The window and the mirror

It is clear to the blind and discernible to the deaf that there is a lot of tension in the land. From all indications, Nigeria is at one of her lowest nadirs as a result of the systemic dysfunctionality that stares us in the face.

There is no reprieve at home as our health institutions are in a shambles. Our roads are mainly death traps and our highways kidnappers’ dens. Our education is comatose and the products lack the attitudinal refinement that ordinarily comes with higher learning. Nothing works any longer as public infrastructure remains almost obsolete.

We are in a quandary or at best a nation at war with itself. On the one hand, terrorists, bandits, criminals and all sorts of human cretin among us are on the offensive, killing, maiming, kidnapping, raping and robbing people with reckless abandon while on the other, the security forces kill, harass, intimidate and sexually abuse those they are supposed to protect.

Abroad, our people are being executed like chickens in South Africa and the Middle East while others are being dehumanised in Europe. Medical tourism to some Asian countries is becoming nightmarish as Nigerians fall victim to organ theft syndicates run by dubious professionals. In the Americas, Nigerians are presumed criminals and fraudsters, by virtue of their nationality,  until they are proven otherwise.

Meanwhile, it is too late and irrelevant these days to be parroting Walter Rodney’s thesis of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. It is rather expedient that we do a collective soul-searching as a nation, look at the mirror and see the evils we do to ourselves in the name of ethnicity, religion and politics, the three of which constituted my submission in a presentation entitled “Religious Bigotry, Ethnic Jingoism and Prebendal Politics: Understanding the Centrifugal Forces of Underdevelopment in Nigeria” made at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, on April 17, 2019. How we convert positivity to negativity with ease in Nigeria beggars belief as religious beliefs, ethnic identities and political affiliations are normal in every society.

The notion of looking at the mirror foregrounds the metaphor of the window and the mirror used for education in leadership theory, peace and conflict studies as well as sundry areas. In context, Paolo Coelho tells the story of a rich young man who met a Rabbi to seek his advice on what to do with his life. The Rabbi led him to a window and asked him what he could see through the glass.

“I can see men coming and going and a blind man begging for alms in the street,” he said.

Then, the Rabbi showed him a large mirror and asked him what was there.

The man responded, “I can see myself.”

“And you can’t see the others. Notice that the window and the mirror are both made of the same basic material, glass. You should compare yourself to these two kinds of glass. Poor, you saw other people and felt compassion for them. Rich, covered in silver, you see yourself. You will only be worth anything when you have the courage to tear away the coating of silver covering your eyes in order to be able to see again and love your fellow man,” the Rabbi remarked.

In the same vein, when things are wrong, the tendency is to look at the window and point fingers at who is responsible. Everyone else is to blame apart from the finger pointer. But when things are right, the same person stands before the mirror and sees himself, satisfied at his job well done.

Students of our tertiary institutions are veritable examples of this window and mirror mentality. When they perform excellently, they look straight into the mirror, feeling gratified: “I made an ‘A’ in that lecturer’s course!” But when the opposite is the case, they look at the window with disgust: “That lecturer gave me an ‘F’ in his course!” They always make good grades but are given bad grades!

It is part of miseducation to always look at the window when things are awry. Those who are properly educated look at the mirror in bad times so that they may make adequate changes and adjustments.

The situation of Nigeria today is the handiwork of Nigerians and it a good prayer point that God save Nigeria from Nigerians. Therefore, it is high time we all introspected and appreciated how we destroy our society and country, including selfish leaders and wayward parents who pay others to sit exams for their children.

Always remember: “you will only be worth anything when you have the courage…to love your fellow man.” Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.