Generally, we Nigerians are known to be very prideful, I have seen many people criminate us as the haughtiest swaggerest set of people walking the face of the planet. Is this pride justified? Or does this pride spring out of our characteristic lifestyle/culture of faking reality? Let us examine
Most philosophers and social psychologists remarked that “PRIDE is a complex secondary emotion which requires the development of a SENSE of SELF (emphasis added) and the mastery of relevant conceptual distinctions through language-based interaction with others”. Some identify it as “linked to a signal of high social status”. According to St. Augustine of Hippo, pride “is love of one’s own excellence”. Pride can also manifest itself as a high opinion of one’s nation and ethnicity.
It beggars curiosity what it is that justify our pride. We certainly have great fundamental cultures and esteemed values from Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, and other ethnics. Our languages are dynamic, and, especially Yoruba language with all its sub dialects, are very expressive, fluid, and receptive to change. These are worth being prideful of, but we Nigerians have deviated from these cultures and languages; it seems we have adopted another culture–worshiping others. We constantly yearn for western lifestyles and languages to the point of deriding, as not being hip, any of us that keep fidelity to our own languages and norms. Our school system encourages us not to speak, develop, and perfect our indigenous languages, and also go as far as imposing English language in every corner. It is almost everywhere in our space to see households where the children are told and taught never to speak their indigenous language and never to engage in any native cultural festival or even study the geographical landscape of Nigeria. It seems to have taken some sorts of vogue to blurt out that you cannot speak in your own mother’s tongue. However, at any slightest chance, we are jocular about any of us who “murders” the English language.
The same can be said of accent and elocution; nigh on every Nigerian I have met has a sort of an unease disposition toward Nigerian accents, hence they grossly deform the intonation of their own names trying to put on it, an America/English accent as to make it pronounceable to westerners; Seun (enunciates as /shay hun/ in Yoruba) becomes intoned as “Shawn,” Tope (enunciates as /taw peh/in Yoruba) becomes intoned as “Top”, Ngozi (enunciate as/n gaw ze/ in Igbo) becomes intoned as “Gozy”, Emeka (enunciates as /a may kah/in Igbo) becomes “Meks”, Omisore (enunciates as /o me show ray/in Yoruba) becomes intoned as “Omi-shaw.” I recognize the contention of the need to be easily and clearly understood, however this should not come at the expense of completely stripping your name of its meaning by applying to it, a deviated cadence so someone of different background may pronounce it. When we do this, we completely erode or silent our sense of self for sense of others; this is nothing short of complex. I was listening to one Naija show the other day and everybody and their mama were speaking in British accent, I could not believe my ears, upon further investigation, which I find out some of these people, have never left the shores of Nigeria. Have you ever seen any white person struggle to copy a Nigeria accent? They believe in their own excellence, that’s why they couldn’t give a hoot about anything beyond their enclaves. When we strive to be like them or communicate like them at the expense of our own, we are indirectly showing ourselves not to be good enough and that we are a second rate denizens of the World.
Another aspect of our lives guilty of this is our Igbo movies. They have taken some of this pretentiousness and faking reality characteristics to another level. Hardly are you going to see any lead character name in Igbo movies given Igbo or other indigenous (Calabar, Ijaw, etc) names, instead of promoting our language and our names like Emeka, Chudi, Onyi, Ibinabo, Ofonime and so on, they‘ll rather use English names like Ethan, Lampard, Steve and so on.
On top of this, we run the most “copy-cat” and visibly inept government ever. None of our governing documents contain any indigenously grown philosophy; we just facsimile, without fine-tuning, whatever “Oyinbo” does and slap it on our local dynamics, and expect to see progress. Basically we have perfected the art of living in other people’s world and playing them than living in our world and playing ourselves. This seems to be our new culture, culture of always giving preference and deference to western culture and language and directly extirpating everything that made us, us. Can this justify our pride?
Virtually every nation that is reputed for being prideful can point to tangible things that beseech their pride. USA’s pride and its reasons are axiomatic; England is known for its arrogance, but they can quickly point to many things they have imported to the world, among which are their language, system of government, and soccer. French can easily boast and justify their pride by pointing to their wines, philosophy of egalitarianism, and of course their aesthetically great city of Paris. Pray do tell what tangibles beget our pride? We are a producer of nothing but a consumer of everything.
I was chatting with a friend (who lives in Lagos) the other day and I asked about his daughter, he quipped, “she is at crèche”, I was taken aback and proceeded to ask him, “what the hell is called crèche?” he retorted “jelesimi otherwise known as kindergarten school” Then I asked him, why not just call it “Jelesimi” (since that is the Yoruba word for such school, the word is a derivation of Je ki ile simi (let the house rest…basically meaning; since children are so restless and always playing with whatever it is in the house, take them to somewhere like school where they would be, in order for the house to be undisturbed)). This friend told me Jelesimi is now called “crèche” (the French word for such thing) because crèche word is hip while Jelesimi is not and if you want to be hip, you call it crèche instead of Jelesimi. This is what we do to ourselves and it seems we don’t realize it at all. This is not a development of sense of self, this cannot be called love of one’s own excellence, and certainly this cannot be called high opinion of one’s nation and ethnicity, so what then justifies our pride?
1. The superlative of swagger!