Why We Must Succeed Wherever We Are

by Enitan Doherty-Mason

Working in Nigeria is typically like trying to run up a rough hillside backwards, blindfolded with both hands tied behind ones back; there are rarely any tangible predictors of success. If one is not destabilized by the inability to see where one is going, one is sure to trip on the treacherous hillside. Little follows the basic principles of logic. The only thing that seems certain is that ethical hardworking human beings simply have little to no chance of earning a decent wage…there would never be enough to uphold human dignity…never enough to keep body and soul together.

Nigeria continues to destroy the mass of its people as it seeks to move along the path of more developed countries. Somewhere between the constant looting of the public coffers and the shallow attempts by the leadership to create an unfounded sense of national pride in a generally dejected citizenry, the idea that human beings are an essential part of development seems to be completely lost.

The case of Nigeria is deeply saddening because the nation is not being destroyed by a natural disaster or by a military invasion by outsiders, rather it is irrationally destroyed by the very people who reside in it with the collaboration of external players who continue to eat the rotting flesh of the great blind and mute elephant of Africa.

Some Nigerians remain unflinchingly and blindly supportive of the way things are, because they are temporarily benefiting from some relative or friend’s position in power. Some feel the need protect “their” beloved country against what they see as the “outsider’s” malicious maligning of “their” homeland. Either way, to be blind to the truth is to defer the possibility of improvement.

In a country where the majority of people grow increasingly poor even as the vast natural resources are increasingly being exploited, it is not so surprising that the only visibly viable dignified alternative to dying in poverty or at the hands of violent persons is to flee the country as more and more people are doing. Even as the brain drain continues, Nigeria has no plausible count of how many of its citizens have fled the country and foreign figures continue to be accepted as a more reliable count of the number of citizens in the country itself.

Living outside Nigeria for many means that work (even menial work) is rewarded by pay (a concept that is largely lost in Nigeria today). For many who work in or for Nigeria, especially civil servants, being paid agreed upon wages or being paid in a timely fashion for work done has almost become a dream. The concepts of trust and commitment between leadership and the general workforce seem to be irreparably damaged. The idea of a quality life is foreign to many Nigerians living in Nigeria. Life is essentially about survival at any cost.

Being an educated and enlightened person living in Nigeria is no longer an advantage because one sees what is wrong but has no power to make meaningful change; Consequently anger and frustration become disillusionment which in turn leads to a feeling of hopelessness, despair and ultimately, when possible, the immigration of yet another Nigerian to just about any place in the world that will open its doors. Many a good-hearted person with a desire to help are quickly brought to a grinding halt by incomprehensible red tape often manufactured at the whim of unscrupulous officials, greed and antagonism endemic to the Nigerian infrastructure and now to Nigerian daily life.

Bureaucratic red tape, poverty and its manifestations are not the only life squandering factors; some cultural practices undermine the ability of many to rise above the challenges that engulf them. Expensive/lavish funerals, weddings and other such celebrations leave many in so much debt that they have no chance of recovery. Yet it remains easier to borrow money for such celebrations than it is to find good advice, get paid for services rendered or money to invest in a long-term business venture.

Many religious organizations promote a spirit of fanaticism. They offer members false hope and exploit the emotional nature of religion by promising clients/members prosperity and deliverance from enemies seen and unseen. Money that should feed hungry children is donated to religious organizations in exchange for empty cure-all promises, a vial of “holy” water, “holy” oil or magical herbs and rituals. It is reasonably easy for these religious institutions to find devoted victims, even among the well educated, in an environment where life can be incredibly difficult, change is so rapid, and things generally occur in a chaotic and erratic manner.

The unmatched Nigerian ego continues to be another destructive force. Many a Nigerian will do anything to keep up with the latest trends in clothing, electronic devices, cars and other such disposable items rather than invest in the future of their families in a more meaningful way. More people than one would like to think try to distance themselves from the poverty that surrounds and invades them by putting on false airs. There is intense social pressure to share this shallow expression of wellness. To live beyond ones means is more an expectation…it is the status quo. Excessive spending, poor planning and living a lifestyle beyond ones means are indicative of poverty, but in Nigeria these attributes are seen as a hallmark of being a trend setter. Poverty thinking is not just limited to those with limited resources.

It is estimated that the average Nigerian living in Nigeria will not live past age 50+. The reality of medical services and the (mis)-perception of individuals about life-saving vaccines do little to prolong life. The overall attitude regarding the value of women and females as useful valued members of the community does little to expand the work force or to promote education since women are the primary caregivers in Nigerian society.

The literacy rate is possibly at an all time low. A sizeable number of graduates from elementary and high school through university are often near illiterate and as expected contribute to a weakened, low quality workforce. Unscrupulous politicians and other leaders alike continue to exploit the limited education and ignorance of the masses. Religious fanaticism is at its highest; a multitude of road side houses of worship are proliferating and are contributing to pockets of opportunity to robbers who take advantage of increased tangled traffic in many large cities. All of the circumstances listed are further complicated by aids, limited education about safe sex and a generally lax attitude toward family planning.

What is the prognosis for the future of Nigeria? Your guess is as good as mine. We hope for the best and hope that the Nigerian collective spirit will survive long enough for time to right the wrongs of many generations.

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orianele April 1, 2005 - 1:06 pm

Enitan, this is a tear-invoking article. It sums up everything. Where and when did we go wrong, so wrong? Is the problem with bad leadership, bad “follower ship” or a combination of both? If time doesn’t right the wrongs, do we explode into blink dark alleys of fallen empires? Definitely we shall have a rendezvous with destiny one way or the other. I am still lost for a solution.

Realist January 1, 1970 - 12:00 am

This sums up nothing ! Highlight the good, and you will find it. Pure hypocrisy I feel for Nigerians to change their standards when out of the country than when back home. Apply same rules at home, and we will have a different Nigeria. This article changes nothing. Talk is cheap.


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