By Patrick Chiazor
Dear beautiful African,
Like me, you’ve probably wondered why we Africans are always behind the rest of the world in almost everything: sports, science, entertainment, technology, research, education, entrepreneurship – you name it.
Well I’ve come to conclude that there’s one thing that still holds us back from really becoming all that we can be, individually and collectively. It has to be one major underlying thing that cuts across every area. How else do you explain this lag?
If a child passes 7 out of 10 courses, it’s understandable – he’s simply not good in the 3 he failed. What happens when he fails the 10? You start to check his living conditions, the school itself, his mental state, etc, because there has to be a more fundamental problem.
We cannot continue to attribute our position globally to bad leadership anymore, or corruption. It just isn’t enough to answer why we are behind in almost everything.
This one thing is so deep-rooted, making it a bit hard to change, but because it’s just one main thing that encompasses all others, it’s still easy to change – it’s simply our mentality!
I believe it ties to almost, if not everything! Corruption, the bad leadership we complain about, poverty, illiteracy, all tie to our mentality. Women’s rights – our belief that women belong in the kitchen and ‘the other room’; the belief that only women should be the ones doing the chores; where a girl is raped and people are asking what she was wearing that made the man rape her – mentality!
It’s our mentality that makes us so judgemental and sometimes hypocritical. If you doubt that we are hypocritical, watch this: 92% of the Kenyan population agree that homosexuality is ‘unacceptable’, while having sex “against the order of nature” in the country can carry a prison sentence of up to 21 years.
Yet, Kenya once topped the Google trends rankings for both ‘gay sex pics‘ and ‘gay porn pics‘, with an extraordinarily high search index.
South Africa came second, followed by Nigeria (ah, our holy Nigeria) and Pakistan – with the US and UK (the ‘Western’ world that are imposing their ‘bad morals’ on us ) ranking a distant seventh and eighth. How do you explain this?
We need to stop judging others. I’m different from you doesn’t mean I’m better than you. Variety remains the spice of life. If it doesn’t hurt, why am I so bothered? Live and let live.
Do not mistake mentality for culture, tradition, roots. I’m ALL for Africa. I love Africa. No one should lose sight of their origin, but still, you should drop the things that are stopping you from moving forward.
Dear beautiful Africans, with regard to this mentality, here are some things to note:
Not everything shoved down your throat must be accepted
Hook, line, sinker, and even the fisherman himself – that’s how gullible we can be. We need to ask more questions. I’ve noticed that we are many times, okay with the status quo. We are not explorers, we are not adventurous. Don’t say, ‘Oh that’s who we are, why must we change to be like the Westerners’. I’d tell you why. Because that’s what you need to invent. That’s how you discover, that’s how you survive. That’s how we got to the Moon! We will continue to play catch-up until we start to get more inquisitive and discover more things on our own.
Ask any student who discovered the river Niger, and up till date, they’d say Mungo Park. It wasn’t until centuries later that the legendary Fela argued that Africans were already using, living by and around the river long before Park came. Vice President of Nigeria, Osinbajo also recently said that people were already fishing there before Park’s grandfather was born. Our teachers never stopped to ask, ‘how did a man discover a river that had been there with people around it for years upon years’?
We cannot simply swallow everything we have been told. Answers are only gotten when questions are asked.
Dear beautiful Africans, please let’s ask more questions.
Religion is not going to save you
I’m writing more extensively on a different post on religion, so I won’t dwell on it here – simply stay tuned.
Here’s the thing – the more you can achieve without help, the less you depend on another; the richer you are, the less likely you are to ask another for money; the more you prepare for an exam, the less likely you are to ask someone for answers during the exam.
Can you tell where I’m going?
The more advanced a society is economically, socially, politically, mentally, the less likely you are to search for ‘supernatural’ help.
Imagine you had good roads, electricity, food, jobs, good housing… everything going for you, what will your prayer point then be? Mostly thanks giving and lifestyle preaching. You won’t need to spend 3 hours per service because you have 1001 things to ask for.
Here, we have more to pray about, because we have very little going for us. Then we add ‘enemies’, because of course, we cannot be the cause of our own problems – some supernatural forces (that are not in advanced climes, somehow) have to be behind our backwardness.
I’m not at all saying you should not be religious, all I’m saying is that there is more to life, to success, to moving forward, than religion – than prayer.
Dear beautiful Africans, religion will not save you.
Suport your own
After a lot of struggling in your local country, you finally become a rich man, with a lot of disposable income. Your new car is German, your clothes are now Italian, all of a sudden, Egusi and Oha soup now taste funny, so you only eat Chinese. You send your kids to school in London, your chairs are Italian leather, your perfumes are Arabian – and you’re wondering why the economy is not growing. Meanwhile, your friends, relations, neighbours, are struggling to sell their items to you, but you will rather buy on Amazon. You’re only making the struggle of the next man even harder than yours.
Picture a tug of war between two teams – Africa and the rest of the world. Now this is a ‘trade war’. Buying these foreign things means you are queuing behing the rest of the world to throw in all your weight, against your own people. That’s exactly what it is!
See what Trump is doing in America. They will do everything they can to ensure their money stays within their economy. Just ask any economist, the dangers of excessive importation.
We have to believe in our own and then show support. Was very impressed by the hashtag that trended a while ago – #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira. We should never forget that!
Dear beautiful Africans, don’t only show support when it’s soccer or jollof war.
Parents, stop inhibiting your children’s self-expression
Many of our children are simply not exposed. Put the average Nigerian child (remember the average Nigerian is POOR) beside the average American, and the Nigerian child will stare at the American child in utter amazement, like he were an immaculate conception.
We teach our children not to talk when we go out, all in the name of self discipline – they end up timid. We do not let them ask certain questions because we think it’s ‘rude’ – they end up lost and confused in a mysterious world. We let them go through life without answers; answers that we could easily provide them with, forgetting that they will simply go elsewhere to get these answers – answers that may be wrong.
We do not let them live their lives, we do not let them love who they want, we do not let them be what they want. We, many times, do not give them much of a choice. We tell them the tribe, religion, type of family to marry from, and expect them to be happy. Even when we realise they’re unhappy, we force them to stay back for the selfish reason of not tarnishing your image.
How can they be who they should be? How can they fulfil their potential? How can they compete with their peers in other climes? How?!
We do not teach them about financial literacy. We believe exposing them to money at an early age will make them become ‘greedy’.
We do not ask them how they feel. Sometimes when we do, we do not care how they feel.
We do not randomly remind our kids sometimes, that we love them…..
It’s a common saying among Nigerian parents: ‘you have grown wings right?’. Yes, dear beautiful African parent. How else is your kid supposed to fly? How?
Respect should not be by age alone
So obviously I’m just throwing this in. It’s not one of the main problems of Africa. This is my blog anyway, not the NY Times♂️.
So, why should I respect you? Is it because you are 5 years older than me? In Africa, yes! Here’s the thing – everyone deserves what I call a ‘base level’ of respect. For example, for being human, we all start at say, 20 out of 100. So if one has achieved absolutely nothing in life, I will still treat them with that base level respect because he is human and deserves to be treated right.
Now, for every 5 years you add in age, I may add say 5 level points. So if this man is 60 years old and has achieved nothing, I’d still call him ‘sir’, get up for him to sit down, etc. Why? Because his age has ‘earned’ (pay attention to this word) him ‘extra’ respect.
So, a 20 year old boy, who is CEO of a multi-million dollar company will have more respect than a 20 year old boy who is in 300 level and has good grades, who will have more respect than a 20 year old boy who sits at home doing nothing, and with no source of income, and not willing to work.
The point is, respect is EARNED! Yes, your age will add you some extra points to your base level respect, but you have to do something with your life to add even more points and earn people’s respect. Do not think that because you are 3 years older than someone, automatically, you will be worshipped. That’s the mentality I grew up with in Africa – people thinking age is everything.
In reality, besides age, people need a reason to respect you. When they call your name, what can be said about you? ‘Oh that guy is 40 years old’, is not enough anymore.
I’m not obligated to greet you first because you are older than me. Anyone can acknowledge the presence of the other. The way we treasure greeting is just amazing to me. Maybe it’s just me.
Africa truly is blessed – abundant resources, beautiful people, so much potential, but the way we think at times, stops us from moving forward.
In conclusion, picture a situation where, as Africans, based on the points raised above:
1. we are asking questions, doing more research, and not swallowing everything and being okay with what we know and where we are
2. we are not relying solely on the supernatural, but we are equally proactive and forward thinking
3. we are allowing our children to fulfil their potential, and everyone is performing at optimum level, with passion and drive
4. we are supporting our own 100% – 1.2 billion Africans behind your business. Do you think anything will change?
The whole idea of this post is not to condemn anyone, as no one is perfect, the idea is to sensitize us to change the way we think, so we can move forward.
What do you think our problem is? Have a different view? Please let me hear from you.
Do you know any African that needs to read this? Then please share!
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