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Titilola Edu: Is Our Culture Stifling Our Youth & their Ability to Think Out of the Box?



I was reading up on Forbes 30 under 30 recently and I marveled at achievements made by these young men and women so early in life. Then I started to ask myself why I was not even close to achieving what they already have. I mean, I’m proud of my growth but I feel it’s insignificant compared to the milestones I just read about.

So it got me thinking and asking questions. Are we backward in Africa or Nigeria? Was it an individual thing? Should I blame my parents or the society or myself for lack of motivation or creativity?

It’s not news that in this part of the world, your life is supposed to follow a particular sequence and anything short of that is an anomaly – at least, in most homes.

In an African home, you are expected to go to school, graduate, get a job and get married. It is only after achieving these goals set by your parents that you are considered independent. Within this period everything else you do is according to the dictates of your parents. You are rarely allowed to think for yourself.

Our culture, as much as it helps our morals, can also stifle growth. We are confined to thinking within its boundaries, and anything outside or contradictory to its teachings is considered immoral. God help you if you speak at family meetings or ask too many questions; you are considered wayward… just because you are curious.

We need to realise it’s good to be curious, and encourage our kids to be curious. If we don’t ask, we will never know. We call it “Oyinbo Behavior” but it’s the consequence of many new innovations. Someone was curious enough to ask questions and provide solutions. Here we keep recycling ideas; everybody wants to be a blogger, Makeup Artist, or a Music Artiste.

It’s the same trend in our educational system. We are practically spoon-fed and hardly given any chance to think by ourselves. The average Nigerian student in tertiary institutions goes to class, takes notes dictated by his lecturer, piles up these notes until it’s time to take exams, crams every sentence and regurgitates everything word for word in the exam hall. Of course, he’ll pass because… lazy lecturers. The end result of this is intellectual laziness which will definitely not benefit the individual or the society at large instead we slip deeper into the warm and comforta-ble category of “Developing Countries.”

This new generation and generations after it should be encouraged to think freely, play with ideas, be innovative and creative and find solutions to many problems plaguing third world countries.

I believe this is the only way we can move forward as a nation and as a continent. What do you think?

Titilola is a Legal Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Introverted Extrovert, a freelance creative writer and a Rice&Stew Enthusiast. She blogs at Follow @ttlawla on IG and @ttlurla on twitter.


  1. deingreat

    January 12, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Now you see why you are wandering why it appears that the youths appear to be stifled by society or cultural background! There is no comment under this story at least at this time I am writing because its an intellectual piece. If it were a story about some celebrity or some gossip story, the comments would have been numerous! There is a need for re-orientation and a total change of the mindset of the average Nigerian youth. Priorities need to change.

    • tunmi

      January 12, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      We don’t have to call for a “re-orientation of the Nigerian youth” and frankly it allows us to be lazy. Because calling for all youths to change is really empty but it makes us feel good inside to have someone to point the finger at. Simply start with yourself as you have done. Sitting and waiting for things to change does nothing. As cliche as it sounds, change does start with you.

  2. tunmi

    January 12, 2017 at 1:36 pm


    And this culture does not do anything for our morals if we are truly being honest. In our culture, children are to be born and are regarded as accessories and a retirement plan. They are seen as objects for the most part. They aren’t encouraged to ask questions or wonder. You see it in the way most parents regard their children and in the way schools and teachers regard students. We feed things to them or talk at them but we don’t engage them.

    There is also no section of Nigerian movies that produces content for kids.

    And of course we have the bastardization of the concept of respect. Ageism over here works in the reverse. Older people automatically get respect, period. It would not be a terrible thing if it was reciprocal. If everyone got respect automatically even a child.

    Are things changing: slowly.

  3. Ayooluwa

    January 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Well said and very relatable.

  4. That-I-May-Fly

    January 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Our culture is not solely to blame…before we even blame the said culture, do we know what truly is our culture and those borrowed from the colonial masters? I was in secondary school years ago and was still learning about Macpherson constitution that adds zero value to my life academically and economically. In higher institution, I was learning about 5Ws and H of newstory when the world stopped writing newstories to follow that pattern eons ago. What we’re learning for the most part is not only outdated, it’s regimented and designed to stiffle curiosity and creativity. Yet we continue to send our children to school to learn redundant theories that serves no purpose in the real world. Also, our obsession with materialism will get us no where. People think of making money instead of contributing tangibly to the society. Those who do the latter end up making the rules for us all to live by through their discovery and recommendations, hence why oyinbos are at the forefront of policies and innovation. It’s a simple R&D. Until we start looking inward and carving out our destinies instead of doing follow follow of all things oyinbo, we’ll never be the genuine article. How can you truly be curious and creative if you’re learning from people who do not live your lives, understand you and in extreme cases even hate you???

  5. Angie

    January 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Just start with yourself. There are so many people all over the world doing marvelous things that aren’t recognised by forbes.

    Slowly times are changing, people are being creative, following their dreams.

  6. Call Me Gorgeous...

    January 12, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I think your style of writing is beginning to catch my attention…

    Serious Food for thought…
    An “oyibo” man I met a while back was so shocked i was still living with my parents when I told him my age…Told him in Africa and Nigeria most especially, it was perfectly normal especially when you are female and unmarried.. Anything short of that was being seen as a lady lacking morals..:(
    Could see the utter confusion/amazement in his eyes…
    Oh well…

  7. Ab

    January 12, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    You are right dear and your article is timely. Charlie boy did write something about Nigerian youths and how we need to really wake up and take the bull by the horn. But the abuses that was meted out to him was unbelievable! A lot of commentators forgot to really pay attention to the message & focused on the man himself. I don’t want to believe we have more makeup artiste and musicians than say lawyers , doctors, accountants , innovators etc, I personally feel that these category of people (the latter)are not seen and are hardly heard! We need to hear & see their story like every other day just like gossip stories are splashed all over the blogs etc . Something about hearing & seeing such people that inspires within trust me! Or maybe like someone said above most youths are more open to gossip stories that require 0% intellectual capability. In which case maybe re – orientation is needed as there’s no harm in trying . Also most are in for the quick buck , every idea that those under 30 brought to life took years of thinking on how to make it work not necessarily the money that will come from it. Some probably didn’t even think they will make so much from it but passion just kept them moving…with some youth now? They need the quick buck so they can show off etc ,& so anything that means they will have to think too much or try to figure out how this & that will wrk in order to make an innovative idea work is probably not worth it.. Sometimes innovation is not even having something brand new , it could just be making smth already there Better but then again that requires thinking it through & figuring out how it will all work. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it we all seem to think especially in Nigeria but then again a lot of things are broke in our country & it’s truly time for us to begin to apply our minds & selves and that includes me! Great article boo!

  8. Observe much

    January 12, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    I love this article ! I am 23, I finished my youth service last year and I’m waiting to go for my masters. I’ve been thinking to myself, will I just go the way of my ancestors and die ! I live with my parents and I’m home 24/7, except for church days. Its stifling, and I’m scared to think I’ll do my masters, start working, get married, have kids and die!
    Based on your article and the comments here, I can see a lot of Nigerian youths feel the same way! Pls be inspired and don’t let anything hold you back.

  9. Adunni

    January 12, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Titi! This sounds so much like something I wrote sometime ago. Love your approach on it tho and your courage to actually publish it on here. People need to look at things differently in our time if we will start achieving the success we envy. All the best dear.

  10. molarah

    January 12, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    “Is OUR culture stifling our youth”? No.

    Pardon me author…I think you mean well…but this just reads like another “hate-on-Nigeria-and-Nigerian-culture” episode. All over the world, CULTURE stifles creativity – this is not a phenomenon endemic to Africa or Nigeria. In any section of the world you go to, even in the most advanced and seemingly innovation-friendly societies, anyone seeking to do anything out of the norm will face some degree of resistance. It’s simply a globally human trait to resist any kind of change – even the change that looks like progress, and to insist this is a Nigerian/African trait is ignorant. Look throughout world history: every pioneer or pace setter had to scale through the obstacle of rejection from their immediate society, so any Nigerian youth blaming their inability to break barriers on lack of local support is simply not ready for this race. Let’s stop blaming every chicken and lizard in sight for our failures and focus on making actual progress and change.

  11. molarah

    January 12, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    And to the point concerning parents that don’t allow their children to do what they actually want. I always consider this point very funny, because there is no single young person on the face of the earth that can say that they have ALWAYS done what their parents expected of them, EVERY TIME. When we want to take decisions for our own pleasure, to get our own way, we usually don’t have problems in working the parents or rebelling against their instructions. But when it comes to standing up to our parents so that we can take actual meaningful steps that will add value to our lives and societies, “parental approval” suddenly becomes a sacred stone that cannot be worked around. I reiterate my point in my first comment: it is laziness, and not lack of leeway, that is stifling our own progress as youths in Nigeria.

    • Ven

      January 12, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      Your comment just went a long way in my Life.

    • nene

      January 12, 2017 at 10:21 pm


  12. Story of my life

    January 12, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    This article comes at the right time for me as I just recently read the CV of one of my classmates and I have been in depression mode since.

    I think my problems are: lack of exposure, lack of information, lack of social skills, lack of pro-activity, low self-esteem and last but not the least, pure laziness or like we like to call it – lack of motivation.

    I will say my lack of exposure and social skills are as a result of parental upbringing. I’m still battling with my self-esteem issues. Sometimes I’m ok but most times I’m not. I have even come to realise that the times that I’ve been ‘confident’ in myself, it has been because I was faking it till I make it. Not necessarily because I was indeed confident.

    I remember when I started working with my former boss, he used to quarrel with me a lot because according to him, I don’t like to think or use my brain. I don’t know if I should totally blame this on our Nigerian society but I remember a young oyibo girl I used to babysit then. Whenever she asked her parents questions, the first thing they say to her is “Tell me what you think?”

    • Seun AA Number

      January 12, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      My story but I would just tell you,it’s never too late to work on yourself…what I tell myself is I can do it,I fake it till I make it….if that works continue to use it

  13. Mo'Diva

    January 12, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Hmmmmm thought provoking piece

  14. Nubia

    January 12, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    It is interesting that i was having this conversation with a colleague just this morning. Our system discourages us from thinking outside the box and encourages most of us to find only white collar jobs following our University degree, we then follow our career for 25-30 years, retire and that’s it! Thankfully, i believe the younger generation are beginning to veer from this course and becoming more entrepreneurial in nature/thinking. They are also more inquisitive, daring and tend to ask more questions………very refreshing.

  15. Bade

    January 12, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Love the debate going on here. Change does begin with me.

  16. LL

    January 12, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    There are so many angles to look at this from but the most important thing is that we are even asking questions. Our culture actually encourages ‘status quo’ even if it’s killing them. Twins were being killed and people never bothered to find out what was so bad about twins in the first place. Ask a 14 year old why he goes to church and it will probably be because his parents do. We have not had electricity in this country for decades and there has never been a protest by the people collectively. Undergrad thesis are done so that they can pass out and go to NYSC. Etc. But then again; some of us are not waiting for the culture to dictate. It can be costly at first but until we start asking questions, first of our parents and families, then our schools(that tell us Mississipi is the longest river in the world without proof)and churches( who tell us to bring our tithes but don’t house homeless peoples), of life generally and what we as people should contribute. Then we will begin to create and really make a difference. However, with the way our society has begun to really worship money, fame etc…we have a lot of work to do. The most important place to start is at home; ask questions, encourage your children to think and work through the puzzles of life. Allow their God given abilities and ‘,outoftheboxness’ to flourish, then watch as they change they world one step at a time. #sorryforthelongpost

  17. Abikoye

    January 12, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Titi,

    You made me stop to think therefor more than a second. So, I say thank you for this piece. And the question is, how do we proceed?Another pressing fear is, we are beginning to make our children thread towards the same path.

    Sometimes, I look at some parent and I wonder….well, that’s some issues for another day with the Stifling of our youth or absolute unwarranted freedom….which way to really go? I digress.

    I so agree with the comment “story of my life” and “That-I-May-Fly”.

  18. Kay

    January 12, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Nice article!

    I believe Nigerians are entrepreneurial in nature though… I think the reason we don’t see Nigerians on such lists is because of unavailability of resources.

    It’s one thing to have an idea and its another to be in an environment that allows you to put those dreams in action. Success is not easy anywhere but it’s easier to be an entrepreneur in certain circumstances.

    The reason Nigerians are flooding certain business ideas is because they realize its easier to start them with their limited resources IMO.

    • funmilola

      January 12, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      @kay, you’re very right. I strongly believe Nigeria youths are entrepreneurial in nature too but the environment is not supportive at all,(government policies no 1) I don’t think it has to do with our culture if not we wouldn’t be here.
      the rate by which the entertainment industry is being flooded sef scares me, everyone wants to be a makeup artist or musician,even motivational speaker too.
      nice article edu, keep it up!

  19. Marks

    January 13, 2017 at 2:56 am

    I am a university teacher and I have been opportuned to teach in many countries including Nigeria, and countries in North America, Europe and the Arabia. Our education system is actually stiffling and it fosters an attitude of reproducing what has been taught rather than thinking outside the box. My first University teaching job was in the UK and that shaped my style while working in Nigeria. I tell you what, the students hated me for my take home assignments that required them to stretch their thought-process beyond their class notes and internet materials.I recall that after I had left and I was chatting with one of my Nigerian students, she said ‘ we miss your interesting lectures sir but we bless God that we no longer have to worry about those assignments, the man that took over your course xxx is bae..his exams questions are always direct, not twisted like yours’….Lol..The lady that said this eventually graduated with a 1st class at age 18. She is smart alright but the system (from primary school) groomed her along that cram and dump path. How can you expect her to join an organization and be the one to suggest new ideas much less build her own organization…lol..She will carry out instructions perfectly but that’s as good as it gets…I think religion and morality have also played key roles. We are not expected to question our Pastors or our Imams and people who are older than us. Beyond all that, we are largely a people with low sense of self-esteem even though that might not be too noticeable because we can be very gregarious. We thrive in the approval of others so much that we tend to lose our identities. A case in point was the last Presidential election. Honestly, I am yet to see a reason why anyone with half a brain would think that Buhari would do better than the then incumbent (however terrible their perception of GEJ’s performance was). I wasnt that much into GEJ too and I have always believed our problem is the structure and no man can fix it without overhauling the structure. People do have their choices but the big surprise to me was the fact that many young people ACTUALLY BELIEVED the man will do well as President. If you voted for him because you just wanted someone else out, that’s understandable but the enthusiasm and hope and excitement in people’s eyes and speeches got me pondering over whether it was same Buhari or another..There were tonnes of facts about the 1st coming of Buhari. The economy at the time was exactly as devastating as he has made it again. We do the same thing and expect different results. Just 2 years before the election-in 2013, he made a serious statement against GEJ, frowning at the way GEJ was taking the war to Boko-Haram while the ND militants were being pampered..I aint making this up, every major newspaper in Nigeria had that story on their front page that day.And you expect his appointments to be balanced? Fast forward to 2 years, the APC only had to get a couple of loud young people on their side..Those ones created the impression that Buhari was the ‘cool’ candidate and no one (including youths with tons of degrees) cared to ask probing questions. People who were supposed to be educated actually BELIEVED this man would be a successful President! Nigerian youths didnt even question the standing of these ‘cool youths’..People like Omojuwa, Debola Lagos, Chude..asides the noise and packaging, what exactly are their antecedents? What are their REAL, TANGIBLE achievements that qualify them for taking over the brains of our young ones?Once your voice is the loudest and you can speak good English and you appear cool…you can say the most stupid thing and our ‘educated” youths will give you a free pass….To be honest, I have NEVER seen that level of totally uncalled-for excitement like Nigerian youths showed for the candidacy of that man and I am yet to get over the shock and surprise. The problem is Nigeria and Nigerians…Loud, not given to much reflection, vain and too timid to stand alone within a crowd…Those are not attributes of creative people..Well, maybe they are for gbi-gba-gbu music creativity and OAPs, MUAs, bloggers and all that but not the kinda creativity Titi was on about…If you can’t stomach that kinda mediocrity, God’s land is vast….move and go fulfill your purpose elsewhere..

  20. Ifeoluwa Owolabi

    January 13, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Titilol, thanks for this piece. I hope to raise my children differently and help them explore life’s opportunities. I hope the society does not label them rebellious. I’ve met people who told me to caution my daughter cos she’s too bold. Well, I sent them to d cleaners. #standwithanewnigeiannchild.

  21. debby

    January 13, 2017 at 10:36 am

    spot on mark! you have said it all

  22. Human

    January 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    There are lots of dimensions to this. I personally would not blame culture as much and i agree a lot with Molarah. This is a debate we have had many times over with my siblings. The whole entrepreneurial movement is one that was born out of the present hardship and truth be told a lot of people are now looking up to entrepreneurship because of the seemingly good life it seems to offer. For the majority of youth to have a chance, the entire system needs to be restructured and overhauled. Issues like nepotism have to be reduced to the barest minimum. A good percentage of successful youth today in the entrepreneurial world may have earned it but it was handed to them by virtue of family ties, family gave them the finances to start up, the client base and the circle that would help grow the business through patronage. Entrepreneurship has become an inner circle thing with a group of people monopolizing the market. In a typical rich/society Abj wedding or events of people with money you can guess who the wedding vendors would be, the photographer, the make up artiste, the catering services, who made the dress etc. Even Dangote it has been alleged he monopolized the market during Obasanjo’s regime, he financed the campaign and got the ban then on imports which made him an instant household name. Do we blame culture for these elements of nepotism or business acumen or do we blame our artificial society? The one we created that upholds everything that presumably glitters? People would use their last naira to patronize a popular social media hair dresser as opposed to helping grow a good one who does not have some fancy person endorsing. Also what achievement means to one is different from the other. In the western society achievement most often has nothing to do with money but with acts in third world countries it has almost everything to do with how rich you end up regardless of the how. Personally i was allowed to think for myself and reason well and hard growing up, yes my mum was a bit concerned with regards to how vocal i was so she thought me how to say what needed to be said without offending the elders and guess what these same elders would kiss the ass of your rich cousins who do worse things citing lame reasons when the obvious is socio economical as such even culture has double standards. Again whose fault is that? Culture or its practitioners? Entrepreneurship is a really good thing but it is not meant for every one neither are white collar jobs. Each has its limitations within our society and not wanting to be an entrepreneur is not an instant sign of laziness be it intellectual or physical. To each his or her own. Again i reiterate the relativity of the meaning of achievement and entrepreneurship to each of us.

  23. Seun

    January 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Fantastic article Titi!

    Nigerians are exceptional human beings, although, Nigeria has its many flaws. Poor governance, falling standard of education and lack of infrastructure. Our parents taught us what they felt was best, but the world has changed dramatically since the internet age and we millennials are very exposed and now know better.

    I do agree that we have to be innovative and creative in our thinking. Every month, i get no less than 3 CVs from graduates asking to help get them jobs and my reply is always the same, ” what do you have to offer and what makes you so unique”. Not only do we have to ask ourselves thought provoking question but also, we have to demand more from the government. Many Nigerians are entrepreneurial in nature but starting a business in this country can be compared to climbing mount Everest. Its extremely daunting.

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