THE NIGERIAN PSYCHE

Monday, October 6, 2008

No civilization or nation of significance has ever existed without a national story and image that conveyed greatness. Open any history book and the great civilizations look out at you from behind their impressive stories of strength and achievement. Those stories and/or images became the focal point around which the people rallied. They amplified pride and encouraged a zeal to achieve not just personal success, but national success that would be the envy of others. The story of a nation and the image it portrays to citizens and foreigners is crucial in shaping the psyche of that nation. It determines the national awareness of who citizens are with respect to everyone else. Concurrently, that psyche is the pulse of the nation and can give an immediate insight into the mindset of the people.
http://www.artheos.org/images/3139.jpg

I have been thinking a lot about the psyche of the Nigerian nation. I believe that for any country to achieve development and truly become the envy of others, the mentality of its people must be one that accepts, without question, that the nation is great. For all the talk in Nigeria of creating a top 20 economy by 2020, there is hardly any discussion about the psychological preparation that is necessary to get the average citizen ready, psychologically, to be a part of the oft-mentioned Vision 2020. There is the 'Heart of Africa' project, but from all accounts it is simply a branding technique targeted to outsiders. Where are the radio and television jingles like those from the 1980s such as,
"Me, I like my country,
I like the land and People,
Everything dey for Nigeria.
Make we join hand to make Nigeria better"?
Those jingles and enforced programs like "War Against Indiscipline" brought Nigerians together in a cause greater than the individual - an attempt to create a greater nation. Such nation building efforts were crucial for the national psyche and played a significant role in creating a Nigeria, whose people that excelled. Today, however, I think that Nigerians continue to excel but not at the same rate they used to. Psychologically, many of us do not truly feel that we are capable of grand success either as individuals or as a nation. That mentality must undoubtedly change if Nigeria is ever to truly achieve development and also enjoy the lasting benefits of such development.

This week, I hope to discuss my thoughts on the Nigerian psyche - what it is, what it suffers from, what it needs. Can you share your thoughts on what you think is the mindset of Nigerians? I'm curious to know what you think, particularly if you are Nigerian or have spent time there, so share your thoughts and come back on Wednesday for a continuation of the discussion.


Further Reading:
- Persistent Psychological Paralysis
- Values
- Being Duped By A Family Member
- Are The Poor To Blame For Their Poverty


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Kritzmoritz said...

It is difficult to be proud of Nigeria... very difficult. I wish I can swear that I am

notjustok said...

For the most part, Nigerians believe that their country is great; we are proud of our country. At least I am.
However, I don't think everyone has a collective vision for national success,the mentality is more like personal success for me...
I feel u on the jingle thing, it will help ingrain the vision...
You don't the memories you just brought back with that jingle...

poeticallytinted said...

You know something SD, each time I read your posts here, I want to rant and rave about all the things that are wrong with our potentially great nation Nigeria, but I'm always restrained by the phrase 'do remain civil', I try, but now, it seems you goad me with this latest post. I will try to remain civil...
I'm one of those people who enjoy long dialogues centred on the problems with our country and how to fix them. I am, come to think of it, passionate about Nigeria, each time I travel and step back into my country again, I ask myself- WHAT is wrong with us? Clearly something is wrong, with all the apparent makings of greatness we seem unable to break the jinx. I ask when did this backward slide begin, pre or post 'independence'?
I had an 80's childhood. Though too young to understand it at the time now I am certain that, that air of hope and anticipation of a bright future for our country which prevailed in the 70's and a part of the 80's is no longer there. Now there is almost a pervalent sense of resignation. Most people are simply waiting for their own opportunities to better their own lives. Speak National pride to a group of young bright people who've been humiliated for carrying a green passport and pray you don't get mobbed. Now the psyche, values and mind-set of Nigerians is so removed from pride and now boarders on selfishness. It's all about me, here and now. No thought for the future, no thought for Nigeria's fate tomorrow. Truth is, I see a glimmer of hope though in the young people though. It's like we are all aware of the things that have gone terribly wrong, no one has a definite answer to the question - where did it all begin? But we know they are there, whether we are ready to work on changing what is fast becoming a culture, as it is reflected in the way we drive, the way we talk, everytime you bribe a policeman, dirty cover-up of dirty crimes, trading sexual relations for grades in the universities and a host of things the system just doesn't take care of automatically, is another matter all together. Are we ready to stand our grounds, go to jail or die just so our children and their children will be able to hold their heads high wherever they go on the globe.
Food for thought - A friend defined Nigerians as a group of people who when pushed to the wall, will burrow in and come out at the other side!

N.I.M.M.O said...

Somehow, I had been thinkning along the same lines with you and incidentally, that same song had been in my head for some time now.

There was also this song that goes in part like this:

Nothing good comes easy,
No nation can be great,
When its people
Are cheating their way through life,
N-i-g-e-r-i-a,
is our fatherland
Let's give it a chance
To become great.

Those were the good days of Radio Nigeria and its Network service.

If we look at Nigeria -like Awolowo did- as a geographical contraption, then we will find it difficult to love it or even be proud of it.

But if we look at the people who occupy this space, you will understand why we are proud to be Nigerians -even Kritzmoritz.

It is those things that challenge us as Nigerians that actually make us special. We know we WILL overcome them -even if we have to burrow through walls- and come out better than we were.

It may take some time but Nigeria slowly but surely will arrive at its destiny.

Believe.w

N.I.M.M.O said...

Another song in my head.

Interestingly, it was by the same late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It was the theme song for his presidential campaign in the 1983 elections.

(Back then, elections and campaigns were quite an event in themselves. The UPN made a whole album and Awolowo sang the lead in most of the songs.). The song goes:

Tis a duty that we owe
To our great dear motherland
To enhance her and to boost her
In th eyes of all the world

Liberty and brotherhood
Are the goals for which we strive
Plus progress, plus plenty
And all the good things of life

Egalitarianism
Is our national watchword
Equality of good fortune
To each his sure reward

Up, Up Nigeria
And take thy rightful place
Tis thy birth right and thy destiny
Africa's leading light to be

Saheed said...

I am a Nigerian and so of course I'll speak like a Nigerian. I think individually, we do pretty well becasue we have drive, discipline and we are intelligent...just look at all the Nigerians doing things around the world (professionally, sports or entertainment) you'll see a Nigerian's name anywhere you look. However, as a collective group, we do not fare so well in advancing our own cause. Many reasons, but i think our inidivdualistic mentality and inability (or belief thereof) to execute our own ideas are some of the underlying roots.

Beauty said...

This, following the morning after is a celebration of what it means to be Nigerian. The thick skin of having to show your passport in the international community and every time one needed to stand up to those that do not get it. Nigeria (FGN & State) continue in their quest for aid disguised as investments. They have forgotten the social side of the system as demonstrated here "For all the talk in Nigeria of creating a top 20 economy by 2020, there is hardly any discussion about the psychological preparation that is necessary to get the average citizen ready, psychologically, to be a part of the often-mentioned Vision 2020".

The shame is simply; you may get all the cash required but it does not mean transformation will happen. We are already seeing signs of ignorance in the top-down leadership where people simply outsource everything to god. Prayer first and everything, well, nothing. So you see, I do not support the "It may take some time but Nigeria slowly but surely will arrive at its destiny" idea. The evidence points to a regressed country.

Until those jingles turn into action plans that people talk a lot about how to do it, agreed on what needed doing and then going on and actually doing it, there is no much point. The psychology of intent is not the same as doing it. The doing is much more than having more wives, killing those that do not fit in, and shallow multi-car ownership etc, it affects lives and that is only the beginning of transformation.

Femi B said...

People outside Nigeria love to be Nigerian..people in NIgeria hate to be NIgerians

Anonymous said...

Femi B, me no gree with you at at all. So many people in Nigeria love to be Nigerians that's why lots of them are still in Nigeria in the first place. That aside,I think for us to make any headway with Nigeria, we need to work on the psyche of the 'other' class of Nigerians. The illiterate/semi-literate class that reportedly makes up 70% of the population. These are the people who need to understand that we would have to make sacrifices to achieve a better nation. To learn to turn their backs on small doleouts given to them by politicians inorder to receive the big thing at a latter date.
I said in my Nigerian revolution meme that if we had asked the traders at tejuosho to march to alausa everyday until the government provided a functional fire service at the market or near it, they would have called us names and enemies of progress who didn't want them to make their daily bread. Now fire came, and the market is gone cos in usual Nigerian style there was no fire service.They have not only lost their daily bread but monthy bread as well.
The local government election is on sat and since I live in one of those crowded parts of town, I see their campaigns everyday,and I keep wondering what exactly are these people campaigning for? You should see the crowd that follow them.

On an unrelated issue,Solo,please can you increase your font, I must be getting old cos I find it difficult to read your posts. Thank you.

For the love of me

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Kritz: I definitely understand you. We all love our country, but the failings and Naijamadness sometimes makes it hard for us to keep our head high. But, ultimately, we must, you know. We all have to put in work, no matter how small to make Nigeria better. I know you do your bit and I encourage you to keep on.

Thanks for taking the time to swing by my broda, how body?

@ notjustok: Thanks so much for commenting.

"I don't think everyone has a collective vision for national success,the mentality is more like personal success for me..."

I couldn't agree with you more. But, let me ask you a follow up, "What is the remedy?" How can we as individuals encourage collective thinking if we think most people are thinking solely as individuals?

Hope you will find time to share your thoughts on that one. I'm curious.

@ Poeticallytinted: I love passionate Nigerians!!! Good or bad, it is passion that gets us through when it comes to our love and support for the country, no be so? lol! Oh, and the only reason why I ask readers to "remain civil" is because the Biafra discussions got out of hand last year with one reader using his time to insult all my readers and every Nigerian. I just try to keep the discussion on the issues and not make them personalized boxing matches of the sorts Nigerian senators engage in. lol!

"Speak National pride to a group of young bright people who've been humiliated for carrying a green passport and pray you don't get mobbed. Now the psyche, values and mind-set of Nigerians is so removed from pride and now boarders on selfishness. It's all about me, here and now. No thought for the future, no thought for Nigeria's fate tomorrow."

Its weird, I never believed that was possible until about a year ago. The people I was speaking with told me I had lived abroad for too long and that I needed to open my eyes more. I couldn't help but agree.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I do have a question - do you truly believe that the young people will not repeat the sins of their fathers? I sometimes worry if young Nigerians understand what it take sto transform Nigeria. I think many of us know things are not right but are we prepared, socially, mentally, educationally to think differently and implement non-conventional thought? I'm just wondering what you think. Thanks so much!

@ N.I.M.M.O.: You are one of those bloggers that just has pearls of information. You went old school on us with those jingles, kai!!!! Thanks so much, I actually do not remember the Awolowo one but I am intrigued that he made an album to push his political message. I thought Fela was the only one that did that, lol!

Quick question - why are YOU proud to be Nigerian? That question is not in jest, I am truly curious to read what you would write. In fact, you just gave me an idea for next week. I will send you an email about it. Keep your eyes open.

Like you, I believe....

@ Saheed: "i think our individualistic mentality and inability (or belief thereof) to execute our own ideas are some of the underlying roots."

Thanks so much for sharing this. It is rather interesting that so many of us see an individualistic strain running through the current Nigerian mindset. I wounder how that gels with our very tribalistic leanings as a nation. Does such individualism also reflect an us against them attitude that some people have when it comes to the tribe? Just wondering....

@ Beauty: "you may get all the cash required but it does not mean transformation will happen. We are already seeing signs of ignorance in the top-down leadership where people simply outsource everything to god.

I've been reading that over and over again. It truly expresses what I have been struggling to say for a while now. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight. And, can I say it also has inspired a follow up post.

Thanks a lot.

@ Femi B: Interesting comment. It could be true, I don't know. I do think that those of us who have access to clean water, constant electricity and technically live lifestyles where we can take time to think about such analytical issues, probably aren't as burdened by our Nigerian citizenship as our fellow citizens who do not have such luxuries. From that perspective, I totally see where you are coming from. I will add one caveat, I am thinking of going to Jamaica (don't tell anybody, lol) and on their website, theres a HUGE RED STAR next to the word 'Nigeria'. Despite the historically great relations between both countries, Nigerians are the only Commonwealth members who must present a letter of invitation and other information to receive a visa to visit that country from which Bob Marley inspired so many of us.

Ah, the pains of Nigerian citizenship....

Thanks so much for adding to this discussion! As always, I appreciate your opinion.

@ For the Love of Me: You this new mommy, I'm glad to see you over here! Hope all is well, I know you are a busy bee. I see where you are coming from. There are many who love Nigeria and have chosen, despite the problems, to not leave. That is a choice that I applaud those who have made it. However, I can't help but push you a little further, are you sure? I think that many Nigerians, if given the chance, would actually leave the country and seek opportunities somewhere else. I will probably get some serious heat for saying this, but it is an issue that I have been working on and actually will post next Wednesday on the 15th.

Ah, local gov't elections. The campaigners get crowds because those crowds will be well fed at the end of the day. The way to a voter's heart is through their empty stomach, abi you no know?

Could you take pictures? I would love to see what the local elections look like. Oz at Mootbox.com has a very interesting take on Nigerian politics focusing on local elections. He shared his thoughts with me some time ago and I have to say, the guy is on point. Your comment about crowds just reminded me of his point.

As for fonts, I'm sorry its so small. I will do my best to change it. Here's a tip I learned from my 4 year old, cause I struggle with fonts as well. If you hold the control key on your keyboard and move the ball of your mouse upwards (assuming yours has a ball/knob in between the left and right buttons), you can increase the size of any page you view and make it more comfortable. Hope that helps in the meantime, my sista.

Thanks so much for coming by.

lamikayty said...

Well said and well -written! I am proud of Nigeria but I'm wondering what exactly I'm proud of....
Nigeria as an entity or Nigerians as individuals....who are successes in diverse fields...

culturesoup said...

There are a lot of great comments here so i'll try not to repeat what has already been said.

I agree with you on the importance of the psychological state of the nation. I think Nigerians could really use a narrative that they could get behind. It's part of the reason for Nollywood's success. It's also why i thought the rebranding exercise could be very valuable but that doesn't look promising at the moment.

I think a big aspect of the Nigerian psyche is insecurity which is reflected individually and nationally. On one hand, we are convinced that we are important - you know, the giant of Africa and all that stuff. But on the other we are afraid that we are not good enough. This leads to a focus on appearance instead of substance which impacts our development adversely. For instance, a lot of projects are done for show, to support this image of a giant but if you look closely you see how hollow the effort is.

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