17th November, 2014
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Recently, the Lagos State Government commemorated the fifth anniversary of the re-launch of Uniformed Voluntary Clubs in Lagos’ public schools. It will be recalled that in 2009, the state government reincarnated clubs such as the Boys’ Scout, Red Cross Society, Brownies, Sheriff Guard, Boys and Girls Brigade by integrating their activities into the curriculum of public schools across the state. And as he did five years ago at the re-launch, the state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, spoke glowingly about his government’s conviction that the restoration of these clubs would help, in no small measure, to produce a new set of reliable and trusted leaders that would move the state and, indeed, the country to greater heights. Fashola’s optimism actually stems from his childhood experience as a member of the Boys’ Scout, which essentially helped to shape his character in his formative years.
To properly appreciate the governor’s position on the project, it is vital to reflect on some of the core values of some of these clubs. This is important in order to correct some erroneous impressions that tend to suggest that the only extraordinary fascination about them is their respective uniforms, thereby relegating some of their most fundamental values, which have enduring impact on members, to the background.
The Boys’ Brigade, for instance, through its informal education, anchored on core faith-based values and ethics, offers unique opportunities to its members to imbibe critical leadership traits. An integral part of these values is the one that bothers on looking out for others. Being your brother’s keeper is one priceless principle that the Boy’s Brigade strongly upholds. The underlining philosophy behind this tenet is that it seeks to make members become fairly conscious of the needs of co-members as well as other members of the society. Aside this, the Boys’ Brigade helps instil strong leadership traits in its members through the provision of high quality training and resources, provision of a network of professional staff to support voluntary leaders and creation of opportunities to develop partnership with other appropriate organisations and agencies.
On its part, the Boys’ Scout, which was established in 1910, has character development, integrity, physical fitness, practical skills, honesty and service as some of its core values. Usually, the word of a scout is his honour. He is bound by it. So, when a scout makes a promise, he is often very committed to keeping it. This is quite crucial because a society that is chiefly peopled by men and women who wouldn’t keep promises would only end up along the path of doom. Hence, helping to bring this into the consciousness of the younger ones, quite early in life, no doubt, portends good signals for the future of any society. In Nigeria, lack of integrity represents a major factor in our underdevelopment. If only our leaders would respect their oath of office as a scout reveres the Scout oath, the country would be the better for it.
“Be prepared”, the Scout motto, is another critical feature that stands it out. The implication of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is on no account taken by surprise. A critical look at the political history of Nigeria would reveal that the majority of our leaders never really prepare for the dynamics of leadership. Fate only thrust leadership on them. This largely explains our seeming lack of direction in most sectors of our national life. For our youngsters not to catch this bug of lack of preparation, taking a cue from the Scout’s slogan won’t be a bad idea.
The Red Cross, which came into being in 1863, is another club with core values worthy of imbibing. Jean Henri Dunant, the man who spearheaded the formation of the organisation, was influenced by the horrific feelings and pity he had as he viewed the awful sight of human suffering at the battle of Solferino in 1859. With the help of the villagers at Castiglione, Dunant worked tirelessly for three days, giving comfort and care to the injured. It is, therefore, not surprising that the very nature of the club impels its members to help the distressed and the unfortunate and to be concerned about social work. What the society so dearly needs these days is a strong commitment to care giving. This is what the Red Cross epitomizes. And this is what the Lagos State government wants to inculcate in its youngsters by offering them the platform to freely belong to this dignified society with a noble cause.
In a nutshell, all the clubs parade core values that could help youngsters stand out in an increasingly competitive world. The recurring features of all these organisations is the development of the minds and bodies of youngsters, teaching them skills, the value and virtue of service, integrity, honesty, dignity, compassion for fellow human beings and preparing them for future leadership tasks. It is a well acknowledged reality that the youths possess the strength and creativity that could help in nation building. Usually, however, if the prevailing condition in a society does not offer them the needed platform to channel their bursting energy into positive use, they could be tempted to embrace rebellious predisposition.
It is in order to help the youths put their energy into good use that the state government is encouraging them to take advantage of the platforms provided by these clubs. It is the conviction of the state government that our children deserve the best and government is determined to do so. In order not to leave any child behind in this renewed attempt at building a virile youth, government and its partners provided students with the clubs’ uniforms at no cost.
The most important obligation of any government to the younger ones is that of preparing them for future leadership role. Globally, there is a decline in the quality of leadership. This explains why we often resort to leaders of yesteryear at most discourses on leadership. There is, therefore, an urgent need to raise a new generation of leaders. This is what the Lagos state government hopes to achieve through the re-launch of the Uniformed Volountary Clubs. Responsible leaders like Nelson Mandela excelled because they learned to take responsibilities for themselves before being able to be responsible unto the society. That is why he could forgo his freedom in order to free his people. It is only those who could effectively look after themselves that could be entrusted with the task of looking after others. It is that simple. This is what is required of today’s younger people. This is what Lagos is working to imbue in them. This is what the society needs.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.