Nigeria - Journal 4
The following content is from the journal I kept during my work with World Bank. It documents my reflections during a field trip to Nigeria in 2004.
Bode and Uzor
They are college graduates from prestigious universities.
"What should you do to go to a good university?"
"It's very competitive. So, there are a lot of folks who take college entrance exam for years to go to a good university."
"Are there many job opportunities for the university graduates?"
"30 years ago, when you are about to graduate, businesses will send cars to schools to take fresh graduates to their companies.
20 years ago, companies no longer sent cars to get new employees. But if you have been a good student and made some effort for job searching, you can still find a good job.
Now, your ability doesn't guarantee your position. Even though you are bright and work hard, you don't know if you can get a good job."
"What then guarantees a position? What is the most important qualification here?"
"To know the right person in the right position."
Uzor added to Bode.
"You need a favor of god. if there are 10 vacancies, 9 of them are already decided before vacancy announcements in the newspaper. For 1 position, thousands of people will apply. Many of them have similar competence, so you need favor."
Primary school students do free babysitting. During class, they take care of their teacher's babies.
The principal introduced this photo as the agriculture class. Later on, he found that students are working for their teachers. Students are cracking peanuts for the teachers' farm produce. The principal was furious, "I always tell teachers not to do this. But I know there are some teachers still doing these things."
The local government is supposed to give enough salary to teachers. However, their salary has gone down for the past 20 years. In a particular year, they didn't get salary for 12 months! So many of them have to run a farm or do a small scale enterprise to make ends meet. Students are an easily available source of human labor.
My friend and I conducted a survey about parents' occupation.
"What does your father do?"
"Smuggler. He smuggles petroleum."
We recorded his father as a trader.
"People here work hard individually, and look after their families. But not many people try to change the system, which isn't structured to function properly."
"Why is that?"
"Look I have to take care of myself. If structure does't take care of me, I have to take care of myself. In this society which doesn't pay attention to its people, who looks after me if I don't take care of myself?"
For activists who try to bring change, ordinary people would say,
"Why bother yourself? Take care of yourself! Let the rest go."
People know they cannot win against the authority as they have learned from the wars against the Western forces.
Development and Homogeneity
Ethnic, racial or tribal diversity is correlated with inequality. A Nigerian said, "One of the worst things that Briton did to our country is that they tied completely different tribes together and made up a nation. As long as they played the interest of the different people groups against each other, there will be competing interest and development will be hard to be attained."
"But why each tribe just collaborates with each other? Not only your country but also all other countries have different local interest groups and tribes."
"How many languages do Koreans or Japanese use?"
"Do you know how many languages are used in Nigeria?"
"Three or hour languages?"
"426; These languages are not like a dialect. Each tribe cannot understand each other's language. Ota mi de ada mi da means 'My friends have come where is my father' among the Ebira people. But among the Yorubas, their closest neighbors, it means: 'My enemy has come, where is my cutlass!" (*Cutlass is a sword-like knife used on farms or in war). Tribes which are totally different in terms of language, culture, costume, history and a way of life are under the name of Nigeria. Do you think it's easy to tie these people together? If Huasa people are killed today, Ibo people may not feel necessarily affected, the same can be said of the Yorubas and the Ibos and 426 other tribal combinations. If they feel that they are the same people - One Nation -, would they be happy about misfortune of other groups of people?"
"Why then doesn't the major tribes or local forces each become an independent country?"
"Current political interest doesn't allow it to do that. Do you think people in power want to lose their influence on resources?"
World Around the Difference
In agriculture and paternal society, fathers are highly respected. Children's role in family is to figure out what their fathers would need in advance, do it, and make their parents happy. For example, in the morning, if children think that their father will be going out, they would iron the father's clothes before he needed it. People believe that when children serve their father, they will be blessed.
On the contrary, in certain societies with militaristic history, children may kick their fathers to wake them up. It's not rude at all! It's their way of waking up parents. In the society where people need to move quickly and stay vigilant, people don't have time to stand on formality and to do all kinds of rituals and ceremonies of formal greetings.
"Even if you have a perm and smear your face with ink, you can't be like me. Even though I paint myself white and straighten my hair, I cannot be like you. It isn't wrong that I don't look like you. There is nothing to do with difference. Rather than build a tent around difference between myself and other people and wishing other people become like me, it's better to learn to live with difference and find ways of achieving congruence. Then we'll be free to love and work with each other."
With astonishing economic growth, many countries like Korea have lost a strong sense of community that I can feel here in Ago-Are.
"That's why we are doing a grass roots approach. Helping develop the capacity of the entire community."
"Do you think it's possible?"
"We should try."
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