Our years are numbered as humans, as such race is our life’s journey. Many people have failed to learn how to compete; we just race through life without understanding the goal of living. Most times we give names to acts committed as a result of envy, jealousy and covetousness. The mind wanders to the activities of yesterday’s men; thousands of years before we were born and one wonders why Egyptians would have chosen to enslave the Hebrews, the answer isn’t far-fetched- envy, jealousy and covetousness, these attributes have been with humans from the beginning of time and hasn’t changed a bit- as it was in the time of Cain and Abel, so it is in 2019, now and forever on!
Personally, I have always wondered what it would have cost the Egyptians to let the Israelis live as free men and it soon dawned on me that the Egyptians could not compete, they needed to break the spirit of the Israeli man in totality before they could feel equal to him- That is what my bible tells me and I am open to listening to other versions. The major problem that most people have had from inception has always been the inability to willingly compete in this race called life- This stems from the fact that competition is usually a means of establishing superiority over others but this in itself is not a bad thing; Life is a going concern and establishment of superiority can never be static except there is dominance or conquest. My personal opinion is that superiority at a certain time or of a particular people is not an end in itself, it is only a standard meant to be surpassed by people who are willing to put in the hard-work but human beings will rather suppress every effort in order to maintain that position and status quo and as such we limit ourselves from achieving the ultimate fulfillment in life – competition helps aid our adaptability to the fact that life is a race, keeps us on our toes to deliver value and be at our best. A people who can’t compete are most times bottom feeders in the cadre of the societal strata, this is why the ancient Greeks would always compete at the Olympics because they realized that competition was a requirement for progress in life.
Nigeria is a classic example as regards why a country and its people must learn to compete favourably for success. The story of Nigeria is best told as the story of a country in which one region felt they couldn’t compete favorably in post independence Nigeria with the other regions that had high numbers of western educated people in public service and thereby got the support of the colonial masters to bring about a system that ensured meritocracy died. Nigeria would have been far developed if we had continued on the path whereby each region was competing based on merit. There was a time in Nigeria when the best students from each region competed for scholarships and everyone tried to outdo the other- those days were the golden moments of Nigeria as we produced intellectuals and witty individuals that were worth showcasing to the world- this was the 50’s and 60’s- try listening to products of Nigerian education in those era and place them side by side with children born in this era of quota system, then tell me if the quality and standard of education seem the same. The truth is, the system bequeathed to Nigerians by the colonial masters was a destructive system called quota system- a system that ensured a region of the country got 50% percent of anything without having to work hard for it; as a result standards have dropped steadily since the 1960’s till present day Nigeria. The country has passed through coups, Civil war and different upheavals as a result of this quota system.
I was privileged to watch footage of the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello in which he finds the ambitious nature of the Igbo man repulsive. I can’t wrap my head around why an educated elite like Ahmadu Bello would have had an issue with the ambitious nature of a people- yes, the Igbos could be outspoken and sometimes brash but I think their level of confidence and self belief is what is needed by the modern African man in order to face the new challenges offered by a world and its inhabitants quick to look down on the African. We don’t need to despise the Igbos, we just need to learn to compete with them in a healthy way and by so doing we help improve ourselves and our ability to adapt to this race called life- It is a struggle for supremacy and if we all put in effort to be better in all we do, wouldn’t it be for the best? Why relax and try to kill the ambitious spirit of the Igbos? The level of independence exhibited by Igbo people post Biafran civil war shows that they are a resilient people and they can survive any harsh economic condition and still end up being masters of commerce and trade, so why not create an enabling environment for such people to thrive and encourage your own people to learn and ensure they compete favourably with them? This way, everyone is on their toes to be the best and the citizens will be the best for it as value addition will be a regular feature in getting market share.
The above is just to give you an idea of the background of what led Nigeria down this sinking path as standards have dropped in every aspect and facet of life. Nigerians became a people who couldn’t compete and were used to just getting things easily without working hard for it- short cuts became a regular feature and pattern in the life of a Nigerian, to the extent that by the early 80’s, we were used to blaming our bad economy on foreigners and their presence in our country- it didn’t matter if the foreigners were hard workers, we blamed all the ills in our country on them-prostitution, armed robbery and other vices. I can remember vividly how in the 80’s when we had Ghanaians living in Nigeria, they were no better than second rate citizens in my area of Lagos- It was hard to perceive them as human beings just struggling to have a decent means of living as there was a sort of mild xenophobia building. I also read about how Nigeria threw pan-Africanism out of the window with a ‘Ghana must go’ executive order because of a religious riot in Kano; foreigners were blamed for the outbreak of law and order but a critical look at events thereafter and presently will tell you that all that was done then by the Nigerian government was to make scapegoats out of innocent immigrants in the country- ‘Ghana must go’ was an ill thought out policy that affected Nigeria’s international relations- the pain about this issue is how many Nigerians have no idea that this executive order affected our international relations at the time and still look back at the ordeal as an humorous experience- The young people in Nigeria must take note that there was nothing humorous about ‘Ghana must go’, millions of people were affected by this order and they suffered before any respite came- one must commend the good hearts of Ghanaians for looking past that event and forging strong ties with Nigeria over the years.
Recently, I started hearing about Xenophobia in South Africa and how the people despise Nigerians and other foreign nationals- the first thing that came to my mind was that, the South Africans were gradually about to toe the path of stupidity that Nigerians have toed over the years. They are about to become a people who are too lazy to compete and prove to members of other African countries that they are a superior breed of people, they seem to have accepted defeat as the lesser ones. I tried to explain to South Africans that I was in contact with as regards the role Nigeria played during the apartheid era- I was shocked that many of them were ignorant of all the support the ANC got from African countries and this shows that the ANC government in South Africa is just as mischievous as past and present Nigerian governments that has denied indigent Africans the opportunity to be well schooled as regards their history. So recently when the Xenophobic issue escalated, I knew that South Africa was on its path to a steady decline in terms of progress. A people who cannot compete for scarce resources will always look for excuses as to why they fail and they will keep pointing fingers, It was the situation in Nazi germany when the Germans were made to believe the Jews were to blame for all their predicaments without realizing that much of the blame was as a result of who they were- Same problem exists with the South Africans now. A lazy youth population that feeds on alcohol and drugs, points fingers at the productive and enterprising African neighbours who are putting resources to good use in their country and because they have failed to build a culture of competition, they have reclined in their shell seething with envy and covetousness- so at the slightest sign of provocation, they let it all out and it transforms to hatred of their fellow African brothers- but instead of the root cause to be examined, the world simply gives it name and simplifies it as- Xenophobia.
Let us learn to call a spade a spade, Xenophobia, tribalism, nationalism are all products of a lazy people who are too scared to compete- it is the traits exhibited by losers who are too scared to improve and change their outlook to life. No man who is self confident feels insecure at the sight of another successful man when his wife is around, it is only a man who falls short of expectations, that will fret in such a circumstance and this is the same with Xenophobic, tribalistic and nationalistic perspective. A people that are ready to match you madness for madness, wits for wits, strength for strength and even in terms of knowledge have no time trying to pull anyone down in other to be at their level- it takes only a lesser man to want to pull another man down just to feel secure. So in as much as it has been the trait of human beings from days past to abhor competition, we have also seen that many a people have metamorphosed from having this mentality to becoming a progressive minded people- it is my belief that human beings are in charge of their lives and as such they can forge the future- it is time that both Nigeria and South Africa, sit and reflect on the choice that is before them, The choice to blame and point fingers or the choice to compete- whichever country chooses the latter will be the one climbing towards greatness.
Olugbenga Ogbamola, also known as Ayekooto is a writer. You can get in touch with him through these means.
firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter- @thebardogbamola