17th December, 2013
By Dr. Fola Ojo
Governor Babatunde Fashola recently expressed his frustration at the attitude of the South African government towards Nigeria when he submitted that we (Nigeria) “deserved respect” for the leading role we played in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa. The Governor is an astute man of wisdom and an erudite legal bigwig who many, including myself, have come to respect and love for the good works he has done in Lagos State over the last 6 years or so. But the Governor got it wrong here.
The word “Respect” is defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. It is also known as regard, esteem, reverence, deference and honor.
Respect is not shoveled out the way oil-blocks and contracts are rolled out to cronies in Nigeria. Respect is not free food in a paper plate or a hand-out received on demand. Respect is not a freebie tossed on your lap because you THINK you deserve it, and not made available because you demand it. Respect is a jewel and a precious stone, it is more precious than silver and costlier than gold. The values of Pearls and diamonds are not comparable to the value of respect. Big Agbada and flowing Babariga don’t provoke respect. Big talk, haughty swagger, big jeep, big castles, and big oil don’t provoke respect. Persons in authority who think they are having a field’s day robbing and clubbing their followers into submission may be feared, but not respected.
At one time in Nigeria’s history, we earned respect and many nations accorded us our due respect. But at another time, we auctioned it so cheap on the back of greed, graft, and gluttony. That is where we are now. Respect is earned, and Governor Fashola knows it.
What we deserved from South Africa was a “thank you”, for standing against Apartheid and its machineries, and we’ve had that plenty. Madiba had thanked us many times; nations all around the world had thanked us many times. We only deserved an appreciation, we have to earn respect. When a person start crying for respect, he has lost it, when a nation starts demanding respect, the nation has lost it. Nigeria has lost its respect, and it is sad. It is difficult to respect a nation that does not respect itself. A nation where leaders have no respect for the people they lead, where human lives are not deemed precious, where blatant banditry has become the order of the day cannot be respected. A nation where government resources become personal assets, and cronyism is an open cankerworm, cannot be respected. A nation where opposing voices are silenced in cold-blooded massacres, where community leaders are kidnapped for ransoms and young girls are handed out in marriage to Alzheimer-stricken oldies-with-no-goodies cannot be respected. A nation with astounding mind-boggling wealth and yet with an undeserved astounding, mind-boggling heap of ravaging poverty cannot be respected. A nation where senators earn more than leaders of developed countries of the world while workers who make things happen are owed salaries up to 2 years cannot be respected. A nation that jets out its leaders abroad for treatment of mere migraine headache because its health care system is a nightmare cannot be respected. And a nation where our spiritual leaders, the Bishops, Pastors, Overseers, Imams, Alfas and Babalawos cuddle corrupt fellas and hobnob with plunderers of our wealth thereby subtly encouraging them to steal some more, cannot be respected.
That is why we are hated in many nations, and that is why we are not respected. But it is in our hands to turn this around if we summon the will to do it. It can be done!
•Ojo is President, Gravitas Communication, Hartford, Wisconsin, USA, and Senior Pastor City of Praise Milwaukee, WI, wrote this Article from U.S