The average Nigerian is an apologist for mediocrity.And knows it,too.Very rarely will you hear,”that is very good”,with regard to any Nigerian process or product.Apparently Nigerian products or processes fall into two categories only: “nonsense” or “e no easy ,dem try”(ENEDT).”ENEDT” has become a euphemism,for that grey zone between very-bad and not-so-bad.Phrases like “ENEDT” are used to describe things that Nigerians consider better than bad,but not good enough to be termed “good”.Nigerians can identify mediocrity when they see it,but because they are unwilling to face it squarely,and deal with it,they prefer not to call it by it’s rightful name.Instead,as a sort of denial,phrases such as “ENEDT” are employed to make it seem better than it is.Thus morally sedated,people can do things that they would not normally be able to justify.This explains how well-educated sophisticates can do things that their education,exposure and background do not predict.
A society that is unwilling to make to a distinction between good and bad is in deep trouble.A people that can find comfort in such fudge,obfuscation and outright denial are morally bankrupt.A culture from whose lexicon,the word “good” has been expunged,cannot be exercised by considerations of excellence.Such a people,strangers to the word “good”,would be wedded to mediocrity.And no wonder.The other day,i saw a broadcast on cable television,where Amaka Igwe,one of the heavy-hitters of the movie and television industry in Nigeria,was been interviewed.In response to the interviewers question about the movie industry’s “progress”,she aggressively defended Nollywood,the Nigerian movie industry,by trotting out the usual excuses about lack of finance and poor infrastructure.But what really caught my attention,was her attempt to justify Nollywood’s mediocrity by pointing out that the industry ,”is just 16 years old”.And that is so typical.
Every time you criticize some Nigerian practice,no matter how objectively,there is sure to be someone to remind you that,”Nigeria is only 50 years old as an independent state,America has been independent since 1776.In time we will get there.” This argument is so infuriating.Yes,it is true that it took the West a long time to get to their present position.But that is because they had no role-models,no one from whom to learn.They had to discover or invent everything themselves,and of course they made a lot of missteps and took many wrong-turns as a result.But we are not in the same position.We have the benefit of their experience,we are heirs to some 30o years of written history.It is not necessary to exactly re-enact the trajectory of their development,by repeating all the mistakes they made,including some they did not even make.The irony is that Nigerians are early-adopters,of consumer goods.Where the acquisition of the latest cars,phones and fashion accessories is concerned,Nigerians are at par with Europeans and Americans.
But when you insist that the Nigerian process be subject to world-class measures,Nigerians complain.Please do not mis-understand me.I make a distinction between product and process.No one pretends that the Nigerian “product” should be of the same absolute quality as the West’s.What we can insist on,however,is that the Nigerian process be compliant with acceptable international norms,that every effort be made to do things properly.It is gratuitous self-violence,to leave undone that which we could easily do,just because Nigeria is not a million years old.I do not expect Nigerian movies to be of the same absolute quality,as Hollywood’s.However,i expect that the Nigerian film-market would be intelligently enough regulated,as to make it quality-sensitive.It should be able to differentiate between bad and good movies;any one who supports Nollywood,by buying or renting it’s movies,knows how frustrating this lack of differentiation is.Such a “simple” thing can make a big difference.And,throughout the Nigerian reality.
Certainly,we do not expect our infrastructure to be of the same quality as that of the West,but is that any justification for the state of our roads and power-supply? What about our schools and hospitals? Given our natural resources,human and material,should we not be able to match the standards in the West-African sub-region,if not the Middle-east? If we cannot match the level of probity,accountability and transparency of Western governments today,is that a good reason for the institutionalization of impunity ,by our various governments? Can we not justifiably hold our leaders to higher standards? The 2011 elections were not up to the standards of the West,but they were much better than what we were used to.And all because the president “chose” to give the electoral commission boss a free hand.We can do much better,today,but only if we liberate our minds from the bondage of mediocrity,increasingly fostered by our language.Phrases like “ENEDT” constitute the language of mediocrity,of moral-timidity and under-development.Mind your language!!!