chores, selling fake drugs and fake or substandard equipment just to gain an advantage and make money; your mechanic cheating you and putting the same part he told you is faulty back in your car despite collecting money for a new one. All these show lack of respect for you and your life.
We do not respect authority – we flout the laws of the land (criminal, traffic, etc) every day; politicians and leaders flout the Constitution to which they have sworn to uphold every day; even those expected to uphold and enforce the laws flout the law because they do not care, hence the chaos and anarchy we have in our society.
We do not have any respect for human and civil rights. Again, this is exemplified in our every day trudges as we struggle to escape poverty and oppression. Our police and other law enforcement and security agencies are more of instruments of terror and oppression of the masses by the rulers than providers of safety and security and services to the people they proclaim to serve.
All tiers of government – executive, legislative, judiciary and civil service – have turned themselves into demi-gods, whose words and deeds are rarely challenged, and if challenged, because there is no respect in the land, the challenger will be the victim of the most vicious campaign of calumny and personal attacks one has ever seen. Even in the most elitist of societies, the West, there is still a lot of respect from the upper class for the lower class, such that everything is provided for the less fortunate in the society, and thus have no cause to complain of marginalisation or oppression. These so-called elite (if indeed, we can call them that) plough enough back into the society to reach everybody. This is because they respect human life; respect the right to life and to good decent living for everybody irrespective of social status; respect the right of the individual and the collective; respect the environment, etc
We do not have respect for our environment, the very environment that is the very source and sustenance of our existence as human, and that is why you see piles and mountains of litter and refuse all over the place. We dispose of our garbage anyhow we want it; we do our body functions anywhere we see to do it; we do not give any thought to the effect of the noise from our generators (a result of lack of provision of electricity by our leaders) either to ourselves or to our neighbours.
When you have a section of the society behaving with impunity and reckless disregard for our sworn Constitution, no matter how imperfect it is; law and order; rule of law; governing, legislative, judicial, and electoral systems, it is marked disrespect for the people they are supposed to be governing. That means your rulers take you for granted; they are insensitive to your plight and condition of living. You die of poverty, you die, what concerns them?
After you have blown your sirens to force people to give way to you, what happens when you have left office? After all, power and positions are transient. The people you disregarded and disrespected on your way up are the same you’re going to meet on your way down.
Another proof of the elite/government disrespect for the common man by whose grace they are in power id the preponderance of uniformed authority. I went to a function hosted by a uniformed agency just las week and I was awed by number of “uniformed authorities” that were present – the Police, Traffic Wardens, the DSS, the SSS, the Armed Forces, the Road Safety, Customs, Immigration, Prisons, NDLEA, VIO, Peace Corps, Rescue, Fire Brigade, Civil Defence, Man O’War, Vigilantes, NURTW, ACOMORAN, the States’ owned traffic and environmental services, etc. If you are not intimidated by these numbers of uniforms on the roads and in the community, one must be a hardened criminal. And some of these agencies even have different uniforms within the same agency, e.g. the Nigerian Police – regular, MOPOL, SARS, Rapid Response, Anti-Terrorist, Anti-Kidnapping, etc. It is crazy and oppressive and disrespectful to the common people, who are bullied, ravaged, brutalised and taken advantage of daily, by several of these agencies. And we say we are a democracy!!!
That syndrome called, “African Time” is another sign of our disrespect for time, punctuality and especially to the people waiting for you, at a meeting, function, event or anywhere. African leaders are particularly fond of disrespecting the people who put them in power by deliberately arriving late to functions they are invited to or that they themselves have called for. To them, it is a sign of weakness to arrive on time for a function. They take it for granted that the people waiting for them must not leave and must not start the function unless they arrive. It is arrogance and disrespect personified and taken to the highest level. But there we have it!
On the societal side, lateness for work (another form of African Time); indolence; shoddy execution of assignments, contracts, and jobs; cheating at examinations; demanding for bribes to perform services which are normally free; embezzlement of funds; all these constitute disrespect for societal and moral values. Such then beget petty corruption which then escalates gradually to the bigger and more fatal forms of corruption that is now pervasive and endemic in our society.
Disrespect is Disregard is Contempt is Disdain is Insolence is Scorn is Impudence is Impertinence is Impunity is Neglect!!
Please let us look around at the way we live our everyday lives in Africa, and you see and experience and suffer all the above and following daily: abuse of power; abuse of authority; abuse of position; abuse of office; abuse of privileges; abuse of opportunities; abuse of the public and the society; abuse of the environment; abuse of human and civil rights; abuse of property, abuse of justice; abuse of court processes; abuse of the Constitutional requirements and laid down procedures; abuse of political and electoral processes; abuse of education; abuse of freedom; etc. All these lead to lack of good governance and poor, visionless, and focus-less leadership.
On a more personal and individually human level, besides learning about oblique aspects of our psyche and background, here are other reasons why we should be open to understanding the differences in others:
- You’ll learn new things and make better decisions – for our leaders/rulers. That’s all the people ask for – make decisions that will better their lives.
- You’ll make more exciting friends – for our neighbours and people we interact with.
- You’ll be a more broadminded and progressive person – for our politicians, who are insensitive charlatans hungry for power but do not know how to use the power they acquired by hook or crook.
- You’ll feel better, more secure and satisfied – for the individual in the society, and for the leaders who will be able to walk freely amongst their own people, with no excessive security surrounding them to protect them from the wrath of the people.
- You’ll make the world a better place and will be remembered for your legacy – for our rulers, civil servants, and other public officials. Power is transient; make your tenure felt for good by the people, “the evil that men do, lives after them”.
Don’t these also apply to how we govern ourselves?
There is nothing to gain from disrespect and abuses to others, the society and the environment. We are the losers.
Tell the Truth always!!!!