“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Philippians 3:17).
Who is a role model? One may ask. From the several meanings of a role model, let us consider the following. A role model is someone sets before another as a source of guide or emulation. Simply put, someone worthy of emulation according to St Paul in the text above.
From the definitions, one discovers that whomever one looks up to as a role model, determines one’s lifestyle. But in a society full of wrong models, such as corrupt politicians, prosperity preachers, fraudsters, etc., with just a few upright models. How can we get it right?
One must therefore realize that whichever model one looks up to, determines what one becomes. That one may be like the one that one looks up to as a model, does not necessarily mean one will definitely occupy the person’s position. If that happens, it is only a coincidence or accident of history. The truth is that his/her life will be structured based on the person’s ideologies, and what he/she stands or stood for. I give us a good example, Bill Clinton as a young boy, saw John F. Kennedy, and wanted to be like him. Eventually like John F. Kennedy, he became the president of US. That was a coincidence or accident of history. Nevertheless, the former saw the latter as a role model, and he succeeded in becoming like him.
The truth is that where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. In a society characterised by leaders who careless for the people, where corruption is the order of the day, and where fraud is celebrated. In a society where a graduate with first class can’t get a job, and a best dancer, or rapper is given 10million cash, a brand-new car, and made a brand ambassador with automatic job in a government institution. Who is your role model?
Growing up, some of us were driven by positive ambitions, and today though not perfect, yet, we are glad. Some were driven by negative ambitions, and today, they are thugs to corrupt politicians, some are still hoping that someday “we go hammer,” by way of fraudulent acts. Some are still hoping that someday they may like that popular man in their neighbourhood, enter Europe by road, and pick money in the streets of Italy. The sad truth is that, there are very few people today with positive ambitions, compared to those with negative ambitions.
For the sake of precision, let us consider the following areas where role models have become wrong models.
Family: One of the reasons why it is said that family is the microcosm of society, is because it is from the family that a society is made. No one fell from heaven, everyone was born into a family, and the family by virtue of being the root or foundation of society, is the image maker of society. That is why when one is good, people ask, “Which family is he/she from?” The same question applies when the opposite becomes the case. Now, if the fame of the person is widespread, people ask, “Where is he/she from? So family is the first role model of everyone.
In times past, when a young man suddenly became rich for no just cause, the family frowned at it, including the community. They frowned at it because they wanted to protect the integrity and values that they were known for. But today, the reverse is the case.
Family which is the image maker of society, the foundation for every future has turned the opposite in many homes. A young person struggling to make it in life automatically becomes a symbol of ridicule in the family. The mother will ask, “Don’t you see your mates, the daughter of so-and-so in the neighborhood. Why is yours different?” The father will ask, “Those driving big cars, and have built houses for their parents, do they have more than one head?” In many homes today, parents no longer motivate their children for positive ambitions.
A few weeks ago, during a popular TV program, “Journalists Hangout” on Television Continental (TVC), I was shocked to hear the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, alleged that in Nigeria today there is Yahoo Boys Mothers’ Association.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Politicians: Our founding fathers dreamt and worked hard for a better society. Researching recently on Africa’s journey to freedom, I read of how Léopold Senghor, Aimé Césaire, Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, to mention, but a few, modeled their lives in the quest for our collective freedom.
They stood high in the Pan African Movement for which they are regarded as fathers of Africa. They were driven not by selfish ambitions, but by the question, “If I die, what will I be remembered for?”
But today the opposite is the case. We no longer have politics of mortality, rather criminal enterprises. We live in a society polarized by leaders with selfish ambitions. Politicians who put their selfish interests first, before society’s interests. Politicians who are modelling the coming generation to believe that rigging, looting of public funds, nepotism, autocracy in democracy, etc, is the normal.
Is this the society that our heroes past wished?
We live in a society where our collective resources have been taken over by sole proprietorship. Like chicks owners, they now throw seeds at us, and expect us to celebrate them. They drive on big cars, live in mansions, have their children schooling abroad, get medical treatments abroad, have their unqualified family members placed in positions of service, the list is endless. Yet, the masses live in poverty.
Now, many of our younger generation think that is normal. They think that becoming successful in life is by becoming a greedy politician, or rising to fame by whatever means possible. All because our leaders have veered off the positive paths laid out for us.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Religious leaders: If there is any structure within a society that is highly respected as a true model, it is religion. This is because, religion is the moral voice of society. A moral voice based on integrity and fear of God. But can that be said of today’s religious leaders? Religion in the words of Karl Marx has become the opium of the masses, instead of a moral voice of the masses. Religion is now an instrument of exploitation, a tool in the hands of corrupt politicians. Religion has become a shortcut to prosperity.
What will Cardinal Ignatius Ekandem, Cardinal Joseph Malula, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Pastor Josiah Akindayomi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to mention but a few, say of this generation?
A generation where a pastor preaches prosperity instead of salvation, a society where pastors go with bodyguards, drive the best cars, live in rich houses, own private jets, use the resources of the poor to build schools that the children of the poor can’t attend. A society where pastors boast to their congregations that their so-called god is not a poor god. Yet, the true God came into the world as a son of carpenter, had no place to lay His head, and rode on a donkey instead of a horse.
Ask 10 young men that are aspiring to become pastors, why they want to be pastors. You will be shocked that 8 will tell you they want to become pastors because they want to be like pastor so-and-so who owes a big church, or adoration ministry, goes with escorts, and not like Jesus Christ who had no place to lay His Head. This is the reality of today’s role models in the name of religion.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Entertainers: Music they say, “Is the soul of life.” No wonder St Augustine of Hippo once noted that, “One who sings well prays twice .” Drama, folklore, moonlight tales were the ways our rich cultures were presented those days. Music was a tool that was used to promote our rich values, and to speak against the ills of society. Fashions were the beauty of cultures in those days.
The beautiful songs of the great Ebenezer Obey, Miriam Mkeba, E.T Mensah, Osita Osadebe, Sunny Okosun, Oliver de Coque, Lucky Dube, to mention but a few, are songs that till date still echo the values they hold in society. Sadly, in our time the reverse is the case.
If you sing like one of those great icons of old, you may as well consider changing your mind because of low patronage. Most of our younger generation are no longer interested in those songs, but empty gongs that make the loudest noise. They no longer consider our styles of dressing as fashionable.
Our movie industries have become “nakedwoods” industries, where many of our young people are now modelling their lives as our future generation.
In times past, people rose to fame through moral and academic excellence. But today, once one can find one’s way to fame through “nakedwoods,” internet frauds, one is celebrated as successful, and he/she is looked up to by many as a role model.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The problem today is loss of values, ideologies, and integrity. All because of greed, crave for wealth, and fame. We are here today because our values, ideologies, and integrity have been sacrificed on the altars of greed.
Finally, unless our leaders from all works of life, beginning from the family, begin to live as true role models, our coming generation will be worse than what we are seeing now.
@Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP
July 7th, 2020
Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.