Democracy Day 2024: Be the change you want to see


When Martin Luther King Jr. stepped to the podium at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., he barely knew he was set to deliver an iconic speech that would forever change the landscape of inequality among white and people of colours.

Every stride I took while approaching my new responsibility – as the National First Vice President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) – gave a strong inkling that together (as a team of medical professionals) we were about to make history and leave an imprint in the sand of time.

Erroneously perceived as fame mongers – who clamour to be known or hallowed – we are humans looking beyond ourselves to invest our interest in other people and noble projects, to inevitably and effortlessly break and make mouth-opening records. With the gains of these processes for our community and nation.

As we observe our Democracy Day across our country today, I hereby implore us to genuinely itemize the changes we seek to see in the various constituencies of human endeavours we currently represent – be it academia, medicine, technology, military, sport, religion, business, politics and so on. Mostly because, we have a long list of changes compiled in our minds, with strong expectations that someday “the government” and “other revered people” would make those changes and correct the aged errors.

Pathetically, we have lived in the cocoon of such expectations for decades; hoping, trusting, assuming, waiting, and sadly wasting our precious time in anticipation of a non-existent “saviour” to calm our frayed nerves and turn the tide of things. However, growing needs and urgent demands across board make it imperative now, more than ever, to become the change we seek to see.

Regardless of your status and location, you must start seeing yourself as the change you seek.

For instance, when the residents of the far-flung Ojuelegba live like they’ve always prayed for – transacting their everyday business with utmost honesty, transparency, and love for other people’s success – Ojuelegba would become to a safe haven for businesses. Skewing this portrait painted to mere prayer and faith for a better society, without the corresponding work would produce futile and inept results. After all, faith without works is dead.

Personally, I had a foretaste of this in the most profound and life-changing manner. For years, I had dutifully dispensed my medical expertise to people of all ages and classes. Diligently observed certain lacuna and inefficiencies that I expect the “government” to address in our healthcare system, but a single event changed my paradigm.

One fateful day in 2016, a drunk driver recklessly hit my car. This head-on collision resulted in a fatal accident. I broke my right femur and was assisted to the hospital by some good Samaritans. I was not attended to for hours at the hospital – my vital signs were not taken, nor was I assigned a bed. Gradually, life was seeping out of me. Strangely, the doctors were ready to refer me to another medical facility until my wife and colleagues intervened by wielding their influence and connections. This swung the Chief Medical Director (CMD) into action, and graciously, I was attended to.

However, this encounter spurred an unanswered question, “What would have happened if I was just a peasant farmer?”

Consequently, I reevaluated my expectations of how others should solve my observed problems. I started doing the bits I was able to do. Amazingly, this paradigm shift birthed “Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation (BOF)”. As a non-profit organization, BOF has conducted over 10,000 surgeries for indigent people free of charge. Giving hope to helpless people across the 6 geo-political zones of our nation. Previously I never thought that was possible, until I dared to start it alone.

As individuals, we are more powerful and capable than we think or can imagine. However, to harness this inherent power, we must see things differently – seeing ourselves as the change we seek is a game changer, while seeing ourselves as victims or mere commentators is a ship-sinker. We become nation-builders not by hitting the gym but by changing our thought patterns and loving people viz a viz our nation.

Questions to genuinely ask ourselves for the change we want to see:
1. Am I part of the rot or a solution?
2. How best can I make my immediate society a better place?
3. How often do I think about others?
4. If everyone acts like me, what would be the fate of this nation?
5. What would I be remembered for?
6. Am I taking more than I currently give to rebuilding our nation?
7. Am I a reflection of the change I seek?
8. Do you call evil its real name and vehemently resist it? What is your response to bribery, fraud, gender inequality, oppression, etc?
9. How often do I put a smile on people’s faces?
10. Am I contributing to anyone’s pain and anguish?
Your responses to these questions indicate your level of participation and commitment to a better Nigeria and, by extension, a prosperous Africa. Our society is always a reflection of our perceptions and values.

Hence, here is a call to everyone reading this piece to initiate the change we’ve always envisaged. We can volunteer to be the seed that will produce the envious forest of change we seek. Let’s imbibe an absolute and undying resolve to change the narrative within our sphere of influence. Change begins with you and me. The aftermath effect of your resolve will not only be jaw-dropping, but it will also positively alter our national life forever.

This is my sole charge to you today. Go and become the change you seek, and let the change begin now.

May the Labor of our heroes past never be in vain. Happy Democracy Day!


Editor’s note:
Commentary article written by Dr Benjamin Oluwatosin Olowojebutu, Immediate Past NMA Lagos Chairman and current First National Vice-President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

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