Inferiority Complex: Nigerians and Their White Counterparts

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Pardon me for saying “Blacks have low self-esteem.” I am repeating a cliché, a truism that is evident in every Black enclave I have ever observed. But really, one of the biggest problems facing the Black man is his low self-esteem. I am speaking of a typical Black man and a typical Black leader. Both have a low sense of self. A Black man does not think much of himself. He does not consider himself worthy of anything. He has no regard for his family, his community and even his country. When one reflect on why Nigeria is the way it is, one has to conclude that low self-esteem is at the top or near the top of what ails the people and the country.

During President Obasanjo’s first term in office, he genuflected; he bowed constantly and shakily before Western leaders. This was a war hero, a bona fide military general, a former head of government, a prospective UN Secretary General, a Chief a dozen times over; yet, he was a yes sir, yes ma, pardon me, forgive-me, no vex, nothing spoil kind of a leader. At home, he was a deity, the Asiwaju and the Alafin before whom everybody must bow and seek permission. But he was impotent abroad. Most Nigerian big-big-men are like that. But once they leave the shore of the country, they take on a different persona: looking dull and limpid. Boring, actually!

Truth be told, I take pleasure in watching some Nigerian big-men acting “big” at home, but then acting “small” in the US. Take Ministers and Governors for example. In fact, local government chairs, commissioners, and all types of advisers and special advisers all fall into the same group. In the wider pool, you will also find very many bankers, engineers, chiefs, lord of lords, pastors, and imams and all shades of ex-this and ex-that. In Nigeria, they are the rainmakers; but in the United States, the rain and snow fall harshly on them. In Nigeria, you can’t even look some of them in the face; but in the US, they want to hug you — as though you are their drinking buddies.

The big-big-men aside, have you noticed how members of the armed forces and police officers, customs and immigration officers, and even security officers and any one with real or perceived power treat fellow Nigerians? They physically and mentally abuse Nigerians. They treat fellow human beings like rats and houseflies. But before White men, they act like kids, they seek favor. Before White men, they lose their spine and their balls. Before White men, they lose the color of their skin, lose their senses. Before White men, they act like saints. The same Nigerians, who, in a heartbeat will beat up fellow Nigerians, will lie flat in the gutter for the White man to walk on.

There are a lot of Nigerians with useless power. No matter how mundane their office or power is — they derive orgasmic pleasure in frustrating fellow Nigerians. In recent Nigeria, most things are about power and money. Life and living revolves around brute force and money. It is one or the other; and much better if you have both since the latter can give you the former and vice versa. To have neither is to languish in Nigeria’s bottomless pit. It is a shame, but for the most part, civility and grace is out. Benevolence and long terms rewards are out. Brotherliness seems to be a thing of the past. There are a few decent and righteous Nigerians left, though. Very few.

What is it about our culture and our society that makes the decent and the educated amongst us act foolish and godlike? What is it about power and public office that turns a higher-being into a brute, a beast? A Public Official visits the United States: he acts cool. He acts like a well-mannered human being. He is polite and gentle and chivalrous. He obeys the rules and regulations governing his host country. He smiles a lot, laughs a lot; but once back in Nigeria, he acts like a swine, a monster: thirsty for blood; ready to beat and dehumanize his underlings and willing to undo his colleagues and his superiors. Why? What’s wrong?

In Lagos and Abuja and in all spots in between, you should see how Nigerian bureaucrats relate to White men. You should see how they relate to the Lebanese, the Germans, the Indians and the Chinese. They act like boy-boy, like Omo’odo. You get the feeling these officials think of the Whites, especially the Americans and the British, as divine beings — beings they are never to say “no” to, never to offend, never to irritate. It is as if once they see a White man’s face, they’ve seen the face of God. They bow and obey and never complain. They pledge their loyalty. The same officials who disobey their God and their conscience never disobey a White man.

Now, if you think our officials and leaders behave like inferior beings before the White man, well, the behavior of the common man towards the Whites is even more repulsive. Some Nigerians lose their voices, lose their wind and lose their poise once they see a White face. They will do anything and say anything for the non-black skin — all in expectation of a dollar and cent. There are everyday Nigerians who will jump off cliffs, swim in shark-infested waters, chop off their nuts and even denounce their traditional deity if a White man tells them to do so. I beseech you to take the time to observe what goes on in our hotels and in government offices.

Except perhaps in the Scandinavians Embassies, Nigerians are treated like leprosy-infested people in most embassies (in Nigeria). They abuse and yell at us. They suspect our every move. They sometimes make us beg — on all fours — before granting us Visas. Not minding the fact that yearly, Nigerian students and businesses send roughly $550 million to the British economy, they still treat Nigerians like skunks. In contravention of their own laws and international conventions, Nigerians in European and Asian countries are violated on a daily basis. In essence, at home and abroad, Nigerians have become the world’s bunching bag.

Almost fifty years after independence, the perceived superiority of the White man is still carved in our consciousness. Nigerians still worship the white skin. We helped in selling our people into slavery; and we certainly made it easy for colonization to take place. Today, we are selling ourselves and selling our country short. We give them cheap oil, cheap agricultural resources, cheap labor, and cheap everything. We make it easy for our country to be taken over, made it easy for others to lord over us. Heck, they’ve even made prostitutes out of our university students. Our universities are now like brothels: dens for horny oil workers and other expatriates.

It has to be humiliating what we are going through as a nation: an incompetent, rapacious and thieving leadership lording over a fatalistic, gullible and poverty-stricken populace — both of whom are serving the interest of outside forces and their domestic agents. Oh, how do you free yourself from mental slavery? How do you free yourself and your country from the oppressive and insidious attitude of conquering nations? How do you free your people from venomous and enslaving tentacles? The answers you give are part of what you owe your people and your country. Yes, we are all indebted to our people and to posterity.

You may also like


elizabeth April 5, 2009 - 1:50 am

“things are about power and money” all around the world nowadays, I think, although maybe not as stark as described here; never been to Nigeria or Africa in general;

maybe i am wrong, but it seems to me that a lot what’s described here can be called hypocrisy, and common to many people; my sister has been like that all her life, completely different face for family, diametrically different for people outside the family…and the ousiders always considered better; in the end, for her anybody was somehow better than a member of the family…always having a nice smile for them…dividing and isolating impact on lives of my parents, I think, no access to grandchildren, and great-grand children any more, and other people, myself including… and yes, she also made sure to accumulate money = power

Amaka Ibrahim February 11, 2009 - 8:39 pm

To a large extent, I agree with this article. I have seen far too many anecdoctal instances of Nigerians bowing and scraping or tolerating a situation from a foreigner that they would slap a fellow Nigerian for on any given day. That being said, things are not as straightforward. When dealing with Nigeria or Africa in general we must not forget that the various reasons, experiences and cultural contexts leading to a behaviour or end result are infinitely complex. Black man know thyself! Yes! But into what sort of social context are you wanting to inject a sudden burst of self-realization? Is it into a society of approx. 140 million lost souls with a education quotient of 1 in every 2,000. Like Lagbaja said until we fix the root of the problem: Man’s inhumanity to Woman (and even woman’s inhumanity to woman) before the larger problems can be tackled. At the top of the list of curing our mutual complacency and acceptance of a kleptocratic, beaureaucratic cesspool of a government is the education and expansion of the individual’s mind. Unfortunately, the atmosphere for education is not very conducive in our country so understandably people are leaving home in droves! And if bowing and scraping will get me out of Nigeria so I can get a proper education is what I have to do to fulfill my dreams then so be it. And the circle continues…

wesley September 21, 2008 - 1:00 am

Sabella you got it right, i have observed this ugly trend startting from our airports where immigration and customs will search through your anus and ransack your luggages , ask you silly questions all in a bid to extort ten dollars from you but when they saw white people they bow and serve them with two hands without asking any question and top it up with a great smile .

On the other hand, when we reach our destination, blacks will be made to quee in a different line where they will be searched , humiliated and treated like trash, while they usher in their citizens with a great smile and welcome home .

Nigerians are victims both home and abroad

Every reason can be given to refuse blacks entry despite having obtained a visa with ( bazaar price ) , they can even tell you that they are not comfortable with the color of your shirt therefore you are denied entry ..period !

I went to nigerian high commission in malaysia and saw their staff running up and down serving malaysians and other asians who came to get visa with such eagerness and dedication, i covered my face in shame

If you are a nigerian call the high commission for any assistance they will tell you they are having meeting, call back.

The irony of it all is that they categorised asians as whites too , what a shame !

olorunsogbon gbenga August 7, 2008 - 12:44 am

Culture of yorubas answer for all you notice about them,including obasanjo.They are brought up not to be violent and must prostrate for anyone above their is not a symbol of low self esteem,other tribes understand yorubas for that trait .Even in US something in me is already prostrating when I see older person.I spent my teenage life in the village at Ekiti.I left village for university education in lagos at 18.I spent 15 years in lagos still under yoruba culture.I arrieved here few months ago.I felt like prostrating for everyone.British didnt teach us all of that,my wife is from the US,I used to feel she is not respecting her grandmother when she is talking to her,so her cousins will just talk freely like that,to me these are culture shock.If you notice very well you will see tribal mark on obasanjo.He is a typical yoruba person.Africa will move forward at a step not at a jump.Western world did not arrieved in a day.We are less than 50 years. many wars were fought in europe before they emerge from being a barbarian to civilize a nation.So what is going on in africa is not unusual.You that is living in this place respect their law and be a good african ambassador.Take an idea from here and propagate it africa starting from your family.What you learn from here is important but what you do with what learn here will determine where you will find yourself tommorow in bitterness or in better life,think supersonic and make your bomb atomic.

Kazima Karanja July 31, 2008 - 12:49 pm


You don’t need to fake an accent to adapt in a foreign country. Do Indians fake their accents when they migrate to Africa? Yet, they do very well and proper and still retain their cultural identity. Does the white man fake his accent (to them their accent has always been superior) when he goes to Africa.

You definately have inferiority complex!!!!!

Mike July 30, 2008 - 8:21 pm

“faking an accent” is a basic skill for adaptability!

Rosie July 30, 2008 - 7:52 pm

Hmm…it is strange because i thought Nigerians are seen as arrogant. Well, which is it?

Kazima Karanja July 28, 2008 - 2:33 pm


This is a very well written article and it’s the plain GOSPEL TRUTH!

I certainly agree with you on this topic regarding inferiority complex among Nigerians towards the White Man.

I don’t blame the White Man for feeling superior towards us – Why?

Simply because we want to imitate the White Man’s lifestyle.

We have become ashamed of our African names so we end up naming our children European names.

We are ashamed of our accent (even though we speak very good standard English) so we end up faking an accent. (most likely a british accent) It’s very common to see Nigerians faking an accent despite the fact that some of them haven’t even traveled out of the country.

We are ashamed of speaking our native languages because we have been brain washed with a western educational system. A western educational systmem that taught us that our native languages are inferior to the English language. Nigerians are now learning other European languages in school – German & French but most of us can’t speak our own native languages – What a big shame!!!

Until we begin to instill in ourselves cultural pride, we will continue to feel very inferior towards the white man. The white man will never name his children African names, will hardly learn an African language (Most will argue what benefit will it be to them learning an African language) but the Black Man will always want to adopt the lifestyle of the White Man – Why?

I have come to realize that the greatest thing to have in this world is a culture. A culture that celebrates who we are as a people and most importantly as a race. When we begin to neglect that culture and start adopting other cultures and trying to make them ours then we lose the soul of our people.

Muyiwa Isaac July 28, 2008 - 9:04 am

Good thinking, good write-up. You just hit the nail on the head. The average blackman needs to re-discover himself

Ibe July 27, 2008 - 11:03 pm

Sabella the black man has come a long way from slavery.It is past time to put these kinda yes sir,notin spoil mentality behind.But dont classify all Nigerian or Blackmen in that.I am a young Nigerian man working my way up the coporate ladder here in North America,not taking no for a answer and if i have to kiss a— to get up there i will.The Nigerian man has things to contend with one the 1.ACCENT,2.SKIN COLOR,3.FRAUD GENERALISATION so cut him some slack……..

enit July 25, 2008 - 7:52 pm

Wish I didn’t have to rate this article a second time since I’m revisiting it. A nice article to read after this one is Chika A. Ezeanya’s article right here on NIA titled Education In Africa: Whose Education, Anyway.

Akinola July 25, 2008 - 3:33 pm

The opening paragraph of this latest piece of yours is one of the reasons why your articles often bore me to death!

For a person who supported the immoral public display of flesh of Agbani (so called model), you have lost all credibility to criticize immoral behaviors of others as you seem to enjoy doing.

An act of immorality is an act of immorality regardless of the act and regardless of the perpetrator. Therefore, it will be hypocritical of a person like you to defend one act of immorality and then turn around to assail another.

Whether or not you want to believe it, public nudity that you defended is as much an immoral act as malapropism that you assail is. And that is because either act is a reflection of SHAMELESSNESS on the part of the perpetrators!!!!!

One more thing. You need to lay off your black and white comparison. It is too trite! Maybe if you spend a little bit of time reading some materials made available by two American institutions: CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and GAO (General Accounting Office), your eyes and mind(s) might be opened to the truth that immorality, be it in “thiefing” as you put it, or in anything else, is not a black and white issue. IT IS A HUMAN ISSUE!!!

Many white American politicians are as much rogue as their black Nigerian counterparts are. So, rest assured that there is NOTHING genetic about black politicians’ immoral acts—white, yellow…politicians are just as immoral!!!

And finally, when was the last time you visited Nigeria, for how long were you there and, where did you spend most of your time there???

I asked those questions because I did not observe what you observed in Nigeria vis-a-vis Nigerians’ submissive attitude toward non-blacks, and I just returned from there.

What I observed was a fair treatment of non-blacks by Nigerians. From my arrival at MMA to the visit to my banks to restaurants to whereever, I did not see Nigerians falling head over heel trying to please non-blacks. As a matter of fact, the opposite was what I witnessed at MMA on my way back.

This is not to suggest that you have no anecdotal evidence to support your claim. But it is to suggest that your claim may not be as universal as you make it seem in your piece. I will give it to you that what you describe in your piece is probably more prevalent in villages than in our Nigerian cities. Maybe you spent too much time in a village. Maybe!!!

enit July 25, 2008 - 1:30 pm

Sabella. Your anger and frustration is evident. The self-accepting person who feels secure in his or her person is constantly battered by those on one hand who feel that western or any other “foreign” dress, habit and culture is better than ours AND on the other hand by the caucasian or “expatriate” who has come to accept his/her position of superiority which some people of color have foolishly endowed him/her with. Education NOT anger is the long term solution. I have come to realize that some people do not see themselves as kow-towing to the”white man” rather they ignorantly think they are kow-towing to the people they assume have money in order to “get theirs”. Slavery is not just about shackles and ships. Freedom is not only about the absence of shackles and chains. Greed, ignorance, lack of foresight etc are the worst forms of slavery. Some people are seemingly beyond freedom of the mind. I place my hope in the future where there exists the possibility of emotionally healthy Nigerians who have come to the realization that they are equally as valuable as other human beings be they captives or captors, white or green. Be hopeful. All is not lost.

Ola. July 25, 2008 - 12:39 pm

When I tell people (Nigerians) that the effects of colonization still rules they way we (Nigerians, Africans, previous colonies) they disagree with me. This isn’t just a black man problem. Indians are the same. Read “the God of small things” . The west is glorified in previous colonies. Even black Americans suffer from the same. Somehow they came, ruled us, stole from us, and then convinced us that it was in our best interest and we bought it.


Leave a Comment