We Nigerians have a disappointing inability to look beyond the short term. The Nigerian Dream consists of chasing imported cars and lavish homes, regardless of those in need.
This shallow and empty dream motivates crime and abuse of power at all strata of Nigerian society. In pursuit of our own material fulfilment, we forget to dream about the common good and the future. What good is having a fancy car if it gets damaged once it hits the uneven, underfunded roads?
Corruption, desensitisation to crime, and poor governance are merely symptoms. Materialism is the disease that causes them.
Furthermore, individualism is a purely Western way of thinking. As several psychologists have found, African societies tend to be more collectivistic than Western societies. This means that we tend to value the needs of society more than our own individual needs.
However, some may claim that collectivism is an unaffordable luxury. “Na condition make crayfish bend”, so poverty forces every individual to pursue solely their interests in order to survive.
This is, however, untrue. Materialism and individualism create an endless feedback loop wherein powerful materialistic individuals steal resources from the rest of the society. The rest of society must then also become materialistic in order to survive the resulting scarcity. To end this vicious cycle, we must break the chain.
A study by psychologists, D.A. Clare and D.R. Cooper indicated that Nigerian business school students place a sense of accomplishment and a comfortable life above all other personal values. These two values are very much compatible with collectivist pursuits.
According to a psychological survey involving three hundred and twenty-two Nigerian business students, ambition was the highest instrumental value. If we harness the Nigerian sense of ambition, it may secure a sustainable and prosperous future for our nation. For once, the onus does not fall on government. It falls on us.
All members of Nigerian society from all tribes, classes and walks of life must purge themselves of the mentality that promotes wealth over all. Once we start to fight for the common rather than the individual good, we will see more collective wealth and individual pride thereof. May God Bless our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokubo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.