Teach Them, But Will They Learn?

By: Abdul Habeeb Akorede

Maybe it’s just us, or you have heard the story: a dark-skinned young man was walking on the street when he got stopped, beaten, and robbed by men, who, though not exactly dark, were dressed up in black. No? Never? Then this one: a community was asleep at night, in the morning, some were breathing, others were gone. They told reporters that herders came at night. Still… no??

Anyway, if the only thing you ever hear is music from your headphones, then surely, your eyes have seen some things. Potholes that really can’t be right, an official with enough cheek to deny you service when free is written in bold, or a politician with more thugs than voters to get him in power. Whatever the case, experiencing the dynamics of a Nigerian citizenship is not a matter of uncertainty; in apt words, everyone will have that breakfast.

So, while we toot about the affliction of our palates, another Nigerian thing we must surely do is lecture our leaders on the proper way to get things done. For reference, we can look at the fifty-year-old dads in the living room, picking their teeth and munching on how bad our sordid country is. Or join the fresh boy of Igbo origin, who curses  the nation to felony as he sells unhappy denims for twice their price. Again, whatever way we choose to tell our common story, there is importance in keeping it up until they somehow learn. Yet, here is why they won’t:

“Give me One Thousands”, ” Give me an Office”

In the first line of the book on Nigerianism, one value will echo: scratching a person’s back is an investment for the future. In the present context, a major reason why we might be quite hopeless is the mindset of people with opportunities for change. The average individual is poised to look out for himself while ensuring that surrounding interests are kept far beyond the edges of the sidelines. In other words, while it is not impossible to spearhead some kind of change, the promise of fresh political prospects offered by deals with old devils may well lead us astray. Cases in point here would be vigorous critics of past and present governments who, upon absorption into the system, have become quite indolent at using their mouths or even in fatigue, their keyboards. Even worse is the army of youths on the street which would go so far as to disrupt peaceful protests when signalled by some meagre change. No doubt, this is perhaps the biggest fear of the age. Previous experience with supposed revolutionaries has led to an atmosphere of distrust, apathy, and disinterest in the muddy cycle of national politics. A casual look around and there is little to no political threat that cannot be bought over. Among the masses from which support for the ‘little’ would come, voters’ cards are unevenly distributed, non-existent, or carefully saved up for sale at the next elections.

The Sociopolitical Space in Nigeria: Internal Divisions

Today, the sociopolitical space in Nigeria is one of many cracks and splits. For a country that used to be the shining light for everything pan-African, the joke has turned and what we ourselves have are pan-ethnic groups. An essential part of mainstream discourse is either how to shoo  the herders off the farmlands or shoot back when they dare to be unruly. In motor parks and markets in different parts of the country, hostilities simmer as everyone awaits the maker of the first foul move. As it is therefore known that the overall outlook will reflect the throbbing undercurrents in the society, it is hard to expect that the common exercise of vocal facilities will birth anything when the entire house is against itself. To dampen the situation even further, there is a high potential of a trend where political hopefuls find it completely normal to play on ethno-religious tensions and ride them to glory. To do this, all that is needed is to add the narrative to the list of abuses that Nigerians suffer.

Another dimension of this is the tendency of ethnic affiliates to look the other way when the offending leader is someone of the same or similar origin. A ready example of this is the quickness with which the chances of mass protest were snuffed out in Northern Nigeria. Capitalising on kinship loyalties and the dictates of religion, many, who without doubt have been victims of the system at one time or the other, were carefully coaxed to remain home while the march was at its peak. And yet again, commentators 0, government 1.

The Teachings of Empty Barrels

With Nigerians, this is a point of excellence. It appears on this list for no other reason than the fact that development will hardly happen in the manner the average man thinks. A day out in the streets and one finds a landscape permeated by a lot of misconceptions on governance and politics. Assertions which derive no validity from evidence are thrown around and the most ridiculous of them win. These scenarios which are certainly not devoid of their own entertainment value are also potential catalysts for trouble. It is quite simple for anybody with thimble-sized influence to go live on the media and spew anything he finds  the masses willing to believe. It is also this dearth, or mere inattention, to information that leads to a spread of fake news and consequential damage to societal fabric. Thus said, where the imagination of the common man leads him to think one thing which is not the realistic way of administration, he asserts his barely baked knowledge, propels others to believe it, and when what is truly right is preached, they ignore it because it is unfamiliar and give no room for eventual progress.

Yet, even as the above should be taken as they are, it is certainly wise to iterate that there is more to be done. Imbibing the values of tolerance, reflective conversations in the mainstream, and attention to obvious details will get us on the path that we all wish to be. It is not for us to do the same thing with the same methods and still be expectant of new outcomes.


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