The recent launch of the reorientation campaign ‘Change Begins with Me’ by President Muhammadu Buhari as part of his government’s strategy to make Nigerians eschew dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity and embrace daily introspection over immoral conducts, is still generating debate as to how the project can address the multifarious societal ills that have bedevilled the country over the years.
During the launch, President Buhari tasked Nigerians to first think about how they could contribute to the country’s development as individuals before asking about the change his administration promised.
According to the president, “Before you ask ‘where is the change they promised us’, you must first ask ‘what have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of the society.
“If you have not seen the change in you, you cannot see it in others or even the larger society.”
The project according to reports, was conceived by the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture, and National Orientation to raise the standard of ethics among Nigerians. He said the change being envisaged wasn’t only about economic and social progress, but also about personal behaviour and how Nigerians could conduct themselves, engage their neighbours, friends and relate with the society in a positive way.
Buhari as military Head of State in February, 1984, introduced a similar campaign, ‘War Against Indiscipline and Corruption’ to encourage a more efficient society. It was a campaign against disorderliness, inefficiency, sloth and disregard for hard work. The campaign was also designed to foster greater personal and social discipline with Nigerians urged to queue for buses in an orderly manner.
The crackdown on indiscipline was announced by Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, a member of the Nigerian Supreme Military Council then.
He said, “I want you to bear in mind the need to emphasise self-discipline and leadership by good example. Begin by drawing public attention to little but important everyday manifestations of indiscipline such as rushing into buses, driving on the wrong side of the road, littering the streets, parks and dwelling compounds, cheating, taking undue advantage of scarcity to inflate prices for quick monetary gains, constituting ourselves into public nuisances, working without commitment and devoting little or no time to the upbringing of our children.”
The campaign seemed to have achieved an initial degree of popular acceptance until the widespread criticism of the military tribunals holding hearings in secret.
Initially, many people said they viewed the campaign as simply a propaganda exercise intended to presuade the public that if everyone worked diligently, stopped dumping garbage on the streets and lined up for buses and elevators rather than stampeding through the doors, Nigeria would be a nicer place to live. But, that did not happened.
With the current Change Begins With Me campaign, would scores of businesses in the country embarked on change begins with me at the workplace, pasting Change Begins With posters on the walls and pinning Change Begins With buttons on the lapels of their most exemplary workers?
The decision to revert to an old and largely unpopular tactic exacerbated the sense of a leader out of touch and faltering as he attempts to turnround a nation enduring its worst economic crisis in years.
Critics of the campaign say those behind it can behave in an attempt to cope with the current frustrating economic reality and social environment.
Nigerian NewsDirect believes that a society does not become disciplined through slogans. A society, more so an African society, is impressed by example. If the leaders would live how they say rather than say how to live, it would have a lot more impact.