Thursday, August 9, 2018
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Pikesville, Maryland, USA

ach time I come across the saying or motto of a Nigerian Newspaper which reads as follows, "Conscience is like a wound, only truth can heal it", I feel a sense of guilt for my country. Yes, most wounds can be healed, but what is the nature of the wound? What is the cause of the wound? What is the status of the wound? How can we procure the medication for the healing? and how is it to be applied for desired healing? A further understanding of the meaning and import of conscience is necessary for us to appreciate the consequence of its absence either in an individual or in a society. Conscience (ERI OKAN) is the impulse to do right because it is right. It is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking. It is that which warns us as a friend and punishes us as a judge! I have also known that a clean conscience is a comfortable pillow, even in the dungeon! This simple but important abstract trait or characteristic is what has been damaged (wounded) or lacking in many Nigerians and hence we are where we are as a nation today. It is the lack of good conscience which leads to corruption and makes us to lack integrity and make us to lose sight of accountability. If not, why do people pillage colossal amounts of money and amass (hoard) physical properties beyond their life-time possible incomes and entitlements? Both our Followership and Leadership in Nigeria are guilty of good, clean or clear conscience. All we need to do is to search our conscience, if we do not already know this.

My nation-Nigeria is sick and very sick at that! This sickness is easily confirmed by the fact that a bad conscience is easily dismissed as an illness, a chronic one at that. I am at a loss in my search for what else might be wrong with Nigeria and why is anything wrong so that we can try to proffer the best and lasting cure and healing. Nigeria's major sickness has to do with peoples' wounded conscience. Is it that the conscience is irreparably damaged or it has been miraculously excised (disappeared)? Here is where I hit the dead end and a point of no return all the time. This is sad and very very sad indeed! When the conscience is damaged or non-existent, people may behave in a different manner than that which was designed by God. Unfortunately, this is the case with both the leadership and followership in our nation and precisely why we are running around in circles, with destination unknown. The rich continue to rob the poor and the poor are busy robbing one another! The causes of our wounded and sick conscience include - greed, selfishness, avarice, corruption, ostentatious and flambouyant life-styles at the expense of others, etc. I have prayed and prayed but God keeps assuring me that all will be well. I believe Him and I have confidence in Him as our Lord and saviour, who can and will save Nigeria, in His own good time. The masses have suffered enough.

Let me try to answer some of the questions above, if at all possible, in an attempt to heal some of the wound on my mind. It is clear to me that there are many well-meaning Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, who share the same feelings with me on this issue of conscience. Often times, I wonder why God has not empowered me enough to be able to single-handedly or with others of like minds, turn things around for my dear country Nigeria. The reason for my wish is for all of us to see, smell and taste a new Nigeria of our dream. A nation where our infrastructures will be of world class standard, where our wobbling education will be like others in civilized nations, where our health system will be operating to save lives instead of wasting lives, where people in urban and rural neighbourhoods can get to the public water-tap to fetch water rather than buying water satchets and bottled water to quench their thirst, where your security is guaranteed and you can sleep with your eyes closed, where there is genuine love and trust as one another's keepers, where things are running normally and government cares for its citizens. Alas this has become a mirage now! All these belong in the past and the hope of ever returning there is very slim with bad leadership. We cannot afford to give up.

I will endeavor to define who among us Nigerians is not sick, either as a leader or as a follower. If your answer to any of the following questions is in the affirmative then you have a conscience and it is free of any wound. Do you pray every day for the goodness of Nigeria? Do you represent Nigeria truthfully and gracefully daily? Do you love your fellow compatriots like yourself? Are you kind and compassionate to fellow Nigerians? Are you incorruptible in every way and every sense? Can you be trusted (ie you do not cheat or exhibit dishonest behaviours (indiscipline) at home, school, work and in your society)? Any answer that is contrary to the wellbeing of our nation and our fellow compatriots means your conscience is either gone or damaged, needing to be reclaimed and restored or healed for a better Nigeria. Any act of indiscipline on our part as citizens of Nigeria, constitutes a wound on our conscience. We need to find solutions or some form of healing to keep clean and clear conscience with which we can coexist as citizens to make Nigeria great.

Put yourself on a rating scale from 1 to 10 and see how you rate on the following seven variables, which can make Nigeria great. Please circle the number which relates to you and add your score on all variables to get your grand total score.

If your grand-total score on all variables is less than perfect, ie 70/70 then you are a work in progress. The farther away from seventy grand total mark, the more work you need to do, in healing the wound on your conscience. Remember the definition and meaning of the word CONSCIENCE (ERI OKAN), it is the impulse to do right, because it is right, without regards for personal gains. Let us all start the journey to clean Nigeria up commencing from individual conscience cleansing, so that we can apply clean and clear conscience to our daily activities and responsibilities. Government can also help in growing good conscience by its strict enforcement of the Laws and punishing offenders appropriately. The rule of Law can help in growing good conscience in an unruly citizenry. Double standards, the untouchables, people with vested interests, favouritism, nepotism, tribalism and sectionalism do very serious damage to the Justice System and the conscience of nations and the citizenry. Actions, choices and decisions must be made to have serious consequences and punishments. These are what we need in Nigeria.

It will not seem to me that this article is complete without bringing politics into the issue of conscience. It is often said that Politicians are liars. True or false is left to each of us as individuals. However, the literature supports the fact that politicians may be lacking in clear and clean conscience because most writers believe that there is no morality in politics; there is only expediency! This perhaps explains why in politics you have no permanent friends, only allies and according to Charles Dudley Warner, politics make strange bedfellows! With the complete absence or damaged conscience, a politician is made or transformed, and hence a politician will always be there ONLY when he needs you. Paradoxically, our society is stuck with a category of deceitful human beings, who are capable of leading the masses to the ocean of no return. Nigerians are merely waiting for the able intervention of God. That is precisely why Nigeria has been referred to as a blessed country with impoverished citizenry, with leadership without conscience. Henry George's statement of 1883 applies to our current Nigerian situation "Our two great political parties have really nothing more to propose than the keeping or the taking of the offices from the other party".

Let us from now on, as Nigerians try to eschew any act that is ungentlemanly and unbecoming every day. We should remember that we will be judged by posterity in the end. Our children and grandchildren will either be put to shame or respected and envied by other Nigerians of their own generation, because of the good reputation we leave behind for them. It is not often true that a person's reputation can outlast his/her money, rather, it must not guide but follow our actions. This is corroborated by John Clark who asserts that "He that hath an ill name is half hanged." The Holy Books (Bible and Quran) also state that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches (Bible, Prov. 22:1). The journey to achieving clean and clear conscience through behavioral change is long but it is doable and glorious, if only we try to make Nigeria great.

Let the whistles blow very loudly and let us name and shame those looters and kleptomaniacs. Let us bring all those greedy and selfish miscreants whose conscience have been compromised to face the music in public. All those who have impoverished the masses must be put to shame and disgraced to serve as deterrents to others. Let all of us from now on, serve as the conscience of our nation, as disciplined Nigerians. The recent gale of defections marked yet another watershed in Nigeria's political history. Let all Nigerians, politicians, leaders and followers re-engage their consciences and reset the buttons of conscience. If truth is said to be 'the God in us' and truth heals the wounds of our conscience, then let the truth prevail always to save us from the burden of conscience. Let us 'un-delete' the conscience button and live in peace and at peace with one another as Nigerians. The truth and the God in us will be the exact meaning of conscience. Nigerians need these to make our nation great. Long live Nigeria.