Femke becomes Funke: #Aluu4 and the danger of fending for yourself

Often I have quoted the self-reliance and resilience of Nigerians as a positive trait. They fend for themselves. I called this attitude creativity and sold it as a strong suit. After living in Lagos for three months, I am starting to reconsider.

A fountain of borehole water cascades down from my neighbour’s rooftop tank at least twice a day for twenty minutes. Watching this water being wasted so decadently in a world where fresh water is becoming a precious commodity that in time will be more valuable than gold upsets me every time. ‘Water is free’, says the Lagosian, and drills himself a borehole. Never mind the risks to health and environment.

When I fulminated against this attitude, one of my favourite Twitter followers answered: ‘What would u rather he does, Femke? Wait for pipe-borne water that NEVER runs?’ His response has been resonating in my mind ever since.

Often I have quoted the self-reliance and resilience of Nigerians as a positive trait. When something turns sour, Nigerians do not sit and wait for help. They create their own solutions, however crooked, barely legal or inherently damaging these might be. They fend for themselves. I called this attitude creativity and sold it as a strong suit. After living in Lagos for three months, I am starting to reconsider.

Fending for yourself in the Nigerian context, means when the water pipes stop running, you do not hold the State Water Agencies accountable, but hire a borehole specialist that drills another hole that eventually will cause a landslide.

Fending for yourself means whenever ‘they’ve taken light’, you and your entire neighbourhood do not go to the PHCN office for a mass demonstration.

Instead you endure the lack of electricity until you’ve saved enough Naira to buy yourself a pass-your-neighbour to join the concert of blaring generators as soon as the light goes off. Never mind the rising cases of asthma, lung cancer, and other serious heath problems because of air pollution.

Fending for yourself means sending your children away to a proper school abroad instead of insisting on quality education in your own country. The poor man’s kids can go and rot in the classrooms of the sub-standard public education system.

Fending for yourself means when you suspect four students of stealing laptops and mobile phones, you go ahead and take up the role of judge, jury and executioner personally, because you cannot trust a law system that is rotten to the core.

The question in all these issues is simple: when did Nigerians stop being stakeholders in their own society?

Their resilience to cope with a dysfunctional government has turned into complacency. Instead of demanding for change, acting for change, starting a revolution for all I care, the first thing that comes to the Nigerian’s mind when ‘the system’ fails him is: how can I (singular) get out of this? Not we. In the end, fending for yourself means just that: for yourself and no one else. Screw your neighbours, your countrymen, the people who are worse off than you. In the long run this reflex, in which Nigerians have trained themselves to perfection, actually worsens the situation run rather than making it better.

This is not a society. It is a collection of individuals fending for themselves. Nothing truly binds them together.

It is the most dangerous condition for a state to be in. It is a recipe for implosion.

Talk to Femke on Twitter @femkevanzeijl

Previous entries of Femke Becomes Funke:

My Lagos house hunt – 11 Lessons I learnt

Unsuited for light conversation

An oyibo’s guide to mastering Lagos roads

The expat’s universe

Not Island material

Behind a desk catching up on your sleep?

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (48)

  1. There ain't no better way to say it than u ve just done! we keep blaming the leaders forgetting that we share a greater blame. if each nd everyone of us decide to do things right, I tell u, the transformation in our dear country will be awesome………thumbs up once again!

    1. The secret to true transformation is still mysterious to 80% Nigerians.
      Illiteracy, Greed & Ignorance are major parameters to this socio-economic decadence.

  2. Bobo….its not a small some tin o…..she is actually spot on!!!

  3. Dee the woman is right o. She just decoded naijas problem in 3 months

  4. Femke sums up the Nigerian mentality. But it is an imposed mentality and not a natural state of Nigeria. Growing up in my village, the roads were communally maintained, the streams were communally maintained. And of course, you could not get away with misusing either – every body had a stake. As it is today, there is a massive disconnect between people and their society, and their government. Even in the village, the feeling of communal responsibility has been destroyed by religion, politics, education and the whole sale embrace of western norms. This embrace of western norms seems to be derived more from the fantasy in films than by actual observation of real western life. The care for what we own has been replaced for care for what I own. Will it implode, obviously. From owning your own wells, you will own your own guns. You will lynch your neighbors. And we wil descend into Afaghnistan or Somalia. Can we reverse it? Yes. But we have to reverse it by chaining our religion and how we practice it, changing our politics and how we play it, changing what our education teaches and then crafting our own societal norms and not pretending to be who we are not. Leadership in all these spheres are sorely lacking now. May be it will never come. Maybe we need a big implosion to jolt us back to reality. However, nigeria is barely one generation old. I have faith.

  5. this isss so tru..I guess we as Nigerians need to figure out how to fend for ourselves and still keep our fellow neighbors in mind.

  6. Nigerians can hardly ever respond to any article without the usual obligatory high-five sha. 'Word!', So true!', etc. Are we collectively sitting on our brains in this part of the world? Looks that way.

    1. Femke is allowed to speak for herself or himself. As far as I can tell, her assumptions are based on the limited interaction she has had with 167m of us.

    2. I wasn't referring to Femke, Ayi. I was referring to the various other respondents who do not see the need to do anything beyond the usual Nigerian obligatory 'Great Post! I agree entirely.' What exactly do they agree with? The writing style or the point of view? Very lazy contributions.

    3. Jide, Thanks. I was responding to the article. I thought it blindsided the work of every one else and focussed on what some of us have done, without checking to see if we had gone beyond just drilling boreholes and providing one's self with power supply and probably if we thought like its author, private security.

      Bottomline: when cabin pressure drops in a plane, you put on your own gas mask BEFORE reaching out to help others…I don't see that this is so different from what some of us are doing. That is why we did not settle for N147 a litre, that is why we did not settle for anything that was not June 12 and that is why we did not settle for the N5,000 note.

      We tend to be resilient, but we have reached the place where we have started to strike back. If FEMKE had written this piece in November of 2011, she'd have been a lot closer to the truth.

      Indifference is not indigenous to Nigeria. In Europe, neighbors are so indifferent to what happens next door that more often than not children wind up dead.

      About the ''I AGREE'' thing,my broda, reads to me like futile attempt to protest/challenge the status quo on our backsides.

    4. Ayi Emokpae I would even go further to say we have never been indifferent. At least I don't think so. Nigerians do rise up to the occasion as needed. But we still need power, water and security one way or another.

    5. Jide, Thanks. I was responding to the article. I thought it blindsided the work of every one else and focussed on what some of us have done, without checking to see if we had gone beyond just drilling boreholes and providing one's self with power supply and probably if we thought like its author, private security.

      Bottomline: when cabin pressure drops in a plane, you put on your own gas mask BEFORE reaching out to help others…I don't see that this is so different from what some of us are doing. That is why we did not settle for N147 a litre, that is why we did not settle for anything that was not June 12 and that is why we did not settle for the N5,000 note.

      We tend to be resilient, but we have reached the place where we have started to strike back. If FEMKE had written this piece in November of 2011, she'd have been a lot closer to the truth.

      Indifference is not indigenous to Nigeria. In Europe, neighbors are so indifferent to what happens next door that more often than not children wind up dead.

      About the ''I AGREE'' thing,my broda, reads to me like futile attempt to protest/challenge the status quo on our backsides with our fuel Jerry cans in our hands.

    6. I believe average Nigerian will agree with Femke's critical analysis on Nigerian's fending for themselves considering the impact on the socio-economy.

      You will agree with me that till date we still pay for darkness and hold no one responsible for. The road are guttered yet we felt the so called councillor, local govt chairman or the rep of the constituency should not be sued if not the fed or state govt etc

      Gani Fawehinmi (blessed memory) single handedly challenged most govt policies with little or no support from the society. Yet some sees your criticism as messing up the name of the country.

      Let me inform you that the self fulfilling issue is still a problem in the country. How would you justify a person challenging the unruly behaviour of a custom officer demanding you bribe him before he can allow you go out of the airport and the person next to you on the queue is telling you "oga if you don't have the money to pay gv room for us to pay so we can go" rather than joining you in the struggle to ed such shameful act. It's so degrading.

      Not until we collectively say no to some policies there can never be a change. We all fought had to force the govt to pend the production of N5000 not yet we can do more.

      Imaging a commercial driver driving like he's got mental problem and the passengers see it as normal thing bcos it will get them to their destination on time yet fail to consider the dangerous implications involved in his silly act. And if you try to educate such idiot his fellow idiots in the bus will tell you to shut up.

      We have a big problem as a society

  7. Could not have put it better – complacency is killing us. You ride in a commercial vehicle that's overspeeding and nobody says a thing, women are stripped naked on the pretext of stealing a blackberry and there is no righteous indignation – she's not my relative. So we don't picket PHCN and we all can't sleep anyway because of the noise of generators and of course the fumes slowly poison us. Strangely enough in all of this we utter that inane phrase that frees us from intellectual rigour and practical action; 'it is well'. No guys, it is NOT well.

  8. 'The question in all these issues is simple:

    when did Nigerians stop being stakeholders

    in their own society?'

    Were Nigerians ever really truly stakeholders? I think the fact that colonialism, nationhood and western systems of governance were 'given' to them, without a participatory role for everyone has made it easy for military adventurers, corrupt politicians and indolence civil service workers to get away with whatever. These days all we do is scream about it on social media and then throw out the gala wrapper on the streets. I tire jare!

  9. Femke's observations are indeed and unfortunately true. Several comments have been passed, in all of the going back and forth with so MANY suggestions and advice. Enough of all talks, when is the real action going to take place? Solution and action is what we need now. Who will be our saviour? Who will bell the cat?

  10. As much as what Femke has said reflects the truth of our Nation, she should also bear in mind that Nigerians have gotten to place where they will not be pushed to fight a battle that will end up not reflecting what they want.I respect my fellow Nigerians,their perseverance and dynamic way of hastily going into the street to fight a loose battle.Nigerians are not dump nor are we stupid not to go to PHNCN to protest or the Water company to protest,who do we protest to? Who should stone? Am certain not the same ordinary man who works at either of these offices and does not have a desk to himself.On the issue of PHCN is the powers that be that we want to contest with or the so called cabals? As much as the issue of a revolution seem fantastic, who wants his or her child to die? We are not ready to sacrifice our children,husbands, wives and family members for people who will escape out of the country at the smallest noise of shout they hear. Will Femke wait and be in Nigeria when the revolution starts? Will she still give her support when she starts seeing the gruesome murder of innocent people on the streets? Yesterday the Egyptian court discharged and acquitted senior members of Hosni Mubarak cabinet members who sent men on horse backs and camels to attack a peaceful demonstration where 11 people died and several injured, these men are free men walking on the streets, so tell what was the gain of the demonstrators who died? What is the fate of the family members who lost their loved ones? Alot of families can never and will never be the same anymore due to the loss of their loved ones,millions of children are now orphans,I remember a 3year old girl that was killed by a snipper bullet in Syria while playing at the balcony in her home, will her mother ever be the same? You said let Nigerians start a revolution for all you care, well I will also tell you that we care about life and we appreciate life and that is when when people die we take time to heal and for all I care don't instigate Nigerians to send their children and husbands to die. With all the Arab Spring that sprang up, how many of them are enjoying the so called democracy they killed themselves for? An American ambassador was killed in Libya may his soul rest in peace over the making of a film by some lunatics, is that the price of democracy? Is freedom of speech not part of democracy? Let Nigerians sort out its issues, we don't need outsiders letting us what to do, when they themselves have issues of their own.

  11. Home truth! Impatience is our problem.may God help us to be able to help ourselves

  12. Nigerian’s that want a better Nation should start by acting their talk. We should stop being a people that accept information without critically asking ourselves why it is so. I believe most of us posses and have over the years developed critical thinking skills. Why can’t we begin to use these skills? Some talk about a revolution on social network pages yet refusing to start one, first in their homes, then their worship centres, and finally on Nigerian streets. A Nigerian revolution in my opinion should be based on those intermingling factors such as our homes, religion and our government. Indeed most countries got their complete freedom through a revolution whereby some lost their lives during that process yet Nigerians refuse to stand up for their rights. Our country will continue to suffer if we don’t stop producing, monopolistic citizens and sycophants whose believes in the Nigerian dream, is that, the only ways to succeed in Nigeria is through Religion, Contract, and politics or by being sycophants. That is not true in a free society were anyone, irrespective of their tribe, religion, disabilities or culture etc can aspire to be successful. We should change our concept of the Nigerian dream to that similar to the American dream as I am certain that, we have the capacity and abilities with the human resources to be just as successful as the Americans. So please, I am asking patriotic Nigerians, to begin to walk their talk, by starting the so called social network revolution, first within your household by given another Nigerian a push. Then, by force our so called religious leaders to accept, to feed Nigerians during a nationwide strike, in other to force a change in government policies. Pastor Tunde Bakare needs to practice what he preaches. Bishop David Oyedepo, Chris Oyakhilome, Temitope Joshua, Mathew Ashilomowo, Chris Okotie, Pastor Adeboye, Alhaji Musa Muhammed, Imam Ustaz Musa Mohammed, etc need to follow suit if indeed they are truly men of God. These pastors are some of the richest men on earth. When the people choose to sit at home, they should turn their places of worship into community centres to feed those on strike. It would not cost them anything, to truly support Nigerians that have a burning desire for prosperous Nigeria. If they (religious leaders) refuse, then stop worshipping with them as they can never help you and I. Religion has a major role to play for a peaceful revolution to be successful in Nigeria as our religious leaders have the finances to help.

    Finally, with a successful peaceful demonstration our government will begin to respect its citizens as a result better policies with human face will emerge. We will not need to fight were no one will lose their lives except government officials that try to force people back to work. Let’s stop the habit of given our government excuse for their failures. It does not take a focused person long, to succeed at whatever they do with determination.

  13. Insightful…..but very very scary conclusion….

  14. Great observations there Femke!

    Aren't we forgetting the fact that we are comparing apples and oranges though? We think just because Nigerians now live in a democratic society they should be equipped with the full tool set and right attitudes to make use of that democracy. I'm imagining society was organised in an entirely different way before colonialisation; and during colonialisation definitely.

    So Nigerians have only really been stakeholders in their own society for 52 years, not centuries. Ad considering even in Europe where we have centuries of practice, most people don't behave like stakeholders in their own society – I don't think Nigerians should beat themselves up over how little they have achieved.

    The difficult question is – how do you train a nation to look after its own interests? Who has a real interest in the people becoming full, confident 'stakeholders', able to use all the tools at their disposal? Sadly nobody apart from the people this would benefit.

    It's a bit of a catch-22 situation.

    (I spent 2 years in Nigeria, had to come back for family reasons, loved it and would have loved to stay)

    1. Valid point, but we dont have to wait generations to start doing that which we all consider right. Nigerians dont need to re-invent the wheel. It all boils down to what we accept as a people to be a just and fair society, which quite frankly we dont have a clue.

  15. True talk, we lack reading culture, most people prefer attractive and bogus headlines, breaking news etc. I wish Nigerians will read this piece and realise themselves and try n think of we and not 'I' moreso this 'I' spirit is what have also prevented another civil war/deadly revolution and this is why there is no hope/confidence of a better tomorrow for us and the unborn.

  16. So true…please read this and let me know what you think folks…good morning.

  17. Very funny.

    Who started it? let's go back to the very begning! They came for our resources but tought our Oba, Balee, and council chief how to cheat and circumvent their working system by bribing them.

    The western world has never been fair to we Africans, not from inception and they are not ready to start today.

    The write has only told us half truth!

    The wise ones have a saying in my language that goes thus 'amunku, eru e wo loke, amunku ema wo oke, at isale ni ke wo' meaning: a man carrying loads on his head that was accused of his wears not being straight by observers and bystanders, He told them in clear terms, plese do not look at the top, but the skewness of my wears comes from the bottom, that is where you should look at'

    The problem of africa is not really african's if you ask me, but the western world-their leaders. We have a new one now called China! Are you suprise, please don be. Just look around.

    Let me also, help you all see clearly my point, by this word of wisdom: 'eni to gun aja lo jaole ko lo ole sugbon eni ti o ba gba so kale' meaning the person tht climb up to steal is not the actual thief, but he that saw him and also help him bring down the goods in question is the theif'

    If all the loot of our so called military/ politcal leaders stached away are not received with confidentiality by all the banks abroad, africa will not be where it is today.

    Enough is enough, with a this cheap talks and insincere write up by both those here and visting. Tell the trust where it should be told. Don't come here and tell Peter what Paul should be told, that is creating more confusion.

    Return the loots, stop collecting the new ones and see what africa will become.

  18. I am afraid I not only disagree, I have to criticize Femke. What would she have Nigerians do? We did not even create the society in which we found ourselves.

    Everybody, including the common African in the street, is just struggling to survive in a world created for us by the Western powers, and held together by their policies. She should go and preach to the leaders of her world, ask them to stop supporting those who have dehumanized us, and they should stop helping them to rob us. They should give us back our lands and leave us alone. But will they, given their lust for Africa's resources?

    Femke does not understand the life we lead here, and our own struggle. It's nasty, cruel, and brutish. People just want to feel normal. Who enjoys digging their own boreholes, or blasting their own generators? Does she think NEPA or the water authorities have a solution? The folks who work there are also victims, who are merely feeding off the crumbs left by their masters. The same guys mentioned earlier, who run Nigeria on behalf of its imperialist creators. We are in a society we did not create. Why should we fight for it? We don't want it!

  19. Hmm! Femke has dotted the 'i's and crossed 't's as far the phenomenon called Nigerian mentality is concerned. Aptly put I must say. Though a scary conclusion, I fear for what tomorrow holds in this contraption called Nigeria. For until we begin to take responsibility and hold our systems and leaders accountable, we will continue to edge closer to the abyss!

  20. This is one major thing that has hindered Nigeria from progressing as a country — everyone for himself, God for all, whoever is slow, let the devil take him.

  21. Hmm! Femke has dotted the 'i's and crossed 't's as far the phenomenon called Nigerian mentality is concerned. Aptly put I must say. Though a scary conclusion, I fear for what tomorrow holds in this contraption called Nigeria. For until we begin to take responsibility and hold our systems and leaders accountable, we will continue to edge closer to the abyss!

  22. Now we've acknowledged the truth, what would you do?

  23. This is not a society. It is a collection of individuals fending for themselves. Nothing truly binds them together. It is the most dangerous condition for a state to be in. It is a recipe for implosion. Hmmm…

  24. Femke has spoken he cold hard truth. I can see it clearly, we're on a sinking ship. I personally cannot be bothered to do anything about it because I would not be able to make much of a difference on my own. The ship will sink taking most of those on board to the bottom with it. Maybe then the survivors will change, maybe they won't. The GOD is on the lips of every Nigerian from dawn till dusk will not however come down and do it for us. If there is to be a change, we will have to do it ourselves.

  25. Well said, Femke.

  26. This is the reality as we have grown accustomed to. Sadly we are not ready to make things right. i'm sure you, in your new "doll house" have had to do things that should have been taken care of by the government yourself. From basic amenities to medicals, the average Nigerian family unit has to cater for their needs. But for the implosion, the never tiring Nigerian spirit would simply find another means of survival rather than implode.

    1. I like your optimism, but every elastic band ha a limit. It will ultimately implode if it keeps heading south.

      I know realism is not a quality Nigerians are known for, I hear bone wretched paupers saying "I am rich". That is the kind of mentality that makes people easier to exploit.

  27. Truth told by a foreigner. Represents exactly what Nigerians are about. SMH. Anyways folks let me go burst some fuel pipes, can dictate fuel scarcity in the FCT now….You would say more of the implosion. I'm just joking tho…

  28. The terrifying truth is that the implosion has begun. From different parts, punctures in every part of the fabric. If Nigeria was a once round ball, it would be one more kick to deflation. If there is any hope it would be that we'd try to patch, maintain some form of normalcy, an entertainment industry, glossy magazines, petty trading anything, everything. In this country we find a way to make life go on . . . . . . .

  29. I think that line in your piece that described Nigeria as a collection of individuals sums up the whole issue. Femke, sadly it is not common to Nigeria alone but a familiar sight in several African countries. This explains why Africa have several sit-tight dictators.(That does not connote a justification). Nigerians have 'fought' military governments in the past to demand for their rights. This had led to severe bloodshed and extra-judicial killings. The return to 'democracy' hasn't improved the lot of Nigerians. NO ONE wants to jeopardize his/her life and family to embark on an 'Arab spring'. Instead they (Nigerians) find a way to make a living of their own. They take things in their stride and move on. Unfortunately, when that implosion you referred to starts, it is the common man on the street that suffers.

  30. Femke speaks the Terrifying Truth.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail