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.


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