Urhobo Historical Society

Page 15 July 23, 2006


The Mind of the Nigerian

“...though institutional neglect, government ineptitude and lack of integrity may also account for some of his lapses, I am appalled by the total erosion of a sense of value and dignity in him.”

By Magnus Akarue


It will take more than radio jingles to change the mentality of the Nigerian. This type of cynical remark may not be popular but it comes from careful observation and long interaction. The Nigerian is a peculiar breed, with little or no resemblance to his African brother. Where he is lavish, vain and flamboyant, his African brother is austere, reserve and quiet. Behind the veneer of his showiness, he has a personality as fragile as that of an ant but an ego as large as an elephant. A unique person, who desires all that is offensive to human decency, the Nigerian is noisome, carefree and atrocious. To say he is undisciplined is a misnomer. He is disorder personified and has dignified the nether world! The Nigerian must stay ahead; achieve his selfish desire without a care of who gets hurt. In his drive for profit, fame and wealth, he cuts corners to attain his goal. Those who become successful through unwholesome means earn fulsome compliments in a society where the drive for excellence is mocked at. School pupils engage in 'runs' to cheat at examinations and procure certificates from despicable sources. Policemen extort money from motorists and other road users. The clerk at the office needs gratification before he fetches the pensioner's file. Ritual killers excite in using people for money, while the business man collude with outsiders to bring in fake and adulterated drugs. It takes only a moment's hesitation for the official entrusted with power to inflate contracts, bills or engage in other forms of financial recklessness and abuse of office. The Nigerian has come full circle in the seedy environment of life.

One can almost feel the pain of the personified Nigerian currency on radio, lamenting 'his' suffering at the hands of 'big men' who spray 'him' at Owambe parties, marriages and other social engagements, with people dancing on top of 'him'. The Nigerian has no regard for government property. When overseas, he manages a level of sanity which he leaves behind as soon as he gets back into the country. This unpatriotic rebellion exploits the institutional laxity of a system humbled by a crudeNigerian attitude, which is above the law. I am amazed that the Nigerian has conspired to make his system unworkable. Is it that he is hitting back at it for the frustration he is put through trying to earn a living? Or he actually has an innate dislike for proper conduct? My friend, however, believes the non-enforcement of the rule of law in Nigeria is the reason the Nigerian does what he likes. He recalls that sanity was imposed on the people at a price during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. But I think it may be more complicated than this, as social deviance seems to be the rule here. A purely Nigerian mentality is at work, as he never does anything without the promise of a reward. He has been conditioned to think in a mercenary way. A Nigerian gives his best service once he is sure of something in return. Everywhere, the mercantile phrase screams at you, ''what is in it for me'', ''anything for the boys'', etc. In his pecuniary wisdom, civil obedience carries a price tag. The Nigerian working his tail off abroad probably thinks he is over paid by a grateful government, and says thank you by striving to be civil. While the Nigerian leader, who loots state treasury for safe-keeping overseas, trades decency for the safety of his funds!


This insatiable craving for money comes from his bloated and excessive lifestyle, which his income cannot sustain. He must satisfy his appetite for titles, more titles and more titles, arriving social occasions in a flourish, displaying his three handsets and spraying large amounts of foreign currencies. His quest for material acquisition, mainly of things he has enough of, puts him in perpetual debt. To meet up, he seeks illegal sources of making money. His fertile mind has been possessed by corruption, a result of a pathological greed, which in itself, is a consequnce of his gripping envy. The Nigerian doesn't create anything, he buys all he needs. Here, government is the big brother. Everyone feeds on government and awaits its guidance. The landlord needs to be goaded to provide the minimum comfort for his tenant while the citizen lacks any form of responsibility and take it as his right to enjoy services he won't pay for. ''I am in business'' is a euphemism for the idle to be on the alert for an opening to steal from government or swindle the unwary.

The Nigerian is ungovernable. Oftentimes, he has frustrated government's attempt at instilling sanity into the system. In his 'it is only I that matters' attitude, he applies for a government job he doesn’t need, which he secures with the help of his corrupt kinsman, who manipulates the system, without the intention of ever giving up his other employment. Here, it is the party faithful or 'highly connected' civil servant who benefits from any scheme for the unemployed. The Nigerian disrespects public buildings and facilities and circumvents any government legislation at social reformation. But, though institutional neglect, government ineptitude and lack of integrity may also account for some of his lapses, I am appalled by a total erosion of a sense of value and dignity in him. Human society permits some deviation from the norm but a complete eclipse of moral propriety is alarming. Should government always wield the hammer to get attention?

The Nigerian mind is criminal. He is always on the look out for an opportunity to defraud government. Nigerians leave the country in droves, work harder over there but do ‘time’ for credit card and car rental scams. He is also in the hall of fame of 'dole' cheats. Today, there is a herd following of negative traits in the society. Nobody is interested in a positive attitude. A cult personality is created of infamy and youths, by choice, are sucked into this vortex of unorganised living. Millions leave the safe havens of their mother's womb every minute and are initiated into this social malaise.

However, the situation is not hopeless. It will only take some time to recreate the Nigerian mind as he suffers from an identity crisis. Agreed, man must connect globally for excellence, but he should not lose his self worth. What is needed is a new generation to emerge from notable stock across the nation; a generation with innate ideas, renewed vigour and a strong commitment to excellence. Proudly Nigerian and taken from a careful selection of adolescents, this new generation would lead the task of reawakening in the Nigerian undiluted pristine values. To find these icons, talent scouts would be sent to pick the best from across Nigerian homes. Nigeria is where it is today because most of us are born into the wrong ideas, inheriting parents that gave us no sense of value and self-esteem. Children grow up in homes where Western culture is highly rated, with parents abandoning the task of child care to school teachers, house-helps and nannies.

Presently, the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation is involved with the Nigerian Project; Re-branding Nigeria, a nebulous ideal towards producing a new image for the country. This will never work as the Nigerian must first be reconciled with himself. In fact, it is a fallacy to talk of creating a positive image when it is not there? The individual matters and reflects such a change in the nation, and not the other way round. First, let the Nigerian find himself, imbibe a new patriotic zeal and love for humanity. Our chosen flag-bearers, once they are identified, shall be given special training in institutions designed for this purpose; a training spanning several years from adolescence to adulthood to modify their thinking and regenerate inbred ideas of love, patriotism and self pride. During the course of training, prospects will undergo excursions around Nigeria and Africa for fruitful interaction and practical experiences. The training institutions are special schools where our prospects, aged between 8 and 12, will be visiting from time to time but they must go through a foundation period of seven years and leave for a university of their choice in Africa. These are government kids which they will ever remain until they take positions of responsibility. To qualify, you don't have to be a whiz-kid or come from a wealthy home. These shall be ordinary kids, whose only asset is that they didn't grow up in an environment of falsehood, pretence and greed, and possess an enviable sense of pride as well as a strong moral foundation. After being chosen, these icons will endure a rigorous selection by a panel of judges.

The Nigerian factor, the assault on standards, cannot be ruled out. An overwhelming success cannot be expected in both the selection and eventual outcome after the training, but certain safeguards shall be put in place. The judges and talent scouts across the country, who must be Africans, shall be those with proven integrity and strength of character, and must have been involved in the drive for excellence in people. The object is to create a new person with restored thinking, a new vision for himself and people, as well as a commitment to lead the nation to its destined growth. But leadership shall not be the only emphasis, as some will possess no leadership qualities, naturally. We are where we are today because the Nigerian is a bad follower, unless of contrary things. He gets the type of leader he deserves. The nation is reaping the whirlwind of sorrows the people have created in the land; more like a nemesis. But with a new Nigerian spirit imparted down the line, a new generation will eventually emerge that will be the pride of Africa and the world. Only then perhaps, can we talk of a positive image for the nation.

This, in a nutshell, tells you that recreating a new Nigeria, peopled by a Nigerian of true purpose and fine values, is not a day's job. This experimentation is an ongoing project, whose result may not be evident until 50 years or beyond. I may be conservative here as it will take almost a millennium to reclaim the Nigerian. So the time to start is now and I hope we have the political will to pull this off.

On the other hand, however, this may be as unrealistic a dream as the tenuous Re-branding Nigeria project. So the nation just goes through the motion, rolling with the punches, sort of. After all, many young men fail to find themselves in life and leave nothing behind to posterity. Do I see a smack of pessimism here? May be not.