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Olasubomi: How Nigerian Are You? Let’s Take the Culture Test!



I had been walking all day and my sister and I were considering a break from the “Ajala travel all over the world skills” we were exhibiting.
As we walked down the road, trying to make our way towards Big Ben, the famous clock, and “British personality”, I took a breather to observe the environment.
I saw:
a) A cyclist stop at the red light;

b) A pedestrian depress the road side indicator to confirm that it was safe to walk past;

c) a city bus arrive on time to pick passengers who were in a queue because it was that time of day (when London is congested);

d) Various people looking out for signs and asking questions on what was right or not right to do.

In that moment, I imagined what chaos would emerge if things went south and everyone chose to move at will, cyclist pedestrian, motorist, and tourist and maybe I chose to do only what we felt like at the time; the result, CHAOS.

More disturbing for me was the acknowledgment that many of these people in sight were my kinsmen. I asked why this could not be Nigeria and what were the things preventing such order; my response to me was one word: CULTURE.

I have set below two definitions which I believe succinctly capture the meaning of the word:
Culture is – “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” E.B. Tyler (anthropologist)

Cambridge English Dictionary states that culture is, “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.”

What then is the CULTURE (habit, general custom [daily/hourly choice] of the individual Nigerian? Bringing it home, what is your culture as a Nigerian?

I don’t intend to throw scientific conclusions up in the air trying to answer these questions, permit me instead to use examples.
A lot of us are so easy to point fingers at the government, fault it for every mishap including our personal failures. It is my opinion however that our government is a reflection of our culture, our customs and beliefs at this particular time as individuals. As such, I ask these introspective questions to enable easy understanding of why I say so.

Our politicians steal because it is our culture to enable them by seeking close proximity to them for personal gain and making them heroes for wrongdoing. True/False
Our criminals are unrepentant because the last criminal on record was not punished; in fact, he got out scot-free or is still being bandied from court to court without due process being followed. True/False
Too many examples of what is wrong abound, but this realization is only the beginning point. This information only becomes useful when used as fodder for creating solutions.

The way to go
We all know that the current culture is not sustainable. The opportunity cost of doing the right thing is too high; it’s only rational to do wrong. That is what we need to change. We need it to make it very expensive to do the wrong thing and give incentives for doing the right thing.

We need to begin to hone our custom and behavior to accept that it is okay to do things right and celebrate the people who do it. That way, we consciously begin to adopt morals and values that enhance the quality of our lives as individuals and in the collective.

We need to agree on the minimum practices, behavioral patterns that would be collectively acceptable and induce a culture of doing right.
All that is ailing our country is easy to identify, the corrections should not be so difficult to apply. We only need to wilfully and intentionally adapt to the culture of doing the right thing especially when no one is checking or taking position to punish us.

Now you take the Culture Test
So you are one of those Nigerians, twitter lord and policy mafia who knows exactly how the country should be run and what is right to do e.t.c. It just might be that you are yet to solve your personal problem culture wise. Please take the simple test below to identify what your own culture is as a Nigerian.

a) When you finish drinking water in a sachet or bottle, do you or have you ever thrown it on the road?
b) Complete car papers or routine “yo men” to the policemen and VIOs that are now your friends? Where do you fall?
c) You see a queue; do you shunt or fall in line?
d) Do you drive on one way routes intentionally? Or more importantly, have you taken the pain to study what road signs mean?

So many other test questions will help us spellcheck our culture and show us where we belong.

If you want right, then you should do right; if the bulk of us do right by ourselves and our nation, there would be a difference.
Lastly, What if government remained “dysfunctional” and individuals took responsibility to behave right? Would change result from this?
I think yes, because the change of the culture of the individual would enable the change in the culture of the collective.

Please send feedback at [email protected]

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  1. Ava

    June 8, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    A relevant read in the Nigeria of today. We not only have to walk the talk but encourage others to do so. Thank you Olasubomi. Looking forward to your next piece.

  2. zzzzzzzzzzzzz

    June 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    I know some may disagree with me but the truth is I have lived in many cities and in Nigeria and to be honest disregard for road signs and traffic lights, following one way seems to be majorly a Lagos thing. In other states people respect and obey traffic regulations.

    • Yeyeperry

      June 12, 2016 at 3:47 am

      It’s Lagos that people can’t dare to follow one way because of the fines. In PH for example… Police, keke, many follow one way.

  3. Chiomah

    June 8, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I spokewith a friend about this yesterday. Nigerians abroad obey traffic lights but go home and disregard it. Join queues abroad but are unruly back home. I guess this will only change when they know they will get some form of sanction.

    • british

      June 9, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      I think the reason is because no one in Nigeria obey traffic lights or stand in queues. Wouldn’t you agree that they will look pretty stupid trying to stand in queues that is non-existent? I have been back home countless of times and my bid to do things right just made me look like a fool and someone that people can easily ride

    • Stella

      August 1, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Hmmm… I see reason with you and it could be frustrating really but sincerely speaking, you don’t have to join them if you can’t beat them. Keep doing the right thing and trust me someone or some peo0le somewhere are learning from you.

  4. I disagree not only in Lagos/Travel more and see.

    June 8, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    I was in the east for Christmas and a wedding dec 2011.Most city guys from Abuja,port harcourt,Lagos,Uyo,eket and so on,displayed the carefree attitude of reckless driving.

    Until the police stop collecting N50,and start punishing the reckless behavior,the lawlessness culture will continue.

  5. Oma

    June 8, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    “The opportunity cost of doing the right thing is too high; it’s only rational to do wrong. That is what we need to change. We need it to make it very expensive to do the wrong thing and give incentives for doing the right thing.” And there is it in nutshell.
    Thank you for this piece Olasubomi.

  6. ACE

    June 9, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for the write up I say these things everyday,i won’t say am perfect but I try my best we can only change Nigeria by changing ourselves first. God bless you for this piece

  7. Anonymous

    June 9, 2016 at 10:51 am

    This morning on my way to work in a public transport, the bus conductor bought something to eat and i watched as he threw out the nylon,i hesitated at first to say something as i didn’t want him to attack me verbally but on a second thought i felt i could be the one to educate him and it might stick for life.So i politely told him it was ideal to hold on to the nylon till he had a proper trash bin to put it in,He smiled at me and said i am sorry,I told him you need not say sorry to me as i just wanted to remind you to do the right thing in this situation as i saw that you initially hesitated throwing it out but eventually you did throw it out.I told him that the fact he hesitated shows he knows what is expected of him but chose to ignore.So while still in the bus the next nylon he wanted to dispose he kept it.I just smiled..I felt fulfilled for speaking up and not dying in Silence. Lets individually be the change we desire to see and hold others accountable.

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