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Before you condemn Nigerians…

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In morning hours of 8 and 9 in 2008, I was driving down to the city of Vienna for a crucial appointment. On nearing the city I happened on a traffic an unusual scenery along that axis. For some reasons cars on my lane were almost not moving. Then to my consternation, one man swerved right onto the opposing lane, flashing his head light as he surged on. 

Then another and another, moving into anywhere they could use the space to get out of the gridlock. For once, if not for the functioning streetlights, well-marked neat roads, neat and new cars steaming noiselessly while dropping water from their exhaust pipes, I would have sworn that I was in Nigeria. Weirdly, I was enchanted and wished the gridlock could last longer. I confirmed, human beings are basically the same.

What distinguishes a society from the other is just one thing; organization. The capacity to systemize orderliness is not a given. That is why you can lie on the road or floor of the train stations in Austria and Switzerland, but might reconsider such when you are in Italy. This orderliness exists at some levels in different person and societies, a proof that it is innate in man. Yet, if some painstaking factors are not cultivated and sustained, then the orderliness will not be systemized. Two of the factors:

Inculturation: For systematicity in the organization of a society, a culture of orderliness has to be infused into the society. I am often taken aback by people who consider ‘the white man’ special specie in comparison to others, because even the little one with no teeth would not drop a paper on the floor if she does not find a refuse disposal basket. While such people have comparative experiences that suggest such racial enticement, it is the background assumption that disturbs. No society emerged one morning with orderliness and systematicity. 

It was ‘knocked into’ the lives of the people through laws: social and religious. The culpability of such rules was serious. Secondly, consistency in process of such developments was paramount. The system taught kids in school, mothers in natal homes, etc. The process that infused the organization in these societies was not as comfortable as the effects that are now being extolled. Organization is successful through the process of inculturation. This process is guided by the systematic two hands of consistency and rules.

Management of resources: This second factor is as cogent and equally related to the first factor. Organization needs to be sustained, sustenance needs a consistency of resources, and resources need to be managed well. If you enter into a public restroom in the ‘organized’ societies and you are impressed with the tidy state of things there, do not heap all your gratitude to ‘excellent’ people making use of it, rather more of the gratitude should go to the managerial quarters who employ and supervise the workers who clean the restrooms at intervals. 

A day without the attention of the cleaners in places like universities or schools, or even in private homes, will convince you of the necessity of management if organization is to be achieved. This management presupposes a control system which puts everybody in check. Everybody; including the managers of the system.

So, before you lament how ‘criminal-minded’ and unorganized Nigerians are, consider the history of the country with regard to these two factors. These factors have been wantonly relegated.

Picture a typical day of an average Nigerian. He is woken up at midnight, by the tingling buzz of some mosquitoes who have zealously resumed their discomforting duty, or by the heat that has invaded his body because his generator has run out of fuel and shut itself down. He wrestles with discomfort, waiting for the first ray of the day to leave the house. Disgruntled, he jolts himself out of his somber mood with splashes of limited water. Opens the bonnet of his car, checks the oil, tops the water, and turns the car on, but it would not start, again. 

Cursing, he is enraged with the mechanic who collected money from him yesterday and assured him it was okay. Mocking and sympathizing neighbors push it for him down the road, again, to enable him start it. He is already wet from sweat, even before he started for his working place. He has to stop at a petrol station for some fuel. The station that sells ‘normal’ has a queue that could go round the city thrice. He decides for another station so he could be on time to work. He pays with frowned face, sighing as he is counting out the money to pay. 

As if he has not had enough for the day, the traffic jam would seem to be waiting specifically for him. Everywhere is rowdy, drivers shouting at each other, horns blaring, cars scratching and their drivers exchanging few fists before they are separated, and his time is ticking away in this pandemonium. By the time he gets to work, he could need a nap and some nerve calming tablets. And he is just half way into the day. Yet, he jumps right into work. He is a Nigerian. And if he has a family to carter for, do the imagination.

I tend to believe that there are no human beings in the world, besieged by such rough social and economic conditions, who would not be driving the opposite direction, blasting their car horns to get people off the congested street, stretching a hidden, rumpled note of Naira into the hand of the police officers who have blocked a four-lane into a half of a single lane, just to avoid been kept by the side for hours, agitated and unnerved, ready to transfer accumulated frustration and anger, etc.

Some wonder how Nigerians manage to joke and be happy. I do not. Survival is a natural instinct. Resignation is a necessary adaptive mode of the inhabitants of Nigeria. Most times, people do not realize that they have become indifferent to what used to be plights. They have been drowned in the unyielding consistency of frustrating disorganization. 

They only realize their passivity when a new person complains about the situation, exposing the level of sufferance they have resigned to. Their Psychological function has automatically been conditioned to survive Nigeria through resignation, and jokes. So, when there is no power, they bring out their mats and tell jokes outside instead of complaining against the power supply system. When the government schools are in shambles, they send their children to private schools instead of demanding standard public schools. They simply become Nigerians.

Unless the process of systematic organization is taken seriously and enkindled, maybe re-enkindled, we have to make the best out of the disorganization. Nigeria is an example of a successful disorganization. History lauds WAI (War Against Indiscipline) of 1984, Governor Ike Nwosu of the old Abia state, etc. as examples of people who intended orderliness in the society.

Yet again, the shortcomings of inconsistency subdued that progress. Organization must be inculturated and managed. This two factors are not carried out with gloved hands. They are culpably followed. Unless there is readiness on the part of the government to inculturate organization and a systematic consistency in the management of organization, then it is of no use lamenting over Nigerians.

K. C. Nweke


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