As a Nigerian, you are likely to meet two types of people as you travel outside the country, even to Benin Republic that is just a stone’s throw from Nigeria. One, you are likely to meet people who are friendly with you because you are from this soccer-loving country called Nigeria; and you probably have a lot of money to throw around mercilessly. This set of people will flock around you, talk with you, and tell you a lot about their country. They take keen interest in you.
Two, you are almost certain to meet people who are so suspicious of you. They want to be careful in talking to you. They will most likely perceive you as a fraudster (419ner) or drug trafficker. They watch your steps. They whisper. And they check their belongings every now and then to ensure that you have not stolen anything from them.
It is quite unfortunate that many foreigners have a negative perception of Nigerians, and they fail to see the good side of these wonderful black people. Yes, I very much agree that there are a number of unscrupulous Nigerians who tarnish the image of the country every now and then. But they are few in number considering the large population of the country. This is a country of over 150 million people. If, for instance, only 10% of the population, just 10%, have some bad traits; that small percentage gives a whopping 15 million people. Just imagine! That number is more than the population of some six to ten West African countries put together!
Let me confess that this is the third time I am attempting to write this post. I cancelled the first draft midway as it became clear to me that some readers could accuse me of siding with Nigerians because I am one of them. In it, I spoke glowingly about Nigerians and what I love about my countrymen. But I later realized that my points might not go down well with some people. I reckoned that I could be accused of being partial in my analysis.
So I started another draft. Again, I deleted the article towards the end. Why? It looked like a “complaint sheet,” yet the intention is not to complain but to bring out those things that can help you identify a typical Nigerian. I felt that many people would accuse me of placing too much emphasis on the negative aspects of my fellow brothers (and sisters). It became a dilemma!
Now that I’m on the third attempt, I will try to balance the equation. I will also try to make the article as light as possible by writing straight from the heart, stopping after identifying ten characteristics of Nigerians.
Of course, I don’t expect you to see each of the ten traits highlighted here in every Nigerian. But I can assure you that they are all easily recognizable among the generality of Nigerians. All you need do is a simple exercise. Gather 20 Nigerians together and observe them for a while. I can bet (with my one year gross income) that you will find not less than 18 of them having more than seven of these attributes.
Now, let’s start.
1. Working Spirit
How else can you describe workers who continue to work very hard and still receive pittance as salaries? Some even keep working for months without receiving any pay, believing their employer’s constant assurances that all outstanding entitlements would “soon be settled.” Boy, what a wonderful spirit!
If a Nigerian is into his personal business, he is ready to sacrifice everything to make the business a success. This applies to the womenfolk as well. Many are women who toil day and night, on the streets and in the markets, to make ends meet. The endurance level of Nigerians is terrific.
Ah aah! I’m at a loss on how to classify this. But it must be said. Nigerians believe so much in enjoyment. They work hard; they play hard. Every evening, every weekend, and every holiday is enjoyment galore for Nigerians. Is anyone still wondering why we were once conferred with the title of “the happiest people in the world?”
Don’t get me wrong; my definition of “enjoyment” here does not equate “relaxation.” To people from other lands, what an average Nigerian calls enjoyment is actually a form of stress. But that is who we are. We love partying. We love dancing. We celebrate almost everything; birthdays, weddings, “house warming,” burial, purchase of a new car, acquisition of a new television etc. We “wash” all that is “washable.” It doesn’t matter if a Nigerian spends all his hard earned income on partying about. It is the norm. He believes that some other money will come his way tomorrow.
Okay, it is true that many don’t believe in attending or organizing parties. Do these people still enjoy? Very well; that’s why pepper soup is sold on almost every street of Lagos. Our man can quietly go there to enjoy his drinks with bowls of goat meat pepper soup. He returns later to tell you about the awful match between Man U and Arsenal that he watched at “that joint.”
Believe me, Nigerians, most especially the ladies, are great lovers. They stick to relationships. It is true that divorce takes place here and there, but Nigerians generally keep their home. Divorce rarely crosses their minds. Even when things are so tough at the home front, a Nigerian would rather continue to endure because of his/her name that must not be “spoilt.” A woman would rather increase her prayer level to keep her home. She would become submissive and more tolerating just to ensure that things work out. That is a Nigerian for you.
Do the men go astray? You bet! If you, however, happen to be a mistress to a married Nigerian man, you must be ready to cope with his frequent reference to his wife in your presence. Be prepared to hear, “My wife did this, my wife did that…” from him. But don’t blame him; it is the bond between them. Don’t stab him with a kitchen knife out of jealousy. Lady, this man still loves his wife. He’s only gone astray, temporarily.
And does he still perform his marital obligations at home? For sure, he does. He can’t joke with his family. And, mark my words, unlike what obtains in other lands where husbands disappear into thin air for weeks or months without returning home, a Nigerian man will surely return to his wife and children. And he won’t keep too long. Give him a maximum of 24 hours, he will be back. You must also pray that the wife does not catch you with her husband.
I am yet to understand why Nigeria is not called “God’s own country.” This is a country where everybody is so religious. You are either a Christian or a Muslim. If you are not, then you must believe in one of the gods of the land. But Christians and Muslims dominate the country with each making reference to God at every given opportunity.
Am I then postulating that my people are so holy? Are they so clean? No, they are not; they pray fervently, they quote the Bible or Quran ardently, they fast enthusiastically, but they are not that holy. There is a difference between being religious and being holy. Many of my people, and indeed a great many, are hypocrites. They don’t live there religion. Maybe this is one of our dark sides which I don’t like talking about. But it is the truth. We all rush to the churches and mosques, but our behaviors don’t always correspond with our religious leanings. It’s quite a shame, honestly.
It’s in our genes. Nigerians are sharp witted. We are so intelligent. I think this is one of the reasons why some foreigners are on guard when they are with us. Before you think of one way of solving a problem, a Nigerian has given you ten possible solutions! Even the fraudulent acts that Nigerians are often accused of emanated my people’s hyper-intelligence.
I am yet to see any phone that Nigerians cannot unlock. I am still looking for that computer system they cannot dismantle and rebuild within few hours. That is intelligence at work! The only sad aspect is that my people are usually identified with those negative things done by the few criminals among us. They often remember those email scams, but fail to notice that a Nigerian called Bayo Ogunlesi recently acquired London Gatwick airport for about £1.5 billion. They remember a Nigerian that attempted to bomb a plane in the US; but fail to notice that John Dabiri, a 30-year-old Nigerian Biophysicist and Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering, recently won the $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship award. I can go on and on to mention others, but these two examples are enough to tell you that we bear special genes of intelligence as Nigerians.
I said it earlier. We were named the happiest people in the world not too long ago. As happy people, Nigerians are very accommodating and tolerating, most especially to foreigners. Never a dull moment with Nigerians! In an attempt to openly display affection, Nigerians are often accused of being too loud. Foreigners complain that we don’t know how to lower our voice when talking about things we are passionate about. But that’s something about joy. It is meant to be openly expressed. So, if you happen to be at the airport or any other public place and you suddenly notice a black man or black woman talking loudly on the phone, don’t feel offended. S/he may be a Nigerian who has probably received great news and cannot hide it. That is who we are.
But there is a flip side to this point. As accommodating as Nigerians are, they can also be unruly in some cases. Just take it easy with that man who is shouting on you at the counter because you are not attending to him quickly. Bear with him, he can be quite impatient. Mind you, though, he doesn’t make any enemy. He immediately becomes your friend when you are done with him. And try this for a size: he doesn’t mind leaving you with as much as $100 dash (tip). Surprised? Don’t be; Nigerians are so accommodating and they love giving.
Another key characteristic of Nigerians is confidence. Nigerians are bold; very, very bold. We are ready to try new things. We are ready to take up challenges. Nigerians believe that nothing is impossible. Even when he does not have a clue as to what the outcome would be, a Nigerian assures himself that God will lead the way. “God will take control,” he says. And this goes for both men and women, young and old.
I observe that the boldness in our blood has also been one of our sins in the eyes of some foreigners. When a Nigerian shows boldness, he’s perceived as been too proud. He’s viewed as been too brass and bragging. No, he doesn’t mean any of those. He simply wants to convince everyone that the project is “doable.” He wants you to give him a chance to try; that’s all.
Wow! Do I start from our men or women? Either way, great fashion smells in us. We are a fashion conscious people; we want to put on the best shirt, the best ties, the best shoes – the best of everything.
I need not talk about our women anyway. Their fashion-centric nature is well known to the whole world. They spend fortunes to look good; though the money comes from us men in most cases. But we don’t complain because we admire our women when they finish decorating their beautiful bodies with those gorgeous dresses. Be it traditional or Western dresses, our women are wonderful in them. If you are not convinced, simply take a look at the Facebook pictures of our women. Alternatively, attend any of the numerous Lagos parties next Saturday, or visit the nearest church on Sunday. You will praise the Heavens for creating Nigerian women.
Nigerians want to be treated with dignity; both when alive and at death. You don’t address a Nigerian anyhow. If you do, he would call you to order immediately.
Why do you think the elderly ones among us leave instructions behind on how they should be buried when they are gone? They value their dignity so highly. Some will even tell you that their corpse must never be taken to the mortuary, because that is a “general house” for dead bodies.
Each of the over 400 ethnic groups in the country has unwritten codes on respect. You must address your parents in some special way, you must greet whoever is your senior in a respectful manner, you must observe some respectful protocols when in a gathering of elders etc. The codes are many, and they all underscore the value that Nigerians place on respect.
This point reminds me of a popular song by one of the Nigerian artistes, Bright Chimezie. He sang, “In Nigeria o, you don’t just say ‘good morning’ and walk away….” Yes, as a Nigerian, there are other things you must say after greeting someone, “good morning.” You must ask after the person’s father, mother, children, brothers, sisters, wife…dogs, goats, chickens…, name it. You must find out if they are all doing okay. Wonderful people we are!
I still have more things to say about Nigerians, but I will end with this one; Nigerians like travelling. It doesn’t matter where he is travelling to. It could be to the village, London, Chicago, New York, anywhere. And it does not matter what he goes to do in those places; be it to attend New Yam festival in the village, or to do some shopping in London, he just loves travelling.
I don’t have any data with me here, but I can safely say that Nigerians are one of the most travelled people on earth. It reminds me of one of the good old radio jingles of those days – “London today, Milan tomorrow! And who looks after the children…?”
Now that you have read me, do you have any comment?