Nigeria’s God Must Be Subdued In Order For The Nation To Prosper
Before commencing, I should point out that when I say ‘the average Nigerian’, I’m referring to the middle class, the rich, the absurdly rich, and yes the poor, because one cannot help but wonder how the poor would behave should they suddenly become stupendously wealthy.
Now, let us proceed with the matter at hand.
“Greedy”, “short sighted”, “messed-up psyche”, “a people that will do anything for money” – just a few of the comments I received from readers regarding the average Nigerian after they read my article titled, ‘Four Unfortunate and Wasted Years’.
In truth I believed such comments to be a little unfair and harsh, and as such consigned them to that permanently sealed waste deposit section of one’s sub- consciousness. But for once, not only did the lid refuse to stay shut but over the coming days their comments proceeded to party in my head like it was 1999! And the orchestrator-in-chief was none other than that most poignant of words –‘psyche’.
What is it about the average Nigerian’s psyche that makes it so warped?
And is our warped psyche the primary reason for Nigeria’s many ills?
To give you a perfect example permit me to recall a scene I witnessed at a wedding I attended with my dear late father several years ago. As was his custom, my father, who seldom enjoyed weddings and extravagant celebrations of any kind, asked me to accompany him with the promise that we wouldn’t be there for long. I should point out here that I too do not enjoy extravagant Nigerian weddings, as I find them to be both fake and somewhat vulgar in their unnecessary and often distasteful display of wealth; hence, being asked to attend one with my dear pops wasn’t entirely appealing, to say the least. However, bearing in mind the fact that pops never spent more than thirty minutes at such events I had little hesitation in agreeing to accompany him.
Oh, and by the way pops was an expert at spending as little time as possible at weddings and parties, without people realising. The trick, as he expertly taught me is to ensure you greet the hosts and all other relevant individuals within ten minutes of arriving, so that they know you came. After that you can leave whenever you want.
True to his word, after spending approximately twenty-two minutes at the wedding, pops turned to me and said, “Son, it’s time for us to leave”. What happened next can only be described as the sorry tale of Nigeria, past and present.
The former president of Nigeria, president Ibrahim Babangida, aka IBB, arrived as we exited the building. Not only was he fondly welcomed like some kind of home-coming hero as he alighted his car, but he was hailed by parking attendants, street sellers, and the hundreds of derelict individuals outside the compound. Here was a man who not only stole most of the nation’s wealth during his rulership but more-or-less laid the foundation for the abject poverty that plagues the lives of millions of Nigerians today. And yet, here he was being worshipped by those very people he impoverished!!
The question is why?
The answer is very simple. The god of Nigeria, who today reigns over the polity, churches, homes, families, relationships, businesses, and institutions across the nation, assumed total and absolute control over the nation during the early eighties. And as his power and authority grew, so too did greed and poverty.
The name of this god?
You may not wish to hear or accept this reality, but money is Nigeria’s god, and has been for the past four decades. As its grip strengthens by the second, the nation grows more and more into one in which most people will literally do anything for it- ritualistic killings, kidnappings, yahoo(defrauding people) like there’s no tomorrow, prostitution of various forms, assassinations, and blatant stealing, to name just a few.
Nigeria is now a country in which the average Nigerian cares only for his or herself, and not for the country.
What caused this?
Decades of military rule and flagrant corruption resulted in an acute rise in poverty. In-fact military rule led to two types of poverty.
1. Those living in squalor, with no income, no food, and barely any semblance of a roof over their heads.
2. Those plagued by a poverty mentality – who no matter how much they steal or plunder continue to fear being poor and as such can never stop (stealing and plundering). How else can one explain the behaviour of Diezani Alison-Madueke and her ilk??
To make matters worse, institutions such as churches, banks, and the mobile phone networks, which should be beacons of light in terms of helping to re-orientate the Nigerian psyche are adding to the problem.
Churches have allowed the god of money to pervade all they do and say, and as a result the majority of them focus on the acquisition of wealth as against the gospel.
Nigeria’s banks, mobile phone networks and other large private sector companies are endowed with so many brilliant and highly influential individuals. But none show any interest in making the nation better. Rather, their focus continues to be profit, profit, and more profit. As a result, much of the political circle continues to be dominated by illiterates and vagabonds.
Furthermore, unknown to them (or maybe they do know, who knows!), their penchant for sponsoring /funding mainly music concerts, fashion shows, and food exhibitions sends a callous message to all and sundry – ‘we will only support and promote ventures that can make us plenty of money’.
According to a report by the UK’s Guardian newspaper, ‘the number of people living in poverty increased from 69 million in 2004 to 112 million in 2010, despite an average economic growth of more than 7%. In the same period, the number of millionaires in Nigeria increased by 44%.’
Furthermore, over 49% of young people are either unemployed or under-employed in insufficient or part-time work.
So, what we have is an extremely dangerous situation in which the horrendous inequality that exists in Nigeria today is brutally exacerbated by the crude excesses of the wealthy; to the extent that many comfortable or wealthy individuals are literally oblivious to the harsh realities on ground.
As I see it, there are two solutions that can over time subdue Nigeria’s all-conquering god.
But before revealing them to you, permit me to dwell a little on Europe’s most economically powerful nation – Germany – twice crippled as a result of being on the wrong end of two world wars, and yet still so economically robust.
Germany is a nation built on the attitude of its people. The attitude of the average German is one of hard work, honesty, humility, and a modest lifestyle. Indeed, according to a study carried out by four of Germany’s largest publishers (Axel Springer, Bauer Media Group, Gruner ÷ Jahr, and Hubert Burda Media), nearly half of Germans are unwilling to pay more than 100 euros for a pair of shoes. Furthermore, over 54% of Germans don’t even own their own homes.
Compare this to the average Nigerian, who’s desire is to own as many shoes, clothes, houses, and cars as possible.
Anyway, back to my suggested solutions.
1. A Welfare State
One of the deep-seated reasons for the average Nigerian’s thirst for an abundance of material wealth is because there is nothing to fall back on. There is no buffer to protect him /her if and when things go south. Add to this the brutal fact that public utilities which actually work are non-existent and one begins to understand why for many, at least psychologically, enough is never enough. As my older brother once said to me, “every man and woman in Nigeria is his or her own local government”.
Very little, if anything at all is provided for the man on the street. Everything costs money. I’ve always believed that the three basic and most important needs of any society – health, housing, and education – should be provided for free to the less privileged. I’m not sure how this can be achieved in Nigeria, or how it can be paid for, but I’m fairly certain that a small portion of the amount stolen by public officials on an annual basis should be able to cover it.
One of the many benefits of a welfare state would be a reduction in the average Nigerian’s thirst for excessive riches and over-indulgence.
2. Social Reorientation
A thorough and extensive reorientation programme needs to be implemented in order to steer the mindset of Nigerians away from ‘money money money’ to love, humility and modesty. This initiative must go to extreme lengths in order to actually make excessive wealth and lavish spending uncool.
I know what you’re thinking – ‘in Nigeria?? Impossible!! We are too proud’. Yes, you are, and so am I; so in that respect you’re spot-on. Our generation is long gone. But it isn’t too late for our children. This is an initiative that should be targeted at both adults and children; especially children, so that the nation can start reaping the benefits in about twenty / thirty years.
As things presently stand, Nigeria is an impoverished country with many wealthy individuals. But if things continue as they are, it won’t be long before those wealthy individuals, the middle class, and indeed anyone who isn’t in abject poverty is decimated by the wave of violence that is likely to erupt in the next five to ten years.
This particular concern of mine is very much in line with that of Matthew Page, formerly the US intelligence community’s leading expert on Nigeria;
“Income inequality is one of Nigeria’s most serious but least talked about challenges. It is this disparity between rich and poor, more than poverty itself, that generates anti-government sentiment and could fuel civil unrest down the road”.
Wouldn’t it be far better to have a wealthy country wherein the average hard-working citizen is comfortable, healthy, and well provided for?!
I’m fairly sure that in such a country the psyche of the average Nigerian would be one of love, modesty, kindness, peace, and humility.
It has been said for a good while now that for Nigeria to change the people must change.
I couldn’t agree more.
However, if a government wants the people to change it must first of all convince them it has got their back. Only once a government has adequately demonstrated its love and service to the people via stable and reliable provision of basic amenities and utilities will the people be ready and willing to listen.