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Is there a typical Naija mindset?

By Donu Kogbara
In last week’s column, I confessed that I often feel like a square peg in a round hole in this country because I feel that I don’t have a typical Naija mindset.

I met with a bunch of friends shortly after this article appeared and we had a lively debate about the views I had expressed.

Some folks were convinced that there is no such thing as a typical Naija mindset and insisted that it is misguided – offensive, even – to categorically state that the majority of citizens of a particular country possess a particular mindset.

“Such generalisations about human nature are potentially dangerous because they encourage evils like tribalism and racism,” said one friend disapprovingly.

“You talk as if 99 percent of Nigerians have identical psyches and attitudes, but no two individuals in any geographical area are exactly the same,” said another.

Other participants in this debate, meanwhile, reckoned that there are certain  good, bad and neutral attitudes and behaviour patterns that can justifiably be described as typically Nigerian or typically American or typically Indian or whatever. And I guess, on reflection, that both sides of this argument have a point.

On the one hand, you will find the same fundamental personality traits in every corner of this globe; and most of my closest cronies share certain core traits like straightforwardness and wittiness, regardless of where they come from.

On the other hand, culture does have an impact and there are certain attitudes and behaviour patterns that are more commonplace in X location than in Y location.

For example, while almost every Nigerian I know claims to be a devout Muslim or Christian, I know loads of foreigners who will tell you that they either don’t believe in God at all…or believe in God, but not strongly enough to regularly worship Him.

Meanwhile, even though mosque/church attendance figures are extremely high in Nigeria, this also happens to be one of the most corrupt and unwholesomely materialistic nations in the world. Sexual immorality is also rife in this society. So I think it is fair to say that religiosity and hypocrisy are typical Naija traits!

One of the things I said in last week’s column was that I often daydream about escaping abroad because I feel that I am not Nigerian enough and have concluded that I will be happier, more appreciated and more successful elsewhere.

A few readers kindly took the trouble to contact me via email and made comments that gave me food for thought and cheered me up. And I have decided to devote the rest of today’s column to sharing the views that some of them expressed.

Ben Udechukwu
<ben3cl@yahoo.com>

DK,
After reading your piece, I have had many thoughts running riots in my mind. I feared mostly that you may be forced to abandon the Nigerian dream, the dream of shaking us out from the doldrums of misadventure called Nigerian mentality.

You have particularly inspired me with your style of reasoning and approach to issues. That is an eloquent testimony that your “professional skills…” are obviously needed in this part of the world.

Recall your article where you said on arrival at Dubai airport, a visitor is intimidated with the bold inscription, ‘Welcome to tomorrow’.

That revelation made me curious and I used opportunity of my honeymoon to visit ‘tomorrow’. I saw a people wielded together by true spirit of nationalism, a people exposed to endless possibilities and a psyche strikingly refreshing. Look at this: I had just ten minutes to complete checking when I realised I had excess 22kg that would cost a princely $671.

I could not afford it and in that haste rushed for a taxi that would help me drop the luggage in the hotel we had stayed until I arrange for an alternative.

In few minutes, a taxi man who would have disappeared with the obviously enticing luggage drove straight to the hotel. My only identity was the hotel’s call card and a five-dollar bill I gave him. I was ‘embarrassed’ when the hotel called to confirm the receipt of my luggage.

What is there in Dubai that would cause them to be more honest, straightforward and disciplined than Nigerians? Embarrassed because any cab driver who does that in Nigeria would be a guest of NTA’s Newsline. He just made news.
Stay back and help salvage this country.

Things wouldn’t get this bad for too long. The frustration you share is also deeply related with the profession you choose. Journalism is a thankless profession. Regrettably too, Nigerians derive so much pleasure in cutting corners.

You stayed too long in a land where people queue to join buses, where votes count in elections, where policemen receive jumbo pays and are remunerated better than political office holders. That too is an interesting paradox.

I have faith in the rebranding of Nigeria. You are a quintessence of authentic brand Nigeria. Like Ngugi Wa Thiongo, I insist that “they shall not long possess the sky, they shall not long be victorious”. Weep not DK.

lawal leo <leo_lawal@yahoo.co.uk>

donzol2002@yahoo.co.uk


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.