Change, change, change…it seems that we can’t help but talk about ‘Change’ these days. We have exhausted all the regular clichés and have appropriated the word to represent all the things that we feel are going bad: rising prices, falling Naira, unemployment etc., whether justifiable or not. That man (usually but women too) who is no longer seeing those extras from the bribe that he extorts by virtue of public office (or as a tout to public office) is unhappy and blames the dearth of bribes on the Government!. This persona is no longer able to buy those unnecessary cars that choke up every space in his house, he’s no longer able to buy the odd new house, entertain as lavishly, with those meaningful tips to the jocks and ladies of the house. Meanwhile, the contract as a civil employee, does not list bribery and takes from other corrupt practices as promised earnings, but he’d demand them anyway, he’d become entitled because corruption has become a cultural thing, our thing, owned and exercised by all and sundry; those tainted earnings have indeed become his right. He’s also stuck in a lifestyle that he’d would find difficult to deny without social repercussions: loss of face, social demotion etc. So he won’t change. Change will not begin with him. Change begins with him, that will be witch-hunting, a political vendetta.
Funny thing with the Government’s ‘Change’ agenda of the Government is that it’s not even really about Change, in the sense of ‘this is something new’ at all, but about returning to what it should always have been. When the Government presents ‘Change’ as its own initiative rather than as a collective resolve to return to the law, it immediately owns, as a consequence, all the ongoing socio-economic difficulties that, in fact, have nothing to do with the real thrust of the ‘Change’ message, that is, the return to the rule of law.
It’s about the rule of law. It’s about obeying the laws of the land. There’s nothing new to it, it’s just that we have strayed so far that a return seems strange and promises to be arduous. We are now like the sick shying from the Doctor’s needle. It’s about empowered civil institutions: The Police and all arms of enforcement, the Courts, the Legislature and the Executive carrying out just what they are empowered to do under the law without fear or favour. It’s about all us obeying our laws knowing that there will be no impunity if we contravene them. The Change begins with us.
The problem with ‘me’ rather than ‘us’ as the unit of social resolve is that we are a herd and ‘herd mentality’ is very real: Follow the leaders. This, at first, needs some stiff ‘rod and staff’ of the law until the herd gathers form and momentum, and then the whole society will be in full flow towards societal ideals. Well, when the leaders are themselves lost then that may mean another 40 years in the wilderness.
Get the message and the packaging right. Deliver through trusted channels. Convince the customers of the benefits, minimize their sacrifices, and get their buy-in. Achieve results.