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The Nigeria we hate to love, by Kenneth Amaeshi (PhD)

The Nigeria we hate to love, by Kenneth Amaeshi (PhD)

The Nigeria we hate to love

Kenneth Amaeshi

There is something strange and sad about Nigeria, which I often grapple with, without luck. Each time I visit the country, which is very often these days, I must admit that I get disorientated for a while before settling in. In such moments, I feel a different but bitter sense of reality, as if I literally arrived into a different world. The frequency of visits, unfortunately, does not make any difference.
The only thing that is constant and meaningful when I recover from my temporary confused state is the quest for MONEY, MONEY, and MONEY. The rich and the poor, the holy and the unholy, are all united in, and lured by, this singular attraction. The attraction is usually very powerful and tends to ostensibly crowd-out other interests.

I listen to people talk about money and their enterprises. They often suggest that, “Nigeria is the place to make it”. If not, why not? I believe them! Nigeria is one of those few countries where one instantly transits from abject pauperism to stupendous wealth just on account of luck and or some sophisticated social networks.

I obviously try to flow with the tide of the moment; but as laudable as these accounts are, they often do not appeal to me. You think it is strange, right? You are not far from the truth. To be honest, in such instances, I feel either I am wasting my time and life on earth or I am simply lazy.
Of course, I am by no measure a saint or adverse to the virtues and vices of a materialistic good life – no matter how it is constructed. However, I am usually surprised at myself that I do not feel the same way outside Nigeria. I also know that I am not lazy – although that is relative and contestable, anyway.

Notwithstanding, the more I think of this, the more I sense insecurity lurking around. I am inclined to think that it might be the source of the material drive in Nigeria. This insecurity lies at the very heart of the accumulation culture – proverbially expressed in saving for the rainy days; making hays whilst the sun shines; identifying the black sheep before it gets dark. But how does one explain the source of this insecurity?
Countries have their challenges – from poor infrastructure, the burden of diseases, to poor education and social crimes. Some countries do better by finding ways to help people cope with these challenges meaningfully. For example, some countries have safety nets for unemployment and healthcare. In other words, if you lose your job, you can get some monthly stipend from the government until you go back to work. And if you are sick, you can receive free medical attention. These little things can quickly add up to constitute formidable social infrastructure.
In such countries, the burden of social insecurity is borne by societal institutions and safety nets, which then allow people to focus on ideas and matters of self-fulfilment.

Obviously, instead of tackling the burden of social insecurity collectively in Nigeria, the country appears to heap the burden on the shoulders of many helpless individuals. You provide everything needed for survival for yourself and your dependants, who may be many. You become your own local government, as they say.

It is praiseworthy to have a job, no doubt. Nonetheless, from experience, one would not be wrong to think that everyone employed in Nigeria supports up to 10 dependants across a wide and intricate diversity of social and extended family relationships. You go the extra mile to make these happen, because no one knows tomorrow and there are no safety nets. You are literally on your own and at your devices.

Drawing from Maslow’s order of needs, we are, in this case, at the bottom of the pyramid of human needs, because the Nigerian society is unable to offer people the social support they need, and that tends to order our behaviours negatively. I wonder why anyone would expect less corruption and indiscipline in this discouraging context.
Even the clamour for social status, power, and display of materialism could be arguably understood as expressions of physical and psychological insecurity. At best, corruption – the unscrupulous embezzlement of public funds – is, also, a display of the poverty mentality and insecurity. On the surface, the rogue pretends that all is well; but beneath the surface is a yawning void – an infinite emptiness in search of true meaning and security.

Even our consumption of God does not easily escape the clutches of this ubiquitous social insecurity. That is why miracle churches and religious houses are both attractive and littered all over the place. That is the sad reality of Nigeria and Nigerians!

In summary, I guess it is fair to say that one way to understand a Nigerian is to explore his or her fears. Only if we would pay attention to this obvious truism.
In all, this is just a thought; I will be more than happy to be wrong!

Kenneth Amaeshi is a full professor at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. He tweets @kenamaeshi

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