I believe our desire to see change and renaissance all over Africa may continue to be a mirage until we are able to make the kind of investments through self-improvements that can make a critical mass of our people to be the kind of person I want to talk about today. I can forgive if anyone above forty decides to ignore this reality. I am above 40 and I’ve worked to be the kind of person I’m describing and I’m consistently making efforts and investments to be more of such as person. It is the most critical way I define my individual effectiveness. So, anyone from age 40 below must not be forgiven if they will not make the effort to be this kind of person. I believe every African from age 40 below should be able to demonstrate these as almost nature. And the human mind can be trained to do so. I call it the 3D-Thinking Posture (The three-dimensional thinking posture).
The first dimension is: Pursuing information. Pursuing information is critical for the human soul anywhere. It means simply developing an almost natural propensity to always expect that there is always something new in the horizon that must be discovered. Believing permanently that there must always be some new lead, a new evolving market, some new technology, and new appointment that can be leveraged on. To not be ready to find or to not have found or discovered something new in this view is to be out of place in a brain powered world. It’s not just about being in tune with the trends but to psychologically develop a habitual mindset that something worth leveraging on is always on the horizon that you can discern, you can engage, and can use.
Moving on with this mindset is what necessitates the next dimension of thinking which is to gather information. This is not just putting pieces of gist and myths together. No! It is more of creating a culture of fact finding characterized by my acronym: M.O.D (modernization, originality, development). An individual, nation or company that places little or no premium on research and development is actually primitive and definitely not globally compliant. Please note that by R&D, we are not just talking about research; and not just about development but really about the extent to which we can use study, observations and interpretations to create, establish and sustain development. The individual should create a special time out of his busy schedule dedicated strictly for looking for useable, transferable and reward-able knowledge in the area of our greatest desires or dreams. Companies, regardless of size, must be seen to be placing a very high premium on recruiting resourceful knowledge professionals to help chart new courses for the organization through fact-finding and research. An entire department or unit may have to be created and sustained to properly maximize this or fact-finding tasks can be given to all units quarterly or something! The benefits are overwhelming as it helps; among other things to be adequately prepared with just in time response methodologies to rise above and take advantage of the intricacies of an increasingly unpredictable marketplace, stay ahead of the competition and in the long-run, create a platform for an industry-leader-status. We must do this or we will fail in our capacity to deliver continuous relevance.
The third dimension is Analyzing and Using Information and Data. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is information applied. While so much knowledge is available in our time, very little knowledge prevails. The goal of knowledge is transformation and whatever is known that governs not behavior and that does not inspire change, is mere information. But often times, the most credible pathway to knowledge are either divine revelation or analyzing and using information. But even divine revelation rarely comes to all. No. Most of the time it only goes to the mind functioning in the first and second dimension mentioned earlier. Whichever way, after the first and second dimensions, at any level, divine or researched knowledge, all next level seeking minds and all innovative efforts must come down to Analyzing and Using Information. This is simply about determining COAs (courses of actions).
Pursuing and gathering information will be pointless if you are not going to use the consequent result to chart necessary causes of action. All findings must be maximally used as processed tools for the good building solution blue-prints that can become products and services with amazing impact on GDP and per capita income as well as build incredible purchasing power for the masses of the people. These all comes to developing a mental posture that solves problems easily and quickly. The strength of the global economy is being able to predict needs before those with the needs are even aware. It is also been able to respond to situations and challenges at a moment’s notice. It is about been nimble and dexterous to solve problems at the speed of their arrival. I’ve gone through a thorough analysis of the fact that a brain powered economy enthrones knowledge and its maximal use as a critical success factor. And the strength of that is being able to develop and sustain a 3D-Thinking Posture.
In fractionalizing this, we now have to look at making problem solving a critical factor in the pursuit of profit growth. By this I’m not referring to some “motivational-see-no-problem-see-no-future model”. I am describing another three dimensional problem solving mode that begins with ensuring that you are first of all, very good at solving problems. Then that in all that you represent as an individual or a corporate entity, in your daily exertions and pursuit of meaning as a person, your hiring, evaluations and reviews as a business, you must be also able to retain employees, consultants, service providers to your firm, etc, who are very good at solving problems. However, this is never enough. Watch out for the concluding part!
I have accepted that the best of relationships can only be defined by the consideration we give to each other. Those who reject this are small minds looking for unavailable space. The consideration we give each other is what allows us to match through our differences. Each of us is from a different background and because of this fact; our thinking pattern will differ in different ways. This is design and it cannot be changed. The silly thing to do is to try to solve a fact. You don’t solve facts; you solve problems and accept facts enough to work around them. The uniqueness and authenticity of human design creates variation. To be shocked at how different others are to you and to negatively react to that difference defines ignorance and narrow-mindedness.
If that is so, our attitudes and behaviors can never be the same, our lifestyles will contradict and be at variance with that of others, people will not always see things the way we do, people will make mistakes just as you make yours, people will irritate you, just as you will irritate others, people will react to situations just as you will do when you are in it. As a matter of fact, people have become who they are due to the influences of their individual experiences. The content of that influence, whether inspiring or harsh, is the governor of the behavior and attitude people display; meaning that no one is self made, we are all products of influences. Everyone’s has a story no matter how they shield it, and each of us is carrying a baggage. It is that story and that baggage that is responsible for what people do and how they behave.
If every human were perfect, every other human being will be unnecessary. It is the incompleteness in the lives of people that defines the relevance of the significant others they allow into their lives. If the person you dislike or the one that irritates you is in himself perfect, you will not even have the opportunity to dislike him or get irritated by him because he will be so perfect, you will be absolutely unnecessary in his life. Tolerance is a precursor to balance and peace, and empathy is the strength of tolerance. When you have the maturity to stay in the shoes of others to experience their world, you will always be in a better position to appreciate their struggles and determine how you can help.
Now, when the human spirit is incapable of defining reality outside his or her own personal experience, his or her own feelings, happiness and pain, he or she becomes automatically incapable of (1) Honest self evaluation and (2) incapable of stepping into other people’s shoes. With these two, empathy is defeated; selfishness, sentiments, bias, and prejudices take the center stage.
The picture I just painted is a major challenge in our environment. Different experiences in the lives of people have conditioned them to accept their selfishness and prejudices above their morality, virtue and essence. So, it is easier to find what I want than to appreciate what others need. This human conditioning has been accommodated for so long, passed down from generation to generation, and has become 2nd nature. So, the abnormal has become the new normal. The zeal to self-preserve and self-actualize has become more important than the need to establish the common good and the collective peace that defines balance in the society.
So beyond my personal experiences or definition of good or pain, I must find within me the character to stay focused and committed to the idea of living the kind of life that society can be grateful for. It means I must always be focused on empowering a world beyond my own, and beyond the one I know. This is the discipline of those we call great men and great souls. It is simply a commitment to the idea that my personal lifestyle can mean a commitment that transcends self.
A nation can only be built when a critical mass understands that only to the extent that I can love, promote and defend that which is greater than my personal life, can the boundaries of truth, legitimacy, citizenship be established. While individuals make society, we cannot continue to justify our refusal to take responsibility for our individual roles in society, by hiding under the excuse of socio economic and political imbalance. We are not citizens because our economy is good. We are citizens because we have been planted in this space and we belong here. The question to always ask ourselves is not about how the economy can be good but about the role we can each play in how the economy can be better. It’s called mission to society. It is easily expressed in how we relate with one another and the investment of time, energy and resources in the environment that binds us together. While the technicalities of making this investment can require a lot of strategic planning, the way we relate with each other can be immediately realized. We cannot be so focused on our need to be productive, and discount the morality, love, respect we owe each other.
A nation that can be so big at the expense of his morality and decency, has already mortgaged its future before the children of the future are born. As a matter of truth, it is the compromise of our morality and decency that created the decadence in our socio-economic and political landscape.
We now need to return home and say to ourselves, we owe each other Love first before any other thing. To ignore this is to discount our humanity as represented by our morality and decency. It doesn’t matter anymore whether you are Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Christian, Muslim, Poor or Rich; what matters is that we are all Nigerians and that we owe our nation the dutifulness that only her people can supply. We each owe the future the decency we can supply today.
Since our independence in 1960, our great nation Nigeria has been through a lot, socially, politically and economically. Every facet of our national life has been tried and still being tried. We have an unusual pool of intellectuals who believe or claim to have solutions to the state of affairs of our nation. They operate in different spectrums of the society and identify themselves by different nomenclatures. In most cases, their status is nebulous and therefore mission not clearly defined. They also hop from status to status under different circumstances and dispensation. Today, they vehemently speak the language of criticism and tomorrow, they eulogize the same authorities they have taken to the cleaners before. When their observer seems to be angry and confused about their positions, they hibernate for some time, knowing that their observers have very short memory. They resurface again on the scene at an opportune time and still enjoy the blind blessings of same observers. Beyond the fact that the observers have short memory, they do not have the right social tool to properly determine their commitment.
These intellectuals have dominated every area of our political lives also. They have served in the executive, legislature and judiciary arms of government under our many democratic experiments, tagged, first, second, third and fourth republics and full military government. They are more known by their acts than by their ideology. In the true sense of it, I do not think ideological commitment play any major role in their engagement. Even when they claim to engage the system, they do not do it fully because it is in most cases a decoy to call attention to themselves. The people in authority understand that and it seems they have accepted it as normal practice. As a matter of fact, I believe they encourage it to give the citizens an impression that they already have committed enemies. But if you observe it very well, it has been a cycle. You may call it social, political and economic roller-coaster.
One of the best strategies that the intellectuals, I am calling our attention to today have employed is what I call tokenism. Tokenism is completely different from calling attention to yourself. It is a social, political or economic intervention aimed at managing one’s guilt as an intellectual, who carry the burden of knowledge and therefore is compelled to do something. Tokenism is not strong and strategic enough to cause any meaningful and enduring change and that is not the idea. The real agenda is that it is always noticeable enough to help its protagonists manage their social conscience. They may not be easily wooed by people in authority and even when they are wooed, they turn it down and make huge public issues of it to score more social or political points, but they increase in influence and popularity and the people whose cause they claim to represent get worse.
Tokenism does not have the capacity to force a sense of mission; it is not driven to be motivated by results. Tokenism chooses anger over strategy. You see it in the reckless use of abusive and disparaging words for the object of their criticism. The advent of the social media, which makes everybody a content provider, has made matters worse. Self-censorship, which is critical for matured social comments, has found its way out of the window of public comments. All of these have not helped us as a people.
It is time for society to begin to make new demands about how we can tolerate critics but reject those who are critical. The intellectuals of our land have been very active in being critical for over fifty years, yet there seems to be no attendant dividends gracing their seemingly rigorous labour of seeming ‘social intervention.’ The model defines the nuisance value of what we call social criticism. It draws the thin line between judging the system and crusading for genuine change. Most of our intellectuals judge the system. And as long as we continue to judge, we remain blinded to the real issues of the system. As I always say, the system has a life of its own and produces after its own kind. I think the first and the costliest mistake of our intellectuals is that we underrate the impact of the system on the totality of who we have become. Therefore it is easy for us to stand far off and see ourselves as the anointed repairers of system, who have not defiled ourselves. The truth of the matter is that everyone is tested according to the praise accorded him.
Constructive Self-criticism must be the foundation of a genuine and enduring crusade for change in the Third World. Here are what I believe to be the children of Constructive Self-criticism: the first is identification: it helps us to identify the real enemy and the issues; second is positioning: it helps us to begin our positioning by a commitment to personal change, focusing on our area of influence, instead of our area of interest. Positioning will help us understand that genuine change are led by minds and hearts, more than heads; and will help us to make huge investments in our personal and social transformation; third is aggregation: it helps us to distill intervention into social solutions, which represent a clear alternatives to every social, political and economic issues we have identified in the system, upon which the people are educated, and such social solutions become the manifesto for change.
Our focus today is to draw lessons from the raging successful CNN show – The Truth Alone prevails. The show highlights sensitive and prevalent social issues in India. Season 1 of the show garnered 1.2 billion impressions on the web and it ranked as the most talked about new show on social media all over the world. The response from political powers in India has been amazingly positive. Different changes have been made simply because of the show. It has become a major rallying point for change in India.
Aamir Kahn, the man behind the show is an accomplished Bollywood actor, producer and director. On 30th November 2011, Kahn was appointed as national brand ambassador of UNICEF to promote child nutrition. From his inspiring efforts towards social change, I want us to draw lessons I will call the KAHN Model in considering what our contributions should be towards nation building.
The truth we must face is that arm chair criticism and name calling will not help the progress of our nation. Nelson Mandela in the book – Long Walk to Freedom shows us the way to think. He wrote, “It was during these long and lonely years that my hunger for freedom of my own people became hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred. He is locked behind the bar of prejudice and narrow mindedness. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robed of their humanity. In prison, my anger towards the White decreased but my anger for the system grew. I wanted south Africa to see that I love my enemies while I hate the system that turns us against one another.”
What will empower us to be crusaders of social change and not judges is to understand that the oppressed (the masses) and the oppressor (power centres) are victims and both must experience emancipation. The judge finds the guilty party and declares the punishment. He is not necessarily interested in behavioural transformation. The crusader however is interested both in the offence and the offender. He loves his enemies but hate the system that turn us against each other.
We all need to be crusaders, not judges or critics. The system is the real adversary and the idea that people are the system is not necessarily true. Yes! I say that because the system is a culture and a code of thinking, attitude and behavior, it is unwritten. It doesn’t have a voice but has the capacity to teach and programme everybody. It must be wrestled as an independent entity different from the power centres.
In discussing the KAHN model, KAHN is not a critic but a crusader for social change. KAHN uses his celebrity influence to solve India’s greatest problems. His approach has been to create change through the power of facts, figures, persuasion and participatory ideology. KAHN challenges every citizen of the third world nation to take responsibility for the change we desire in our nations and throws a bigger challenge to celebrities and public figures in our nation to employ their popularity and resources to solve credible and demonstrable social problems, TO NOT JUST ADDRESS THEM BUT SOLVE THEM.
Change is a science that starts with sowing seeds of critical thinking about social issues in the mind of the people and end at achieving social change through mind revolution. Social education always precedes lasting social change anywhere in the world. I therefore urge our celebrities and public figures to give considerable thoughts to this in the New Year.
We can’t be onlookers. We must act peacefully, decently and in order. It is time to take a stand for mature and strategic social change by investing our God-given resources in peaceful, purposeful, compelling and solution-carrying social interventions. I use these words because not all noise can lead to value and not every drive can lead to change except they are qualified by these words. This is how it ought to be. This is the Life.