Nigerians are widely known to be a very opinionated people. We have strong opinions and are generally not shy to express our feelings. As a result in some cases, especially to people who don’t come from our culture, we Nigerians often come across as lousy brats.
Even though I have seen enough in my life time to admit that I would rather be a lousy brat than a timid cat. However, a lesson in temperance would be of immense benefit to our overall image as Nigerians.
“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.” 2Peter1:6
Please, don’t get me wrong I admire the temperament and passion of us Nigerians, but to become the best human beings we could be, it would benefit us to at times ask ourselves the question, COULD I BE WRONG?
A major problem that I have encountered with an average European is that of timidity, shyness, hesitancy, insecurity, indecisiveness etc. Luckily for us Nigerians, these things are largely foreign to us. We tend to possess the opposite attributes. We as a people seem to be mostly confident, forceful, bold, dominant, domineering, etc.
As much as there are positives and negatives in both categories of character traits, wisdom tells us that we must examine ourselves to see where our weaknesses are so as to mend, adjust, reconstruct and recondition our character for our utmost productivity.
One significant area where we Nigerians must work on our attitude is in our assumptions and responses. A typical Nigerian will averagely assume that he is right. We don’t concern ourselves too much with finding out the facts most of the time. We rely mostly on our convictions. Facts, statistics, details and standards don’t often bother us too much. And if anybody tries to dispute or oppose our views, we cement our opinion with an avalanche of emotions, zeal, passion, all of which we have in abundance.
Dear readers, if you are from Nigeria, you probably have seen a scene when two taxi drivers in the traffic come out of their cars and begin to prove their points with the help of their fists instead of their reasoning. I have even seen a situation when a driver stopped his car in the middle of the road to go slap the police who was directing the traffic because that one stopped him illegally in his opinion. As funny as it may sound, it is very pathetic especially considering the fact that the driver that slapped the Policeman is a Bishop of a famous church in Nigeria.
I guess this Bishop is not familiar with the words of Robert Green that says “tolerance is given to every other human being, every right that you claim for yourself”
Oh, what a world of difference it would make if we could only pause to ask ourselves the question, COULD I BE WRONG? The benefits of this question is enormous:
- It gives you a space to have a second thought.
- It allows you to look for more arguments.
- It gives you time to separate between your emotions and facts.
- It gives you an avenue to give your opponent a benefit of the doubt.
- It allows you to see your imperfections and fallibility.
- It saves you from assertiveness and presumptions.
- It delivers you from illusions and self-deceptions.
- It motivates you to research.
- It allows you to hear the opponent’s opinions and views.
- It allows you to take note of your blind spots( those things you are not seeing)
If I had been a person of a rather feeble mind, I could have been swayed by the very overly assertive comments from my so called followers. These people were very bold and direct in their assumptions that my position in regards to the Nigerian Presidential election was wrong. Each time I read such assertive, audacious, bumptious comments such as: “Pastor Sunday, stop this thing you’re doing”, “ Who paid you to say all these things?” , “ This Pastor has lost his mind” , “ you are not a Pastor” , “This man cannot be a man of God” , “You don’t know what you’re saying”, “Shut up your mouth” , “Political Pastor” , “You’re not living in Nigeria, you don’t know anything about this country” , “ You are a tribalist” etc. I was left wondering why this people for a minute won’t consider that they could be wrong.
However, being a Nigerian myself and someone who has been through no small battles, I could understand where they are coming from. Nevertheless, I still want to help my compatriots become better human beings by opening our eyes to what we could improve in our attitudes and temperaments.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” Gal. 5:22-23.
If we Nigerians, would ask ourselves more, the question, COULD I BE WRONG? That could lead us into looking for more facts. The only basis for response and actions should be truth or facts. Not emotions, not assertions, neither assumptions are enough reasons for any decision.
No matter the feelings or opinions we might have about anything whatsoever, it would do us good to always give others and ourselves the benefit of the doubt. This is one quality that is not too popular with us Nigerians. We do not give ourselves nor others a benefit of the doubt.
The most easily recognizable scenario of our National Assembly to an average Nigerian will be when the honorable members of the house were busy exchanging blows and throwing objects at each other. Why does this kind of thing happen? A Grand National disgrace on global television. It is normally because everybody assumes his or her judgment is right, as opposed to that of their opponent. If our honorable members of national assembly could have asked themselves that same question, COULD I BE WRONG? There would have been more serenity in our political life.
Let us examine this principle further.
BENEFIT OF A DOUBT: It’s when we regard someone as innocent until proven otherwise. Lean toward a favorable view of someone. That is to say, whenever you are not certain about something that is, no proofs, facts, figures or statistics to support your arguments. It is better not to blame, accuse or judge. In such instances, you must rather lean towards a more favorable judgment, in favor of the opposite side.
I believe that if Nigeria were to be great, we must adopt this principle not only to our judicial system, but even so to our daily conduct with each other. It is in the absence of this fundamental value of human relationships that we often find ourselves suspicious of each other. For example, many people assume that I supported Buhari/Osinbajo ticket simply because Prof. Osinbanjo is a Yoruba man like me. I wonder, what a bold move, how could you just assume that? Could there be any other possibility why I supported the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket? Remember this is despite the fact that I wrote my reasons why I supported the ticket. I don’t care where anybody is from, I supported the quality of the candidates not their tribes.
I can only imagine how Nigeria would change for the better if this principle could be taught in our schools, from the primary schools to the tertiary institutions. This singular principle, if it becomes a value system and mind set to our people could stop the ills of our society like: Violence, Boko Haram, Militancy, armed robbery, kidnapping etc.
It is the same reason behind our suspicions of Northerners, Igbos, Yorubas. We don’t want to give people the benefit of the doubt, that they could be having good intentions in their deeds and actions. At times we are not even willing to consider the probability of other Nigerians from another parts of the nation to be as good or sincere as we are.
I have heard Southerners saying, Northerners want to rule Nigeria by force as if it’s their birth right. That is prejudice! If that were true they would not have voted for President Obasanjo for two terms. If that were true, they wouldn’t have voted for President Jonathan in 2011. We don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. It would really be helpful for the general advancement of Nigeria if we could sometimes ask ourselves the question, could I be wrong in my argument and assumptions about other Nigerians?
A vivid example of this in my mind is; while I was growing up in the Western part of Nigeria, I always heard that Northerners speak bad English (referring to their accent) until I traveled abroad and discovered that we all speak bad English (in terms of our accent). A typical Nigerian would not even consider that his assumptions could be wrong. A similar example that comes to mind right now is a popular phrase also in the Southern part of Nigeria, Southerners often tell each other, “The North is the problem of Nigeria”, “they have taken all our wealth”.
I did not have any way to prove or disprove this, until I traveled to the north for the first time and discovered that the standard of living in the north is much lower than in the south. The Northerners are less privileged in a lot of other things than I have witnessed in the south. The sight of devastation I witnessed in the North made me almost want to weep. Most of these people in the south who have never been to the north, naturally assume that the north is enjoying while we suffer in the south. But, the million dollar question is, could that assertion be wrong?
“If we could look into each other’s heart and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently with more love, patience, tolerance and care” – Marvin J Ashton
Yes I know all about the fact that Northerners have ruled the nation more than Southerners etc. But the problem of Nigeria is much more complicated than that. We would do ourselves a lot of good if we would be less bashful in our assumptions towards each other. This attitude of COULD I BE WRONG? Could save us from a lot of that.
EI INCUMBIT PROBATIO QUI DICIT, NON QUI NEGAT is a Latin expression which means that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. It is mostly known and used by judiciary. However, this principle of presumption of innocence is so powerful that any society that wishes to build a prosperous and civilized nation must adopt it. We must adopt it not just into our judicial and legal practices, we must go further than that. We must intentionally popularize this value “presumption of innocence” into our daily dealings.
The down side of this principle that we see in some advanced countries is that it could often lead to Political Correctness. This is when it now becomes a taboo to condemn anything wrong or criticize anybody for their actions, all in the name of political correctness.
So where is the balance? The balance in my own view is when we correct, rebuke or criticize only on the basis of truth or fact. We must make sure we have our facts right before we claim anything whatsoever. Even when we are convinced in our hearts, we should refrain from declaring anything until we can factually prove our convictions.
That is the beauty of the concept of Innocent until proven guilty. There is always room for correction, rebuke and criticism after the facts has been proven, not before.
INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY: is one of the most sacred principles of the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words the prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt each essential element of the criminal charges.
When it comes to the way these principles could help us build a better nation, it is to always know that we can speak the truth only when the truth is established or there are facts to back our arguments. Otherwise we should intentionally refrain ourselves from any form of condemnation, judgmentalism and castigation.
“Half of the time, the Holy Ghost tries to warn us about certain people that come into our life. The other half of the time he tries to tell us that the sick feeling we get in a situation is not the other person’s fault, rather it is our own hang-ups. A life filled with bias, hatred, judgment, insecurity, fear, delusion and self-righteousness can cloud the soul of anyone you meet. Our job is never to assume, instead it is to listen, communicate, and ask questions, then ask more, until we know the true depth of someone’s spirit.”- Shannon L. Alder
COULD I BE WRONG? A simple question that could help us build a better nation. A nation where peace and unity reigns.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHURCH AND NATION
By Pastor Sunday Adelaja.