By Dr. Prince Charles Dickson
These uprisings will bring out the beast in us…Fela Anikulapo Kuti
So while I was at the gym I was talking with my wife, she revealed that she had lost sleep because of a friend that offended her, the friend was given specific instructions on a small matter of foodie between the both of them, and she felt sad that the friend went against her wish and instructions on the mater. Interestingly here was a friend she expected knew her enough to understand her…
We moved into a lengthy conversation about how people do not really listen, or listen to reply, and in many cases not to understand, and how listening was an important component of leadership.
Methinks that everyone sees themselves as great listeners. After all, what’s easier than sitting down and just hearing what a person has to say, right? That is why we have judicial commissions of inquiry and panels set up by tweets without instruments, and tomorrow some smart listening lawyer will challenge the findings, or the entire process, like we are not the same people that have the National Assembly, State and Local Assemblies, people are talking, but really who is listening.
Hearing isn’t necessarily listening, nor is it necessarily listening well. As G.K. Chesterton said, “there’s a lot of difference between hearing and listening.” The truth is, many people come to conversations with agendas, whether that is to make themselves be heard, or to make themselves not be heard, and to actually escape the conversation altogether.
It is common with us, we listen as Christians, as Muslims, we come with all sorts of agendas, the Arewa, the Biafran, the Oduduwa, that is why in the heat of the #endSARS some only could hear social media regulation, we choose what we hear and how we want to understand it. No one controls the conversation as no one is listening
Nigerians both leaders and the led don’t put their entire attention, interest or heart into listening and truly understanding themselves. And not only does this create alienation within us, but that alienation is felt by each side, broadening an already existing divide as well. We are Muslims and Christians, Traditionalists with adjectives, and schools of misthought, not willing to listen.
Just because the people are quiet and the government does 75% of the talking, doesn’t mean people are listening. And just because the people are good at talking and receiving what leadership says, doesn’t mean the government is a great listener either. This clearly explains the relationship between a Mr. Buhari of few words and almost no action, and a whining populace who are as guilty of the same crimes leadership commit.
How many times have Nigerians longed to be heard and understood only to have the receiving end of some grossly unexplainable policy, the people asked for jobs, or at least enabling environment to create same and operate, no one seemed to be listening, government that could not listen to the cries of pipe borne water for the citizens leaves her people with boreholes littered everywhere and then we are all screaming at each over a National Water Policy. It is Ludacris that no one listens, hears, or even worries enough to understand how many families have died because of generator fumes, the noise pollution because some people will not just be responsible to provide electricity.
Being unheard results in feelings of disconnection and loneliness. That is why everywhere is littered with all forms of local vigilante, even the national security apparatus paid with from taxpayers’ fund will warn of roads not to tow because you are on your own if you do not listen
The need to be understood and listened to is a basic human need, along with food, water, and shelter. Yet, the sad reality is that most of us lack this basic life skill. Imagine Nigerians were part of the great LOCKDOWN, and while governments worldwide listened and cushioned the effects of the COVID19 ravishing the world. Ours were hearing about a second wave at the expense of a hungry populace who had not survived a first wave.
Listening is an art. It requires us to be patient, receptive, open-minded, and non-judgmental. It requires us to not put words in other people’s mouths, fill in gaps, or presume to understand the other person fully.
There is a certain Zen-like quality in practicing listening. Not only does it help us socially, but it also helps us spiritually as well. Those who can listen to others well can listen to themselves deeply. As you read this, what do you hear about yourself, about your family, your faith, others that are different from you, what do you hear about Nigeria?
Yet being a good listener isn’t always easy. Studies have shown that the average person can only remember 50% of what they’ve heard straight after they’ve heard it. Another study has shown that only 10% of the initial message communicated is retained after 3 days. The reason for these shocking stats is that most of us think of listening as a passive process that requires no effort.
Often, we listen to the words being said without truly grasping the meaning behind them. This is usually because we’re focused on our own internal dialogue rather than what the speaker is actually saying. Sometimes we don’t pay attention because we’re daydreaming while someone is talking – we all have so much on our plates that it can be difficult to quiet our minds long enough to really listen to someone. Or we may have a preconceived bias against either the speaker or the topic that shuts our ears to what’s being said.
Communication is like throwing and catching a ball.
You need to be alert to receive information through reading and listening in the same way you need to be alert to receive a pass on a football pitch. Both require focus and skill. But why should we care about improving our listening skills? And aren’t there better things we should be spending our time on?
The Nigerian state is not listening to each other, at the crossroad we find ourselves, everyone is talking, and no one listening, some say it is devolution, others say it is restructuring, others question what is restructuring, do we even have a structure or system to build upon, others shout youth, others say let us be patient @60. The army says Sanwo-Olu called them, Sanwo says otherwise, even the authorities are not listening to each other, and we expect them to hear the pains of the people?
Let me end on this note, at a class, I told my students the following story. Asking them to listen closely and answer my question.
You are driving a bus. At the first stop five people get on the bus. At the next stop three people get off the bus and two people get on.
(Usually at this point they had begun to try to solve a math equation. I allowed them to do it.)
At the next stop ten people got on the bus and six people got off. What was the bus driver’s shoe size?
Most of them all asked, “How are supposed to know?” or proceeded to give me a math problem.
At this point I asked them to listen closely while I retell the story. Sometimes one or two participants will get the answer after hearing the story three times.
Nigerians are not listening, the signs are there, the forces of a failed state is pulling, we are neglecting it all, from reckless borrowing with nothing to show, a mounting debt profile, an inability to meet obligations, killing the academic and educational sector, an ailing economy, burdening the ordinary citizens with bread tax, and personal development levy, the palliatives looting maybe the uprising that will bring out the beast in us.
Meanwhile the answer to the question I asked my students is: You are the bus driver. What is your shoe size? The answer to most of our problems lie in us listening to each other, without any motive rather than understanding the root of the malice, if we fuse to listen, if we no hear weselves, the future is bleak—Only time will tell.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org