Sometimes, the most enduring solutions to problems are rooted in the mental models that feed them. In the same vein, challenges can become more complicated, the more the underlying mental models that support them fail the tests of facts and logic. Common culprits are many of the popular systems of beliefs rooted in tradition, religion, and fads. Coincidentally, we are profoundly cultural and religious people who are also easily swayed by trends. As such, it becomes easy for us to stand some of our actions on ideologies that may be either untrue or misleading. Challenging some of these belief systems, however, are critical in clearing the haze and in better understanding the behavioural structure that underlie the events in consideration. Some years ago, one of my younger brother’s friends wanted to ask me for some financial support. But rather than go straight to the point, he said to me “my brother, I am now rich, and will need your support”. I felt so excited and happy for him and praised God for what he has done. But I was wrong. He was not any wealthier than he used to be. He had to use that choice of words because his church teaches that, presenting himself as lacking money and confessing, the same would cause the manifestation of that situation in his life. And therefore, such confessions should be avoided at all costs. The contradiction, however, is that the avoidance of the disclosure of such unwanted situation would always result in a lie. And thus, more people are taught to deny or hide the actual circumstances of their lives in order not to be victims of that.
So, we mire ourselves in the denial of our realities to avoid the confession of negativity. But that character of denying the fact is commonplace in more amplified levels when our politicians brazenly deny their failure to perform as expected. Unarguably, more than 95% of our political leaders will go to any extent to prove that they are delivering on their mandates when millions of people know and confess otherwise. They find accomplices in the followership who facilitate the denial of the same reality. That is why hundreds of thousands of people still sing hosanna to ignominiously unpopular political leaders despite their well-known atrocities. Many followers are ready to die while lying to defend the shortcomings of these politicians. And so, when they barefacedly divert duly budgeted amounts of money into their private pockets, they receive applause rather than condemnation. When communities that ordinarily should have water lacks the same, the followers help in creating salacious excuses to cover those shameless fiscal robberies. They know that there are no consequences for those actions. Even when these perpetrators receive prompts on the possibility of the prosecution, their usual refrain is “God forbid” or “it is not my portion”. Yes, shamefully we have a mindset that calls on God to ‘forbid’ the consequences of an action that we consciously undertook. This mindset is very much the same with a student truant that gleefully refrains that “it is not my portion” when reminded of class repetition as a possible consequence.
That also tries to explain the “do or die” mentality that appears to underlie our everyday life. The “do or die” mindset hinges on the notion of the ‘end justifying the means’. In other words, what matters most is the achievement of the goal and not the ‘how’ of it. The handprints of this kind of thinking are too evident in our political and economic hustling. Politicians kill and maim countless numbers of persons to manipulate the electoral process and win successfully. People in business infringe on duly signed contracts to close a deal knowing full well that with the illicitly acquired money, they might be able to buy up the law. But these mindsets and the ensuing actions are dynamically vicious and bounce back on all. The first of such is the sustained destruction of the rule of law and the weakening of the justice system upon which the economic life of the country resides. By destroying the strongholds of equity and peace, businesses fail to thrive. Secondly, such actions hijack and silence the rights and voices of the people. With more offenders going scot-free, impunity and lawlessness in the society heighten and becomes a societally acceptable norm.
The result is that doing business becomes increasingly difficult. Without any law holding those that are in power accountable, there will be poor government performance. As such, our physical infrastructure becomes decrepit out of the many years of neglect and abandonment. Certificated but poorly trained graduates populate our job market. The life expectancy rate continues to drop with each passing year. Carnivores of political leaders who have hijacked the entire system consequently beleaguer ordinary people. In the face of all this, there is one narrow way to survive: join the government. Those in government become wealthy easier without making any investment. The only requirement is to possess the “do or die” mentality to secure a political position or appointment. Once in, the new political job may now serve as a platform to drain the system without any blame. It is this state of helplessness that have made many to assume that nothing can work without government. Ascribing the powers to make our country work to government is a failure of mindset. That is why we are yet to free this country. We must use all nonviolent means possible to redefine the mannerisms of government in operation and considerably tame those that control that machinery. In any case, two fundamental structures grow an economy. They are an efficient legal or judicial structure and robust investment banking structure. At present, both structures are defective but can nevertheless be made more independent with the right kind of determination.
Similarly, many also believe that without external financing from institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and so on that we will achieve very little. All that we need them to show us the way. Unfortunately, this thinking has its roots in the colonial brainwash that is pervasive in Africa. It is true that in the pursuit of development that we can register the financial assistance of any institution or country of our choice. However, such support need not originate from developed countries or any such institutions fashioned to achieve their growth objectives at our expense. Today, we are also not only fantastically skilled but have institutions with the right capacity to deliver long-term finances that will provide even better results. Therefore, we have all that it takes to make our country even more exceptional. Very well-trained Nigerian professionals are scattered across the globe and are doing exploits wherever they are. At home, we have the benefit of abundant natural and human resources that can easily attract all the financing required for our development.
The same thinking has made many of our young ones to leave the shores of Nigeria only to find themselves in terrible conditions overseas. Many hitherto brilliant graduates that could have secured employment in some outstanding organisations in Nigeria leave for the so-called greener pastures. A substantial number of them, only discover too late that the best job they could get for themselves outside of the country was to serve as a house help. Some even prefer to become farmers and gardeners in some poorer foreign countries than being well-earning farmers who feed well in this country. Again, the large-scale preference for items that are easily substitutable locally is a mindset failure that is carried over from colonial times. Recently more people are convinced that it is preferred to patronise and consume our locally made foods rather than the nutrient-deficient industrially produced and imported foods. For several decades, elitist consumption has constituted one of the crucial lures underscoring the corruption of our leaders.
Besides, our inexplicable preference for foreign foods and items have now become so ingrained that, many desire to genetically transmute into the white race. That is easily understandable since we have abandoned the taste buds for our meals in place of theirs, embraced their education, religion, dressing, type of government, and so on. But the aspect that has become worrisome is that while we open-heartedly embrace these white-skinned people, we despise and racially profile our people. We have derisive profile labels for each ethnic group in Nigeria and believe that all persons with the DNA of those ethnic groups behave in line with those mythical and unfounded profiles. The Ibo ethnic group are considered to have an excessive love for money and places more importance on it more than the regard they have for any other thing. The Yoruba ethnic group are deceptive and untrustworthy. The Hausa/Fulani ethnic group are uneducated and murderous. Each of these false profiles may be modified depending on the profiler. But the unfortunate thing in all of this is that it frustrates trust and communication which we so badly need to be able to make good progress as Nigeria.
With frustrated inter-ethnic trust and communication, members of each ethnic affiliation feel safe only within their ethnic community. Consequently, racial affinity and ethnicity blossomed. That is also the pillar of the mindset that “he is our own”. Accordingly, “such our own” must be taken care of regardless of who is displaced in the process or defended irrespective of the enormity of the crime committed. Ethnic biases work against the foundations of collective existence under the umbrella of one country. But it is increasingly becoming the norm and the reflection of the failure of mindset. Politicians in power rather than use their offices for the common good see it as a platform to corner collective resources for the betterment of their ethnic groups. Political appointments are brazenly lopsided. Prosecution of crimes against the state is selective in favour of ethnic group members. The citing of significant infrastructure depends on ethnic preferences. The list is endless.
We are all victims of Nigeria’s faulty mental models which can nevertheless be corrected if those at the driver’s seat make the needed overhaul of the mindset.