Growing up in Nigeria, the average child quickly discovers that the country is not ‘all that’ and cannot meet their expectations or cater to their basic needs as a ‘sane country’ ought to. So, Nigerian children are taught how to manage the situation and strive to be successful – even when everything threatens to make you fail.
In the same vein, many Nigerian kids are taught early how to dissociate themselves from the society they live in and ensure that the woes of the country do not affect them. The effect of this is that the Nigerian child grows up with the belief that come what may, he or she is strong enough to weather all storms and make it in this country. There’s a warped sense of strength that drives the Nigerian kid; not the strength of changing an unfavourable situation to a favourable one, but the strength of making it and becoming successful in the midst of anomalies and cataclysms.
The other effect is that an average Nigerian kid grows up selfish – thinking of how to make it, even when others cannot. While one cannot fault Nigerians for dreaming big and trying to conquer the world, one cannot help but agree that the mentality and ‘prayers’ that some Nigerian kid grows up with has done nothing to infuse a patriotic and activism spirit in them. Our parents will pray that “no matter how expensive things get, we would always have money to pay for it” – this, in itself, is not a bad prayer, but what happens to those who cannot afford it?
This thought-process has already downplayed the necessity to question inflation and its economic disadvantages and deflated the inquisitiveness of children. So rather than ask why a bag of rice has moved from 8,000 Naira to 28,000 Naira within the last four years, you are already (perhaps unknowingly) teaching a child that as long as you can afford the price, inflation is okay. Selfishness.
It is this false sense of strength and adopted selfishness that has, in a way, contributed to Nigerians’ inertia on public policy. There’s a nonchalant attitude towards what is happening in the country because of the belief that no matter what, we will scale through.
So we have the “Boko Haram bombed 200 people again? These northern people sef. If they like, let them all kill themselves”, or “Lekki is flooded? haha, shebi they always behave as if they are richer than us in the mainland” or the “SARS is killing boys in Lagos, gaskiya, they cannot try this in the North” set of people in Nigeria.
Our problems suddenly become competitive and gradually turns into banter: Mainland VS Island, North VS West… Rather than face the government, we turn on ourselves.
The recent one is “Bag of rice is now 28k, ehn, shebi it is you people that voted for Buhari, enjoy the next level of suffering”. Those who say this have forgotten that whether or not you voted for Buhari, we are all in this suffering together. So why not concentrate on the problem, rather than on the people who voted the candidate of their choice?
For the well-meaning and unselfish Nigerians who love to wear other people’s shoes and put themselves in other people’s conditions, the unresponsive attitude of other Nigerians soon gets to them, and after years of shouting, screaming and fighting alone with no positive response, they soon get tired and decide to concentrate on their lives only.
How then can we salvage this?
Not every time banter
The first thing to note is that the present situation of Nigeria cannot be reduced to banter or social media savagery. Nigerians’ ability to ‘stay strong and remain happy’ in the face of life-threatening, destiny-changing (for bad), and happiness-sapping situations is one of our many undoings. We play too much – and we play with just anything, including fire and brimstones. When anything happens, Nigerians will immediately make memes, funny cartoons… If you are tempted to do this, remember that not lending your voice to the plight of Nigeria is equivalent to you mortgaging your future and that of your generation.
Avoid ethno-religious divisiveness
The second thing we need to do is to imbibe the culture of not reducing tragic and drastic situations to religious or tribal or political wars.
“1000 people died in a strip club”
What were they doing in a strip club?… they must be prostitutes… serves them right… if only they obeyed the holy books, they wouldn’t have died… ladies be careful o, be contented with what you have… not all that glitters is gold… don’t follow boys because of iPhone 11…ahhh, that is the way Urhobo girls behave…
No one is asking the critical questions: how did they die? Who killed them? How did the person/people kill them? Who provided the info of their location? Where were our security agents when this happened? Did the building collapse? Who was the contractor?…
While we fight among ourselves and tow the ‘dangerous’ path of religion, tribe, and politics, our politicians (who embezzled the money meant for security, and slim-fitted the money for that building, thereby buying substandard materials) are busy eating chicken and drinking wine with the embezzled funds.
You cannot demand accountability when you are busy fighting for your religion or tribe.
We should learn to demand transparency, rather than accepting whatever is thrown our way. Nigerians are so used to ‘managing and scaling through all negativities’, so we never fight back. It is even a competition: “you no suffer for this life reach me”. Is suffering something to be proud of? Our parents taught us not to ask questions and ‘manage it like that’, it will be unfortunate of us to pass this on to our kids. Don’t let your political representatives brainwash you with plenty hogwash. How much was released for that contract? Who was the contract awarded to? How long did it take for the project to be completed? Were all workers paid? How much were they paid?… Let’s start asking the important questions.
Be active, not passive
Don’t be a coward in the face of impunity. Don’t shout “revolution now” on Twitter and then sleep in your house when it is time because you don’t want to die. Hashtags don’t solve problems, actions do! You don’t need to come out to the streets to protest, start by having the phone numbers or emails of your Local Government Chairman, Commissioners, state governors, senators and all. When they make decisions that do not favour Nigerians, bombard their gadgets with calls and emails. When all Nigerians begin to do this, they will realize that they can no longer misbehave and hide.
Finally… encourage your friends
Many Nigerians are tired, but we can all encourage ourselves to do the right thing. Don’t be one of those that will say “wetin concern me, me wey go soon jaapa?”. You’re not jaapa-ing anywhere, let’s make this work, guys, let’s make this work! Encourage your friend today. Together, we can do great things.