One of the main reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari who was then a military ruler seized power from the civilian government of the day being led by Shehu Shagari was because of the problem of corruption.
But, beyond corruption, Buhari saw a problem that other past administrations “may be” had not seen. It was the conventional practice of INDISCIPLINE which had eaten deeply into the entire Nigerian society. In an attempt to tackle this menace, Buhari launched an aggressive campaign which was called the War Against Indiscipline (WAI).
As a military ruler, it was very effective. I remember vividly as a small boy the fear in me and many other Nigerians to make sure that government orders were not violated. You could not urinate or defecate in public, neither could you throw refuse out of your vehicle or any place where government had not designated refuse to be dumped. Nigerians had respect for traffic laws and regulations. The aura of discipline was palpable and it was becoming a consciousness at that time. The military boys were enforcers of WAI and were on the prowl in literally every community, at hand to ensure discipline was maintained by immediately invoking a form of corporal punishment to offenders right on the spot. However and perhaps most unfortunately, Buhari’s regime was short-lived as his government was overthrown by another military junta in 1985 palace coup, which brought in some of Buhari’s lieutenants to assume power. One main reason given for the takeover was that policy initiatives such as WAI and the methods of implementation were draconian and somewhat inhumane.
Indiscipline does not seem to be a very popular word on the lips of Nigerians whenever they are asked to give reasons for Nigeria’s problems. The common words often used by most commentators are: corruption, tribalism, nepotism and religious bigotry. But we submit that these are identifiable symptoms of rather than the immediate or remote causes of the ailments our nation faces. So let us focus a little bit on this phenomenon called indiscipline.
What is indiscipline? The English Cambridge dictionary defines indiscipline as, “a situation in which people do not control their behaviour or obey rules”. I define indiscipline as, “disregard or lack of respect for other people or things”.
When you have due regard for people and/or things as the case may be, you are likely to treat them with respect, courtesy and show of responsibility and accountability towards them. For example, You do not treat your phones with disregard. Do you? Certainly not! You have the utmost regard for it because it means something to you. Does Nigeria or fellow Nigerians mean anything to you? Does the environment, the roads that give you access to your homes, markets and schools mean anything to you? Here are a few other familiar scenarios to expatiate and buttress the point.
- whilst driving you have habit of beating the red traffic lights at the risk of yours and other people’s lives or driving one-way in traffic at the risk of yours and other people’s lives and property;
- mismanagement of company’s funds where you are employed or that of a government establishment at the detriment of the survival of that organization, your staff and the families they are accountable for;
- the indiscriminate and improper disposal of trash after eating or using a product at the detriment of your safety and health, as well as, that of the environment. The list goes on and on.
Indiscipline – the lack of regard for others and things (inclusive of our environment) – is arguably the breeding ground for corruption of all kinds, tribalism, nepotism, cronyism, violence of all kinds and total mismanagement and collapse of systems. So in ignorance of this reality, why do we think we are where we are as a nation?
It is quite interesting to note that Nigerians hardly consider indiscipline to be an issue whether in government or society in general. What is even worse is the fact that the people believe government is responsible for the indiscipline in the society, but what we fail to realize is that government is simply a tool or vehicle for administering governance to a people.
Government is inanimate! It is the people who enter government from the society that gives it life. In the same way a vehicle will remain motionless and inanimate until the owner or someone else enters into it to drive it; that is the same with government. There is no government without the people who enter it through the constitutionally approved channels of power. Hence, the argument that government is responsible for our woes as a nation should be re-evaluated.
In conclusion, if our Governments are corrupt today, whether local, state or federal, it is simply because we the Nigerian people allowed it to be so. If only we changed our ways by imbibing the spirit of discipline as individuals before we get into government, then Good Governance and real development at all levels will become truly possible.
Political and Socioeconomic Development Expert
Executive Director, Operations & Engagements, LEADIFOLLOW
Edited and commented on by
Lawyer and Public Affairs Consultant