It could be a driver beating traffic rules, or a customer at a bank jumping the queue to be attended to or it could even be a parent paying for his/her son to be given admission into the university, the list goes on and on and it all boils down to a single phenomenon, IMPATIENCE. It has eaten so deep into the Nigerian society as it is now perceived as a normal thing. The culture of impatience among Nigerians cut across tribe, religion and every segment of our society. You would see a situation where you might have been on a queue for many hours and someone would just arrive and still want to be in front of you. What about the people who will be told that you said something behind their back and before you have the chance to explain yourself, abuses are rained upon you and it might even get to the point where you will be beaten, what about the parent that would have beaten the elder kid for the younger one before listening to the elder kid’s side of the story. These are just few examples of how much impatient Nigerians can be.
Over the years, people have talked on the issue of impatience in the country. It has even been identified as one of the greatest problems confronting the country, as it has aided the destruction of the fabric of good social life. On the road where a little patience and care for the other driver and road users would have saved the country from needless accidents that claim several lives and cause traffic jams in our cities. We are in a country where overnight a young man will want to drive the best cars, hence he goes into crime to fulfill his desires, and people in government want all the money they can lay their hands on, hence they embezzle, increasing the spate of corruption in the country and poor service delivery on projects.
Contained in the ten letter word INVESTMENT is the suggestion, and the understanding, and the practical advice that life should not be lived on the go. It is wiser to delay certain privileges and opportunities. It is infinitely more advisable, to save, as they say, “for the rainy day.” Investment connotes the values of self-denial, discipline, patience, and modesty. It is about the extension of possibilities, and a spiritual awareness of the simple truism that life does not always obey the rules of arithmetic. When a man invests, he puts a fence around himself; he links his present to the future. This sense of the future, borne out of careful planning is at the core of human civilization. It is, essentially, what differentiates us from animals. Of all the creatures on earth, man is set apart, by his capacity to think and debate. But unfortunately, our society is distanced progressively from the high culture, and moral values, represented by the concept of civilization by the preponderance of a Now, Now, ‘quick quick’ or better still the ‘kia kia’ syndrome. Everybody is tied to Now and Now alone. This is dangerous for our society, because it affects everything else that ought to provide a strong foundation for our lives.
While growing up, we were told not to eat anyhow, not to eat in-between meals, and not to eat while talking, or otherwise engaged. We all eat because we are hungry, and in many cultures, this very act itself is a ritual, with established rules of etiquette. But these days, all that has been abandoned. Nigerians have developed a culture of eating that is governed by the principle of haste. It is a consumerist world, and we seem in this environment to be interested in literal consumption. We are practically, and metaphorically, in a hurry to stuff our months with food. Everywhere you turn in this country, at any moment, somebody is always eating something. People do not want to get to a table, and sit down properly before eating. No, they eat as soon as the first pangs of hunger touch their stomachs. Their gluttony is made easy by the presence, of fast-food joints in every corner of Nigerian streets. The more modern fast food joints have been growing in a numbers in the last few years and they are in good business. In addition to them, are the pepper soup joints, Mama Put centers, “short-time” hideouts, (masquerading as hotels) and guest houses etc. When you drive on the highways, someone is always dropping a banana peel on the road, a biscuit wrapping, or a can of coke. The streets are littered with pure water sachets because someone is always drinking water. We give the impression that we are the only hungry set of people in the world, because our stomachs simply cannot wait. It is a god that has to be worshipped as soon as it sends out a signal for propitiation. Because we are a people in a hurry, we eat even in the traffic, every major road in Nigeria, is a quasi-mobile restaurant.
Our eating habit however is only a side of the picture. Women in romance these days are motivated by the “now, now syndrome.” In the past, romance used to be the highest level of high culture. Romance was then a process, in the course of which a woman was properly wooed, and sexual consummation was the climax of a drawn-out process of interaction. These days, I am told that every girl expects a relationship to begin with a sexual climax. Even the men do not want to wait. They want whatever they want “Now, Now,” “kia kia.” If a man happens to be a product of the old school, and he insists on getting to know his partner, he is called names like: “Slow Coach,” Bobo Nice.” And before his very eyes, the same woman goes off with a more ambitious and adventurous male. The more cultured male in Nigeria is thus a victim of the “Now, Now” syndrome. In this season of GSM telephony, nobody is allowed to wait. There is little or no room for contemplation of any form. Everything, including sex, is just a phone call away.
When we think of this we should not be surprised either by the growing ordinariness of religion, as evidenced by the cynical re-interpretation of doctrine in religious places. The churches of old used to preach about after-life, and the need for the congregation to think about the eternal salvation of Heaven. The Mallams in the Mosques talked about the supremacy of the will of God. Man was expected to be satisfied with this. But in the presence of a “kia, kia” phenomenon, religion has been converted into a present-minded ritual. In today’s churches, the doctrine has been brought to the level of the average Nigerian. Heaven or its opposite Hell is no longer a distant, after-life concept, but a here and now event. The Congregation is enjoined to go to Heaven, on earth. Every pastor is a tax officer, collecting tithes from a Congregation that is anxious to embrace Heaven. Heaven is an earthly world of riches in which the Holy Ghosts have been replaced by exotic cars and palaces. Even the Mosques no longer preach too eloquently about contentment. With every Nigerian seeking to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, in practical terms, here and now, “kia kia” in fact, without any delay, we are faced with a society where prosperity by any means has become a singular objective. People steal, tell lies and they go to church, or elsewhere, to give God his own share of their loot. They do so in good Conscience, because the ideas of Purgatory, Heaven and Hell, have since been revised.
This danger is more felt in public life. Every employee in an establishment or an officer in public office is a short distance runner. Fresh employees in an organization do not intend to build careers; they are interested in using the company as a ladder. The result is that the typical curriculum vitae of a young Nigerian are a mini-history of the Nigerian corporate sector. There are young men and women who have worked in five companies in four years. They are permanently on the move, and in the process, they give the lie to the notion that a rolling stone gathers no moss. In Nigeria, a rolling stone gathers everything. Opportunism is the name of the game. “Time waits for no one”, “a stitch in time saves nine”, “seize the day.” Few companies these days have long- service workers; usually, the workers that remain are either in the junior category, or those who have grown old on the job, and are merely waiting for retirement or the majority who are in positions where they can use the company to make enough money for their own purposes. The honest employee is in short supply. The average worker is looking out for a job that will offer opportunities for instant gratification. This problem is so serious; it is a marvel how companies in Nigeria still manage to make profit. The culture of work in any context is deepened by long-term commitment. In Nigeria, the culture of work is diminished by the greed of employees.
This is the explanation, also, for the problem of corruption in public service. Nobody can get anything out of a government department without having to gratify the “Now, Now” instinct of the civil servant. The idea of the common good is dead, as we now have in positions of authority, persons who have no vision of the future. What has happened in the school system is particularly sad. Teachers used to be the most contented members of our society. They trained other people’s children enthusiastically, without any thought of immediate reward. The old teacher was happy to help build society and he drew strength from the relevance of his contributions to other people’s lives. “A teacher’s reward is in Heaven” was a popular slogan. But nobody uses that expression any more. Today, the new breed teacher is distracted. He also wants to be rich like everyone else. And he is willing to achieve this target at the expense of the core values of his profession. Teachers have become traders and contractors. Their students too, have learnt to be impatient. They are willing to buy good grades, and pay their way through school. They have neither the time nor the mind, for hard work. Like everyone else, they are short-distance runners, tied to “the here and now.”
The major explanation for this cultural negation is in part the destruction of the Nigerian ideal and dream by the leadership we’ve had since post-colonial Nigeria. Part of the responsibility of government is to give people hope, about the present and the future. For as long as anyone can remember, this country has been organized in an adversarial fashion, with the ordinary Nigerian as a victim. In those countries where people work hard, add value, and are willing to invest in their environment, they do so because doing so does not place the individual at risk. In Nigeria, nobody wants to invest in the community because our reward system is skewed, something bad has happened to our sense of priorities. This cultural question, or crisis of values, is linked to the distortions in our system. We have to re-evaluate the ordinariness of our lives, the short distance between us and animals, and our remote location from the high values of human civilization. We may say that it’s not a topic worth discussing, but the fact is that it is seriously destroying this entity we call Nigeria. It probably sounds so easy writing about this, but it is sad that it is true, we must move forward and onward, taking things easy, thinking about the future and not just the now. To a large extent I may not blame Nigerians per say, the living condition in the country calls for the KIA KIA way of doing things, but what we must realize is that until we start taking things easy, things may just go on being bad.
Written By Osaro Abraham Agho