The human society, in its effort to build an equitable and just society, has a lot to learn from the lower animals. This may sound paradoxical but it is simply true and merits a thoughtful consideration. A study of some of these lowly organisms shows, within their fold, a high level of sophistication in discipline, organisation and general orderliness. The social insects, which live in colonies, and which are well known to us, are a case in point. In these colonies there are distinct roles and responsibilities, and each group is adapted to play its own part for the common good of the colony. Any student of zoology will readily admit that in the entire animal kingdom, the Class Insecta, comprising all the insect groups, is the most successful of all animals. Their success is predicated on the basis of their ability to thrive in every conceivable environment. They are generally said to have conquered every known environment. Thus they are found in the air, on land, in the sea and in the subsurface or underground. Their critical success factor is their adaptability. They have their species which have developed wings to fly in the air, there are those with strong limbs to move on land, some have developed padded limbs and special lungs to live in water and yet others can burrow into the ground and live there. It is also among the insects that we find animals that live in colonies like the bees, the termites which make those architectural anthills, and the soldier ants, thus classifying them as social insects. If the lowly ants can be this orderly, why has man, in all his wisdom and power, not been able to establish the perfect society?
Yes, it is true that the insects are the most successful of all animals, but it is not all the insect groups which contribute to the common good of their society. In this essay I have chosen some of the familiar insect groups; the bees, butterflies and the wasps, to illustrate the import of the lesson of performance and accountability.
The bee, the butterfly and the wasp are familiar visitors to flowers. They derive nourishment from the nectar which they suck from these flowers. Having received this nourishment, what do they give back in return, as their contribution towards the common good?
The bee forms honey from the nectar which it has ingested. This honey is also a source of food for the rest of the colony. No doubt that the human society also enjoys the taste of the honey and thus benefits from the labour of the busy bee.
The butterfly on its part produces absolutely nothing in return, but instead beautifies itself through the nourishment from the nectar. Little wonder then that it dances from flower to flower to the admiration of on-lookers. But has it added value to the common good?
The wasp on the other hand actually produces something from its ingested nectar. It produces poison! As a consequence, the wasp is dreaded by every other insect as it is frequently seen filling its nest with the larvae of different insects, having killed them by injecting its poison into them, thus storing them as food for its own offspring. Again, any value added to the common good? None of course, but the poison formed from the nectar serves the wasp for its selfish need. This very simplistic scenario in the insect groups can be extended to the human society.
Mother nature has endowed each and every one of us with one ability or the other. It is this human endowment together with the natural resources of nations that confers on each nation its ability for growth and development. All nations are not equally endowed, as mother nature does not use a ruler to measure out abilities or resources to individuals or groups. It is the ability to judiciously or equitably utilise available resources that distinguishes the capacity and capability of nations. But is it all the endowed nations that are developing at commensurate rates? The answer is an obvious no! This is where the metaphor of the bee, the butterfly and the wasp comes into play.
Nigeria is a country richly endowed by mother nature both in human and material resources. There is an abundance of land mass which, in the past, promoted agriculture and animal husbandry. Igneous rocks of different ages and types, in whose bowels are housed numerous minerals, occur all over the country. These are goldmines waiting and begging to be fully exploited. There are rivers which dissect the country, and in their tortuous journeys have yielded sediments which carry along with them the black gold and other energy supplying agents. Since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, nations that are endowed with these resources have acquired global recognition in terms of revenue generation, industrial growth and political power.
In terms of human capital, there is no known field of human endeavour in which Nigeria is lacking. It is generally believed that there is no continent or country in the planet earth that you will not find a gainfully engaged Nigerian. Today, Nigeria cannot feed itself, what with the level of abject poverty in the villages and remote parts of the country. Today, Nigeria cannot guarantee a steady supply of power and electricity to run its services and industries. Today, Nigeria cannot boast of quality road networks to link its state capitals and communities for promotion of tourism, trade and commerce. Today the fast, efficient and safe air travel, is nightmarish to most Nigerians. Today in Nigeria, security of life and property is of major concern to both the governed and the government. Time was when our institutions of learning attracted numerous foreign students and lecturers, but today, these places are skeletons of their past glory. In the past healthcare and sanitation received government priority attention, but today, self medication is a faster approach to medical service. We can go on and on enumerating the degree of degeneration since the colonial era, because we must learn to tell ourselves the truth and nothing but the adamantine truth. Where did we then go wrong ? The answer lies in the metaphor of the bee, the butterfly and the wasp.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]
The success story of the social insects lies in the fact that each group has its role to play and all groups work towards the common good. In the termite society, like we all know, the worker-ants labour night and day to build the marvelous anthills to house every member of the colony. It is they that also forage for food to feed the entire colony. The soldier-ants with their pincer mandibles guard the entire anthill, preventing predators from gaining entry. The winged-termites fly around and eventually shed their wings as they fall down to mate to produce their offspring. The responsibility of egg production lies with the queen-termite which is literally an egg-laying machine. It is fed on a special diet, known as the royal jelly, and remains robust and lustrous all of its life. This is teamwork, care and respect for individual abilities and responsibilities.
Appropriate tools and enabling environments have to be provided to people so as to give of their best and there must be effective and continuous supervision coupled with monitored accountability. This is the success story of the social insects and Nigeria can also be that successful if and when we decide to have a change of mindset.
It is evident that signs to the path of recovery in Nigeria are manifesting gradually in the past couple of months. All hands must, therefore, be on deck to sustain this momentum and we must continue to speak up when something is deviating from the acceptable norm. Nigerians must begin to understand that a vocal minority invariably subsumes a silent majority. Keeping silent when something is going wrong because of ethnic, religious or tribal consideration or interest, will continue to take us back to where we should not be. Evil is evil, no matter how beautifully decorated or clothed, and fortunately too, all the holy books which we revere, do condemn evil and evil acts. Why then must we close our eyes to evil, suppression, oppression, prejudice, discrimination, injustice, inequity and other unedifying practices, and still proclaim that we are a highly religious nation? That is hypocrisy. In addition, every effort must now be made by all and sundry to tackle the canker-worm of corruption which denies us of growth and development. Just as we do preach and proclaim in safety management that safety is the responsibility of all, and not just that of the safety managers and management, so also must this be applied to the current fight against corruption in all its ramifications and guises. This fight is not to be left to the President and the EFCC or other bodies of like function, but it is important for all of us to join and sustain the fight.
We must turn our back to those evil practices of governance of the past. If and when we are put in positions of authority, and if we cannot be productive like the bee, as illustrated in this essay, let us not be like the butterfly or worse still, the wasp. We have all the resources in Nigeria to propel us to great heights if only we can be true to ourselves and our nation. If as a governor of a state, you invite over your state local government chairmen to share state funds for personal glory, then you are being the butterfly of this essay. If you deny your citizenry their basic needs like infrastructure and healthcare, leading to their hunger, poor healthcare and death, then you are being the wasp in this write-up. This means that you are simply paying them back with poison, whereas you have been given access to resources to empower and embellish them. Ministers, commissioners, advisers and all in positions of authority, have the responsibility to give accounts of their stewardship periodically, and not as a post mortem.
Every Nigerian life should be important and of concern to every other Nigerian. This is the bedrock of patriotism, when you know that your country manifests to you a duty of care. But how can we reconcile the situation whereby those empowered to protect us, end up taking our lives over trifles. Can we just for a moment consider our relationship with our police, entrusted with the responsibility of guarding and protecting the people. We were all enthused, and indeed we rejoiced, when the current police boss condemned the menace of the police on our highways. We all heaved sighs of relief, believing that his order, unlike those made by his predecessors, might be heeded. But alas today, the effrontery with which tolls are collected from motorists, journeys disrupted, at times commuters fired at, occasionally leading to loss of lives, and indeed general molestation of road users, especially those traveling in the southern and mostly the eastern parts of the country, negates his genuine intentions. How can we justify shooting into a vehicle in order to effect extortion of money from a recalcitrant driver? One should even ask whether checking of vehicle papers on the highways by the police is more important than the police patrolling crime-prone neighbourhoods? To date you still observe the Metropolitan police in the UK patrolling streets in pairs, armed with batons, but atop their shoulders are powerful communication gadgets. They do not mount road blocks every mile of the highway to check whether a vehicle has been stolen or not. Yet vehicles are stolen in UK cities on a very regular basis. The issue is that over there as in other citizen-loving countries, priority is placed on security of life of the citizenry. In Nigeria, our policemen will honour roadblock duties in preference to street or neighbourhood patrols. Definitely, there is more to it and this regime should look into the flagrant refusal by the police to dismantle road blocks on our highways, contrary to the order of the police hierarchy, for no serious government can allow its police force to hold it to ransom. Indiscipline is the bedrock of corruption. Therefore, we cannot go far as a nation in this fight against corruption when we pay lip-service to checking indiscipline among institutions which are supposed to be groomed and nurtured in discipline.
We can all make a determination to turn from all those paths which brought us to where we are today and join the government and all people of goodwill and honest intentions to make Nigeria a better place for all. God in His infinite mercies has blessed Nigeria, and it is our duty and responsibility to make the best of these mercies.