by Imoisili Ehinomen
In March this year, Nigerians were ranked by the United Nations as the 103rd happiest people in the world among the 157 nations assessed. Some people analyzed Countries where the happiest people lived and they found that they had some common traits such as the habit of sharing with each other; neighbours were said to sometimes paint the houses of each other for free, even when they had the financial means to do same for themselves.
Looking at this, one is tempted to ask when Nigerians will truly be the happiest people in the world. I say ‘truly’ because an independent happiness survey conducted among 65 Countries in 2003 found the happiest people in the world to be living in Nigeria. At that time, many people give certain reasons for that finding, top among which was our ability as a people to thrive in the midst of great adversity. However, my focus is not to analyse the reason for our fall in the ranks but rather to question if we were ever really happy for the right reasons.
A young man employed in the immigration service might be happy because he has access to extra money at his work place in the form of bribes forced from fellow Nigerians who usually have to pay almost double the prescribed amount for their international passport. So the question is, is our happiness as a people at the expense of our fellow countrymen?
I recently visited a federal institution with my heart in my mouth due to the apprehension over the stress and frustration one often encounters at such establishments and true to it, my fears were confirmed. One of the officials I met only came to the office at 10:30am and without any apology, commenced the day’s activity in a rude and lackadaisical manner. This is not an unsual Nigerian experience. However my point is, this particular official likely might have considered this job as a blessing from God and if surveyed might consider herself ‘happy’ simply because she has a job in such an institution. So, we can see that when a nation’s happiness simply comes from selfish pursuits and not how much impact one is able to make, such a nation might just be heading for the rocks.
Marriage is seen as another indicator of happiness and fulfillment in Nigeria, to the extent that strictness and discipline in the workplace is often attributed to an unmarried civil state i.e single bosses are often thought to be strict only as a result of frustration. However, what marriage has succeeded in creating are more self serving units in the society. So we no longer share as a larger community but mostly just pay attention to our families, giving rise to new happiness targets; marriage and catering for family needs.
Many Nigerians were said to be unhappy because of perceived corrupt Governments and high unemployment rate. However, in reality, even the next generation are just as guilty. This is exemplified by corruption cases at Student union levels in many higher institutions. In-fact more than a few youths have no idea what their desired jobs would add to the nation. Though the latter is now beginning to change with the recent rise in mentorship programmes for youths, a lot still needs to be done to produce a truly productive young population.
In conclusion, no matter how frustrated we are with the current administration, the truth is that the change the nation desires really does begin with us. Nigerians must reorient to derive happiness from how much they have impacted society and not just based on selfish desires, then will we have a truly happy nation. For those who may ask, what about God?
Well He also said,
“If my people…will humble themselves and pray and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS…I will heal their land”.
A happy nation is achievable when you and I turn from ourselves to our people, our nation.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija