Opinion / Editorial

Learn From The Ants The Secret Of Nation Building

My daughter has a great aversion for ants. Why? They hardly move about singly and I believe she finds their large numbers intimidating.

Personally, I am fascinated by ants. They have a great deal in common with humans and are a lot better in many respects. They live in well-organised communities called colonies. Members of each colony have very clearly defined job roles, such as worker ants, soldier ants, cooks, engineers, architects and builders. Maybe they have doctors, lawyers and judges too!

Have you ever watched ants in a procession? If they are headed somewhere and you try to block their way, they’ll look for alternative routes. They’ll climb over; they’ll climb under; they’ll climb around the obstacle and there’s no stopping them. Ants never quit! Ants think ahead, gathering food and storing them for the future.

Their greatest attribute, the one that I find most enchanting, is their unity of purpose and team spirit. Have you watched ants lift something about a hundred times their size? It is an awesome sight! Ants work together as a team to support their colony. There is a division of labour with each team role well defined and kept. Thus their ability to solve complex problems is enhanced.

It is this lack of unity of purpose and refusal of our people to work together as a team rather than be competitors in a race that is the bane of our nation.

It is this same lack of team spirit that is responsible for many of the shortcomings of our health delivery system. Our country would be a lot better off if we could imbibe this simple team approach to life. Of what use is the single broomstick once outside the bunch? Of what use is your billions of naira if everyone around you is wretched and living in abject poverty?

Nigeria has various cadres of eye care providers in sufficient numbers to make a meaningful impact on our prevention of blindness programmes. But what do we have instead? We have groups working alone and some have actually abandoned their roles for other roles thus leading to a chaotic situation in the sector. This has paved the way for quacks and fake trado-medical practitioners to take over the business of eye care.

The result is more confusion and more suffering from our hapless patients. Unfortunately, the various regulating bodies can only bark; they are not empowered to bite. A few days ago, on the same day, at different times, two women, one aged 21 and the other about 50 years old, were led into my consulting room with a similar history of recent loss of vision in both eyes.

They had received treatment for several days from some charlatans. One had been given a pair of glasses too! But instead of getting better, their vision had gotten worse. Just one look, I was sure these patients’ blindness did not emanate from their eyes. Worse still, they were in grave danger of losing their lives as well.

It is incredible that during the same week, one young man, about 35 years old with a business card on which was written “Dr. Bello Omo… MB.BS, FWACS, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreo-retinal surgeon,” came into my office and introduced himself to me. A close look at him showed that he was an impostor. After rigorous questioning and threat to hand him over to the police, he confessed that he was a quack! Imagine walking straight into the lion’s den! That is how bold they are!

It is therefore quite obvious that the individual must be empowered to take responsibility for making decisions as to who should take care of his eyes. He must not only know where to go when he has a problem, he must know how to recognise each category of eye care.

Nigeria, at 57, has failed as a nation. Nigerians, young and old, want to run away to Europe, the United States or Canada. I really don’t blame them. What has the nation given them? Heartaches and headaches! But what they do not know, is that for every story of a successful  Nigerian abroad, there are hundreds languishing in abject poverty, doing menial jobs they would never have done if they were in Nigeria. Their stories will never be told because only success stories sell.

Nigeria must be restructured to make it work. Let’s learn from the ants the secrets of nation building; lessons in constructing or structuring a national identity.

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