A New Perception

The way I perceive things is central to how I act and react towards them. It determines how I describe an event whether it is past, present or future. Ultimately, my perception gives direction and force to my interaction with others. And this is very true for everyone else. Therefore, we see that the sum of our perceptions is the driver of all our activities and aspiration as a nation, especially politics and economy.

The present scenarios in Nigeria, good or bad, are a direct product of how Nigerians perceived trends yesterday and what actions they took in line with their thinking. In a democratic structure as we have, the majority’s perception, whether morally right or wrong, rules the day and becomes a forerunner to what comes tomorrow.

Perceptions can be created afresh and they are also taught and handed down to several generations. Most of the time, the way we perceive things, events or persons are in fact learnt. The way you perceive and describe Nigeria today is really fuelled by all you have learnt from your history teachers and the interpretations of people you think should know.
About every other thing you observe independently are interpreted within the context of what you have already learnt and assimilated. This explains why we tend to downsize the relevance of novel trends that can’t be explained by our internal template.
Change, however, occurs only when we boldly face up to the reality of those new trends. Then we can develop novel perceptions, as well as novel ways of interacting and making decisions. Then, the results would be novel too!

We often say that change is the only constant thing in life. But what we hardly admit is ‘constant’ does not spell ‘frequent’. Change is a ‘constant’ phenomenon in life. But it does not happen frequently in human societies. Why? Because our perceptions don’t frequently change. They can endure for centuries. But at some point, a desire for change is aroused. This desire is often triggered by realizations that reality has become more complicated than our perceptions. Hence change begins to occur.

Take for example racial discrimination in the United States. Compared to the trends prior to 1900, racism in the U.S is today is only a fading shadow. Centuries back, racism was the norm, embodied in slave trade, denial of the human rights of ‘blacks’. And it was the ‘inner working’ that prevented a black man from ever presiding over the United States in its nearly 300 years of existence until 2008. President Obama’s victory at the polls is a reflection of a great shift in the way Americans perceived one another and it ultimately affected the way they conducted their politics in electing him.

Nigeria today is in great straits, being tormented, so to speak, by five decades of ethno-religious perceptions. There are other variants of this troubling perceptions and they are shared by the majority. Think of it. How would you answer the following questions:
Why was Nigeria’s independence not earlier than 1960?
Why did Nigeria experience a civil war in 1967?
Why do Nigerian political parties practice a ‘zoning’ system when it comes to presenting presidential candidates?
What are the determining factors when filling up administrative positions in government: CBN, President’s Cabinet, Chief Judges, Permanent Secretaries, Army Chiefs?

Let us review your answers. How often did you mention ethnicity or religion in answering those questions? Or which of the questions did you not answer in the ethnic/religious context?

What if you were compelled not to answer any of those questions in ethnic/religious contexts. Would Nigeria’s history suddenly lose sense to you?

Do not be quick to throw this challenge away. You see, I could bring this challenge closer by asking, ‘Can you perceive a Nigeria that runs without ethnic/religious factors? Can you perceive a Nigeria that works administratively and market-wise without the ‘invisible hands of ethnicity and religion’? Can you perceive such a Nigeria? If you can’t, then you are not yet at the place where you can effectively initiate a beneficial change for the country. If you can’t perceive it, you can’t suggest it, neither would you be able to plan it. But you see, a person’s inability to perceive a thing does not preclude him from criticizing it.

To achieve real and positive change, it must start with our minds, the seat of our perceptions. You would know there is real change coming when rely less on traditional thought perceptions and you can use new ideas, new tools to explain events in a fresh way too.

This is why I’m here, writing. It is to stir us to see things differently, to explain things in a new way so that we can see the problems differently than before and make greater progress in achieving desired results. I’ll be presenting as much novel ideas as I can. I would be doing a lot of revision of how we see our history, our current situation and our tomorrow.
New Trends, New Perceptions, Positive and Tangible Change.


About Johnson Boyede

Johnson Boyede, B.Sc in International Relations. He wrote 'Addressing terrorism in Nigeria and possible spill over into West Africa' for his Long Essay. He contributes scholarly writings to an open facebook group, 'League of Diplomats'. He agrees and runs with the opinion of Paul Romer that, "Knowledge is a non-rival nature and only partly excludable... In an open society, knowledge's non-rival nature means that a piece of new information can be used over and over again, by different people, in varying contexts and to make new things...one good piece of knowledge will live several lifetimes, undergo different iterations and be put to ever more unique purposes."
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