How to understand a Nigerian – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

How to understand a Nigerian – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

To understand the nature of a Nigerian, you have to observe the traffic lights opposite Coca Cola at Agidingbi in Alausa Ikeja. The lights are in the Ikeja Shopping Mall vicinity.
Well, not observe the lights in particular but what happens with motorists there.
You would wonder why despite the working lights, six uniformed people are needed there.
2 policemen
2 lastma men
2 FRSC men
(or women)
You see, the lights almost always work. I have worked in that area for about 4 years and the lights have failed less than 5 times.
If you are a stranger, it would look odd.
The lights are working, why do you need so many officers there?
Even my three year old knows that
Red means stop
Green means go
Yellow/orange means wait until you are told or get ready.
It is not rocket science unless you are colour blind.


While you are wondering and observing, it will become clear to you eventually.
When it is lunchtime or something like that, about 5 of the officers there will disappear and leave 1 person there. And then per chance, this 1 person gets distracted by big truck and takes his eyes of the motorists to extort… I mean attend to the driver of the big truck.
You will see chaos erupt right before you.
It will be something like when a teacher is in a class and all the children are all quiet. Then the teacher leaves the class for a few minutes and noise fills the class immediately.
Green still remains go
Yellow becomes speed before the red comes on
Red means that the first five cars can still go.
How does this make you understand Nigerians?
If you are simplistic, you would probably think that Nigerians are impatient… big deal.
It is not as simple as that.
First and foremost (ugh!!!! I hate that I just used that phrase, so unoriginal), it is not about knowing the right thing to do. You obey the lights, it is that easy. There are very few grey areas, right is right, wrong is left. So if we know the right thing to do, why don’t we just do it? I have not seen a 5minute light before, you know, 300seconds of waiting to move, so why is it so hard to obey?
We do the right things only when there are consequences.
But you cannot blame us and that does not mean that we are bad people.
Our parents taught us about consequences in a funny way.
We were at a birthday party with my sons, my older son kept straying beyond the sitting room. I threatened to smack him and that worked. He would look in my eyes and stop in his tracks. It then occurred to me that I had given him no reason not to wander. So I called him and explained that it was rude to go into people’s bedrooms and that we didn’t want them upset. The light bulb lit in his eyes and he patiently explained to his younger brother why they could not go beyond the living room.
We learnt to obey because they were to be obeyed without questions.
If we disobeyed and we got caught, we would be punished.
In a twisted way we learnt a fear of consequences and not a desire to do right for the sake of doing right.
Ok, it is a far stretch and blaming it on the folks is a bit old but I need help here understanding why we do the things we do.
It is inherently selfish to be so focused on your personal journey that it matters little the chaos you cause. It is all about the fastest which to us translates to the smartest or sharpest.
This is the reason we are herded and policed like sheep.
It’s a mentality that made my driver (former… the guy quit a few weeks ago, I just dey scratch moto left right and center) tell me not to wear my seatbelt as we were going home because “we are in the estate, nobody go catch us.” I was dumbfounded and I asked him what the purpose of the seatbelt was.
The funny thing is that when there is chaos at this traffic stop, in a funny way, everyone is delayed. Cars rush and pile up creating traffic jams. Nobody truly wins. It is like creating an extra lane in a traffic jam to the point that no one can moved forward.
It is a forward but actually backward way of retrogressing in the faux belief that we are progressing.
I just pulled a brain muscle with that last sentence… simpler put is “One step forward and 2 steps backwards.)
This behaviour is further reinforced when you are out of the country.
The same Nigerian that has a gold medal in shunting queues will travel out of the country and behave himself.
You do know why, don’t you?
Consequences are real. You run a stop light in the middle of the night when there are no other cars, your ticket is sent to your mailbox.
You lose points on your license by committing some offences.
You cannot squeeze a note into the hands of an officer and expect to be left off.
If you like do not know why you should do what is right, when you are wrong, you will pay for it.
So we were taught to fear consequences in a country where people don’t follow through on dishing out consequence.
81 people are killed across some villages, not a single person is arrested or prosecuted.
Look at the names flying around because there is suggestion that they are involved in corruption and diverting billions of naira. Tomorrow, when the political clouds have shifted, the same people will be appointed in cabinets when a favourable government is elected.
We don’t get that it is all intertwined. When we all do what is right, the atmosphere is sane and everyone is the better for it.
Now that you are still watching the madness at the traffic stop at Agidingbi the 5 people come running back and the 1 person gets settled, we are back to 6 people.
Someone’s keys get snatched because he is caught right in the act. An officer jumps into the car the motorist pleads as he lies that his mother (who by the way is healthy and alive in Ilesha) has just collapsed and he needs to go and save her life. The officers do not listen or believe him, they only know one truth. After a while of haggling, he will settle them.
They like the chaos, it literally pays them.
Everywhere is calm like nothing happened. But you are puzzled because once in a while, you still see that motorist that despite the lights and officers, he still tries to beat the lights.
Did you understand we Nigerians better by observing what happens at the traffic stop?
Probably not, Nigerians are not easy to understand.
Another way to understand Nigerians is from the way we react to bra straps, or half-slips or even clothing that reveal panties.
Now I am just making things up as I go abi?
Not really.
See, a Nigerian can swindle you, watch you get mugged, defend you even though you stole all his state’s treasury including the safe and the key, a Nigerian can have secret sex with man, woman and animal… yup, or una no dey read the papers.
But a Nigerian will NEVER allow you walk down the street with your bra strap or underwear showing. Somebody somewhere will tap you and point it out to you.
In fact, you can be walking down the street with a sleeve falling off your shoulder and a total stranger will firmly lift up that bra strap and arrange it under you top.
Why this is so, I can also stretch it to our parents. You know how they always told us to be decent and taught us to be uncomfortable at the sight of anything that directly covers our privates. They made us sexually aware very early. So while we do what we want to do however we want to do it behind closed doors, we never forget to remind people the importance of hiding bra straps, panties and half-slips.
I know I generalized much here and I made us look like default criminals with a sprinkle of hypocrisy.
Just look at the article as though it is a painting with only primary colours, but you can fade and mix the colours to produce variations and different secondary colours.
Somewhere tucked in these extremities are slivers of us.
We are not bad people though….
Its complicated.



Read more from Abiodun

Somebody should tell Buhari, tory don plenty – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

Sista, so you want to be a damsel? – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

Toke Makinwa and reasons men cheat by Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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