Who Are We? Who We Are, A Schizophrenic Nation

Olugbenga Jaiyesimi

Olugbenga Jaiyesimi

Olugbenga JAIYESIMI 08123709109 jerry3jaiye@gmail.com

At the defeat of the Germans in 1945 and uncovering of the holocaust, in-depth soul searching was done on German soul by philosophers and sociologists. With this was fashioned a new constitution for Germany. The same was done for the Japanese leading to what they termed a pacifist constitution.

Can nations be psychoanalyzed or profiled? Is there a role for psychoanalysis at a macro developmental level? In October 2002 a clinical psychologist turned economist was awarded the Nobel prize in economics for his work in behavioral microeconomics. I believe this should be carried into developmental economics with the need to analyze nations and maybe categorize them as we characterize people, being phlegmatic, introverted, extroverted, etc.

There is nothing novel about this, somewhere in the archives of the British is a document by Lord Lugard profiling the peoples living in and around the lower river Niger area. Could this psychoanalysis have informed the choice of direct rule in an area of the colony and indirect rule in another area?

Should we march into ‘heavy lifting’ to transform our nation without us first knowing who we are? Not knowing who we are might be responsible for the failure of earlier euphoric plans like the LAGOS PLAN of 1980 and NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development) of 2002. I have seen new documents like the AU 2063 Agenda, the AFCTA, or the German Marshall Plan for Africa. Lofty plans but not taking into account who we are. Meaning the Marshall plan that worked in Europe could fail in Africa. Also, should we write  or copy constitutions for ourselves without understanding who we are and the full package and baggage of our history?

Not having done the above have we not become a schizophrenic nation? We say we are a republic but monarchs hold sway across the country. We say we are a secular nation but religious considerations directs affairs of state. We say we are a federation but have organized our polity along unitary lines for years. We jettisoned the British parliamentary system and adopted the US presidential system without it’s Bill of Rights that protects citizens from government.

We end up with force, not equity or justice, being determinant of who is right, and most often politicians in government have the force. We say the private sector should drive the economy but we tie the hands of the private sector with government interventions and regulations calling it government oversight. We say corruption will kill us off but expect our brothers and friends in government to come out of service much richer! Woe onto anyone who holds political office and leaves still average.

We also have to contend with the bitter clash between two civilizations well represented in Nigeria, Arabic and Western. This clash we have glossed over to our consternation.

How can we psychoanalyze or profile a society? Is it a job for sociologist or psychologist? There is a sphere where we all meet and interact without labels and we exhibit traits that cut across all sections and tribes of society, interactions on our roads where we have the articulated vehicles, the tricycles, motorbikes, and pedestrians. This is a representation of society that can be analyzed. In fact, our total transport ecosystem is a crucible for national soul analysis. So, allow me to use this crucible to answer that crucial question, WHO ARE WE?

Let’s begin with the mighty articulated vehicle drivers. On Nigerian roads as in the polity and I dare say in courts of justice, might is right. Just as our police units can ‘kill and go’ our articulated vehicles are not expected to have functional brakes so all other road users better make way when they blare their horns anytime these kings of the road approach any junction.  The rule of right of way seems not to hold for articulated vehicles. The SUVs vehicles in turn muscle out ordinary saloons and sedans, while sedans have no regard for tricycles who in turn have little regard for pedestrians. This says a lot about us and how we abuse power when in positions of authority.

Some owners of haulage vehicles have given orders to their drivers to crush buses or smaller vehicles to cushion impact and reduce damage to their vehicles at the expense of lives in smaller buses. To enforce this the drivers are made to drop assets which they forfeit if the driver fails to comply. This sorry state was narrated to me by someone who as a passenger heard a driver chastise the driver of another truck who had run into a road divider rather than crush a smaller vehicle. This blood-curdling state can be multiplied many times over in many sectors and spheres of our country, inhumanity of man to man.

Would the decent peoples of this country say we are unaware of the situation of driver’s licenses being sold and delivered to prospective drivers in their sitting rooms? This says a lot about us. In saner climes, this scandalous behavior will lead to the fall of governments!  In Nigeria no public outcry, everyone participates in the charade. Same for public examinations with special centers where invigilation is loose and students are allowed to cheat.

Roundabouts were introduced on Nigerian roads in the early 1960s. Drivers were taught the universal rules of right of way at such junctions. This rule held true for quite a while but as city traffic grew our peculiarities crept in. New entrants at the roundabouts began to compete with the cars at the roundabouts by edging into the way. This was in complete contrast with what happens in ‘mother country’, there cars come to a halt at roundabouts and only move in when no vehicle is at the facility.

Fast forward to what is happening now, those at the roundabout now give way to a fast approaching entrant! A universal traffic law has been turned on its head in our blessed country and life continues as though nothing is amiss.

When last did an incoming driver respond to your signal to dim his car headlights? Rarely. Manifestation of our disdain for others and a breakdown of common courtesy. Isn’t this who we are? Articulated vehicles, trailers we call them, have their headlamps in the middle, no more at edges, meaning oncoming drivers could easily mistake them for a motorcycle or tricycle. Some position their lights right at the top so one might just think it’s an aircraft’. How about our penchant for throwing out of our vehicle windows wrappers, plastic bags, bottles such that our highways have become ‘ugly’. This lack of aesthetic appreciation can be saying more than we think about our internal aesthetics – our very souls.

Environmental Sanitation Day ESD was introduced about forty years ago (1984) but what do we have? Littered streets, highways and littered neighborhoods. By now our environment should be a sight to behold but it is not. Every last Saturday of the month we are reminded of ESD but the country remains littered up. The sore point is our not asking what we are doing wrong? As in most things the ESD was never thought through, it was imposed by military fiat and it has not been imbibed into our subconsciousness for it to percolate into the culture of our society.

Hooting to alert and warn of impending catastrophe has, after years of its abuse by light-fingered drivers who make music with their horns,  lost its usefulness. Nigerians do not react to the hoot of the horn anymore. We are now horn deaf and don’t react to the warning it portends. A lot of other things have lost their usefulness to such habits and behavior in Nigeria.

Is it all gloom and doom? Where are the bright spots? The happiest people in the world, resilient and really one of the most entrepreneural race. Also academically gifted people making professorships all over the world. Quoting Lord Frederick Lugard, he also said this about us, ‘fond of music, naturally courageous, courteous and polite’Yes we have our strengths, our diversity is a strength but our negatives will keep on bringing us down until we mitigate them.


To be continued.

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