Recently, I was preparing for a trip to Ghana and needed to secure a yellow fever certificate as part of the requirement for entry. I visited hospitals, primary health centres and local government offices but at all these places the emphasis was in paying money and getting the certificate (yellow card) instead of the vaccination.
I insisted on getting the vaccination before getting the certificate and after much time put in, I discovered the Port Health Centre in Lagos where various types of travel vaccination are given and genuine certificates are issued.
Within 30 minutes of being at their office (besides the toll gate before Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos), I had my vaccination and a valid yellow fever card.
So, what are the lessons learnt and worth imbibing in our effort to build a developed Nigeria?
Doing the right thing is tough: Yes, it really is especially in a society were being lawless is fast becoming the numb. This means we invest more time when we insist on doing the right thing and this goes against our natural tendency to get things done promptly.
Sometimes, the citizens in charge of a process frustrate us because of our insistence on the process and their loss of ‘revenue’ as a result. This too is tough and painful but if we desire the building of a developed Nigeria, we must commit to the sacrifice needed and that will definitely include going through the tough route as we seek to do the right thing.
Change is a long and hard process but the good news is it does get to a point when momentum has been achieved and at this point, it is easier. Momentum is achieved when many more people copy our model and by then, it becomes the culture.
Rules are really for our benefit: It is usually not easy to develop and sustain the right action without the right mindset. It is essential that we as citizens observe that most laws and regulations are really there for our good.
In this case, though Ghanaian authorities (like a few other countries) insist on visitors having a yellow fever vaccination and a valid certificate because they seek to protect their country from the spread of yellow fever, having the yellow fever vaccination protects me from the illness for the next ten years. That is one less health threat to worry about and a different way of thinking.
We teach by our practice: Every time we act, there are people who are observing. These could include family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc. For me, there were friends who heard and saw the time I put to go round various points in pursuit of a vaccination and a valid certificate.
Despite the challenged faced, I am certain that my action would have modelled to them the right thing to do. If we are going to build a developed Nigeria, we must do the right thing because it is right and for our benefit but, critically, also because we teach others by what we model.
One citizen doing the right thing inspires many others to do same in the short, medium and long term. As more citizens become ‘converted’ by our practice, the law or regulation is better understood and strengthened. The result would be a more lawful nation which is critical for our individual and national development
Government is making an effort: We do have good reasons to consider our government as incompetent and corrupt, but we have to study their policies and programmes and acknowledge when they take positive steps to address an issue.
After the numerous embarrassments citizens face in countries such as South Africa, the Health Minister has replaced the old and easily faked yellow fever card with a new, improved and authentic card which is only issued after vaccination at the Port Health Centre. There are 22 Port Health Centres spread across the country.
We must recognise the ‘little’ efforts by our government and support it by complying. Again, when we do, it is for our and our nation’s benefit.
When we do the right thing, we protect our individual and national image before the international community, but the main motivating factor should remain our desire for a developed Nigeria, attained through a lawful society.
The change must start with we who are persuaded that Nigeria can and will change. When we practice, we teach and inspire many others, thereby reproducing nation-builders.
Are you willing to pay the price in search of a lawful society?