"WE" the people as a collective

Our journey continues as we develop ideas into a coherent framework of how to respond to the Nigerian/African/Black challenge (Here, I group all of them as one but in specific cases I will state which group I am referring to). We have got loads of overarching issues, one just needs to see it displayed on BET as an aspiration. This is puzzling to me!

First I would focus on the Nigerians, because that is what my passport says. We are the most populous country in Africa and one tends to run into them everywhere but with bad reputations (More bad than good, although one could argue that bad news is more enhanced but many know that this is true). We are also not a unique bunch although many Nigerians will beg to differ as many traits we possess can and is found in many other tribes and nations in Africa and around the world, just that we are always the loudest in every room (empty barrels make the loudest noises).

A pet peeve I have with fellow Nigerians is that many find it difficult to see beyond themselves and their surroundings. One would easily deduce that we only think of things, situations, relationships, issues as it relates to only us - which displays an overly self obsessed trait (of course, this goes deeper to the individual/self as we tend to be highly narcissistic), overly concerned with self promotion and self congratulations. In fact, we are so in love with ourselves that it is concerning. From the way many adults have numerous portraits of themselves in their houses, to the way we address each other; mostly with empty titles to boost our already inflated egos. All this is also reinforced in our tradition, culture, social and political institutions. For instance who knows any black person that does not love to indulge in self aggrandization? A look at any Hip hop and rap videos/music will confirm my thesis.

When have we, black people ever been seen to be humble? I cant think of any but only when we were crushed and conquered in our lands (of course, with the assistance of our fellow so called leaders who profited from the trade).

In my opinion, this arrogance is part of our failure to see beyond the self.

I am not implying that pride is a bad trait. Only that it should be deployed for use when necessary, just like any other character trait. Of course, we do need to drum up national pride to be able to go forth and conquer other lands. We have yet to do that. Our influence does not go beyond the geographical location of Nigeria. Even within that geographical location, I will label it as a fictional one as it is arbitrary and only with the approval of our overlords.

Some might bring up Nigerians in the diaspora, but they forget that many of those people had to shake off many Nigerian traits to be able to achieve what they have. They achieve that by taking responsibility for themselves and adjusting their mentality.

Many in Nigeria are only focused on what they possess and are only celebrated in Nigeria after they have achieved material success. Nobody talks about name your celebrity here* until they become champions in their respective field, and suddenly the whole country wants to be associated with them in one way or another (This is not a unique character flaw in Nigeria, one can find it across the board). What I find troubling is that you find this in families, where affiliation is targeted towards the one with material goods at the expense of knowledge, intellect and real growth.

I wonder sometimes if many people question why the Nigerian scamming is so pervasive in the country and beyond? Does it have roots within the culture or tradition of the people? Can one trace it to false portrayal of oneself endemic within homes? Or a culture that entertains themselves with empty praises of people in their music?

For example, there is an international Nigerian fraudster who was has just been arrested and is on trial in the US. Before he was arrested, he was celebrated by many in Nigeria despite suspicions of his nefarious activities. Federal politicians flocked to him and members of the police are now known to be close associates.

Another example was a wanted drug kingpin in Chicago, but fled to Nigeria and became a senator in the Federal House of Assembly! This individual became a stumbling block in the state he represented (Ogun), nothing could be done without this one man! He was known to be allied with a former president and was associated with former governors without any public question or inquiry into his many dubious dealings. Without shame or any self reflection, he was present at many public social, cultural, political events and on national TV without nobody calling him out! Of course, the courts never served justice to all the lives he destroyed and maimed. Only to be praised by an insecure, narrow minded people that are easy to manipulate and control.

The people of Nigeria live in an environment that reinforces abusive relationships with each generational cycle. It says a lot when people stop on the street to rain curses at each other while calling the name of God to protect them. I always wondered if they stopped to consider that abuses are only words and that its not harmful (only if one allows thoughts to fester). What amazes me is the time and effort put into it! Such energy could be focused at more productive ventures.

I remember when I had the ambition to become an academic, many members of my family saw it has failure. I even had an aunt call me (I was in North America at the time), to reprimand me for having the thought! The phone conversation was her comparing me with her daughter who was “making it big” in her business. It is a common saying in Nigeria to ridicule professors and academics. From the way they are compensated, and to the way media and movies portray them.

One wonders which class of professionals are meant to conduct research, or meant to recommend innovative solutions for the development of themselves? One can hardly find credible public research institutions that we can refer to for reliable information.

Don’t get me started on the endemic corruption pervasive in the family, social life, community and country. Am sure many readers would not be surprised that corruption would be rife with all the character flaws I have stated above.

Contrary to the popular view that corruption was minimal in precolonial times, I find it difficult to come to the conclusion that the Europeans made us corrupt if it was not already a norm. It is possible that the presence of Europeans enhanced it. The same line of argument is used by the scammers, that their victims were already greedy and they just needed to be enticed with the prospect of an imaginary sudden wealth to which the scammers prey on. We were already corrupt or had it in us, we just needed an excuse to show our true colors. We all know that many kingdoms conducted raids on small towns and villages to kidnap their fellow brothers for eventual sale as slaves.

The many questions are, what have we learnt from our ordeal? Have we improved on ourselves as a collective? How easy would it be for a new imperial power to arrive now and take over our lands and minds? maybe through corruption or through media psychosis?

How are “the people as a collective” prepared for the future? Are we prepared for the future? Do we contemplate or strive towards a goal? Is there any goal to reach? or are we focused on short termism and immediate gains? Here, we return to my last entry of scarcity vs abundance mindset.

What are we doing to improve ourselves? Are we busy asking what we are owed rather than presenting we bring to the table? What are we bringing to the table in our relationships and community?

These and many more questions is asked of us. J.F Kennedy inaugural address comes to mind;

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

*I do not need to highlight the many good characters Nigerians possess in this entry. We all know what they are as we are constantly reminded about them while we pat ourselves on the back. I am focusing on our collective weakness to drive introspection and improvement. We need more varied perspectives as we are yet to achieve excellence.

See you tomorrow!

- Ope