Monday, June 14, 2010

Whenever I think of an adjective to describe Nigerians, the word 'ingenuity' always comes to mind. This is because despite the circumstances, Nigerians manage to survive in a country that faces incredible challenges and problems. I recall the story of Mohammed, who in 2007, used scrap metal to create a functioning helicopter as an illustration of ingenuity. Or, a news report on how some created affordable alternative electricity sources from compact disc-torches nicknamed 'African light'.

However, a recent conversation at a summit in Lagos shook my belief on the ingenuity of Nigerians. When asked what adjectives would describe Nigerians, many of those I sat beside mentioned an array of positive terms including ingenious, only for someone to raise a question that challenged the notion. The individual, whose name I will not mention, pointed out that it was time to rethink the notion of 'Nigerian ingenuity' because for all the ingenuity of Nigerians, the nation continued to struggle with problems.

I still cannot believe that this most simple attitude has shaken my attitude. The speaker was correct to point out that if indeed Nigerians were ingenious they would have tackled the nation's issues. As I think about it, I must confess to myself that in the 21st century, Nigeria continues to tackle issues that were solved by others at least a century before. That reality turns 'Nigerian ingenuity' into a myth of sorts.

Regardless, I feel that dismissing the concept of 'Nigerian ingenuity' would discredit the many Nigerians who somehow create order out of what could appear to be chaos. As a result, I still believe that Nigerians are ingenious, I just think the level of ingenuity needs to be magnified if that adjective of ingenuity is ever going to stick.

So what do you think? Do you believe Nigerians are actually ingenious or do you not think that should be considered a general attribute of Nigerian people.

5 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Mike said...

Nigeria is not alone with its ingenuity not being able to solve the problems of their country. Come to think of it, the achievements these individuals have made are just that, as individuals. If they don't look at the country as a whole, things are gonna be the same for a long time.

Ms Afropolitan said...

I reckon Nigerian ingenuity exists, and is growing. However, I don't believe ingenuity is the word to use to describe Nigerians in general. It's a positive attribute that is more present in Nigerians that are struggling to survive rather than in those Nigerians who might have the power to change things.

Polyana said...

Solo, every group of people think they are special. I suppose it is a fundamental property of our innate "theory of mind." The illusion seems to correlate nicely with illiteracy. Nigerians do not deserve to be an exception.

Anyone that considers this notion of -exceptionalism- as a serious question in need of deliberation is astonishingly simple minded, not well read or well travelled.

The truth is, we are indeed borderline retarded. Every relevant metric suggests that much.

NakedSha said...

I love this topic!

I think that ingenuity is an accurate word to describe Nigerians in general (most, not all).

However, because of the situations we find ourselves in, Nigerians have learned to use ingenuity to 'protect' themselves from being victims of corruption/problems and not necessarily solve these problems.

A Nigerian will find a way of wriggling through the system, getting the job he wants, sleeping at night with a generator, making toys out of 'silly' trash, making fake EVERYTHING,etc because life has to move on...for himself not for the country.

It is almost glaring how ingenious we are, but clearly our ingenuity is characterized by RESILIENCE!


@ Too true: Thanks so much for the comment.

@ MsAfropolitan: very astute observation. Only a segment of the society is forced to be ingenious. For that reason, using the term might be disingenuous. But, I wonder if the term could still be applicable given that a majority of Nigerians are forced to creative. Well, thanks so much for stopping by. Much appreciated.

@ Polyana: "
The truth is, we are indeed borderline retarded. "

Interesting. Forgive me for playing devil's advocate, but could you expand on your comment some more? I am definitely curious to learn more of how you feel. I think I know where you are going but cannot assume. Hopefully you will read this and take the time to share some more.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Hope you will return.

@ NakedSha: "Nigerians have learned to use ingenuity to 'protect' themselves from being victims of corruption/problems and not necessarily solve these problems"

I love this breakdown. It definitely makes sense to me. I also agree that 'resilience' might be a better way to describe Nigerians. Thank you so much, this definitely gave me much to think about. Thanks!

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