Right now, I don’t think I care much about the state of the country. Perhaps not caring is bad, or maybe I don’t care because I’m too young to understand, or maybe its because it doesn’t affect me directly right now. But the thing is, I am afraid I’m becoming mediocre.
I am starting to accept Nigeria the way it is. Jumping over the hurdles or side stepping them as the case may be instead of blasting them or demanding that they be removed, because someone coming behind me on that same path might not be as fortunate as me.
I think mediocrity has crept into me.
Mediocre is what we Nigerians have learnt to be. Its something that creeps in and settles with all the struggles we have to face daily. It comes from shouting and trying to make a difference. Only to fail so miserably because the system has so many holes. So many holes that people who are walking the straight path end up tripping so many times that they eventually stop walking.
For some, escaping is the way they keep it sane…to keep it all together. A greencard escape to Yankee or now-a-days to Ghana! But what happens to those people who have nowhere else to go but here? What? Do you expect them to walk straight as we watch them stumble miserably from all the potholes? Until they eventually meet a rock/wall so huge that it’ll stop them in their tracks!
Or do you want to raise your children and teach them to walk straight when those potholes are still in existence and watch them stumble and eventually crumble in the face of a rock they have not being taught to deal with?
Nigeria is a society that seems to be best left as it is. We’re all just avoiding the potholes as much as we can and doing the random fist shake at the “government” and then of course moving on. Because you cannot let it get under your skin…because no matter what, you cannot let the disillusionment and resentment in.
Now to keep your head for most times, the semblance of blending in is all that is needed. Blend in too much and you get tagged mediocre. Resist overly and you earn the title activist laced with, of course, the usual disdain that equates that word with “trouble maker” or “rabble-rouser” around these parts. So to survive in Nigeria you need:
1) Chameleon skills. The ability to change your views, values and opinions depending on who’s watching and what you want from them. 5 years in a public university would help you acquire and hone those skills really well. I wonder whether people in private universities learn that too? Maybe I’ll ask, but I won’t make any assumptions…
2) Another option is to be born well connected. Note I didn’t say rich, I said, well connected.
Rich is a relative word. You can be rich in your little backwater town and be isolated from the real world.
The isolation works great if you don’t have any ambition, but then it can become quite a stumbling block if you do.
Because its a system that needs everyone to like you. But the word Like similar to Rich is a relative word, because when I say everyone, I mean the people that count! Which brings me to the next skill.
3) You have to be able to tell the people that count in less than 20 minutes. Any more and you have to resort to a yet another skill.
4) The kissing-ass skill….So you were not able to recognise the supreme authority within the first 20 minutes, all hope is not lost. You can mollify said authority by:
b)calling them mummy or daddy. Note that this particular part can be tricky. You don’t want to call a woman who has refused to accept that she has aged, “mummy”. You’d dig yourself into a bigger hole. Call her “mama”. Like Wizkid, without the sexy of course. I mean I do not need to tell you that. And then you don’t call any man “daddy”. Especially the ones who don’t want to accept the fact that they’re old. If all that doesn’t work, there’s plan
B C the 3rd party approach.
c) You find someone who would like to act as your middleman. Note; if you need successive favours, never go back alone. Until you’ve conducted the test. The test is a foolproof method of checking whether you have passed the beginner stage and reached that of a person that can now bring in another person. Just call said person “mama” or “oga” or “daddy” or “bros” when you don’t need something from them. If they recognise you and are warm, you’re good to go. If not, you’ve got to wait and try again.
5) Now the other thing you need is the ability to let off steam.
Do not assume that I mean letting out all that anger on your bbm pm or your twitter update. You will be tagged as a struggling person and even if they sympathise with you, future connects will stay away from you. And you really don’t want to be the one struggling.
Now to let off steam, you can
a)complain to a friend who understands fully and wants nothing from you. This is done at the risk of having that same friend think you’re struggling.
b)Family, at the same risk and then
c) Your memo pad. Aka, yourself. Just pour it out. Or if you’re not the writing type, go to your voice note. Record all that venom away and then be all smiles and ready to say something generic when someone asks you how life is, like “Nigeria is a great place when you know what you’re doing” accompanied with a big smile of course. Or
d) you could lash out at an underling. Be it younger sibling, or the person on the ladder below you. Younger siblings are the best. They always need money from you so they will take it without putting up a fight. Person below the ladder, well, they might be above you someday so you might not want to take that risk.
If you don’t have a younger sibling of any age, try option a,b or c.
6) Of course you have to be able to conceal dislike. This is necessary because no matter how you may
hate dislike someone, they could hold some tiny little clout that you might need in the uncertain future and you don’t want to risk offending them.
7) And lastly, this one isn’t for everyone really. If you have a posh accent and the person you need a favour from doesn’t, lose it. The better accent and command of english might make the person feel inferior and those breed the kind of resentment you don’t need. And need I add that you never, ever correct their grammar. However helpful you think you’re trying to be.
These skills will of course need to be somewhat modified and tweaked to fit your specific situation, but these 7 are the basics ones that can help you survive Nigeria. Armed with these, you will become unstoppable.