top of page

Rants From My Archives: Maybe, We Truly Deserve Our Leaders

This is an article I first wrote in 2016 from the exhaustion of living in Lagos, Nigeria. Not much has changed since then. The situation has gotten worse.

Today, I was thinking about something that happened days back on social media and how much it mirrored the real Nigerian society. During the days leading up to Christmas celebrations in Nigeria, a popular Nigerian actor shared a social media video of a journey to celebrate Christmas in the Eastern part of Nigeria.

He was a passenger in a car taking the opposite direction (One way, as we call it in Nigeria) to beat the massive traffic congestion on his route. He was sort of praising himself (an ode to his social status) in the post, but he got knocks from his followers who said he was setting a bad example and if he thought he was better off than those stuck in traffic following the traffic rules. I am not here to be moral police but I just could not help it.

My point here is that Nigerians are not exactly different from the leadership, we often condemn. Our leaders reflect our system, values and beliefs. If much of your life and dealings are within the system and entity called Nigeria, you are not different from those you constantly call out as corrupt leaders. The only difference is access to power and opportunity like they have, chances are you would be worse.

A system of “I better pass my neighbor”, needless competition, braggadocious-ish living, and the need to show off that you have arrived is all too common. The standard is to prove you have arrived because if you are not showing it, chances are you likely do not have it. That is our culture and it does not make us bad people, at least when you have worked so hard to become financially successful in Nigeria, you have the right to show it, no one must ever tell you how to spend your money. It is hard to blow in Nigeria…… as a Nigerian who has lived in Nigeria up until 2019, I know how hard it is to achieve the smallest progress at any level.

The only issue is that such a lifestyle in a corrupted system is not sustainable in the long term. It creates an atmosphere of undue pressure, less belief in delayed gratification and a desperate search for shortcuts. The other side is sustaining such success, maintaining your newfound rag-to-riches super-status. It is always easy to fall back showing off and many people end up broke trying to keep up with the Joneses, back to square one. It takes a lot of work to climb Nigeria’s social and economic ladder; it is even harder to stay within that circle.

Many people will talk less about their struggles, their silent battles and sleepless nights; they make it seem very effortless and create a false appearance of how easy success looks when the reality is different. The razzmatazz of Instagram would make you believe that life is all a bed of roses, a pot of gold a magic waiting to happen with a wave of magic wand. Life is hard, sustained success will take sweat, tears, disappointments, doubts, and resilience.

We are a society that loves to brag about everything and everywhere. You are measured by your perceived material status. We become so selfish, constantly out to protect our interests. Like our leaders, we know that no one would look out for you when the chips are down, there are no safety nets, nothing guaranteed to help you back on your feet, when you fall flat or when an investment goes wrong, when your shop suddenly burns to the ground or when you no longer have that job. You are always on your own, trying daily to survive. Wahala up and down.

Like that Nigerian celebrity, many people will do the same even worse with the same power and privilege.  There is no incentive to encourage following the rules, you break the rules to get by and people would even mock you for being a “goody shoes”.  He would think it was smartness (or some classy pull-off) and as a celebrity, he could get away with breaking the law. The laws are for the poor and the helpless; those at the bottom of the ladder. The nobodies, bearing all the shame and burden of poverty; the same people who dream of becoming an oppressor someday. An extractive system that keeps on giving!

Maybe, Just Maybe we deserve our kind of leaders and we must embrace them first and accept them to understand how we can make any meaningful progress.

bottom of page