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Nigeria-“I Pass My Neighbour”:Social Emulation,Lethargic Citizenship and the “Self-Bigotry” of Low Expectations

George W Bush,then president of the United States,used the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations”, against the democrats in 2004.Clearly,Bush used it as a riposte against the type of racism that masquerades as liberalism.Paternalistic,this type of liberalism views the black man as a child,whose needs are to be met,but who is not to be trusted with any great responsibility.Unlike the “hard” variety,which simply says “to hell with them,nothing good will ever come out of Africa,” soft-bigotry says “it is our duty to take care of these people,they certainly cannot do it themselves.” Both varieties are racist,founded on the idea that the black man is incapable,inferior.If you are black,this must make you angry,and sad.

It is  sadder still that we,Nigerians,seem to agree with this racist assessment,a form of self-racism,self-directed bigotry.How else do you explain our talent for travesty and mediocrity.?We just cannot seem to do anything right.We have an aptitude for adulteration and bastardization.We have set the moral and ethical bar so low,that anything goes.Mediocrity has become our  aspirational norm.We have come to expect so little of ourselves.And all this,because we have such low self-esteem.Such low self-confidence.Typically camouflaged in aggressive posturing,our low self-esteem can be seen in our crab-like acquisition of power and it’s symbols:money,titles and women;we seek validation in the amassing ,and ownership,of “objects”.

We feel bereft,denuded,undeserving and unworthy,unless surrounded by status symbols such as cars,houses,titles and plenty of money.Feeling so innately unworthy,we are willing to accept any condition.We would just “manage”. The worst part of it all,is that any attempt to be different,and insist on your right,makes you a target.You see this everywhere.If you have ever used public transport in Nigeria,then you know that protesting that a cab,with seating for only three passengers,should not try to squeeze in an extra person,makes you “wicked”, in the eyes of fellow passengers.You go to a restaurant that is near-empty,you take a seat at a clean table;the next guy that walks in,would probably  make a bee-line for your table,rather than make an effort to get one of the many free tables cleaned by the steward.You dare not protest.If you do,then you must be very “selfish”.You end up eating with your elbows in each others sides and breathing into each others food.

Nigerians expect you to take “it”. Especially when “it”, is dished out by the government.As someone put it, “if the government tells Nigerians to climb a tree,people would simply comply.” Protesting will make you few friends.Instead,for your trouble,you will get a huge dose of abuse from fellow suffering citizens.I remember a few weeks ago,when Okey Ndibe,a professor and  public commentator,protested about his “treatment” by the Nigerian immigration and security services,he was slated by a section of the comments on Saharareporters,an online newspaper.His critics were miffed that he dared to protest,when other Nigerians  had passed through experiences that were much worse than his .Meaning that for suffering to be legitimate or valid,it must be unknown,novel.So novel that you can take out a patent on it.

So instead of protesting,our people take refuge in social emulation.It is all right as long as there is someone worse off than yourself.As an example,take power supply.Rather than insisting that the government should provide adequate power,our people prefer to take their chances with generators.There is a particular mini-generator,whose claims as a source of power are so feeble,so puny,that Nigerians re-christened it “i-pass-my-neighbour”, in recognition  of the fact that it’s main value is social: it’s ownership differentiates you from your neighbour.This ability to find consolation in the fact that there are people worse off than we are,together with the fact that we think that unless we are “big men”,surrounded by “objects”, we are somehow unworthy,constitute a political anaesthetic,leading to lethargic citizenship.It is this unwillingness to exercise our rights as citizens,that underpins poor governance in this country.

Make no mistake about it,the government you get is the government you deserve.The protests in the middle-east prove that governments listen,and respond,to the messages sent them,by the people.If the people are lethargic or supine,they are sending a loud and clear message,which reads,”we do not care.” And if the people do not care,why should the government?If we want change in Nigeria,we cannot be so passive.We have to demand for it.In economics,demand means desire for a product or service,backed by the ability,and willingness,to pay for it.In other words,sacrifice.Politics is no different.Demand for change will have to be backed-up with willingness to sacrifice.Then the government will hear a different kind of message:”Change”. As things stand now,we have suffered plenty,at the hands our governments.But perhaps our suffering is not novel enough?Is it?


9 responses to “Nigeria-“I Pass My Neighbour”:Social Emulation,Lethargic Citizenship and the “Self-Bigotry” of Low Expectations

  1. Eleonor Milz February 23, 2011 at 5:06 am

    I will be going for an interview with a cable assembly manufacturers this week. Wish me luck.

  2. Rasheeda Dlabaj February 23, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Links exchange suggestion… Your blog is what I’m looking for, do you want to swap web links with my sites at Essay on Finance?. Better still, I provide a 3-way backlink coming from my another site. The exchange link request info is at the home page.

  3. henryik2009 February 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Eleanor,
    Thanks for your comment.Hope you get the job!!

  4. codliveroil February 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Maybe I’m wrong but you appear to be slightly annoyed in this post.

    I’m glad you raised the popular perception of the Blackman. Those in Africa have their eyes closed to these distasteful facts. That is why it is so important that those at home, rise to the challenge of upliftment. Unfortunately, as you have pointed out, many generations have failed to deliver and so in the case of Nigeria, it wallows in backwardness, ignorance, laziness, short-sightedness and corruption (and all other undesirable aspects of humanity)

    I was listening to a BBC program yesterday (23 February 2011), this was when apartheid had been introduced to South Africa I think it was 1959, many views amongst South Africa’s white population corresponded to what you would term as hard racism. Considering the past of Nigeria, I can’t understand why people are not doing their utmost to debunk this notion. Instead, people like to think that by claiming they belong to one particular ethnic group or another they can distance themselves from misconceptions. The fact is, when you leave your country, no one has time for what ethnic group you belong to you are a Blackman, nothing more. The conduct of Nigerians at home even re-inforces this distorted view.

    Nigerians as a whole like the easy option, as such people are more inclined to hold to erroneous beliefs rather than accept the notion there is no quick route to success. As such all sorts of dubious schemes thrive in Nigeria, whilst legitimate business is thwarted or even withers due to climate of corruption that is ever present.

    The idea that Nigerians should agitate for change is a good one. But in the Nigerian context as things are this would bring undesirable/unpredictable results. People are not united, even though the hardships and poverty they face are the same. People are very selfish and lack foresight. You can see how Libyans are behaving even though the Eastern part of the country is free of Gaddaffi, no body is contemplating on seceding, they want Libya to remain united, even though oil fields are on their land. Contrast that with Nigeria, if one section of the country was ‘free’ of the government, they wouldn’t think about anybody else in the rest of Nigeria, they would just take the opportunity to secede, without thinking of the consequences.

    In Egypt, after the former leader Hosni Mubarak resigned, the day after the crowds gathered in Tahrir square to celebrate. People took brushes, brooms and bins to clean the square of rubbish. One of them was a Phd student. The BBC interviewed him, he identified himself as being a Phd student, he said he was taking part to help build the new Egypt. Do you think if a Phd student participated in demonstrations, would they be back the next day to volunteer to clean the streets? I think not, they would look you up and down and abuse you in pidgin or their native language, telling you that is beneath them to be doing such a thing. Such a lack of humility is another fatal flaw in the Nigerian character. You yourself have noted that the conspicuous gain and display of wealth is what rules today.

    We have a long way to go before we can hope to arrive at a semi-decent government, which is legitimate. It takes more than agitation, it needs consensus and forethought.

  5. henryik2009 February 25, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Hi codliveroil,
    Thanks for your comment.You have summarized things very well.Not only do Nigerians lack a social or moral conscience,we are extremely short-sighted.We seem unable to to see the larger-picture;we cannot take a vertical view of our situation.We cannot see that although we are individuals,we are parts of a whole:if one part suffers,then all suffer.Your example about Libyan easterners is very revealing.

  6. Mena April 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Haba, this isnt light, light is writing a soft story. Write about your family, your job, maybe even pets (if you keep any) that sort of thing.

    That aside, your post is as poignant as ever, nothing else to add. Then again, Nigerians are taking their destiny into their own hands this weekend, perhaps change has already started? Lets wait and see


  7. henryik2009 April 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Mena,
    Thanks for your comment.I’m still working on that “light” topic thing.As to the change,let’s keep our fingers crossed.It might all be just smoke and mirrors.Our people are past masters at making nothing happen,noisily.

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