Rot at the Micro Level: A Microcosm of the Large Society

Change mantra

It is easy to lose sight of the root of our travails as a nation while looking at the horrid way things are run at the top. Many leadership theory proponents advance the superiority of change occurring at the leadership level with the resultant effect trickling to the lower levels.

The idea is that the average citizen would be positively driven to change when they see their leaders championing the change. While this is reasonable, I do not foresee that we would ever have such in Nigeria; at least not in the near future! It would perhaps require a Jesus-like miracle for this kind of change to emanate from the upper echelons in Nigeria.

The bulk of Nigeria’s current crop of leaders does not inspire hope. The current state of leadership in Nigeria is a sordid tale of impunity, wanton greed, and an unprecedented scale of cluelessness.

As such, it makes sense for change advocates to devote as much time to engineering change from the bottom, as they do to critiquing government at the top. The rot the micro-level is pervasive. It is reflected in every facet of our everyday life.

Danfo drivers and front seat passengers conveniently collude to pretend to use a seat belt when in fact, the belt doesn’t work. Even when it works, some passengers would still pretend to use it. This is quite baffling given that using the seat belt is largely for the good of the passenger and not the enforcement agents!

In another similar instance, passengers will gleefully not oppose a driver plying ‘one way’ because of his corruption ‘benefits’ them.  Furthermore, many commercial buses are so small that four slim passengers would struggle to sit in a row comfortably.

A gtypical Lagos Danfo bus

A typical Lagos Danfo bus

In spite of this, four passengers will be made to sit on each row. Any passenger that dare complains is in for ridicule. “Oga go buy your own car”, the bus conductor would definitely quip.

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Another sad example is how parents, teachers, and even schools “collaborate” to cheat during various exams. Parents actively help their children gain admission into the tertiary institution (sometimes, secondary schools) through the back door; and hypocritically berate them when they act corruptly! Schools punish students for cheating during internal exams but inexplicably help these students cheat during external exams like WASSCE!

Some public health practitioners have arrangements with private pharmacies such that they get a commission on every drug purchased by patients they refer there. How would this doctor have the best interest of his patients at heart?

There are Uber/Taxify drivers that deliberately take longer routes so as to earn higher fares. We have N-power volunteers that receive stipends every month but don’t report to work!

 These micro-environmental absurdities extend to the larger society. This is why in spite of being in the 21st century, it seems like it would require the knowledge of rocket science for government to provide basic amenities of life like food, clothing, shelter, quality health care, quality transport network, and electricity.

 The problems we have as a nation today are a perfect reflection of the level of dysfunction we have at the micro-environmental level. While it is important to attempt to drive change from the top, it is more important for change advocates to channel efforts towards engineering change from the grassroots.

Just like the Federal Government’s “Change begins with me” campaign, change needs to start from me and you (You may ignore the fact that this current administration lacks the moral right to lead such campaign). We can all drive change within our varying degrees of influence.

As a teacher, ensure you push your students to always act right. As a parent, ensure you are a good example to your children. As a boss, ensure that those who report to you see the need to be upright and not cut corners.

As a Danfo driver, drive properly and ensure that your bus is in the best possible condition for passengers. As a tailor, give your customer a reasonable timeline and stick to it. As a trader, do not defraud your buyers. As an Imam/Pastor, be a shining example to your congregation – practice what you preach.

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So while we may lay the blame at the top or the bottom, the better ideas of progression dictate that change should come in both ways!

By Saheed Animashaun, who is a Risk Consultant and social commentator. He writes from Lagos and can be reached via

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