Opinion: Nigerians and our penchant for self-sabotage

by Paul Olarewaju


A psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held contradictory beliefs and attitudes is something every human being experiences, irrespective of their nationality or race. This implies that humans have the tendency of acting contrary to what they know is right due to various reasons.

Usually, when we act or behave contrary to what we know is right, we experience discomfort and anxiety, but when it becomes a norm, the person involved might feel little or no discomfort, irrespective of the consequence(s). Unfortunately, this is the case of many Nigerians today.

Let’s start from the bottom up.

Hauwa closes from school in her neighbourhood. On her way home, she decides to get herself some snacks from Oga Chinedu’s store on the street before hers. While chatting away with friends, the young student who had been taught the importance of keeping her environment clean, unwrapped her snacks and threw the wraps behind her like it would disappear into thin air and do the environment no harm, but she knew quite well the consequences of her action. It was only a few wraps, right? Well, every little dirt that is poorly disposed of contributes to the heap of eyesore we see on some of our streets. Just like many of us, Hauwa isn’t allergic to clean streets, as a matter of fact, she adores the “Hollywood kind of streets” she sees on the television, and dreams to live on one of them soonest, but it seems she can’t help but get her present street dirty.

Well, let’s cut Hauwa some slack, right? After all, she is just a child, but how about uncle Tunde who saw Hauwa do the wrong thing and kept mum? The guilty uncle couldn’t speak against the young girl’s act, as he is even a bigger culprit. A few moments ago, thirsty Tunde bought a chilled bottle of soft drink from a street hawker while boarding a commercial bus, he emptied it content into his tummy and flung the bottle out of the window. A young man seated by Tunde’s side tried to correct him, but he responded jokingly and said; “I’m only providing more jobs for street cleaners”. Like seriously? Well, he knew better, he only refused to do better.

Although, Uncle Frank – Hauwa’s teacher, occasionally taught her to do things right, but he never really did things right as a civil servant saddled with the responsibility of teaching the leaders of tomorrow. He rushes to school to do “eye service” whenever he gets a hint that delegates from the ministry of education would be around for inspection. Did I hear you say why? Oh, you are probably new to the ghost worker system in this country. Frank seldom goes to school to teach his students, but he expects “Maga” (government) to pay at the end of every month. Mind you, he isn’t unaware of the principle of sowing and reaping, neither is he unaware of the need to properly teach and nurture the so-called ‘leaders of tomorrow’, but greed and corruption wouldn’t let him do what is right.

Oops! Did I just say, “the so-called leaders of tomorrow”? Well, don’t be in a haste to judge me by those words, simply because Nigeria’s leaders of yesterday are still the leaders of today. They have simply refused to hand over the baton to the younger ones. The words “leaders of tomorrow” seem to be the medication consistently administered to the downtrodden to keep them alive and hopeful while helping the “privileged few” achieve their selfish goals.

Isn’t it funny and pathetic that in a democratic society, some people believe they are born to rule, while others are born to serve them? Since Nigeria’s independence, power has been changing hands, unfortunately, it has been doing so within the same body. The country has been re-cycling leaders at various levels, and we have been getting the same disappointing result. Although we are quite aware that doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is insane, corruption, nepotism, favouritism, religious and ethnic sentiments won’t let us do right and choose right.

Isn’t it quite surprising that some of our political leaders go abroad, see how things ought to be done, and benefit from the good works of other governments, only to come back home to sabotage the ‘snail-pace’ development we are experiencing? Disappointingly, some youths blinded by various unproductive sentiments treat them as messiahs.

Assuredly, a better Nigeria which will be the envy of other nations isn’t a mirage, it is very possible, if only we will put the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in the square hole. Strive to know what is right, believe in what is right, and most importantly do what is right.

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

Paul is a blogger, writer and social critic. He [email protected]


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