By Sunny Ikhioya
STUDYING Nigeria over the years, it has become easy to identify a pattern of behaviour; that is to say: you will be able to identify a Nigerian anywhere in the world through his or her behaviour. The question therefore is: can the way we are – our culture and way of life – be the cause of our stagnated and slow growth?
First, let us identify patterns of behaviour that run through the veins of the average Nigerian. Nigeria is a colourful variety of ethnic groups, proud and loud and ready to show that his is the best always, even if it cannot be confirmed empirically.
The average Nigerian is smart, intelligent and friendly, especially to foreigners. Most time, this virtue is used negatively, especially by 419 fraudsters and other criminals, and in the process mar the image of the country.
The average Nigerian has a burning desire for wealth, no matter the methods used to achieve it. It is very common to see a man come home, after public service, being vilified and ridiculed by his people for not helping himself to the national till while in office. We celebrate thieves, kidnappers, armed and pen robbers. If you ask a young school graduate where he wants to work, beside the oil sectors and banks, he will tell you ‘Customs’, where bribery is the order of the day.
The average Nigerian is very religious, whether Muslim, Christian or Animist. You see a lot of devotion to the places and modes of worship. Incidentally, that is also a route, nowadays, to quick wealth and because Nigerians want quick solutions to their problems, they fall victims of these religious scammers.
The average Nigerian is ethnically biased against the overall Nigerian interest and so, you find people being treated as foreigners (settlers), even in their own country. It is also responsible for the inability to decisively contain corruption and insurgencies now threatening to bring the nation to its knees. It has beclouded our senses of judgement.
Following after our crave for wealth, is the crave for power. We crave for power to oppress and allocate resources to our advantage. Out of the 11 or so persons that have ruled this country as president since independence, only five- Balewa, Shagari, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan – have come in through normal democratic processes. We like to flaunt our powers; even a common adviser to a minister or local government chairman goes about in siren-blaring convoy of vehicles. The latest are political aspirants: becoming a political aspirant confers on you the privilege of using convoys. That is the way of Nigerians.
The average Nigerian believes in ostentatious display of wealth that breeds wastefulness. Check out the number of wealthy Nigerians who have gotten rich through government patronage and stealing. How many of them are investing in real productive ventures inside Nigeria. The latest craze is going to Dubai and other cities around the world to organise wedding ceremonies, seminars and parties. The most expensive automobiles in planet earth are found in Nigeria the same month they are released.
Because of our wastefulness, we produce raw materials, sell it to outsiders at cheap rates, while, they are returned to us as finished products at very exorbitant prices: –oil, agricultural products, solid minerals are all affected by this.
The average Nigerian is corrupt and prone to bribery. With the minimum wage being N18,000 per month that cannot take care of housing alone in Abuja, how do you expect the average civil servant to survive? Meanwhile, the senior civil servants are sharing the loot amongst themselves.
As a result of crave for all of the above, our politicians have turned politics into a do-or-die affair. So, in Nigeria, negative politics is the order of the day; no election is complete without the allegations of rigging.
It has also made us, as a nation, to lose focus; I mean: concentration, discipline and vigilance. We want to get the reward without working for it, therefore, we get stunted in our growth process. As they say: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. That is the situation of Nigeria as country, that is the way we are.
This picture is better captured by the display of our Super Eagles during the last World Cup competition. At the world stage, we showed how bereft of ideas we are, in finding solutions to the challenges facing us as a nation. Arsene Wenger, the coach of Arsenal football club claims that Nigeria is full of talents, what they lack is organisation. You cannot give what you do not have. A man that boarded the same vehicle with me claimed that “they have legs but no senses”. They have not won the match and they were playing to the gallery. It was an attitude of wastefulness; many talents but no concentration, discipline and vigilance. That is the Nigerian behaviour and that is why our growth has remained stunted.
With concentration, discipline and vigilance, we shall see the defeat of terrorism within a very short time; we will see the country on the rise in all ramifications of life.
Some have argued that we cannot find solutions without knowing the causes. Our present underdevelopment must not be divorced from our colonial foundations. With serious brain washing, fake statistics and sense of values, our priorities as a people became warped. All the norms of integrity, hard work, charity, communality and chastity were thrown overboard by the British values of injustice, divide and rule, playing one ethnic and religious group against the other and rigging of census and elections ( those of you holding contrary opinions should go through Nigeria’s historical records). The division created has not healed till today.
The solution lies in a focused, disciplined leadership, with a strong will to effect changes in our negative lifestyles, through personal examples, most especially a strong will to put right past injustices.
May the almighty God provide Nigeria with such a person.
*Mr.Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.