Sunday, 03 December 2017 00:58

How Can We Help Folks Back Home to Help Themselves?

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What a wild time to be a Nigerian!  It is a time of crises . Our families and nation are at a crossroad of whatever. The very fabric of Nigerian society is under attack at various fronts, including leadership led by a hateful religious group, crimes perpetrated by nomads, the use of state apparatus to intimidate young protesters, and violence unleashed upon unsuspecting groups. Drugs coupled with indiscipline are everywhere.  Read to the end of this essay to see useful suggestions to combat problems discussed herein.

Under Buhari, our ship is unsteady. In fact, the vessel is wobbly, shaky, rickety, wonky. The question being asked is how to help. We help by laying the foundation of honesty and positive psychology. Positive psychology is the pursuit of happiness in the face of sadness, deaths, unemployment, underemployment, and divorce, 

It seems to that when the going gets tough, the psychologically and positively tough people get going. Positive psychology is an umbrella term for the study of positive emotions a person gets from  being happy and  at peace with how one’s life has gone  in the past, is going in the present, and will go in the future.  

This paper focuses on some of the factors that are related to the unhappiness of young people in Nigeria, particularly in urban areas. It appears that like Charlie (fictitious), Nigeria’s young people are not focused because of loss of direction. Young Nigerians are drinking large quantities of alcohol to deal with frustration and lack of direction. They are dabbling in occult and other questionable get-rich-quick schemes. They need to be taught positive psychology or ways to extricate self from extreme dishonesty.    

The conclusion is not far-fetched that, although life is hard, things are not as bad and unmanageable in Nigeria as people want us to imagine. Difficulties of life are not meant to make us bitter but better. Young Nigerians are often heard to complain a lot about how life is tough at home.

Of all the things that retard progress and make things not go right in Nigeria, dishonesty and greed top the list. Corruption is the chief. Corruption is defined as deceit, deceitfulness, fraudulence, lying, untruthfulness, treachery, or duplicity.  

The challenge for all Nigerians  with love of Naija in their hearts is this: How do you teach honesty in the face of the leaders and parents who are lying, deceitful, false, untruthful, fraudulent, corrupt, unfair, and insincere?

Some Nigerians  would like to be under a government other than Buhari’s, and others prefer a government that has a bag of panaceas. A panacea is a cure-all, magic portion, magic bullet, or universal remedy. One who waits for a panacea is a believer in fairy tales and one who does not mind waiting forever.  A panacea is for those who do not believe that hard work pays off or that honest labor bears a lovely face

Our relatives would like to have us living overseas to wire money to them by Western Union as often as possible. Can life be so unbearably hard that a little thinking, knowledge of positive psychology, and shift in attitudes would not help? Who would like to have a bunch of crying babies who are perpetually unable to quit moaning, wailing, or pulling on Momma’s apron string?

The idea for this essay germinated during this writer’s two-week visit to his village in the former Eastern Region where he communicated with several relatives he was committed to helping and who seek assistance to better cope with some of the problems the relatives are facing in their daily living activities. This writer does not mind helping if and only if relatives will do the right thing.

In conversations with the relatives, there was a sincere desire to help rather than an attempt to laugh at, belittle, or make light of a relative’s difficulties. The conversations did not involve insults or unpleasant comparisons, such as “You’re lazier than I am, and if I were you I would do this and that”or “In America, we do it like this.” Such conversations yield resentment and complaints.

Nigerians have a habit of always complaining. They are often expecting the government and others to do everything for them. They also expect financial support to pour in to them from around the universe, especially from relatives living overseas in Britain, and America. We know friends who are under compulsion to rescue “starving” relatives. The well-meaning but misinformed friends I had contacted about this essay keep telling me: “there’s hunger in the land.”

It is a dangerous thing to keep helping relatives who believe one helping them has an inexhaustible supply of cash. Relatives soon become dependent and lose respect for persons doing the helping and when further freebies are not forthcoming or when the perks, handouts, or giveaways cease falling down from heaven as manna fell during the Exodus of Moses, the people you are helping are apt to get angry with you, attack you, or rob you due to their attitude of entitlement.

Rampant complaints obfuscate the real issues. A 45-year-old relative named Lillian (fictitious) complains of the difficulties she is having to stretch her teacher’s monthly salary of N90,000 (250 dollars) to cover the cost of a two-room flat she and her husband are renting at N250,000 (695 dollars) per year.

This writer had paid N83,334 which is exactly one-third of the yearly rent last year while the relative and her husband were responsible for the remaining two-thirds (or N166,666). In Igbo, there is a thing called afo ojuju or satisfaction that comes when the stomach is filled with foofoo. Relatives are rarely satisfied.    

When Lillian and her husband did not have afo ojuju, and were asking for further assistance with rental fee this year, we suggested a budgeting system whereby the couple could set aside 10% of the rent (or N25,000)  each month. They should save the rent money in a bank. They are told not to keep the money hidden in a secret place in the rental property where visitors, housemaid, or landlord can gain access to it.

Because Lillian has a college degree in education with a concentration in food science, it was suggested that she ought to look into supplementing her income with other activities, such as selling baked foods such as cakes, chin-chin, pies, akara balls, and moi-moi on weekends.  

Lillian can also provide nutritional information for a fee as a dietitian. She could help people seeking nutritional advice on how to reduce weight or feed their families better than the usual four starchy meals of garri, pounded yam, pounded cassava, and yam porridge. Akamu (corn starch) is usually taken for breakfast.

Why can’t Lillian look into starting a tutorial center or daycare for which her training in education has prepared her? Nigerian schools are often closed due to teacher strikes owing to nonpayment of teacher salary or some other disagreements.

The Nigerian governor and his hand-picked thieves serving on the board of education can decide to invest money meant for teachers’ salaries in a private business that earns profits for the governor and his ilk while teachers suffer in silence. Schools can be closed for weeks or months when teachers are not compensated for their services.  This writer saw several children in the villages playing unsupervised around the open eye-sore gutters during the two weeks schools were out.

A little tutorial or coaching in mathematics, reading, study skills, and science at Lillian’s private school would go a long way to enable Nigeria’s children to retain skills which might be lost during the periods schools are closed.

Why Nigeria’s  teachers are unwilling to consider opening day care or private schools which others can manage while owners are at work, beats my imagination. On inquiry, this writer discovered that the reason why teachers are not opening private schools is the problem  of the dearth or deficiency of trusted employees. It takes a thief to know a thief. The persons you employ to run your business might be stealing from and destroying your business.

It appears that everyone in Nigeria is busy robbing everyone else. Nothing seems to matter or move well in an atmosphere of crass dishonesty. Kleptomania is a better term. In Nigeria, a person infected with the cancer of kleptomaniac dishonesty is insensitive, tactless, stupid, obtuse, inane, ridiculous, gross, and blundering. Dishonest affects men and women, wives and husbands, in specific ways.

Charlie,  is a 50-year-old father who is responsible for taking care of his 8-year-old daughter, his wife Lillian, and 12-year-old baby sitter. He is a petty trader whose retail business is not thriving well. He is failing in trading because, according to Charlie, his business was started with inadequate capital, and Lagos is a very competitive, dog-eat-dog, retail market environment.

We cannot overlook a simple truth that Charlie has failed to be honest with an uncle who helped to start the business for him. He refuses to provide an accounting or profit-and-loss statement of his business five years in a row.

Although honesty and loyalty are absolutely necessary in business, they are rare commodities to find in Nigeria, particularly among relatives.  This writer started an electrical supply retail business for a relative with the understanding that relative would provide periodic statements of profit and loss and apprise the writer of the progress the business is making. 

Charlie has not shown what he did with money he was given to start the business. Two of Charlie’s cousins had been in the electrical supply ventures for years and are very successful. The cousins were asked to help start a similar business for Charlie with the money this writer donated.  Charlie avoids discussing the business with the writer. He thinks he is clever and can fool the writer. Like most traders in Nigeria, Charlie is illiterate, having not attained the equivalent of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) or the General Certificate of Education (GCE).

Because Charlie dodges straight talks about the business and refuses requests to show the writer the location of his retail shop, I have backed out of backing Charlie in the business. The result is that there is no opportunity to assist Charlie to expand the business, and as such, this writer has stopped dealings with this relative. It is useless to continue to throw a gold ring at a swine.

It is said that a bad workman often quarrels with his tools. Dishonest relatives are the scum of the earth. Charlie complains of undercapitalization, and inability to obtain loans to expand his business, and he comes home most days with the story he has not made sales. He often says: “Business is not moving well today.”

It appears that Charlie is permanently unable to perform duties of a petty trader and ought to consider other lines of work. We suggested that he take on other duties, such as running errands for others, being a delivery man and chauffeur. Other options include raising chicken or pigs in the village. Knowing Charlie and his pride, it is doubtful he would consider leaving Lagos for the village. Big Lagos is addictive.

Monica, another relative, is a 55-year teacher who earns N90,000 (250 dollars) each month as a primary school teacher. Monica is single, and has no child to take care of. She says that she has no cell phone with internet access, and lives in a building with no light provided by a generator.

Monica presents a special problem in that she resists every suggestion she is given . She says: “This does not work in Nigeria,” or “This is not how we do things in Nigeria.”  My response to Monica is “if you knew what works in Nigeria and knew how things are done in Nigeria, why don’t you do it your way and stop asking for help?’

We suggested that Monica enroll at a nearby university for the Master’s degree  in education while continuing teaching in the classroom. She ought to figure out how to catch buses to and from a nearby university campus.

Charlie is coping well with his college-educated wife, and continues to take care of his daughter, baby sister, and to get along with neighbors. He uses positive psychology he has learned to get through the difficult time of bad business. Charlie says he is able to make it through by maintaining optimum happiness, optimism, resilience, and knowledge of what is behind hardship in society.

Nigeria’s young men appear to be lost; they are not focused because of lack of faith in their nation They experience loss of direction, and they are drinking large quantities of alcohol to deal with frustration and a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. They are dabbling in occult and other get-rich-quick schemes. They do not know themselves. They don’t know positive psychology or ways to extricate self from  extreme dishonesty. They say: “We’re poor and need employment.”

Positive psychology works well when the person being helped is honest and willing to accept and implement suggestions. Can they put useful suggestions to work? Positive psychology involves the courage, resilence, curiosity, knowledge of self, and integrity. Positive psychology also involves positive benefits one gets from the community institutions, such as the family, church , and peer groups. The more positive the emotions one gets from the community resources, the higher the level of happiness. Honesty is a critical factor in positive psychology.

Resilience is an important aspect of positive psychology. Resilience is what creates happiness in a person as a result of the person’s pliability, flexibility, elasticity, buoyancy, spirit, strength, or toughness.  Despite difficulties associated with their minority statuses in America, blacks appear to be happier than whites, though they have less social support than the whites. Blacks have better resilience than whites. Southerners, particularly the Igbos and Yorubas,  appear to have greater resilience than Hausas who have been shielded from toughness which life provides. Is that why Muslim men turn to violence to replace rigidity or lack of resilience?

Positive psychology is much more than positive thinking in that while a positive thinker thinks all is well, a person sold on positive psychology knows and is  conditioned  to always expect all to be well.  Positive psychology involves equipping oneself with the arsenal to combat boredom and unhappiness with the past by using the wisdom of the ages: having gratitude and willingness to forgive others as well as to let go the unfairness of life.

Positive psychology examines whether we have wisdom and knowledge, whether we have courage and spirituality;  whether we love humanity; and whether we have a sense of justice and temperance. With  an outlook of happiness, one who believes in positive psychology seeks strategies for dealing with negative emotions by building hope, endurance, and optimism. He seeks to increase happiness in the present rather than dwell in the pains of yesterday or fear of tomorrow.

This essay leaves some useful suggestions, such as:

  1. Nigerians ought not ignore or forego education as a life-long pursuit. We should pursue education at all ages since the benefit outweigh the drawback, and when an educated man is more likely to succeed in life than his uneducated counterparts.
  2. Adult education should be available in the cities and villages until Nigeria has at least the 50% literacy rate.
  3. Young Nigerians seeking to go into trading should first obtain at least the WAEC or GCE and preferably an undergraduate degree to improve chances of succeeding.
  4. Evening classes should be organized for those seeking to attain university degrees.
  5. We congratulate the Nigerian traders who obtain the MBA’s and law degrees while buying and selling their goods in the market.
  6. Young unemployed Nigerian graduates should continue to the graduate schools for advance degrees in order to provide leadership  in mathematics, science, engineering, and technology fields with the hope that employment opportunities will improve in the future.

Nigerian churches and mosques should get off emphasizing materialism and attendant corruption, and get on with the business of preaching the virtues of honesty, morality, uprightness, trustworthiness, rectitude, integrity, and correctness. Nigerians ought to abandon religious organizations that rob the poor while feeding parishioners with false pie-in-the-sky sermons and pastors fly around with jets bought with blood money.

Dr. James C. Agazie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.