Picture this, a progress-minded person joins a community association. Looking around, he sees plenty of room for improvement. So he suggests, “Why don’t we correct the grammatical errors in our charter?” Or “Could we follow an agenda at our meeting so we can actually achieve the goals we set?” Immediately, the others pounce on him, “Who died and made you king over us?” They question, “Do you think you are the only one who has ideas?” Relentlessly, they pursue him until he backs away from his proposed improvements or leaves the association.
Progressives suffer grievous abuse in our communities. They are harangued and vilified for suggesting any improvement. They are witch-hunted by those who would rather perish in their mediocrity than change. Some are so hurt by the treatment they receive that they renounce their citizenship and dissociate from everything Nigerian (African?). Those who stay, endure constant attacks or keep quiet in order to live in peace but in conditions far below their standards. And so mediocrity persists and creates problems we cannot overcome in decades.
Some of the problems created by the governance of the mediocre include:
- Degeneration – if a community is not improving, it is degenerating. There is no stagnation. For example, if you built an edifice in 2000 and you have not made repairs, renovations, or upgrades to it since then, that edifice will not stay as you built it. The paint is fading, the stucco crumbling, floorboards creaking, and signs of aging are everywhere. Any wonder most of our institutions suffer from decay and degeneration?
- Generational alienation and youth flight – where the mediocre prevail and resist change, young people flee. Challenged by adults who don’t know the way forward yet deny the youth any say in shaping the future, the youth back away. This is perhaps the reason our cultural edifices are crumbling and falling into disrepair. The youth are moving as far and as fast as possible from everything to do with culture.
- Inbreeding of squalor – when the mediocre reign, squalor reigns. They do not see dirt talk less of clean it. They cook okporoko and allow the pungent smell to invade the entire neighborhood. When they bring jollof rice to the church get together, it is sprinkled liberally and ground into the carpet! One year of their membership in an association and degeneration sets in. They breed squalor, discontent, and rancor. Plus they multiply; inviting people like themselves in.
- Chase away high caliber people – when a society caters to the mediocre, allowing them to lead, shout down progressives, and stampede innovations, it will perish. High caliber visionaries will either shut up and put up with the crap or slink away in order to live in peace with their ideals.
- Lack of progress – no progress can be made without change. If people who are open to change are not in place to effect change, stagnation will prevail. Rather than effect change, the mediocre leader would spend his time refereeing petty quarrels, soothing bruised egos, and cajoling recalcitrant followers to make the minutest of changes. The only thing folks like that will yield to, is force which is why dictatorships are so successful in Africa.
So how does a Progressive survive?
- Aim for the highest post – If there’s a presidency, go for it or your ideas could be shut down from those higher in office than you. Imagine if Barack Obama, when the primaries was neck and neck, opted to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Would we have Obamacare? Or his refinance plan?
- Consider yours a divine calling – Something prompted you to take control of the situation. Even if you had to go through an election, it all started with an internal urge. Since you were not placed in position by the mediocre, do not look to them for approval or support. They will not support you.
- Grow a tough hide – don’t be so sensitive. If you’re going to survive in ‘mediocresville,’ you must grow a tough skin. You cannot afford to take every snide comment or verbal attack, personally. The mediocre will say and do all manner of things against you but if you take things personally, will be distracted from your goal and derailed.
- Build your own support team – chances are you are not the only progressive in the association. Others have probably tried before you and been shut down. Find like-minded people and build a coalition with them. Then with your coalition, move your association forward.
- Educate the mediocre – tell them what you plan to do and why. Though few will support you because they catch the vision, most would go along so as not to appear ignorant. Use their cooperation to your advantage. Channel Tunde Fashola as governor of Lagos State.
- Change the culture of mediocrity – After educating the mediocre, you must work towards changing their thinking otherwise, everything you’ve worked for will degenerate as soon as you leave the post (post-Fashola Lagos, anyone? Improvement requires continuous work and the mediocre don’t want to put in the work it takes to keep the momentum going.
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