In Africa we pride ourselves to be family oriented – collectivism over individualism kind of society. What this means sometimes is that a group of people will stand by ‘their’ own through thick and thin, sometimes for social good, but sadly not always.
Looking inwards in a place like Nigeria where working as a part of a strong social group is highly regarded, we have another sub division whereby community development and small family unit are in competition.
In Nigeria across the country there is mounting pressure placed on individuals as soon as they resumed position in public offices to ‘remember home’ at the expense of the larger group s/he was meant to serve.
From big cities to small villages, the practice common.
My friend’s father was a great teacher. He was the kind of teacher that makes you forget all about the depressing realities (i.e sometimes being owed salary up to 3 months in a row) that comes with teaching in Nigeria. Mr Abiola was a language teacher, he taught Yoruba – his passion was infectious. Growing up, he was the busiest teacher I knew, working all year round, teaching full-time, after school clubs and participating in regional and national exams doing invigilation and markings – most people talked highly of his commitment. My friend’s mother was a school librarian and around to look after the family.
Mr Abiola took early retirement about a decade ago to become politician, I was innocently elated, naively thinking he’d change the face of education as he knew what we lacked, I dreamt that one day he’d be a Minister of Education so he would fix it all – oh well.
It is sad that the words around was that no matter how passionate one was about collective social good, when outside of the ‘corridor of power’ – they always change once inside and not always for the collective good of their community.
All across the country, once assumed public office, the first obvious sign is high walls around their houses – Kirikiri style (Nig high security prison).
Are people this bad that most of our public officials needed high walls around their homes? Or the reality is that resources meant for everyone in the community was shared within one family that they, out of necessity had to build high walls?
Then I realise politicians outside of our continent are not that different neither, they too love and give back to their families. However, there are huge differences in the way that they treat public offices. They are not perfect, hence we read all about internal improvement.
For them, public officials is for the most part responsible for the people, the community, the nation, and those trusted to be in positions to manage national wealth did with these in mind.
What are we doing differently? For us in Nigeria for example, the reverse is true – Me, my family first. Crummies for the people next door.
Result – endless fights from angry citizens.
What I notice was that the need for a better and bigger community is higher for individualised societies. Everyone contributes towards it, usually through taxation and revenues from national resources hence there is collective sense of ownership towards public facilities such as schools, libraries, museums etc.
The big man/woman down the street is usually very ‘generous’ during Owambe celebrations. I think other ways of receiving and maintaining popularity will be given what belongs to people to them in the form of added value initiatives.