I am a Nigerian. Born here, lived most of my life here and I intend to live a greater part of my years to come here. I am a patriotic Nigerian. I love this nation, I believe in this nation but I will not die for this nation. So maybe I’m not so patriotic after all. One thing I know for sure is that I’m definitely more optimistic about the future of this nation than most young Nigerians. In my short time here, I have been privileged to explore, discover and experience the suppressed greatness that lies within the unique people of this country. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet so many people from other parts of the world and one thing is for sure, the average Nigerian forever stands out. We are unique in our ways, our beliefs, the things that drive us, the things we want from life etc. Central to all of this is the foundation upon which every Nigerian is built – our culture. And this is why I’m here today. I’m here to tell you why I HATE MY CULTURE.
For those who may not know, my dictionary defines culture as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. With over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria, all with their own unique cultures, you’re probably wondering which one I’m referring to. Well, I’m referring to all of them. No matter how unique every ethnic group tries to present itself, it’s not so hard to pick out the similarities among the customs of each group and put that together to form what I call the Nigerian Culture.
If you already disagree with me about the existence of a ‘Nigerian culture’ or you’re still trying to juxtapose this with the madness that ran through the Nigerian cyberspace last week, relax, take a seat while I give some background on some of the ideas/customs that make up the ‘Nigerian Culture’.
Just last week I asked some of my colleagues at work when was the last time or if they’d even ever said the words “I love you” to their fathers. Of course some of the females jumped up and said last night or the last time they spoke to him but after a quick survey in the room, we discovered none of the guys present remembered ever saying those words directly to their fathers. There were also some women in the room who admitted to not saying the words in a long time. What was more disturbing was the fact that almost everyone agreed their father’s would probably sense some sort of problem if they ever did say those words to him. On the flipside, about 40/50% of the people present said they had said the words ‘I love you’ to their mothers and siblings.
During the same conversation, an Italian colleague of mine explained how they had four different terms to describe the different stages of love/affection in Italian while most local Nigerian languages had just one and in some cases two. It’s not a coincidence. It’s a fact. We may be emotional but the average Nigerian has difficulties expressing emotions. And you wonder why we’re such terrible kissers.
I find it almost nauseating how it’s so easy for the average Nigerian to turn regular conversation into something religious. Let me give two instances:
Me to a colleague: Hey, the deadline for that project is today. Please have it ready by 5pm.
Colleague: it will be ready by the special grace of God.
Daughter: Mummy, I think I’m coming down with a fever. I have a headache and I’m running a temperature too.
Mum: Ah, I rebuke it in the name of Jesus. You can’t have a fever.
I don’t think I need to explain further here.
Those who know me know one of the worst statements you can possibly make around me is “but they tried”. That’s my mothers default response to my criticism of every single Nollywood movie and it drives me nuts. Maybe the word I’m looking for isn’t sentimental; maybe mediocre explains it better but the fact that we so easily revel in that substandard space based on absolutely nothing but sentiments is very very worrisome.
Do you remember how growing up, you’d be doing the dishes with your siblings or perhaps playing around the living room and some dish or glassware would slip, fall and break. Your mom would come running into the room and the first thing you’d do is point at your sibling and say – he/she did it?
At that point in time you imagine your mother isn’t so worried about the fact that this accident could have hurt one of her kids. She doesn’t run into the room to ask, “What happened? Are you guys ok? Did it cut you?” Even if she does later, you know the first thing on her mind is to discipline whoever did what and as a result; you’re quick to exonerate yourself. Newsflash – this doesn’t go away. Years later while working for a large corporation, this same culture surfaces when a manager is all about pointing fingers and exonerating his/herself rather than first finding a solution to a problem.
I spoke above about how most guys have never said the words “I love you” to their fathers. I also wrote last week about how you’d probably never hear anyone here use the term “high maintenance guy” because the thought of a woman maintaining a man or running a home in these parts is almost ludicrous. Even with the rate at which the rest of the word is embracing women liberalization, we have refused to see the bigger picture and we remain stuck in our ways.
The average Nigerian is a follower. In our homes while growing up, our fathers were the leaders, the kings; we pretty much worshipped them. The same way subordinates worship their bosses, congregation members idolize pastors/imams and how government officials ass-kiss council chairmen, governors, senators and our dear presidents. Match this with some of my points above and you’d understand why we’d rather keep quiet when we spot a leader doing something absolutely wrong.
This has got to be one of our greatest traits and it’s just amazing how contradictory it is when put side by side with other points I made above. The same Nigerian who’d rebuke your criticism of a Nollywood movie and plead that you give them more time grow is the same one who’d step out of his house, walk in on a mob about to lynch an alleged thief and join in without stopping to question the authenticity of the allegations. In the words of a very good friend: “In Nigeria we have babies, we don’t have sex”.
Most people assume the average Nigerian is hardworking. He is a hustler who would do anything to survive. Allow me to challenge this assumption today. I think the average Nigerian is naturally lazy but what differentiates us from the average Briton is the fact that we can be selectively driven. Because of the huge gap between the economical classes in our society – the lower and upper class, a lot of Nigerians have been able to drive themselves to push up from that low class to create some form of middle class. However, if you ask majority of the Nigerians who currently make up this middle class if they believe they can break into the ‘upper class’ through legitimate means or if they are even doing anything to help them make that next jump you’d be more than surprised at their response. It’s what I like to call ‘small success syndrome’.
This is the reason parents used to push their kids to study law or engineering back in the days and it’s the same reason why some parents are now pushing their kids to sports or music even when its obvious that they lack the talent.
I can go on and on but I’ll stop here for today. For those wondering if there isn’t anything ‘positive’ about this ‘Nigerian Culture’, truth is, I think the negatives outnumber the positives but then again, these negatives are things that can be quickly turned around to benefit us. In my opinion, culture should be dynamic but ours has stayed stagnant for way too long and thats why some people can ride on it to their advantage. One positive thing about the Nigerian Culture is our friendliness and this is one people all over the world agree with and celebrate too, maybe I’ll touch on this some other day.
Now back to where we started. Having defined this ‘Nigerian culture’ and given us some background, I’d now like us all to revisit the Ese Walters as well as the Lola Akindele posts and maybe, just maybe we’ll now be able to put the comments into context and form better opinions.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Do you agree with my definition of elements from the Nigerian Culture? Do you even agree there’s any such thing as a ‘Nigerian Culture’? If yes, please help me add to the list, if no, tell us why. Also, if we agree most Nigerians possess these traits, what can we do to turn things around? What will you do personally with your kids to help fix things? And going by this Nigerian Culture, what’s your take on the Ese and Lola stories? You know the drill; use the comment box to express you.