Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Road not taken

Hi all, 
Enjoy. Have a blessed week

We are all fascinated with heroes and heroines. I fantasize about becoming superhuman and saving the world. I guess that is why the Marvel movies (Dark Knight, Iron man, Avengers, and now Superhuman) resonate with us. I find it interesting that people would believe in Spider-man types  than believe  that Jesus is the Saviour. We even call miracles- Providence! I watch these movies and see similarities in the characters and the faith i profess. The only difference is that Jesus would not destroy property to save 2 people. Some scenes and quotes in Superman have stuck with me so here we go. 
-  Jor el's ( Russel Crowe) speech on freedom of choice
- After Clark was bullied, his dad asked how he was doing and he says "Dad I wanted to hurt him, I wanted to hurt him bad and his dad replied then what and said  "You’re not just anyone.  One day, you’re going to have to make a choice.  You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be.Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world"
" Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first, the trust part comes later"
"People are afraid of what they don't understand"

The road less travelled
There are two routes that link the highway home. I noticed that there is always traffic on the straight and smooth road home whilst the bumpy-three-potholes- route has no traffic. I have ruminated on why people wait in that traffic for the green light when the other route is faster. I have attributed drivers' behaviour to 2 things. First, the road is smoother and second is the i-am-already-here- let's-just- wait mentality and its sister what-if-the-other-side-is blocked. I believe people adopt the same attitude towards life. We fear changes, we are content in our comfort zone and would avoid the uncertainty of trying a new path. Like Robert Frost wrote in the Road not Taken, Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference. For me, the difference is that I get home in good time.

Answers anyone
Why do we start requests with "Sorry to bother you" "Apologies for disturbing you" and still go ahead with the request?
Why does the brazenness of "First Lady's" office  increase as a new first lady emerges? We thought there was no one like Mariam Abacha, there was respite with Fati Abubakar and since then, successive first ladies have surprised us with the powers they commandeer. 

See you next week.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One day

The Rhodes- Vivour Kidnap incident had an amusing element. Newspapers reported that though the family paid the demanded ransom, the Rhodes- Vivours were not released because the families of the other kidnapped victims were yet to pay. They were held till all families paid. At the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations, a placard read “one day the poor would have nothing left to eat but the rich”. That time is here in Nigeria. We appear to be sitting ducks waiting our time.Recently, a family who went to pick up their son from the airport lost their ten year-old son to a stray bullet; a man was shot dead on a Sunday morning whilst trying to protect his wife from men harassing her at an ATM; a colleague whose parent was kidnapped was not released till a ransom was paid; 16 students and teachers were murdered in the North.  We have heard so many stories of kidnap, bombings and assault that we have become numb and resigned. All we do is hold our hands up to God to protect us. I wonder if the government’s failure to be responsible gives people the right to feel entitled.
The question to answer is what do we do? For the individual, it is to be careful and cautious. For those who have relationships with people in power, this is the time to tell them to do right because once you leave your house, your fate is the same as the next man’s. That said, the solution to this problem lies with the government. The state of insecurity we are in today is the result of our leaders' failure to use resources to create value and  benefits for the people. Our leaders have created pockets of wealthy people, such that the chasm between the "haves" and "have-nots" is so wide that the haves-not have given up hope and turned on the hustling haves. Yet our leaders are not insulated because they would not hold offices forever.Whilst there are other factors responsible for the present state of insecurity, I believe that economic deprivation and poverty plays a large role in where we are. The earlier our arrested development problem  is addressed, the better for us. The government has to  invest in infrastructure - physical and institutional - that allows people engage in more productive activities. All things being equal, if I am assured of power; available and decent transport, affordable and liveable housing; good roads, good hospitals with working facilities, and a legal and enforcement system that is just, I would not wake up one morning and kill another being because I am frustrated or feel threatened.I am assured that with all our flaws, a significant number of Nigerians are hard-working and creative. It is not in our culture to be lazy or dependent. The Yorubas say “the well-being of the tree, is the well-being of the bird”. Governors are allocated huge amounts as monthly security votes; these monies should be put to better use than patronage. Creating safety nets for all and not just a few family members and friends who do not benefit, anyway (getting your distant cousin on poverty alleviation programme or giving her N20,000 is not a viable means of survival).I believe that Nigeria’s development phase  is at the right time because other nations have gone before us and have created examples of what to do and what not to do to develop. Ours should be a case of picking a dress at a store and fitting it to suit us.
I close with the words of Joseph Stiglitz “development is not about helping a few people get rich or creating a handful of pointless protected industries that only benefit the country’s elite; it is not about bringing in Prada and Benetton, Ralph Lauren or Louis Vuitton, for the urban rich  and leaving the rural poor in their misery….. Development is about transforming societies, improving the lives of the poor, enabling everyone to have a chance at success and access to health care and education”.One day the poor would have nothing left to eat but the rich.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Nigerian Character- A mini explanation.

Hello people, 
Been a minute- actually more than a minute. 

Many times I  wonder why we act the way we do. For instance, I know I cannot afford something yet when I am asked, I say yes. 
Abraham Maslow a psychologist famous for "the theory of Human motivation" writes that there are 5 stages of human needs- biological & physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteem needs and self- actualization needs. These needs are divided into deficiency (d-needs) and being (b- needs). Deficiency needs are physiological, safety, belonging and esteem needs.  Maslow asserts that because we lack these needs we always want to fulfill them else we are dissatisfied. He also says that these needs are addressed in a linear manner. Thus, when i meet my physiological (food, shelter, clothing) needs, I move to safety ( job security) needs until I achieve esteem and self-actualization needs. However, I believe that our physiological, safety and belonging needs are intertwined.
You should already wonder why this short course in psychology.  I am interested because:
1) I am trying to understand corruption's staying power and why it seems impossible to tackle 
2) I wonder why people are quick to become Christian-in-name-only, join a club and keep up with the Joneses.   
Why you'd ask? Apart from using corrupt means to satisfy basic physiological and safety needs, being involved in corruption can also help a Nigerian meet their love/belonging needs. There are numerous examples of how people disregard their values for the fear of being ostracized or labelled by others. 
A politician once blamed Nigerians for  making them steal public funds to meet their demands -from requests to sponsor a party to paying of school fees. I read a book where the author - a non- Nigerian married to a Nigerian- felt the need to speak to a colleague on behalf of his niece  who did not meet the required marks for admission into University. He felt compelled because years before he did not "help" her get into the secondary school of her choice. That the author attempted to be a good in-law inspite of his reservations is a nod to our need for belonging and the extent we would go to get it.
In addition, humans try to keep up with the Joneses. Nigeria appears to be a special case. From the middle class who take loans to finance unaffordable lifestyles, people who become Christians and attend certain churches because that is the cool thing to doto the artisan who rents/buys aso-ebi though his children's fees are yet to be paid shows how we emphasize the material aspects of relationships and how it defines who we are. 
To my mind, Maslow's theory explains a lot about our  Nigerian character and values. These shared traits has become systemic and affects our overall wellbeing. It is said that little drops of water make a mighty ocean. Therefore, redefining what is important to us, saying No when we can't and Yes when we can, letting others realize that there is more to us and more to them with or without (the) Pradas and Kenneth Coles can help us as a society change our attitudes.
As I close,next time someone comes to borrow money, you ask why and she says I want to pay for "aso-ebi" and you wonder why- Maslow may have the answer.