Sunday, February 5, 2017

In September, the Nigerian government launched a reorientation campaign donning the slogan: ‘Change Begins With Me.’ I was in India at the time and shared my excitement with some friends who like me believe that this approach is what the world needs. I expressed my great hopes that our Nigerian Initiatives of Change team would make a significant contribution to this campaign, but after returning home I found that this was not to be, at least not yet.

IofC Nigeria has delivered a number of life affirming programs, to say the least. Still, not unlike the average Nigerian, the team fell into the pitfall of politicizing this campaign while failing to internalize the truth of it. One member even suspected the Nigerian government was guilty of plagiarism asserting ‘this was stolen from Frank Buchman!’ It was during my stay in Asia Plateau that I personally cultivated insights on the matter which saved me from condemning others. What have I given to justify my expectations of them? Indeed, change must begin with me.

Relationships on both personal and positional levels are often formed by expectations that do not have any correlation to our contributions to society. The average Nigerian is looking forward to a Messianic leadership that would turn around our socio-political landscape within a short time, relieving them of responsibility to do anything themselves. Yet, change beginning with oneself need not be extraordinary. It can simply mean attending to any situation one feels should be addressed. A little candle light in pitch darkness can make a lot of difference.

Before my trip to Asia Plateau, I spearheaded a bid to report to the authorities a case of child abuse and domestic violence of a teenage domestic staff member, for which a couple known to our team was responsible. This begged the question: ‘What line of action would have the greatest impact’? Prosecuting the couple might raise awareness in others of the human rights of every domestic staff member, but the perpetrators might only be more cautious and discrete in their actions. Our team chose to focus on helping the couple become more aware of the consequences of their actions, and most importantly, to inspire them to love the domestic staff like their own children. As a result, more people have been influenced by the transformation in employer-domestic worker relationships, and by extension, that of the traffickers of underage domestic workers. Here, the true change began in our perception of how to deal with the problem.  

Today, the weight of economic hardship is certainly overwhelming. The recession has undermined Nigerians’ understanding that instead of blaming others we need to introspect on what little responsible step each of us can take to birth the desired change. We need to depoliticize this ‘Change’ campaign and help people understand that the first beneficiary of change is oneself. What matters is not what political party or individual created the campaign, but how each of us responds to its call to action.

So, I ask myself: What do I need to do to make my life more meaningful, less tension-soaked, and less focused on trying to be like someone else? In a world where 10% of the people control all of the wealth while 90% suffer, something needs to shift in me. For the ‘Change begins with me.’

Abiodun Owoseni obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree with honours in 1990 from University of Benin, Nigeria and was called to the Nigerian Bar (B.L) as Solicitor and Barrister of the Supreme Court in 1991. He was awarded a certificate of commendation for his leadership abilities on completion of his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He worked in the freight/oil and engineering sectors as Legal Adviser and Personal Assistant, before opening his Law firm Owoseni Abiodun & Co, in 2000.

In 2009 he initiated the ‘'Teachers’ Dialogue’, a programme aimed at creating partnership among teachers, parents and students for a robust education and intellectual development. The programme is being replicated in Uganda. His membership of the Africa Coordination Group (ACG) thrust more leadership responsibilities on him in addition to those of his office as the General Secretary of MRA/IofC Nigeria. A part-time minister of the gospel passionate about motivating youth to discover and appropriate their potentials. He is currently serving on the International Council of Initiatives of Change.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.