What is Nigeria’s Problem?
When you invite a Nigerian to describe what the country’s problem is, get ready to die of boredom, because they’ll go on for too long, in an attempt to describe things that aren’t close to being problems. “Bad roads, bad classrooms, corrupt governments and greedy officials, bad power supply, bad this and bad that, ba—” It’s okay, my brother. Let’s breathe.
Most of us Nigerians don’t even know what Nigeria’s problem is, and that itself is a problem.
Bad roads, bad classrooms, corrupt governments and officials, bad power supply, and whatnot, are not problems. There are bad roads in Northern Canada, and poorly-built houses and classrooms in Flint, Michigan, and bad power supply in Cameroon, and corrupt governments and officials in Russia, Israel and North Korea. Well, they are everywhere, even in the United States- the “most democratic” of them all. The secret handshake deals that take place between and among public and private interests would take more than a fortnight to analyze.
Bad facilities and all that are mere consequences of Nigeria’s only problem, or second problem, the first being the one aforementioned—Nigeria doesn’t know what its problem is, and that’s a problem.
Nigeria’s only problem is that we Nigerians have a wrong sense of entitlement, and we can be quite aggressive and close-minded, even to change and development. It is not that we sometimes do not set our priorities right, or something else that you probably anticipated, if you did.
By a “wrong sense of entitlement”, what do I mean?
From the mechanic that is willing to beat you up or yell “ashewooooo!” [prostitute!] at you if you refuse to give him your number, to the policemen and soldiers who expect you to treat them like demigods when your paths cross, and offer your sacrifices in naira notes when applicable, to the local and state government officials who find it okay to steal from the people (after all they’re in charge) instead of getting things done with the resources available, to the pastor who deems huge offerings his right, regardless of the means of survival of the donors, because he is God’s mouthpiece, to Alhaji, who doesn’t really care if his car is packed in your driveway or the sound from his speakers is giving you a migraine—you must be Beelzebub’s girlfriend for not liking noise pollution—to Mummy ‘Dekola who deems your business her business and will die of high blood pressure if you don’t kneel before her properly, to our street men and roadside NURTW tax collectors who do not mind breaking windows and removing doors if they do not get a chance to extort drivers, even when the union dues have already been paid, to the drivers who think it’s okay not to pay their union dues, to Yahoo boys and men who think its okay, and even necessary, to make someone else wallow in depression, for their own survival and well-being- the interesting thing is, the rich almost never fall into their traps; it’s people like their own mothers or other members of the working class who do, to everything and anything else you can think of.
Whew! Yes, it really is that stressful- all of it.
Inadequate infrastructure, corruption, poor governance, and whatnot all stem from the root—the devil itself—having a wrong sense of entitlement. The bloody Nigerian Assembly is a mess for the same reason. Climbing fences. Throwing chairs. A mess!
The interesting this is, a wrong sense of entitlement might develop in someone because someone else has it: “You think it’s your right to block my driveway with your car, and I will show you that I have a right to break your glass.” What does it all result in? A mess!
Unfortunately, a wrong sense of entitlement and the “me first” approach to things is not just a Nigerian problem. It’s the problem of the world. However, in places where it is less dominant in the culture of the society, there have been lots of infrastructural, economic and social success. They are the “better” societies.
Let everyone, that would include me and you, stop thinking they own or deserve to own the things, or the extra things, that they haven’t worked for and/or simply don’t deserve, and watch the nation, and the world, heal and grow.
It’s okay if my wife doesn’t want to cook today. As the “head of the house”, if the title matters so much to my ego and self-esteem, I should be able to fix something for myself and my family. I am not automatically superior to anyone because I belong to a certain ethnic group. When I use words like “aboki” and “mola” (mallam) or “omo nna” in derogatory ways, I must know that I am wrong. It’s okay if I don’t win someone’s soul to Christ or to Allah; why am I so obsessed with winning it like a trophy? It’s okay if I don’t get your number; you don’t need to be insulted or disgraced for it. The money in the public purse is not mine, and I don’t deserve more than what my allocated salaries and benefits are.
A reorientation is needed, and I am fully aware that a reorientation is easier said that done, but we can try, at least. We can start from the elementary schools. There should be subjects/courses like Ethics, for instance. I don’t know how algebra has contributed to my existence, in the way that I interact with the world. The schools barely prepare us for the real world; I’ll discuss this some other time.
These are some of the things that should be considered:
The spirit of volunteerism has to be encouraged among us Nigerians. Also, I don’t know what has happened to us but sympathy and mutual respect melt quicker in online communities and spaces. The wrong sense of entitlement gets worse when you give people Internet privileges.
1. Throw your thrash away properly. It’s not your street, you only live there.
2. Driving is a privilege, not a right. A little patience could save your own life.
3. You deserve every woman and everything because you have a penis. Your wife or husband is not your property; they are not to be assaulted even when your brain tells me to go ahead because they deserve it. Your masculinity or femininity is not an egg; it shouldn’t be so fragile.
4. Taking things that belong to you when you know quite well that you can locate and return them to the owner, and even having the effrontery to steal because you strongly believe that it is God’s provision is another level of sickness.
5. If something is wrong, don’t just ignore it; speak up against it if you can or report the matter to those who can.
6. Any public property is not mine to deface or abuse. When the government creates something for people to enjoy, it is my duty to respect myself a resident/citizen, keeping it clean and leaving it where it is.
I’ll leave 6, 7 and 200 to you to come up with. Change begins with me and you.