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Ada Nnaji: Suffering Should not Become the Norm



One of the best things I love and cherish most about African movies, is that they really show us what really happens in life. In this movie, a lady was raped as a child and she reported this to an adult who asked her to keep quiet about it. Fast forward to a few years later, this lady decides to tell everyone what had happened to her, and the adult she had reported to previously said “what happened to women keeping silent about things that happen to them”.

Although this was just a movie, I bet a lot of people will agree with me that this happens in real life. Many of us know or have heard stories about women who stay in abusive relationships, because leaving you partner or telling the world about what happens in your relationship makes it seem like you have done something terrible. I really don’t understand why this happens, but it seems like we tend to take pride in how we suffer to go through things in life.

I remember having a conversation with some of my friends about our various high school (secondary school) experiences. Some people talked about how seniors treated junior students in school. How they would punish and mistreat you for no reason at all. For example, a senior will punish you if you have the same name as they do. First, it is not your fault you happen to bear the same name as someone else, but for some reason you should be punished for that.

Another instance that happened is a senior taking your food or belongings from you for no reason, all because they have the power to.

While we all shared our stories, one common theme was how much pride we felt that we had gone through all those things and survived. We took pride in the fact that those experiences made us stronger for the future. While immersing ourselves in these thoughts, another friend in the group challenged us to think critically about what we were saying. This person told us it is not ok to go through things like that, and be happy that it happened to us. That how can our fellow human beings treat us in such mean ways. We all stopped and pondered on what this individual was saying, and realized it was true. These things happened to us at the early stages of our lives, some of us as young as 8 years old and the abusers as young as 12 years old. Imagine how at a tender age, young people treat each other in that manner, then 25 years later we begin to wonder what is wrong with the way people behave. Analyzing why this behavior occurs at a tender age, I came up with a vicious cycle of suffering. These kids must have learnt this behaviour from someone, it might have been an adult in the family, or people they interact with, but my main point here is that, when they learn and practice this, it becomes a part of their lives and they transfer it to the next generation and the same thing repeats itself.

Think about how the above affects our society. Look at police brutality, government officials or any other person that makes you suffer unnecessarily to get what you have earned. I truly believe the above paragraph is an example of how these things foster in our society.

Someone once told me a story about their salary. This person was an employee, and each time they got paid and go to collect their hard-earned salary, the person in charge will ask them for a bribe before they are able to collect it, and if you refuse to pay, then no salary for you.
In this situation if you refuse to pay, others will view you as someone who does not want to follow due process and feel so empowered to tell you that you should.

Another instance is how we are so happy about our living conditions. There was this time when there was power outage in a school in the U.S, some of the kids who originally reside in the U.S, were really scared and panicking. Some of them had to call their parents to come pick them up. The students who are from African countries, and were already used to power outage, were making fun of them saying, “only if they have been to my country”. Can’t we see that they have all been so prone to suffering and things not going in their natural order? Why should we be shouting up and down like people they just bought new toys for when PHCN gives us light for two days straight?
Why should we be celebrating that water pump ran for the first time in 3 months? Why should we be celebrating that the police man did not ask us to give them money when we clearly did not do anything wrong? Why should we celebrate that the government decided to pay salary that they have owed us for 4 months? Why should we celebrate that a woman stays through an abusive relationship?

All these things make suffering and pain become a norm or the order of the day in our society. Why can’t PHCN give us light 24/7? Why can’t we just have a normal process for things to occur. We are all guilty of these things.

As a society, we have a lot of work to do in terms of change. I love this proverb “A broom stick will hardly get the job done, but put different sticks together to make a bundle and you can get the job not only well done, but in an ample amount of time. It is on us to make our future better for us, to be very intentional about the things we do and the way we treat people. We should stop this mentality of pride in suffering because it is detrimental to the growth of our society. Be humane to others, love one another and respect each other give to them what is duel theirs. Biko, my brothers and sisters we will not come and die, just because we are Africans does not mean we should become suffer head.

Photo Credit: Alberto Jorrin Rodriguez | Dreamstime

Ada Nnaji is a graduate of Economics, Marketing and Business Analytics from Xavier University. She loves to write in her spare time, and her writings are inspired by her daily life and encounters. You can visit her blog


  1. Jumawale

    September 13, 2017 at 5:17 am

    My dear, i for one have been awaiting; for some to bring up the issues you have in the article. I would first like to lead on with a thesis and that is, we as black people, we retrieve identity from suffering we exprience.

    – First and foremost there is Nollywood, which reminds us constantly that suffering dey exist and its all around. Just stupefying dumbfounding unbeleavably imaginative scenes of suffering occupy the two hour segment of every movie outlet. These movies would not be resonant in west africa without these scenes.

    i remember sitting once with my nigerian gf/then, who played for me the most loathsome, depressing nigerian love story movie, about a powerful rich woman who is slowly seduced by the ugliest imaginable area boy, who just happen to remind her everyday, she was beautiful.

    I had to step in and momentarily play the daddy role (acward!!) and tell her to take that bullshit off, i offered to explain to her that in real life there is more resistant applied in this kind of occasion, rich women pry for their success, so it dont come easy the action of prying their “undieesss” off in any occasion. Plus nothing good can come out a situation like that in real life, and u shud relate movies to real life, but it was sad for me to see by the twinkle in the corner of her eye, had i not intervened she was already prepairng herself, for her version of reality in Nigeria. So Nollywood has got to be held accountable as a great source inspiring and keeping missery alive in our heads.

  2. Jumawale

    September 13, 2017 at 5:59 am

    THEN there is the depiction of ‘juju’ magic as an invisible sustained source of missery in life.

    From my observatory perspective ‘juju’ is the will to do harm to someone without the physical power to see through to that action. therefore a pathetic fallasy is employed that somewhere is the invisible power that listens, to, lowly voices of the cowardly, afraid and intimidated.

    Am still not sure if juju is a figment of our imagination, or our imagination is a product of juju culture.

    but i do know juju, culture has begoten a proverbial culture that began originaly from elderly folks, spread to women now its instilled inside young testorone filled macho-boys, a culture against physical confrotation, a culture for passivene aggretion, a culture for two facednes, A culture where sadly boys dont behave different to girls and are typicaly more likely to wear matching corresponding colers. and fashion that is similar looking, there is nothing wrong with the sexes coming closer but historicaly for ‘action’ purposes a prominent line was drawn in the sand in Africa.

    ..and this is can also be dangerous – take forexample a situation where a realife situation where a policeman slaps a Danfo driver, and the report makes it on here, it is perfectly typical to see in the comment section littered ablaze with a chorus, how the goverment has failed Nigerians for all eternity, and how Buhari justfiedly should hand in his resegnation over that matter and the shocking part this will be a view uncontested or even factualy challenged by anyone, it will just ring across the entire comment section.

    now nothing wrong with remembering your goverment during time of crisis – but may i remind people that the definition of goverment is a group of people who take control of another usualy much bigger group of people and impose laws upon them. therefore goverments are no different to dictatorships or even colonisations. which then makes you wonder – “WHO THE HECK R U SCREAMING @ ?!’ – where is the call for action, of even the meerest kind.

    This culture of ill willed passivism taking root in Africa i find concerning most of all, especialy given the fact that those of us who are educated are well versed that we as black skinned folks; our discontent and the songs produced therefrom sing happy joy and tears to the ears of other people who have conditioned themselves to be less compassionate wit our despair, so therefore i see this culture as a sign of ignorance taking a long lasting effect, i personaly believe either do someing about it, or say nothing about it!

    • ***

      September 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

      I could use your statement for a dissertation lol … no offence pls

    • ogeAdiro

      September 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Speaking out against it, is doing something about it. Words are powerful.

  3. trudy

    September 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

    i think religion is a major ingredient to the way Africans glorify suffering. right from childhood we are mentally conditioned that a good christian MUST suffer in other to enjoy the good things in life and over zealous christians are praised for giving their all whilst they wallow in misery and poverty (and the pastors enjoy the good life *side eyes* coz God has blessed them) so we become adults who fear ‘God’ and ‘Satan’ but morally bankrupt to the extent that we dont mind selling human parts to get money or hiring assassins to murder opponents or pouring acid on a partner after being jilted …sad.

  4. Kene

    September 16, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Very lovely piece

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