Cultivating The Nigerian Spirit


Something intrigues me about the average Nigerian, how he makes constant efforts in order to achieve a specific goal. The average Nigerian is steadfast in whatever he does so long as the intended outcome is attained.

I am astonished at the manner Nigerians persist in most of their endeavours in spite of the odds that prevail. Indeed, to most Nigerians, the word “guilt” is eccentric and missing in their lexicon.

The common Nigerian believes that he will succeed whenever he attempts a project. He is prepared to put in all to ensure that he is not counted a failure in the end.

Recently, I was in the company of a group of young boys. In the conversation that ensued, one of them, who had just returned from Australia, narrated how in that country, graduates commit suicide for their inability to secure jobs upon graduating from school. Others perpetrate suicide for their disability to gain admission to the university.

Compare the scenarios to what obtains in Nigeria, where thousand and one reasons exist for one to terminate one’s life. Young Nigerians make repeated attempts to succeed in the unified tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTMs) without success, but don’t give up.

Think about the rising spate of unemployment in the country which has caused unimaginable frustration to our youths and turns the knowledge they acquire from school into utopian ideals. Some Nigerians leave the university or higher institutions with high grades but remain for more than ten years without jobs. These youths are still in search of jobs without giving up.

The apparent frustration faced by the jobless youths causes them to enroll in unsolicited post graduate programmes and become burden to their parents or guardians. This, nevertheless, does not alter the situation. For them life must go on unhindered, job or no job.

Undoubtedly, it was this same spirit that informed Nigerians’ rating as the happiest people in the world in a global survey conducted few years ago. What weighs down people in other countries and occasion them to terminate their lives, hardly has impacted on the average Nigerian given the same variables. Die-hard spirit you would call it, you can’t be wrong.

However, as there are advantages, to these personality traits, so are there disadvantage. But first, the advantages, just as the adage goes: “There is always the tunnel” so are there some sure rewards for one’s ability to persevere.

A case that readily comes to mind is that of Elijah and Elisha as recorded in the Holy Books. Elijah was Elisha’s master.

When it became  clear to the latter that the former would soon be transfigured, he made sure they were in one accord. Even when Elijah repeatedly told Elisha to wait for him till his return from his journey, Elisha declined the offer and rather clung to his master, because he knew he was about to be blessed by his master, but o n one condition. The condition was that he must witness Elijah’s translation to heaven.

His perseverance, however, paid off as he was eventually rewarded with the double portion of his master’s anointing in a befitting proportion.

This is an example of what accompanies perseverance. Let me point out that as one perseveres, one must not lose focus. These qualities are pre-requisites to success. On the other hand, when perseverance is not regularly appraised and received it could lead to hallucination. Psychologists see it as something that could make one fixated both in thought and action.

Unfortunately, our leaders abuse these traits of the Nigerian. They interprete these resilience as weakness, docility and naivety. Is that not the reason corruption thrives as our leaders stare us in the face and stash the people’s money meant for development without question. Is that not why GSM service  providers could afford to render poor services to Nigerians and the heavens do not fall? Is it not for the same reason the government has failed to fix the power problem of the nation many years after the inception of democracy?

But in the midst of these, I have one worry. If a global survey has rated Nigerians at 70 points for optimism and by contrast Britons deeply pessimistic 44, won’t we be denied  aids or grants by the industrialised nations? This is because happiness presupposes contentment and if this logic can be sustained, won’t it mean that the Nigerian is at ease at home?

For the purposes of dialectics, abject poverty in which most Nigerians live and happiness ought to be universally related. But this is Nigeria where anything goes and usually contrary to established norms. This might be why the nation is seen as a summary of a wasted potentiality and extravagant opportunity.

If one looks harder, one may be tempted to conclude that a Nigerian’s optimism is misplaced. This is a country seen as a place where corruption thrives. The  newspapers are filled with sensational allegations of croked officials and mind-boggling haul. Sectarian violence is steadily on the increase. Then, there is grading poverty. To cap it all, there are the advance fee “419” scams richly embedded in the business life of many citizens.

In the visage of these, what in the world makes Nigerians so happy, so optimistic and undoubting in spirit? It is the spirit of entrepreneurship which fuels their optimism.

A Yoruba proverb says: “Jimoh to ma I’oyin, Alamisi le yanma ti mo.” It translates as: “If Friday is to be sweet, you will know by Thursday.” It might not seem that Nigerians have much to be happy about, but they have already seen what Friday holds and this reinforces their resolve and ambition. This is the spirit of a true Nigerian. Let’s us not give up. God dey.


Arnold Alalibo