Harnessing Cultural Potentials in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria: CULTURE AS A VERITABLE TOOL FOR COMMUNICATION AMONG OUR YOUTH

Paper Presented by: Professor Justin Tseayo, Former Director-General/CEO, The National Institute, Kuru, Jos:

Freedom of the individual?  We are concerned with the freedom of the individual.  But to discover the individual is very difficult indeed, because at present we are not individuals.  We are the product of our environment; of our culture, the food we eat, our customs, our climate, our traditions, etc.  Surely that is not individuality.  Individuality unfolds only when one is fully aware of this encroaching movement of environment and tradition that enslaves the mind and cripples our thinking.

Harnessing Cultural Potentials in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria presents a monumental task indeed.  A task, which calls for experience and wisdom.  As you may be aware, experience is not what happens to men, it is what men do with what happens to them.  Consequently, I invite you to ask yourself: what really makes the biggest difference in your life, in who you become; in who you are a person; and in where you are going?

Ladies and gentlemen, vibrant youth of the Middle-Belt of Nigeria, the answer you are likely to come up with is: it is not the events that shape your life that determine how you feel and act, but, rather, it is the way you interpret and evaluate your life experiences.

The meaning you attach to an event will determine the decisions you make, the actions you take, and therefore your ultimate destiny.  Evaluations are nothing but questions you ask!  In fact, thinking itself is nothing but the process of asking questions.  Successful people asked better questions, and as a result, they got better answers.  They got answers that empowered them to know exactly what to do to produce the results they desired!  Surely, quality questions create a quality life.

Relationships flourish when people ask the right questions about where potential conflicts exist and how to support each other instead of tearing each other down.

Questioning our limitations is what tears down the walls of our ignorance in this earthly existence; in business, in politics, in relationships (i.e., Family) and even between nations.  All human progress is, indeed, preceded by new questions.  It was George Bernard Shaw who stated that “some men see things as they are and say, why?  I dream of things that never were and say, why not?”

“Middle-Belt of Nigeria and Middle-Belt Youth of Nigeria, why not?”  The answer is simple, Middle-Belt of Nigeria possesses qualities that merge into a single trait of human behaviour, and that is PROACTIVE.  This is so because they are desirous of being in control of their destiny and living a life of sharing.  This is in opposition to being under the control of others and always being on the receiving end, i.e., REACTIVE behaviour.

The mission of the Middle-Belt of Nigeria is to transform itself from being under the control of others, i.e., A Reactive Force, into a Proactive Force, and being in control of our own destiny and sharing.  When we react to external situations and events in our lives, we are merely an effect as opposed to being a cause.  We are reactive not proactive; we have also surrendered control of our lives.  When we exhibit crass selfishness, we are not sharing, but instead we are receiving gratification for the ego (our phantom selves).

How the Middle-Belt of Nigeria works – The Middle-Belt of Nigeria works like a light bulb: A light bulb has three (3) significant components, as follows:

  1. A positive pole (+)
  2. A negative pole (-)
  3. A filament separating the positive pole (+) from the negative pole (-).

Middle-Belt of Nigeria is symbolized by the filament, i.e., The North, the South and the Middle-Belt.  In the same way that a battery must have a negative pole and a positive pole before any flow of energy can occur, so do humans, and anything else that exists, because unless there is a difference there cannot be any flow of energy from one to the other, and thus, life or existence would be impossible.

Of the three (3) components in a light bulb, the filament is the most.  It acts as a resistor, pushing back the current flowing from the positive and preventing it from “connecting directly” with the negative.  This pushing back of energy is the reason the bulb generates illumination.  When the filament breaks, the positive pole connects directly with the negative pole and the bulb short-circuits. Then it burns, producing a momentary flash of light.  But then there is darkness.

You may like to ask, what is a short-circuit (a little fault)?  The answer is, an uncontrolled coming together of positive and negative forces.  They come together on a small scale at first, then like surging football crowds, more and more positive electrons rush to jump across to more and more negative electrons.  When, ladies and gentlemen, opposites meet uncontrolled, anything can happen … and does!  All life, all existence, is motion, flow, rise and fall.  There is nothing whatever that is stationary.  Nothing has ever existed, which is all positive or all negative.

The light bulb metaphor applies to our Nigeria nation state of the three components, the filament is the most important, i.e., the Middle-Belt of Nigeria.  It acts not only as a resistor pushing back the current flowing from the positive pole and preventing it from “connecting directly” with the negative pole.

Just as the resistance of the filament in a light bulb keeps the light aglow in a bulb, the Middle-Belt has a culture of resisting being under the control of others, and being only at the receiving end, and controlling their destiny within a united Nigeria.  Resisting the reactive behaviour keeps spiritual light shining.  We create a short-circuit and, thus, political darkness for our nation, Nigeria, when we fail to live up to our responsibility.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have taken the liberty in this light bulb metaphor to assume that the filament corresponds to the Middle-Belt of Nigeria.  I invite you to decide which corresponds to the negative and positive poles, northern and southern Nigeria.

But I must quickly add that between the positive and the negative poles, looking at only the two forces, it is ridiculous to say which is the more important; they complement each other, they contrast each other, they are absolutely dependent upon each other. They each owe to our great nation the selfless responsibility of promoting a violence-free Nigeria, where everybody’s rights are guaranteed, to preserve the dignity of every man and every woman and every child, including our environment.

What is a metaphor?  Whenever we explain or communicate a concept by likening it to something else, we are using a metaphor; for example, the image of a cross and the word, “Christian.”  Notice that Christ did not go to the fishermen and tell them he wanted them to recruit Christians, for they would have no reference for recruiting; so, Christ told them he wanted them to become “fishers of men.”

When he used that metaphor, they understood immediately as well as what they needed to do.  Nevertheless, be careful of metaphors that people offer you.  We must take charge of our metaphors, not only to avoid problem ones, but so that we can adopt the empowering metaphors as well.

The whole purpose of harnessing cultural potentials in the Middle-Belt for social and economic development is to promote a culture of Empowerment.  Sadly, most people fear their own empowerment and unconsciously encourage their dark/shadow side to thrive.  This happens particularly when conscious empowerment represents change, which can be terrifying.  Change signals loss of control and entry into the unknown.  We fear empowerment because it represents changes in our lives that will remove us from the warmth of those who love us for being vulnerable (what Americans call “comfort zone”).

And we fear being empowered because then we cannot claim that we are not responsible for our thoughts and actions.  Surely, we fear the high price our own empowerment/enlightenment will make us pay.

We talk about social services; service to the people, service to humanity, helping to bring peace to Nigeria and to the international community.  But often we forget that it is the very people around us that we must live for, first all.  If you cannot serve your wife or husband, or children or parents, how are you going to serve society?  If you cannot make your own child happy, how do you expect to be able to make anyone else happy?

Our families, our classmates, our friends, our community; we must live for them – for if we cannot live for them, whom else do we think we are living for?

DESTINY

Realize that destiny is not lying in wait, it is with you here and NOW; it is not the road you walk, it is the walking.  Whether friend or enemy, it always answers to your name – for you are your DESTINY.

THE CULTURE OF GIVING, SACRIFICE & RECEIVING

Permit me to mention briefly the culture of giving, sacrifice and receiving, as a veritable tool for communication among Middle-Belt Youth.  In ages far gone, beyond the Christian teachings, the Ancients believed in sacrifice; they knew by actual experience that sacrifice was essential, and they sacrificed that which was of most value to them.  They thought that if they gave that which was of most value to them, it would show God the high value they placed upon his pleasure.  In the Far East, it is the custom to give freely to those in need.

All churches, all religions, realize the necessity of sacrifice.  It is essential that a person shall give before they can receive.  Giving is like opening a door.  If we do not open the door, we cannot admit those good things, which are ready to come in to us.  If we are not prepared to give, then we cannot put ourselves in a receptive frame of mind.

You must give in order that you may receive. People ask for things, they pray for things; money for good health, etc., but they never say what they may give instead.  There is a definite divine law, which says that you cannot receive unless you are first ready to give; until one has actually given with a good grace, one is shutting the door on any possibility of obtaining that which one wants.  If you have no money you can give in service, in love and care, to someone in need.  If a good deed has been done to you, why not give by doing a good deed to someone else? We get nothing without paying for it, and we only get that for which we pay.

Abraham, Moses and millions and millions of others used sacrifice.  Do you know what sacrifice means?  Think of “Sacrament;” what does sacrament mean?  Sacrifice, of course.  Only by sacrifice could one secure the help of Higher Powers.  But to sacrifice, you must do without something yourself in order that someone else may benefit, in order that some else may be helped.

EMPOWERMENT AND CHANGE

If you make people to depend on you to create their change, you disempower them.  They should be dependent upon themselves than upon some “guru.”  We all must be responsible for our change.  One is not any better than the people one is working with; this way one will avoid the need to want to be “perfect” for the people one is working with, many of who may have natural abilities superior to one’s own.

For instance, let’s say, I am a cock, the cock that wakes you up.  The cock is, therefore, a metaphor for waking up, and waking up is everything that mankind needs.  The cock helps to “wake” people up so that they can achieve what they really want.  Everyone needs the cock; professors, military generals, top-level executives, students, homeless persons, president of the nation, etcetera.  The cock has neither claim to “perfection” nor to being “better” than others for what it does.

In the spirit of selflessness, we do whatever we can to benefit others without seeing ourselves as helpers and the others as helped.  A true friend makes every sacrifice she can and never thinks about it.  If one has learnt the manner of friendship, one need not learn anything.  One has learnt the greatest religion, for it is in this same way that one will make way to God.

FAMILY STRUCTURE & PARENTING

This Age, this time, is a period of great sorrow.  It is a time to look soberly and deeply upon human values and behaviours that form the perception of self worth and power as external.  We seem to be faced with the collective dilemma of diminished human responsibility.  Because they are mostly unconscious, people appear not to understand what they are doing!!

We bear responsibility for our own learning.  This responsibility cannot be externalized and dumped on someone else.  Our youth must be brought up, cared for and nourished to grow into sober, fearless, and responsible citizens of the nation and the world.

Fathers and mothers must assume their social responsibility of proper parenting.  Today’s violence is positively associated with lack of parental supervision.  Father and mothers are away at work in offices, factories, party political activities or, most significantly, away from themselves.

The children are left to fend for themselves on the streets and to become contaminated by the stronger and usually more evilly-disposed youths, who rise out of the maelstrom.  Thus, the children, the future human race, are just more or less abandoned to fend for themselves.

No wonder the problem of dangerous drugs, which damage the spirit, robberies, prostitution, etc., abounds in our communities.  In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to remind ourselves that:-

When you start killing for a dream, you end up killing the dream, too, and that is what is Hell.  Hell is watching your dream die.  We must remember that not only the thirsty seek the water; the water as well seeks the thirsty.

Middle-Belt of Nigeria is not just a place; it is also a philosophy.  It is a philosophy as we have seen and heard, of justice, fairness, non-violence and forgiveness and love.  Robert Assagioli tells us a story, which explains all these:

There were three stone cutters (does this sound like northern Nigeria, southern Nigeria, and the Middle-Belt of Nigeria?!!) all employed on the building of a cathedral in the medieval times.  When the first stone cutter was asked what he was doing, he said, angrily, “As you can see, I am cutting stones.”  The second replied, pragmatically, “I am earning a living for my family.”  The third stone cutter, when asked, said, joyfully, “I am building a great cathedral (is he saying, you may wonder, ‘I am building a great Nigeria nation, where love, justice, fairness, non-violence, prevails?!!).

Forgiveness lives or dies not on what has been done to us, and how we feel about that, but on the deepest and most telling attitudes that we bring to our stone-cutting, to the meaning we find in existence.

At the heart of all, forgiveness lies not only on open mindedness, but that the more we forgive, the more openly and truthfully we experience our connection with others, the less personal and conditional this connection needs to be.  Only when we understand what we share will we also understand how compassion emerges from truth and reality, and wholeness, and love and changes everything.

In conclusion, I invite the rest of Nigeria to benefit from “Harnessing Cultural Potentials in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria” for social, economic and psychic progress of our nation.  Again, with Rumi, the sufi mystic,

Not only the thirsty seeks water; the water as well seeks the thirsty.

Thank you for listening.

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