I am not supposed to know about Shaggy. Yet I do. I didn't go out looking for him. Somehow, I stumbled on a video of the song 'It wasn't me' on TV in the early noughties, and it stuck. This, I must say, is a good reason why you must be careful about what you watch. I cannot remember how the song/video went, but the gist of it was that, although he was caught red-handed in an improper situation, he consistently claimed "it wasn't me."
Many of us are, for all intents and purposes, like Shaggy. We either feign ignorance at what is happening around us or convince ourselves that we are not responsible. So, we blissfully ignore injustices and live our own lives without hindrance. For example, if the educational system is faulty, it's a case of it wasn't me, so long I can send my children to boarding school in England. After all, it wasn't me that made it not to work.
What about the poor state of our health care system? Of course, it wasn't me. And the number of women who lose their lives during childbirth? Am I a doctor? We would say. Honestly what can I truly do about it?
What about the sexual exploitation of undergraduate students in our universities, the parlous state of our roads, corruption in the civil service and the political system? We don't even think about the condition of our prison inmates or the poverty of our pensioners. So long as we have a way of immunising ourselves and our family from the deplorable state of our nation, then all is well.
We sure know all is not well. But the approach we take is 'What could I possibly do?' However, what we do aplenty is to talk and argue about the issues. But talk, as our people say, cannot boil yam. The way to change our nation starts from the conviction that we are all responsible. In fact, the conviction that I am responsible! Once you feel no responsibility, you feel no obligation to be part of solving the problem. You then become one of the people that pontificate blaming politicians, doctors, lawyers, teachers, everyone else but yourself.
Admittedly, the ideal case is for our government to conceive, plan and execute policies that benefit the public. But we must understand we do not live in an ideal country. So whilst things may be top down in some countries we must start to implement our own development bottoms-up. We must feel responsible when things don't work. We must feel responsible when schools in our community fail. We must feel responsible when our local hospital is bereft of drugs, we must feel responsible when our local councilors or representatives fail to perform. We must feel responsible to call people out who are not pulling their weight in serving the people, whether they are politicians, civil servants, police or public servants. We can plan these through community organisations like residents’ associations, religious bodies, social clubs. If we don't, we would not be any different from Shaggy, the singer, who absolved himself of all guilt when caught red-handed. Arguing that it wasn't us would certainly not absolve us of guilt from future generations, and definitely not from God whose injunction is whoever is not involved in building is in cahoots with wasters. In other words, people who are indifferent are as dangerous as vandals. After all, 'it is inconceivable that a baby on its mother's back would have a wonky head when there are responsible adults in the market.' The question is: Are you responsible?
Postscript - Although I wrote this piece in December 2017, I decided to publish it this month given the avoidable tragedies of the past few days. I refer here to the 86 people killed by herdsmen in Gashishi, Plateau State last Saturday, the container that crushed two danfo passengers at Ojuelegba in Lagos on the 19th of June, and of course the inferno at Otedola bridge two days ago.
We must continue to keep these issues in the public domain. We must petition the different governments until something is done about murderous herdsmen, container-laden trucks and defective fuel tankers.