Nigeria and Nigerians: A Short Reflection

February 24, 2013 § 5 Comments

Kenneth Amaeshi

There is something about Nigeria I have grappled with, without luck. Each time I visit the country I get disorientated for some time. I feel a different sense of reality. The only thing that is constant is MONEY, MONEY, and MONEY. The rich and the poor, the holy and the unholy, are all lured by this singular attraction towards money. This attraction is powerful and crowds out other interests. I listen to people talk about money and what they do to make this money; as laudable as they are, they often don’t appeal to me. In such instances, I feel I am either wasting my time and life or I am simply lazy. But I don’t feel the same way outside the country. I also know that I am not lazy – although that’s relative. Notwithstanding, the more I think of this, the more I sense insecurity as the source of the material drive in Nigeria. This insecurity lies at the very heart of the accumulation culture – saving for the raining day; making hays whilst the sun shines; identifying the black goat before it gets dark. The burden of tackling insecurity is left on the shoulders of individuals. You provide everything needed for survival for yourself and your dependants. You go the extra mile to make these happen, because no one knows tomorrow. In some other countries, this burden of insecurity is borne by societal institutions and safety nets, which then allows people to focus on ideas and matters of self-fulfilment. In the Maslowian order, we are at the bottom of the pyramid of human needs, and that tends to order our behaviours. Even the clamour for social status through the use of power and display of materialism is an expression of physical and psychological insecurity. On the surface, it’s all well. Beneath the surface is a void; and an emptiness in search of true meaning and security. Even our consumption of God doesn’t escape the clutches of insecurity. I guess one way to understand a Nigerian is to explore his/her fears. Just a thought; I may be wrong.

Amaeshi is a Visiting Professor at the Lagos Business School and a Member of the Thought Leadership Forum, Nigeria.

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§ 5 Responses to Nigeria and Nigerians: A Short Reflection

  • Afro Geografa says:

    Ken, Imena! In those days, nearly a decade ago an event usually happens at Anara Junction. There was a mental health patient, a young man who spent his time there. He accosted individuals right hand outstretched with the mantra, “Nyem ego, ego, ego….”! Your piece is a perfect reminiscence.

    Owu ijeuwa!

    Ndewo.. Onyewuchi.

  • Anthony Akizua says:

    Dr Amaeshi, you are right to say much of what drives the craze for material acquisition of Nigerians is insecurity. You are also right when you say that this trend is peculiar to us living in Nigeria. Unfortunately for me, I live in Nigeria and visit other countries. Thus, more days of my life are spent mired in this craze.

    Beyond the insecurity however is the absence of laws and policies to guide human relationship and behavior as well as mechanisms that will serve as deterrent to those who do not obey them. I will give an example.

    It is constant practice here for airline ticketing officers to over-book a flight. When this flight is called for boarding, everybody must run, push and shove to get a seat. If you fail, you get no refund, no explanation and probably no other flight for the day.

    The above example might seem far removed because it says nothing about money. No! It rather says a lot about how our system works. It is in this type of system that survivalism thrives. In such a system, only those who can pay their way through, pay their problems off and subjugate those who depend on them, survive. Is survival not a primal instinct of man?

    Yes, you can understand a Nigerian by mere looking at his fears, but after that what? Is there a chance that our daily lives can evolve into something sane, sane as what we desire. Sane as is obtainable elsewhere? So many of my people say it is up to Government. I say it is very much up to us to put this government in place!

    • Tony – nice point. I guess the answer to some of the questions you raised could be found in this statement attributed to Albert Einstein: “you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it”. Thinking is a very rare commodity in Nigeria, and the very few thinkers are often ridiculed because we can’t see money in their thoughts.

      • Tessy says:

        Nice one Ken. I couldnt help reply your comment to Tony. You couldnt have summarized it better when you said ” Thinking is a very rare commodity in Nigeria, ………..we can’t see money in their thoughts”. I think a typical Nigeria fears the lack of money most and that why it was so easy for money to pervade and total destroy our value system. It then makes true a popular saying..Anything can be bought in Nigeria as long as you have MONEY”

  • Toks Idowu says:

    Kenneth

    The maniacal focus on wealth due to inherent insecurity is one thing. The lack of laws and policies to guide human relationship and behavior as Tony rightly alluded to is another. What is most concerning however, is the superficial and myopic thinking that is so prevalent in our culture.

    A culture of chronic corruption, short-term thinking and crime glorification; where concrete and substantive discourse has been relegated to the background, and primordial instincts of survival through corruption and lack of accountability are on display for the world to see.

    A culture trapped in cyclical decline of moral decay. One that seeks out, lauds and rewards incompetence at the expense of collective talent. The world gazes in sheer amazement at how a country so blessed can remain so poor; how a land so rich can remain so barren; how a people so smart can remain so impoverished. It is – I believe – one of the greatest anomalies of modern times.

    It would be naïve however, to expect utopia on this side of eternity, so that is not what I am postulating. If however, we continue to function from a warped value system of misplaced priorities…paying astronomical fees to ‘hang out’ with empty celebrities, looting the national treasury for opulent living in foreign lands, disregarding the painful gaps in infrastructure, education, healthcare, etc., then we can rightly conclude that the disorientation you feel today will not subside, but would only get worse with time.

    My hope however, is that – just as the Scripture says…even now, there is a remnant in the land. Those that have refused to give in to the madness all around them.

    It is to this remnant that I give my utmost respect and admiration.

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