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Ayanam Udoma: The ‘Follow Follow’ Mentality

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I watched a campaign video for Nigeria’s President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The main focus of this advert was the fact that Dr. Jonathan had triumphed over adversity, rising from an impoverished background to his present status (specifically he had no shoes and no school bag), the President of Nigeria. The message of this promotion was clearly that if Dr. Jonathan can become the President, then anyone can.

I would like to focus on the fact that there was curiously no mention of any sort of policy; There was no Poverty Alleviation scheme announced, no Schools Programme mentioned…there was merely the hope offered that if you took your vitamins and said your prayers, you could one day hulk up and become President, just like that aptly named Goodluck Jonathan.

On Youtube, it was entitled “The best Nigerian Political Ad Campaign – I am Goodluck Jonathan.”

This is an alarming title as it suggests that this campaign might appeal to everyday Nigerians. The mere fact that their greatest ambition should be to become Goodluck Jonathan is worrying and not because he is not a great man but rather because they’d want to be him for all the wrong reasons…jealous reasons. They’d want to be him to have his success and his rag-to-riches story rather than to create policies that could better Nigeria for future generations.

This is the type of mentality that has held Nigeria back since the days of independence. However this is not a mentality that has ruined merely our politics, it has wormed its way into other facets of our culture too.

The other day I was at Murtala Mohammed Airport and went into the Economy waiting area toilet. It was lavishly decorated, the faux gold, silver plate, and fake marble wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Palace in Ancient Greece. It must have cost a fortune, which is odd given how derelict the rest of the waiting area looks. It was as if the airport had been built at the behest of a bathroom salesman who wanted a showroom for his wares. Even to the most inexperienced flyer with no prior expectations it would appear that the airport spent 90% of their facilities budget on the toilets and 1% on the waiting area (with 9% mysteriously, but not unexpectedly, unaccounted for).

I tried to understand the logic behind such a move until it hit me that perhaps there was none. Well no long-term logic anyhow. The powers that be wanted the toilets to look fancy because other countries have fancy airport toilets and if they could do it, so could we! I assume that it was not until after the completion of this lavatorial masterpiece that someone realised that the rest of the airport looked even more like a derelict wasteland in comparison. The problem is that there seems to be little desire to make real, long term change…it all comes down to impulsive jealousy of the me-too kind.

Even music, our most esoterically valued export, suffers from the “if you can do it, we can too” mentality. Nigerian musicians of today see rappers like 50 Cent flaunt their wealth and assume that if he can do it, they can do it too. They post pictures on Instagram, flaunting their thousands of dollars (not even Naira…the shame!) and, in turn, young impressionable Nigerians look at them and think that if they can do it, we can do it too. Perhaps this is why, to this day, there has never been another Fela Kuti? All the aspiring musician of today sees is the short term goal of delivering a predictably populist beat in order to make millions of Naira, just like their idols, rather than opt to use music as a platform to express themselves and make real change

How can we, as a nation, say we’re truly independent if we’re forever stuck chasing after someone else’s lifestyle? How can we expect change if we’re obsessed with becoming the same? Dreams and hopes shouldn’t be born from jealousy but rather they should emerge from a desire to do even better and go even further than those before us.

Rather than say “I am Goodluck” we should be asking ourselves why we can’t be better than Goodluck. Goodluck did well for himself by emerging out of poverty but we should be challenging ourselves to go one better and get whole communities out of poverty.

I am not inspired by the “I am Goodluck” campaign simply because it represents more of the same. I don’t want another person to become Goodluck and make himself rich, I want a leader who will come and bring about change to the status quo.

Let’s not aim to simply become another Goodluck! Let’s aim be ourselves! Let’s aim to become independent not just in name, but in thoughts and deeds as well.

Watch the ad here:

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Wavebreakmedia Ltd

26 Comments

  1. Tantra

    September 11, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Good points outlined. I have a problem with the way Nollywood and Ghollywood copy and reproduce Hollywood and Bollywood films. I also hate the temerity in producing movies of recent songs and happenings and naming the movies same. I saw an EBOLA movie poster. Disgusting. On a personal note, being someone else is a waste of who I am. I am in competition with myself and nobody else. I want to be better than who I was yesterday and who I am today. I admire people but I wouldn’t be so frustrated to use them to jugde myself. It is the “your mates are doing this” mentality that is killing us. For me, I have no mates. I am the oldest person in my village.

  2. chichi

    September 11, 2014 at 10:25 am

    If they give u naija, u go rule an better? Plzzzz tek a back seat.

    • George

      September 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      And how do U know he won’t. At least he acknowledges our shortcomings. U’re more of the same. U shld take several seats

    • trigga

      September 13, 2014 at 10:47 am

      i cant believe dis is ur reply to this beautiful piece,u need help.

  3. omoibo

    September 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Ha! Talk about the follow, follow mentality in Nigeria.. I think Nigerians have become intellectually lazy and find it easier to just be herded along. Look around you as Nigerian and all you see is the monkey see monkey do attitude & mentality without anybody stopping to ask why?! So, Nigeria in my opinion gets the sort of leaders it deserves because the average Nigerian would rather pray until infinity rather than ask questions, think independently & than take action…

  4. mrs chidukane

    September 11, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Well said. The truth is that the government usually has no policies and even when they do, they have no ideas how to go about them cos that is not their true aim of seeking power. GEJ has failed woefully and I always wonder why people would want him to continue seeing how badly he has done. His aides Doyin okupe especially don’t even inspire confidence in one. You can imagine Doyin going on twitter to declare that God should expose BH sponsors in 40 days.BH that has been a scourge for over 4 years now? Smh

  5. Wale

    September 11, 2014 at 10:53 am

    How anyone in their right mind would want to emulate a nitwitted born fool like Jonathan, is beyond me? No matter how much they try to spin his image, it is what it is, he is what he is-a mediocre, incompetent, clueless idiot that was really, fcuking lucky. Even luckier are the group of sychophants and opportunist who have recognized this weakness in the president and are using it to their advantage to pursue their own agenda-to steal. Only a complete stupidly, ignorant dim wit will be impressed by Jonathan’s lackluster performance. We couldn’t have had it worse and we are in for even worse days ahead. I don’t see how he can be redeemed. I pray for some young group of ethnicly mixed military boys to save us from the MESS that is the horror story of Jonathan’s administration. Then maybe we will have true heroes that we can look up to – even if briefly. Now, that is a story that is worth spinning.

    • benny

      September 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      i really feel bad for you. all this venom and bitterness; who planted this in you as a child? cos this didnt start today

    • Wale

      September 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Yes, you are correct it didn’t start today-let’s see, ah! I remember; it started when I saw the tasteless# his people advertised on a major highway and that his personal spokesperson, Okupe, proudly and insensitively twitter days ago. No wait! My anger started when his illiterate drama queen of a wife went on tv to deny the girls were taken. My bad, sorry-it was when Jonathan started dancing in a campaign rally the day after the nyanya bombings. Gosh! my memory is so bad-it was before that, actually, it was when those little boys were massacred to death in their hostels in the middle of the night and your foolish president, didn’t have any show any remorse or go on national tv to vehemently condemn it. Wait, wait! Or my anger could have started much earlier, when when he asked to purchase more planes with the 8 the country has in the presidential fleet are still functioning in a country that can’t even afford common oxygen in our biggest hospitals. Only God knows o! Maybe my anger started when we couldnt account for a whole $20billion that is still missing, or when I saw the images of the group of young teenage northern boys, some as young as 9yrs that were matched in the middle of the desert, slaughtered and buried in a shallow grave by the Nigerian army. Still my memory me no justice, since i remember thaat it was Jonathan’s sponsoring of delta thugs to plant the bomb during Independence Day some years ago that started all these lawlessness and carnage and then went on to turn 360 degrees against the guy he used. Perhaps, it was madam’s Jonathan’s involvement in currency smuggling and Jonathan’s pardoning of Alams and Bode Goerge and bestowing a national honor on a tyrant like Abacha. I could go on. When Jonathan errs so egregiously he not only embarrass his office, himself and his country. He embarrasses us all.
      So you are very right-my anger is deep seethed it is only for the love of my country. No more, no less! To satisfy your curiousity, my Childhood was one filled with love and openess. I never lacked anything, in fact, I was brought up in the very elite class I summarily detest because they continue to look out for themselves only. In my family I was brought up to give voice for those that are disenfranchised, to love all equally whether poor or advantaged. It was instilled in me to always speak the truth and to be intolerant of mediocrity and those who knowingly celebrate people who take advantage of others to “their” own benefit. I always call it as I see it. If Jonathan had been a stellar president, I would be his number supporter and town crier. But he hasn’t. We should set and expect a standard from those we ask to speak on our behalf and represent us. At least, that is how much I cherish my image. I wonder about your threshold?
      This is not personal-I am probably the nicest easy going human being you’ve never met. (I did not edit,excuse typos)

    • ak

      September 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Thank you Wale

      For some reason, goats like Benny think that people who speak up against Jonathan are bitter for no just reason.

      Theirs is a case of the classic Nigerian mentality “Suffering and Smiling”

      Until they wake up and find that they do not have anything to smile about.

      It is a sad and pathetic culture that is deep rooted in our mentality: that we should not complain.

      For real, innovations and change only come when you complain. When you see a problem and speak out and try to find solutions.

      People like Benny are goats. As long as they have their grass to chew, they don’t care if they are being milked dry

  6. Ephi

    September 11, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Where there is no vision, the people perish.
    Jonathan has done well in a few areas, but he hasn’t been overly impressive, no massive change.
    Personally, ever since the “stealing is not corruption” comment he made, I lost interest in him. We need strong judicial systems and institutions in place,

  7. Ephi

    September 11, 2014 at 11:28 am

    If I may add, “follow follow” is not necessarily a bad things if you copy positive things. No one has a monopoly on knowledge and it’s important to learn from others.
    The only wahala is we are so selective about the stuff we copy in naija. No copying of educational and infrastructural stuff, but ice bucket challenge, flaunting dollars with strippers, etc our artistes are all there!

    • Ephi

      September 11, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      *bad thing

  8. Theresa

    September 11, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Thanks Ayanam for this article, well done!
    The average Nigerian does not believe in processes, but luck, prayers, magic, miracle and quick fixes. It is this mindset that has made us as backward as we are and all our infrastructures derelict. No real progress can be made without commitment to a vision. To all those GEJ-wannabe Nigerians in the campaign ad, they are being fed with hope without substance, faith without works. The result will be death of such hopes and frustration.

    The story of GEJ is very helpful though, it shows that luck and opportunity without preparation is a waste of resources. Dear friends, don’t go about looking for favour and sudden unmerited promotions, you might end up biting more than you can chew. Be content at your current level, learn as much as possible and let your growth be organic, little by little.
    If you seek goodluck unscrupulously, you might end up with badluck in disguise.

  9. cutie

    September 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Well, it’s been said before…every country has the government it deserves. So I guess we’re even.

  10. Dee

    September 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Abeg I don’t waste my time on a nigeria. Nigerians have the government they deserve, if you here the reasons most people gave for voting that guy in. I heard things like continuity, continuity of something bad will remain bad. As I told a friend a barber has spoilt your hair for 12years then you say for the sake of continuity he should do if for 4more years lmao that’s how your people reason. Then you here my Pastor said he’s the one, he is from my tribe. Abeg let them give him another 4years for continuity and get for more years of looting and bad governance. A man who goes on about how he had no shoes yet after 6years of ruling many Nigerian children still do no have shoes or school bags!

  11. bob

    September 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Just want to ask you self-styled critics a few questions. Can someone please tell me one single improvement he or she has brought to his immediate community? Just tell me one. We sit on our computers and write stupid things that add no value to the general national discuss. We criticize our President and speak so disrespectfully and disparagingly about him. Which Nigerian Head of state or President has fared better in the last 30 years? Time has, and is still exposing, their crooked backsides. I agree we need a more pragmatic and God-fearing leader who can and will summon sufficient political wisdom and courage to do the best for Nigeria in the shortest possible time. But, where will such an ‘angel’ come from?

    For your information, the world has moved this far because of the follow-follow mentality you so condescendingly wrote about. Ask the Japanese and the Chinese. The Nigerian music, film, hospitality and telecommunication industries are enterprisingly successful and high-yielding today because of this follow-follow pattern which you failed to properly define.

    So, people, show respect and give honour to whom honour is due. I fear leadership because they were appointed by God for the time and season. Show respect and God may look favourably upon you!

  12. MrsHappy

    September 11, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Follow follow mentality started since we were innocent children. When we wanted the same toys our friends had or how we wanted to make the same kind of hair style as our friends. Echoing Ephi’s thoughts, its not necessarily a bad thing as long as you are doing something right and fighting for a good cause. For example some Nigerians were being called “follow follow” when they participated in the ALS challenge but no one called the Americans, British, etc “follow follow” when they joined in the #bringbackourgirls campaign. is Boko Haram in their country? They still lent their voices to bring awareness to the cause. A few weeks ago, Dangote donated millions to help in the fight for Ebola and now Bill Gates has also donated, yet we are all hailing him, no one is calling him follow follow. If Dangote donated that money after Bill Gates, some people would have called him follow follow. Some of us Nigerians like to complain a lot instead of being or brothers and sisters keepers. So if “follow followism” is going to raise awareness to the plight of people suffering or raise money for people in need, or help find a cure for any strange disease, I am gladly a “follow followite”

  13. stephanie

    September 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I love this,that line “dreams and hopes shouldn’t be borne from jealousy” is so correct.Many people see these so called celebs,they grow jealous and long to be like them.follow ur path people!

  14. Onye

    September 11, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    What’s wrong with wanting people to aim to succeed.

  15. nne steph

    September 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I hate all ds blame game ish. Be the best u can be NOW wherever u find urself. As a friend, child, parent, neighbour, teacher, student, leader,citizen.

    Have u observed the average Lagosian driver? Impatient, reckless, abusive, u trafficate and cars are still speeding by like 20 cars(male and female alike) b4 a good samaritan slows down. As an employee, u get to office late, backdate ur time, blame it on govts inability to build roads. U cheat on ur partner, u blame it on his / her deficiency (monetary or otherwis)e. No one takes responsibility anymore. Its always another persons fault.

    We hav stopped reading. We become artistes and we drop out of schoo! What an irony. Self development has become history, bcos I hav a good job, y shld I harness my natural talent of electrical repairs, capentry, designing, writing and all? Money can solve it right? We hav become d greatest idolaters of all time, our IDOL being MONEY. So as a nation we keep churning out d same leaders.

    Heck, mothers no longer teach dia daughters chastity( for they are not chaste). Fathers no longer teach their sons responsibility(for they are gross embezzlers of company funds). And tommorrow when these children become leaders, the blame game continues.

    I will not allow our country’s failure be the yardstick for my well being. I choose to be a Happy, responsible, dedicated wife, mother, employer and a patriotic citizen of my country. God bless Nigeria!

  16. Truth Teller

    September 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    @Bob, there is what is called constructive criticism and quite a number of the comments here point to that direction, we don’t need mediocre citizens like you. The reason why mr president is under such scrutiny is because HE IS THE PRESIDENT! If someone has to blame or carry the responsibilities in the country, it is fortunately/ unfortunately him because he is the head, why can’t we accept that? How would asking anyone what they have done for their communities equate with what the President is doing for over 150 Million people? As @Ephi mentioned, he has done well in a few areas but hasn’t been overly impressive. Get it? There is an acknowledgement that he has done some work, but is he really doing Nigerians a favour or that Is what he was elected to do? How will Nigeria even move forward with this level of mediocrity?

    • ak

      September 11, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      God bless you and every citizen who thinks like you

    • bob

      September 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Dear Truth Teller, you may not know this, but constructive criticism must be followed by a some panacea aimed at correcting the ills elucidated in the criticism. We know ourselves as Nigerians. We are always swift to condemn whenever things do not go our way. Nigerians are just beginning now to realize that executive powers are also shared by state governors and local government chairpersons. I may have my own grouse against our President. I think he should be more pragmatic in handling issues that affect us all as Nigerians. I am not a party person and do not share any ethnic links with the President. But, we must respect the person of the President, whether he or she is Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw or other ethnic nationality. There are better channels open to Nigerians who need to proffer solutions to our national ills. If you do not know it, please find it and use it. It is more effective. God Bless Nigeria!

  17. omoibo

    September 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Nigerians reward mediocrity, look around at our so called leaders and you’ll see. The citizens of Nigeria have been dehumanized by a succession of governments that they don’t know what their fundamental rights are anymore and will accept anything. Say it ain’t so, let me refresh your memory with a couple of recent elections in the south that bags of rice was used as a bait by the politicians to win votes! Need I say more?
    Until Nigerians collectively begin to demand for better, mediocrity will continue to be the order of the day unfortunately

  18. Nelson Omoyibo

    September 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you @nne steph.

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