THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PERSISTENT PSYCHOLOGICAL PARALYSIS

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Imagine the human body. It can be strong, and physically healthy, but if the mind is not stable, the many positive physical attributes will be wasted. It is the same with a nation, in my opinion. Nigeria has everything it needs to be great - population, resources, location etc. What it lacks is the right mind frame or psyche from which to achieve the desired effect - a Nigeria we all can be proud of. Nigerians have to not just believe that change is on the horizon. Nigerians have to believe that they can effect that change. They have to believe that the people control their nation, not the Big Boys, the political godfathers or the many other unseen characters that pull the national strings. Currently, like Beauty so eloquently put it in The Nigerian Psyche discussion, Nigerians have outsourced their problems to God and it seems we are waiting for a savior, not ourselves, to put us on the right path. However, it is only when we achieve a state of national mental confidence that Nigeria can truly be great.


Consider that the majority of Nigerians are young people, particularly as the life expectancy rate is a pitiful 47 years. In fact, according to a Wiki list, Nigeria is 174 out of 191 countries ranked according to the life expectancy rates as listed in the 2007 CIA World Factbook, falling behind Haiti and Somalia. At a 2007 speech in Greenbelt, MD, the Governor of Nigeria's Central bank, Chukwuma Soludo, shared an interesting and terrifying statistic. According to Soludo, 50% of the people in Nigeria are under the age of 18. Now, I can't confirm Soludo's assertion, but the following image shows how few older Nigerians there are in comparison to younger one.

Population pyramids
Keep in mind that these are young people who live in a nation where over 90% earn under $2 a day. A nation that sits atop black gold that powers the industry and economies of many a developed nation, but not Nigeria. These Nigerians need the mental tools they will use to someday compete with the rest of the world. They can hardly compete now, what with Nigerian school teachers regularly on strike, educational institutions churning out graduates that are considered ill prepared for the work force and schools apparently churning out more 'prostitutes' than employed graduates. Will these Nigerians be able to create and sustain a better Nigeria? If yes, then everyone can sleep easy, but if not, all Nigerians must indeed forgo whatever sleep they typically receive and brainstorm on how to improve the national psyche and the nation, overall.

Nigeria's financial sector has been a bright light in not just Nigeria, but on the continent. Its success has brought investment from abroad and Nigerians themselves are investing their time and money in the financial market. Many Nigerians are returning from abroad as they see Nigeria as a land of opportunity and want to get in early to eventually make large returns. However, despite these and other success stories, Nigerians must confront the reality that the Nigerian psyche is, unfortunately, lacking a collective sense of confidence. Until Nigerians begin a thorough and inclusive discourse on the state of the nation's psyche, no manner of change or development will truly improve Nigeria. They will be merely garnishing with little to no substance. PPP is the most influential factor affecting the very existence of every single Nigerian be they inside or outside Nigeria's borders. It must not determine Nigeria's future.


I hope to offer suggestions on how to limit the effects of PPP on the Nigerian psyche in tomorrow's post. But, I will be relying mainly on the suggestions of others. Thus, do you have any suggestions on specific ways to improve the collective psyche? Are there classes that should be taught? New commercials and jingles that should be introduced on the airwaves? What can the average Nigerian do? What can the government do? Please share your thoughts as I consider every opinion, long or short, to be important. Thanks in advance.

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

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Oz said...

My question is this. Can a campaign to change the mind of an entire population be successful without much change in the underlying fundamentals in which this population exists. History shows that it is possible, in some cases a common enemy, eg another country, or maybe just sheer indigence. I like the second option better. So then I'd ask again, when will Nigerians be get fed up with the poverty which surrounds us? Because when we do this will give us a common enemy to loath and in doing so we will end up forging the kind off Nationalism you and I ever so dream about. Nigerians are pretty patriotic but we will need to go one step above sheer patriotism but the drive.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Oz: Nice to see you, my broda. After reading your comment, I am wondering "chicken or egg".

"Can a campaign to change the mind of an entire population be successful without much change in the underlying fundamentals in which this population exists"

I don't think either one comes first. In the case of Nigeria, we are too far along to have a change in psyche come first or development come first. We need to play catch up on all fronts, I think.

"when will Nigerians get fed up with the poverty which surrounds us?

I do not have the answer to this. I recently thought that with the return of Nigerian repatriates, their experience abroad and expectations, might begin to influence a certain level of change. But, that idea was fleeting.

I do not think Nigerians at home will clamor to the ideas of repatriates. Not unless those repatriates find a way to connect with those at home. Besides, I think that the status quo will only allow repatriates to do what they came home to do, not 'pok-nose' in politics and other significant affairs.

And, now, I am all out of ideas. But, I repeat, the attitude has to change while other fundamentals (e.g. development, etc) change as well, in my opinion. What will take us that step past patriotism to actual engaged participation, only God knows.

Thanks so much for raising such a poignant question.

Nigeria Health Watch said...

....Leadership, citizenship. Listen to Patrick Awuah, founder of Aseshi University in Ghana speak here
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/patrick_awuah_on_educating_leaders.html

Our roles models are plucked away just as they blossomed. Iweala, Ribadu, Rufai, Ezekwesili....etc.

We need to saa our own Barack emerge...maybe out of these 4...maybe from somewhere else. Someone that will give us pride again in our leaders.

Just imagine what a President Okonjo Iweala will do to our psyche? Would you not stand tall?

imnakoya said...

This post brings a sense of deja vu, back in 2007 August I ranted on this topic, and I'm glad you have brought up again. Then I stated "Nigeria is broken and will remain broken because the bulk of Nigerians have failed to tune on the right mindset."

I have come to realize since then that bulk factor is not really necessary, and this relates to Oz question: "Can a campaign to change the mind of an entire population be successful..?".

First, I would like to point you in the direction of the Pareto's Principle i.e the 80-20 rule: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Secondly, this 20% must be identified and when mobilized properly i.e on a scale that is in right proportion in a land of 140 million people of diverse background. The effects of their actions will positively impact the people on several levels. This is what I think will bring about changes in mindset.

I will be posting in detail how this approach will work in Nigerian setting.

Cheers.

Beauty said...

It is a shame those planners in Abuja do not appear to live on the same planet as we do else, someone would have brought your comparative age illustration to the attention of the person might take the decision to further investigate PPP. When a project is going wrong and we have had a long time of watching Nigeria go badly, do anything, do it fast should become mantra. Working on PPP is a very good beginning or another way to re-imagine the perceived problems.

May I recommend the work of Hans Roslings to further the cause of PPP, his statistical illustrations on the relationships between health and poverty are mind blowing and it will add as much color as above, especially filling in the gaps for fact based work.

I would, however, add, borrowing from Deming, a system cannot understand itself, the transformation requires a view from outside. But is it easy to look in and diagnose PPP as an after effect of zero development? We got rid of the colonials and the dictators but ignorance set it and top down paralysis set in does not necessarily mean PPP. I would for now accept that we should investigate PPP, but it is not a subject that should be dealt with within a few pages due to the numbers involved. It is not a challenge to ruin a nation with 140M but we may have found a savior in a straight talking pragmatic philosophy that is PPP. Lets talk some more. pls

Doja said...

Solo you know I am Like your greatest fan ever but I have to let you know what I think of Wikipedia...thrash. I also disagree with these life expectancy tables.

tobenna said...

We have outsourced our problems to God? Nice one. We've also outsourced our problems too.

Firstly, you cannot confirm the veracity of the Nigerian CBN Governor's statistics, but can easily relate with the US Census stats?
Might this not be in a small way, PPS?

I remember as a kid, there were lots of adverts on the radio and tv that really helped to bolster confidence in our psyche as a country. Whatever happened to them?
Also, there are a lot of us that are willing to volunteer time/money/knowledge, whatever in any small way to the development of the country. especially we younger ones. We just need a forum to coordinate and this is not Govt's responsibility. Its OURS!

I don't think repatriates are the answer. Part of the answer, yes, especially with the international exposure.
Repatriates are a trickle of water but working with fully bred local's like us, we can FLOW.
But, we must start in our own small corner.
What have you done?

Standtall said...

I JUST GET SAD AGAIN. WISH I CAN THINK RIGHT NOW

TheAfroBeat said...

"Can a campaign to change the mind of an entire population be successful without much change in the underlying fundamentals in which this population exists"

I don't know that it can be done TO an entire population without them acknowledging the NEED for a change in their mindset in the first place. Thanks for starting to create this awareness of PPP, and hopefully we can spread the word on this. In the meantime, I have no ideas as to how to start off this campaign, but I do think it should involve a promotion of positive role models who have overcome the PPP and are actively becoming the change they seek...the ndidi nwuneli's, dele olojede's, sam ikpe-itauma's and so on.

SolomonSydelle said...

@ NHW: Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this issue. As to leadership, I can't help but refer to Oz's suggestion - are Nigerians read for proper leadership? Or, a specific leader like an Obama? With regard to the latter, I shared my thoughts in "Is An 'Obama' Possible In Nigeria?".

I am truly interested in the psychology of an average Nigerian. To have proper leadership requires a populace that will protect leaders and the ideas proposed. To ever get to that point Nigerians must believe that they 'own' their leaders and must have ownership of the very ideas that will be proposed for the supposed benefit of the greater good. If my thinking is right on any level, then I am unsure as to whether we as a people are at that point mentally. Hopefully with certain small changes, we will get there.

@ Imnakoya: I need to thank you for not only introducing me to Pareto's Principle, but also for taking the time to discuss it at your site. Very illuminating. There you said that based on the principle, the necessary 20% of Nigerians need to be identified and 'groomed' in a sense to produce the 80% effect that would hopefully be positive for Nigeria.

I wonder, however. Is it smart to rely on only 20%? Would that not eventually exclude the remaining 80% from playing a role in changing Nigeria? If that is the case, would that not create a dangerous situation that would eventually bring us right back into the situation we are currently in where the majority have no say in their own country?

I completely understand the principle, though. But, I just wonder if it would truly provide the effect we seek for Nigeria. Can it be amended for Nigeria and if so how? I believe that all Nigerians (at least as many as possible) must be empowered psychologically, educationally, financially. I fear that relying on 20% for 80% of the cause could backfire if enough of the 20% have plans that don't involve the rest of the country. A scenario that arguably portrays Nigeria today.

@ Beauty: Thank you for taking the time to discuss this matter. I also thank you as well for sharing those additional sources as information to further my understanding of this PPP concept which I believe exists and want to fine tune my approach to it. I am currently out of the country and should be on vacation but have been trying to study up on the recommendations from yourself, Imnakoya and other readers. As such I was unable to put up the last part of this discussion but will hopefully do so in the future, Thank you for taking the time to share your insight.

@ Doja: And, I am also your favorite fan! However, I find Wiki to be a useful tool for understanding concepts. I did not use Wiki to define PPP. The definition offered is my own original opinion. I did use Wiki to provide a definition for Battered Person's Syndrome, which I find to be similar to PPP as a concept, save for the fact that PPP refers exclusively to the Nigerian psyche. I hope that I didn't confuse you.

As for the life expectancy table, I got it from an official US government website. COuld you share your thoughts as to what you disagrees with about it? It could be helpful, especially for future discussions. I am glad to see you around these parts and hope to see you soon.

@ Tobenna: Nice to see you!

"you cannot confirm the veracity of the Nigerian CBN Governor's statistics, but can easily relate with the US Census stats?"

I specifically admitted that my research did not produce verifiable confirmation of Soludo's claim. I provided the US government table as 'official' information on life expectancy in Nigeria and to point out that there are much fewer older Nigerians in comparison to younger Nigerians, and the possible implications of that. If that is a sign of PPP in me, I do not know, but have freely admitted that I am not immune from the condition.

We discussed those pro-Naija ads in the first part of this series The Nigerian Psyche. In the discussion, most of us agreed that we needed a return to that strategy. I am currently in Jamaica and I cannot express how the island is covered in pro-Jamaica messages. People walk around wearing their national colors all day long (not just on Independence). It is quite inspiring if I may say.

You say that you are willing to volunteer time/money etc. There are many wonderful Nigerian organizations that are working hard to organize Nigerians for good. Many bloggers are involved in these groups. You would be surprised. And, I agree the responsibility to create a better Nigeria is OURS.

Finally as to what I have done, I do my part to educate myself and Nigerians about the issues. When I can, I work with others to support ideas that I feel will bring about the greater good for the country I love dearly. Thankfully, I have had a little bit of success doing it and enjoy doing my bit, with or without the recognition. I don't get paid to do anything. This is my passion and by His grace I will continue. But, like you yourself said, "we must start in our own small corner." I've started and hope you have too.

@ Standtall: Ah Aunty, don't be sad for too long. Naija go betta.

@ TheAfroBeat: Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I also thank you greatly for also suggesting a solution. We do have many positive role models. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Nigeria sometimes goes out of the way to 'sabotage' those that have a great story to share. I personally could point to Kase Lawal, Gambari and many others (though bloggers like Imnakoya and Beauty will likely disagree) but that would definitely be a start.

Thanks so much!

tobenna said...

In tiny ways, I think I have.
I could do more though.
Thanks for the challenge.

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

PPP Again?

I think the first thing is for us to define exactly What is Nigeria? maybe then we will understand better where our problems lie.

The problem is with us Nigerians. We are the ones who fail and then blame Nigeria for our failing.

Who stole all the money meant for roads, hospitals and others? Go check, it was a Nigerian. Not Nigeria. Who sent that scam mail to you? It was a Nigerian. Not Nigeria.

Nigeria did not make him steal or send that mail. No. Because for every single one such rouge Nigerian are about 9.9 million honest, hard-working and patriotic Nigerians who would rather starve than steal.

I will disagree with Pareto. It takes less than 0.01% of Nigerians to give Nigeria a bad name, why should it take 20% to begin to set it aright.

I say all we need is just 1% - just 1.5 million Nigerians to begin its renaissance; to bring back its glory.

Let us begin it - you and I. You know what the Bible says about a little leaven. Jingles and ads on radio and TV would help to reinforce the message but it is you and I who must be on the ground.

You know we can, when we want to.

We only have to want to.

Believe.

ababoypart2 said...

"We have outsourced our problems to God" _ I think that the 'business centers' that we outsource our problems to are somewhat responsible for many of us having the wrong mindset. Without deviating from the real issues you address, I think we will go a long way if we free our minds from being suspicious of the next Jack, and pull all our mental resources towards the challenges we see everyday. Our voodoo beliefs present a major impediment our inability to join the modern world.

imnakoya said...

Solo: Regarding your concern about Pareto's Principle and not being able to reach a critical mass to effect change in Nigeria, I'd like to suggest a book by Malcolm Gladwell, "The Tipping Point". The book captures how some ground-breaking societal changes were initiated by just a handful of people.

A new posting on my blog provides more details to how the concept can work by focusing on "change seekers" operating in a multidimensional setting.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Imnakoya: Thanks for sharing this info. I am off to your site to read up on your thoughts.

culturesoup said...

Again lots of great comments in this discussion. I like that you have attempted to name the psychological issues that face Nigeria.

I actually think Imnakoya's idea makes sense because as far as i can see in other countries, it's a relatively small group of people that are involved in the issues that keep the engine running. Most others are apparently too occupied keeping up with celebs or whatever else it is they do. I don't think you'll ever get 100% of people involved or on the same page. As long as you have enough people doing the right thing, the rest of the population can benefit (a bit like herd immunity). It works the other way too as we see in Nigeria now, a minority of people can create havoc and oppression for everyone else.

Perhaps having dedicated leadership/citizenship seminars or academies is one way of identifying and building up people with potential.

I like Oz's point about Nigerians getting fed up with poverty and treating it as a common enemy but i doubt that it is going to happen anytime soon. As long as we have several tribes and religions in Nigeria, people can just turn around and point the finger of blame at others. It's always striking to me that the people that fought for independence could unite against the British but we cannot seem to do the same when it comes to our fellow citizens who are exploiting us in even worse ways.

The only other suggestions for countering PPP that i have to add are:

1. leaders need to do their jobs. Just doing what they were elected for would go a long way to restoring national confidence.

2. Awareness of our rights as citizens is very important. Public education campaigns, blogs, newspapers etc are great for stimulating thought and promoting knowledge.

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