Feature: The Mentality of Nigerians


by Ayo Akinfe

If you ask me, the biggest problem with Nigeria is the mentality of the people. Until we sort that out we are going nowhere as a nation

[1] Nigerians are fond of blaming their plethora of socio-economic woes on bad leadership. To that I say fa,fa, fa, foul. Our leadership is a mirror image of society. There are 109 senators in the National Assembly, if you went to Oshodi market and picked 109 Nigerians at random, you would find that their attitude and outlook is no different from that of the senators

[2] French philosopher, Henri Mattise, could have been talking about Nigeria when he said: “Every people get the government they deserve.” Give our people a free and fair election and they will vote for the worst possible candidate simply because he or she handed out bags of rice and gari

[3] Denmark’s male team at the ongoing Euro 2024 has just shown us the kind of spirit that builds a nation. They refused a 15% pay rise at the tournament because it would break an agreement they entered into guaranteeing the male and female teams get the same pay. Ask yourselves if a Nigerian team would ever do that

[4] Nigerians are serial individualists and until that changes, we are going nowhere as a nation. Matisse summed up the ruinous effects of this selfishness in 1939 after the Nazis invaded France and he refused to leave for the US. How son wanted him to join him in New York but Matisse said: “If everyone who has any value leaves France, what remains of France?”

[5] Now, let us look at Nigerians and the way they behave compared with the rest of the human race. On December 5 1955, the Alabama Bus Boycott began. Rosa Parks refused to stand up and her arrest sparked off a chain of events that led to buses in Montgomery, Alabama being boycotted between December 5 1955 and December 20 1956. Poor black folks walked for miles to work to make the point. They endured the pain and discomfort and could not be bought off with enticements. I challenge you Nigerians today. How many of you are prepared to walk to work, school, the market, church, mosque, owambes, etc for 381 days to make a point?

[6] In 1957, this Alabama tactic was employed in South Africa too with the Alexandra bus boycott undertaken against the Public Utility Transport Corporation by the people of Alexandra in Johannesburg. Their bus boycott lasted from January 1957 to June 1957. At its height, 70,000 township residents refused to ride the local buses to and from work. For many people, this daily journey to downtown Johannesburg was a 32 km round trip, but hey, they did not mind as they fought against apartheid

[7] If every Nigerian decided to boycott both PDP and APC political rallies to protest the way they treat the masses, this alone would have a profound impact. However, from what I can see, for a bag of rice, gari and some palm oil, our people will troop out en mass to cheer the looters on. In the 1950s, black Americans and South Africans lived under far worse conditions than we do today but alas, they never allowed themselves to be bribed. When we reach that stage of mental development, our suffering will start to ease

[8] I think going to owambes, attending the church and mosque and going to heaven is more important to my people than a functional society, so these problems will remain with us for a while to come. From everything I can see, our rulers know how cowardly, individualistic and lacking in public spirit their people are, so will continue to exploit it to the maximum

[9] After World War Two, Germany was in utter ruins, with her cities bombed, her industry in tatters, the population dispirited and no government in place. However, within five years, the nation was back on her feet, with both West and East Germany becoming thriving economies again. Nigeria simply has to follow suit if we want to get out of this rut

[10] When you do the arithmetic on Nigeria’s economy, you cannot but despair. We will need something like 15% annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth year-on-year over the next decade to get out of this morass. If between 2025 and 2035 Nigeria enjoys 15% economic growth every year, we will be able to get out of this rut. It is either that or we perish


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