Ghetto elitism and the culture of hypocrisy in Nigeria

August 20, 2012 § 26 Comments

Kenneth Amaeshi

Nigerians do God. It is almost impossible to find a self-professed atheist in Nigeria. Mosques and Churches are usually filled to the brim on Fridays and Sundays, respectively. Loud chants of God are flamboyantly rendered, literally, from roof tops, in season and out of season.  Accessible social spaces are littered with sermons and God talk. The easiest and cheapest way to earn the anti-Christ badge of dishonour is to challenge these God speeches. To an outsider, Nigerians may come across as conspicuous consumers of God.

This ostentatious God consumption, unfortunately, does not bear corresponding fruits in the country.   This leaves one wondering if Nigerians merely pay lip service to God and what He expects of them; or do they derive commensurate pleasure and satisfaction from God mockery?  Either way, God consumption in the country is a viable industry with active actors on the supply and demand sides of the equation; and the market forces – often anchored on the dark forces of witches and wizards – do not appear to be waning. Nigerians pray for everything, and nothing escapes the clutches of prayers. To an average Nigerian, everything is dependent on God, and God depends on everything.  This subtle pantheistic superstition even finds expressions in ungodly activities – e.g. armed robbers praying for success before setting out for their operations, or politicians praying before any deliberations despite the fact that the public sector, in which they are key actors, is now the engine of corruption and nepotism in the country.  The private sector is not shielded from this God onslaught. Some firms say morning prayers. These prayers do not stop them from doing anything possible (even ungodly) to enhance the proverbial bottom-line!

Notwithstanding, many Nigerians would not want to be known as ungodly or anti-God, even if their actions are. It is a taboo to be ungodly or atheistic. The society expects you to consume God whether you believe God exists or not. As long as you demonstrate this God consumption, you shall be fine and free. There is no better word for this expected behaviour than hypocrisy.  Many Nigerians are hypocrites – otherwise, it would be difficult to account for the level of indiscipline, corruption and class oppression characteristic of many Nigerians. Hypocrisy is in an inauthentic form of existence.

Authenticity is to say and accept that I am a criminal, when I am one. Authenticity is to be who you are irrespective of what others want you to be. It is being true to oneself irrespective of how else one wants to be. The authentic one accepts the vulnerability, and probably the discomfort, of swimming against the tide of public opinion.  The biblical Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), despite his sins, was authentic in his encounter with Jesus. He accepted his corrupt practices and when he repented, he made restitutions. Inauthenticity is a fake life. It is a form of concealment. It is a deceitful acceptance to present ourselves as who we are not.

The culture of inauthenticity and hypocrisy has permeated all aspects of the Nigerian society. This is particularly so amongst the emergent upper middle class who are caught up in an identity crisis. They constitute the nouveau riche. They also like to impress and be impressed. They like to give the impression that they are internationally mobile and have global tastes. They like to be in vogue and keep up with trends. Prosperity is their new religion. No one cares, as long as it translates to money. Money speaks; money works. They drive good cars; have good jobs and houses; and their children go to very good schools. Some people in this class think that living the Nigerian dream is to build personal kingdoms (e.g. people overleveraging themselves to belong) living in houses and driving luxury cars they cannot afford, putting their kids in schools where they chase them to pay fees after they have gone on summer holidays on borrowed money! They find a way to isolate themselves from the wretchedness around them. They shield themselves from the masses. They create islands in ghettos. They inadvertently become and constitute the ghetto elites.

Ghetto elitism in itself could be an outcome of hard work – even if it comes across as selfishness. After all, self-interest which often manifests as selfishness is the bedrock of contemporary capitalism. One of the hallmarks of capitalism, as an ideological force, is its ability to mutate and adapt to its context. This ability allows capitalism to be all things for all people. It grants some legitimacy to selfishness, and often masks rogue entrepreneurship as heroism. This mask of heroism is sustained and energised by the complementary practice of reputation and brand management. Reputation and brand management experts are also known for their dexterity in the manufacture and creation of inauthenticity. For instance, most luxury brands are mere empty names packaged and sold to a gullible audience through the market for inauthenticity. In the process, these brands afford us the opportunity to be who we are not – i.e. a mask we hide under to see the world and to be seen. This inauthenticity conceals the fatality of the unbridled pursuit of self-interests, which often culminates in selfishness. Nonetheless, capitalism can be a veritable force for good when tamed and domesticated. Undomesticated and wild capitalism often gives rise to rogue entrepreneurs, ghetto capitalism and elitism. Nigeria, unfortunately, is not short of ghetto capitalists and elites.

Ghetto elitism and the culture of hypocrisy are inseparable twins and dangerous. A society built on such foundations is bound to collapse with time. I see a Nigerian society sleep-walking onto this deadly precipice.  The tipping point is not far from us. We all know it. We all feel it; but who will bell the cat? Grandiose God consumption will not save the country. Those who claim to be of God should, at least, be seen to be godly in their everydayness – for by their fruits, they shall be known. God consumption without the corresponding good works is sheer hypocrisy and mockery of God.

The worst thing one can do to oneself is to live an inauthentic life. At the end, the truth shall be known; and whatever is concealed shall be uncovered. Then, the finger of derision shall point the inauthentic and the hypocrite to scorn. Be authentic; be yourself!

Dr Amaeshi is a member of the Thought Leadership Forum (TLF), Nigeria.

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§ 26 Responses to Ghetto elitism and the culture of hypocrisy in Nigeria

  • Reblogged this on World Terakoya and commented:
    “The culture of inauthenticity” destroys human relations as many constantly live in the world they wished they belonged to. In this pseudo-world, God becomes an addiction to many, looking for their temporary fix.

  • […] NOTE This article originally appeared on the author’s blog and was reposted with his permission.  KENNETH AMAESHI is an Academic Consultant and […]

  • Poke Toholo says:

    wow! i’m speechless. This is guy knows Nigerians like no one else. Almost like he’s talking to me and all other Nigerians i know!!

  • Mama T says:

    The facts speaks for itself. At last we find one realist out of one million.
    Would like to interview Dr Amaeshi for an International publication

  • Tessy Nwagha says:

    ‘Nigerians do God’…. This statement summarises the modern Nigeria. Well written and straight to the point. Another grass root insight that shines the light on what most Nigerians fight to ignore.

  • yes, this is the truth about us. But something has to be done in the form of education.
    You really hit the nail on the head.

  • Sapheeya says:

    Nice one Ken….sharing asap.

  • O Obirieze says:

    The description is spot on, Amaeshi nwanne. Now the explanation needs extra meat including deeper naked and even cathartic introspection.

    Part of the introspection must consider As-Is precolonialism as per indigenous religious worldview/reality, then universalist totalitarianism of foreign religious imports and the lasting impact of cultural imperialism of the foreign import till present.

    One can conclude that all the foreign imports refuse to learn the basics from indigenous religious architecture. Rather ‘devotees’ consistently refuse to go local deeming it liberating to dance to foreign drums of theological confusion.

    In some sense cultural imperialism ushered in an ontological blindness that prevented ghetto elites from vividly perceiving their real ignored role towards independence.

    Now ghetto elitism has gone intergenerational as Ndi Igbo say, when an ugly practice/negative praxis takes hold it become tradition.

    • There is always a conflict between the ungodly and the Goded in the religious climate in Nigeria. The ungodly always say God is dead while the Goded who establish churches claim their power is from the above. While this conflict in opinion goes on between the ungodly and the Goded, the athiest in Nigeria becomes overlooked in the religious ghetto called prosperous churches.

      Gerald Ogbuja

    • Anonymous says:

      Nigerians do words also! Big words!

  • victor mayomi says:

    brillant and true

  • Anonymous says:

    The reason why there will be no real developement. Authenticity is the beginning of change, its the foundation for improvement.

  • Simon says:

    Bravo Dr. Kenneth for that one! It is disheartening though but the truth in it cannot be overemphasised. If Nigerians want to survive, they, I mean, we have to start telling ourselves that simple truth that we alone know. Your article is the stepping stone.

  • Nduka Enweliku says:

    Chief Amaeshi, you have hit the nail on its head. I would share this with everyone I know because it is a wake up call to all of us. Thanks a lot.

  • […] are about to read was originally written by the Author, Dr. Kenneth Amaeshi. This was posted on his blog and is being reproduced with his full […]

  • designfish says:

    Nigerians also do English. Big, big grammar, grandiloquence and malapropisims. This is a key part of the inauthenticity and a prime element of the identity crisis.

  • I couldn’t have said it any better…

  • EHI EHI says:


  • Anonymous says:

    Ken, this is a very good article. Nigerian’s have taken the God concept to a whole new and sorry to say disgusting level. However, I have to agree with user ‘designfish’ on a point he/she raised.

    Why do our authors have to use big grammer when writing. I always wonder why ??? The english man who invented the language tend to use simple expressions while we always aim for big complicated grammer. We are really facing a major identity crisis.

  • Ibe Uzoma says:

    Dr. Ken’s piece is a carefully researched article about the true state of Nigeria and Nigerians. Many of us are guilty of this unbecoming trend in our land.
    As buttressed in the piece, it is a fact that there abounds many pretenders, ‘fakers’, deceivers, liars, wolves in sheep clothing in government, government establishments, politics, religious groups and various institutions, whose mission is to beguile the public for their utmost selfish desires and aggrandizement. It is these same people amongst us who participate or sponsor terrorism, armed robbery, ritual killing, assassination, crude oil theft, thuggery, election rigging, bribery, fraud, corrupt and roguish practices and tendencies. After creating and causing great and untold hardship to the country, they (continue to) call God’s name more than anyone else around them and present themselves as servants of God. We recognise, celebrate, wine and dine with them to approve their vocations as the norm.

    In spite of the decadence in our society, the country is replete with a good number of people who are movers and shakers in their chosen field, who would not compromise or trade their godly or ethical standards for anything. This ones practice what they preach.

    However, a few people in the society have braced up to own up that they are deviants. Fela, for instance, was a deviant of some sorts during his own time, and could be said to have been more honourably than many who occupy important positions in the affairs of the land today.

    Indeed, it is honourable to not conceal your identity by not feigning to be what you are not; but to what extent shall people be allowed to express themselves, albeit publicly (e.g. the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, witches, wizards, cultists etc.)?

    There seems to be a difference between saying who/what you are and being who/what you say you are.

    Do not be a pretender. Be yourself to lessen confusion in the country. Nigeria yearns for a clear statistics of who is who in Nigeria. Holy pilgrimages should be on personal expense. The culture of spending tax-payers’ money on yearly basis to take pretenders on pilgrimages has not yielded much fruits.

  • idowu adedoyin says:

    Well said’kudos Dr.Ken

  • Anonymous says:

    I really disagree! I am amazed that this really did happen in todays world. I was happy in the fact I was sat down. The Boss’ are coming to terms about things in future I need to keep an eye on what happens .

  • Anonymous says:

    That is sick!! I am taken aback that this really goes on sometimes in todays day and age. I am very happy I was sat down. I are coming to terms about things moving forward. I will watch closely to see what is happening to this.

  • '">@. says:


  • Ibrahim says:

    Pls hw will i be able to be vry brillant

  • obatomi abubakar says:

    In the words of Bruce Lee;
    ‘Knowing is not enough, we must; we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must Do’. Enough has been said Dr. Ken, what is OUR way out?

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