In search of ourselves

searchingI was at a public place for relaxation the other day. A group of men and ladies sitting outside overlooking the highway were enjoying themselves and bantering away when, suddenly, one woman amongst the lot stood up and fled inside.

It didn’t take long before the group dispersed. Someone nearby who knew the woman said she fled because her husband drove past in his car and she didn’t want him to see her. Some were in support of her action and others vehemently against. That such action was even one for a “for” and “against” discussion bothered me. We are Nigerians.

Evidence and imprints of foreign culture are everywhere and have subsumed ours even some that are considered worst practices.‬ Brothels housing loose women were in far-flung areas of our cities but today they are in neighbourhoods where we raise children.

Would you dare consider a woman as your bride in the days of yore if you didn’t pay the customary bride price? It was un-African and a taboo. Today, some have found a way to marry in religious institutions whilst abandoning the Nigerian tradition of paying the all-important bride price.

Yesterday you wouldn’t dare be deceitful in marriage for fear of the deity at the village shrine, the high reverence for culture and the marriage institution. On inquisition about your fidelity in such shrines, if found guilty, punishment would be catastrophic.

Today we hide in religious books to willfully commit debaucheries again and again and thereafter seek forgiveness again and again. We forget that “once is a mistake, twice a coincidence and thrice is enemy action.” Many are debauchers more than thrice.

The Nigerian child, three decades ago was never considered a failure for having failed examinations; failure was inevitable, and considered an important step to success. Not now. Parents and society stigmatise children now for exam failures and both society and parents shamelessly aid them to cheat their way to success in examinations.

And so the next generation is groomed to be averse to failure. Little wonder that children do not gain the confidence necessary to take the health risks that our forebears took to achieve onerous goals anymore.How can a nation evolve without mistakes? Freedom, the wise ones say, isn’t freedom if it doesn’t connote freedom to err.

The Nigerian was never a scientific crook. True we had petty thieves around us but we did not allow greed, selfishness and zealotry to permeate and over-consume our entire being. Nigerians believed in community and didn’t call a fellow Nigerian a foreigner.Today, you are either called a “foreigner” or a “stranger.” What message does this convey of a Nigerian man if not that of low self-esteem or the height of inferiority complex. Nigerians hate anything of our own, and that translates to our penchant for anything foreign or outside of us.‬

The day Nigerians jettisoned all our time-tested and value-shared sense of community was the beginning of our downfall. Many pundits have argued that society wasn’t as complex as is today but totally discarding the baby with the bathwater has had a far-reaching consequence on our psycho-social well-being.

Somewhere in Nigeria, there are man-eating communities and nobody seems capable of stopping this barbarous activity.‬Our culture, language, and informal educational system have been traded for the white man’s traditions. We ought to have had a mix of our informal with the formal just as the Indians, Chinese, Arabs and other races did but unfortunately we never paid close attention to our own traditions and let them fade into history. How many parents gather under the bright moonlight to tell inspiring and morally-uplifting stories to their kids inclusive of other kids in the neighbourhood these days? I doubt if the so-called villagers even follow this custom anymore.

Name any system in Nigeria, it belongs to the white man. We are so independent living in houses surrounded with walls that we do not know the owners of and tenants on our streets any longer. You are considered a hill-billy if you are seen drinking palm wine, that cheap Nigerian plonk. It has to be a foreign-made wine.

We must wear wedding rings else society wouldn’t consider us married. The question must be asked, did we even evolve our political system? If it’s not parliamentary, it must be the American model of Presidential.

No wonder our offspring troop to foreign shores. Vicariously, we have impressed it on their sub-conscious that the white man is better and if he’s better, his land must be a paradise to sojourn in.Certainly, we need to retrace our steps and re-calibrate ourselves if it’s our desire to see our future generations survive on self-pride.I recall what my friend, a professor, told me the other day: “In my short stay in the UK, I observed few young Nigerian boys getting married to white ladies and all they do everyday of their life is to stay at home and walk the dog(s) day and night..just to stay abroad. I engaged one of them at the park and he did not mince words in saying it’s better to do this than stay in Nigeria.”

Many lazy Nigerians spend their days in Internet cafes trying to manipulate western women to fleece them off their resources.
As a people, we must make an attempt to refine our culture and our lives, to earn us some measure of respect as a distinct race with self-pride.
• Abah is a teacher, speaker and writer based in Port Harcourt.

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Simon Abah


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