The whole question of building a disciplined society has attracted increasing attention and concern, as well as a spate of comments in the mass media because of the social malaise, which has permeated the entire fabric of our society. In order to fully understand the problems posed by the social malaise in our society, it will be pertinent to focus on what discipline is. Discipline is the training, especially of the mind and character of human beings to produce self-control, orderliness, and a sense of duty and efficiency. Discipline is subjection to rule, submissiveness to control by constituted and legitimate authority.
The absence of discipline is called indiscipline, and from the above definition of discipline, we can derive that indiscipline is gross disregard for self-control, orderliness, duty and submission to control, submissiveness to control etc. An undisciplined society is therefore one fraught with mal-behaviours by individuals and association of individuals. Such mal-behaviours manifest themselves in laziness, inefficiency, bribery and corruption and other vices. But unfortunately, it is the nature of Nigerians to adopt negative views of things. For instance, when discipline is being stressed, they would like to be undisciplined. When a new edict, act, or bill has been promulgated, what occupies the attention of Nigerians is not compliance but how many loopholes the act or law contains, which could enable lawless and ungovernable citizens to evade or violate it with reckless abandon or with impunity.
There is ardent need for a disciplined Nigerian society, especially when it is remembered that indiscipline is the cankerworm that is accountable for most of the crimes and injustices in our society. The necessity for a disciplined Nigerian society cannot be overstressed, especially when we take into account Nigeria’s level of development. Discipline is urgently needed in all spheres and at all levels of the Nigerian society. Discipline must permeate every Nigerian family, school, mosque, church, industry, government office, hospital, airport, seaport, railway station, press, TV, armed forces, social clubs and voluntary organisations. It is only when we have disciplined society that we can build a just and egalitarian society where individuals are entitled to the enjoyment of equal opportunities. A disciplined society would be the logical starting point for the evolution of meritocratic social system, a system where merit determines a man’s chances for employment, promotion, appointment as government functionary, for winning scholarship, contracts, for being given attention on a queue in post offices, hospitals, airway booking offices and other places; where Nigerians compete for opportunities and values which are limited, for passing competitive public entrance examination, etc.
The family, as the basic unit for social organisation, must constitute the vanguard for the campaign for ordering disciplined society. Discipline like charity, must begin at home. Disciplined families beget disciplined villages and towns. Disciplined villages and towns beget disciplined local government areas, which in turn lead to disciplined states, terminating undisciplined nations. Disciplined parents would like to work hard to infuse discipline in their children because they are concerned with maintaining the good family name, public image and respect. On the other hand, undisciplined parents would almost invariably lack effective control on their children. As a result of poor family background and upbringing, such children may grow to become social misfits and public nuisances, delinquents and hardened criminals. Such children would be causing trouble with neighbours, town’s men and fellow citizens.
Whatever our position in society, as village heads, traditional rulers, administrators, governors, lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, military leaders, business executives, artisans, sweepers and private men and women, we must learn to inculcate and transfuse discipline to our descendants.
Discipline is universal. It is international and transcends cultural, linguistics, social, religious, political and ideological boundaries. Undisciplined citizen is one that would be evading tax; a contractor who would use mobilization fee paid to him for equipping himself with luxurious cars, air-conditioned office and many wives and chain of girlfriends when the contract remain unexecuted. He is one that would be involved in, or aiding and abetting bribery and corruption, hoarding of basic commodities and arbitrary increase in prices, smuggling of contrabands, kidnapping, shoplifting, burglary, armed robbery, drug trafficking and drug addiction, certificate racketeering, counterfeiting of currency and similar evils.
It is very unfortunate that our values after independence have been practically materialistic and acquisitive. There is mad-rush by Nigerians in all walks of life for material wealth. The clergyman cannot pray to people and look after their moral wellbeing without reminding them several times of the necessity to pay heavily in collection, tithes, dues, fellowship, etc. Medical doctors, like shylocks taking a pound of flesh, would not administer drugs to the sick unless they have extracted enough money from them. A man is judged not by how religious, how intelligent, how brave or how virtuous he is but by the lifestyle he leads, by the type of flamboyant and luxurious car he drives, and so on. This outrageous worship of wealth abounds everywhere but the greatest culprits are the educated elite who are supposed to lead. Reference can be made to the foreign exchange scandal involving many prominent Nigerian personalities who collaborated with foreign crooks to run down Nigerian’s exchange reserves. This materialism permeates the entire system and accentuates all other malpractices. There is therefore the need for Nigerians to inculcate high moral standards and ethnics.
A former Head of State and now Executive President of Nigeria’s message at the opening ceremony of the Command and Staff College, Jaji, containing the now famous JAJI DECLARATION, came at the most appropriate time in our national history when indiscipline has reached its highest peak. Unfortunately, indiscipline has even extended to the highest military institution – CSC Jaji. It is in this context of his General Obasanjos Jaji declaration on the ills of our society and the ideal disciplined society of his dream (shared by Nigerians) must be appreciated. He exhorts Nigerians not to circumvent the traffic control edict or to sabotage the Rent Act or Law, not to prefer foreign to made-in-Nigeria goods; not to leak examination papers for temporary advantage, not to evade taxes or destroy and steal public property or pervert the cause of justice, or indulge in lateness or indolence.
The institutionalization of corruption, which has destroyed our society, must be seen as a war we must all fight to ensure the total cleansing already started from the Failed Banks Tribunals set up by the discredited General Sani Abacha’s administration.
What the government needs is total support from the masses to start the cleansing so that a disciplined political class would emerge. Without this our desire for a peaceful society will be a day dream. The redressing of injustice in the society, inculcating the right morals in our youths and also ensuring that leaders in position of authority show good examples to the masses – these are the only prerequisites for a modern state to move forward at this critical stage of our development.
As a modus operandi for ordering a disciplined society, I suggest that Nigeria should evolve a national ideology. This nation requires certain guiding principles for directing the conduct of its citizens. Such principles would embody certain basic ingredients, abstracted from our traditional values and our collective consciousness and aspirations for the future; not a foreign ideology, but a truly Nigerian ideology. Above all, I believe that the eradication of indiscipline and concomitant mal-behaviour from our society could be achieved through mass political education. Only through a national ideology infused through mass education can we evolve a virile society geared towards the betterment of the lives of all its citizens.
We need a disciplined society – to achieve that. The needed checks and balances which must come from the media, the middle class and the elites through re-education of the people, must he pursued with vigour and sincerity.
AKC A. AJIBOSON, a Journalist and Management Consultant, wrote in from Abuja.
Culled from Our VISION magazine, March/April 2002.