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Nigeria and the Expense of Respect
By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu
December 18, 2008

 

Respect, according to the Webster Dictionary, is simply showing high regards for someone or something.  There is nothing wrong with showing respect as long as it is moderate and reasonable.  I do not believe in showing too much respect to the extent that you physically and mentality subject yourself to the level of an underclass.  I am a strong believer that action speaks louder than words.  I also believe that the way a people show respect to their government and elders is a psychological yardstick by which we can measure exploitability, independence, and progressiveness of that people. 

In the west such as the USA, there is still high respect for government, law, and bosses, but it has dwindled when it comes to parents and teachers.  This is because of poor parental skills in the west due to both parents working very long hours to meet up with the standard of living of the society.  Showing respect in the west is verbal and it is related to resource control.  They may stand and say “sir” or “ma” when addressing the government, who they have genuinely elected to manage their resources and make their laws.  They may also do the same to their bosses who control their salaries and promotions, and to the police, who enforces their laws.  In Nigeria, a child is trained to show extreme respect to everyone perceived to be older than him even if he is the one owed money, apology, or explanation – they call it tradition.  Some cultures do not care about the value of your clothes or status, you are meant to lie down or completely put both knees on the ground to show respect.  Some elder, who basically have no justification in accounting for their existence, are always very pleased to remind you that your belly or knees either did not touch the ground completely or did not stay on the ground long enough.  That is all they now live for – your respect. 

 

In the USA, the law is equal for all (Blacks are still catching on).  The law and its benefits are open for all to benefit from, if you are aware of it and know how to utilize it.  Even in the courts and in public, you have freedom of speech and you can question or challenge anybody non-violently.  In many Nigerian societies, the younger ones are made to kneel before the older even when he is the one making the compliant and he is in the right.  So psychologically, he is speaking or making his case from a defeated or apologetic position.  This culture simply means that you should be quiet or turn the cheek when your superior is even in the wrong.  Nigerians are known to have made statements like you do not beat the older for the younger, okro plant can never be taller than the owner, or obey before complaint.  If you don’t beat the older ones, how will the older ones learn that they did the wrong thing?  About obeying, don’t you think issues must be resolved before carrying out certain orders?  A farmer may own the okro, but God owns humans beings. 

Cultures that are verbal and non-demeaning in showing respect tend to be more independent and progressive in their ways and culture than others.  Respect is based on productivity and contribution rather than age.  In this format, people are encouraged to the ambitious, competitive, and creative in their education, work, business, leadership, government, and anything they do.  It is mandatory because their position is expected to be challenged and questioned to either make them more productive or give up the position for someone who is more reliable.  In some Nigerian cities, the oldest man is the senior and is entitled to all the respect that is available.  It does not matter if he is an illiterate, unproductive, or did not even raise his children.  His word is final even if it makes no sense.  You better not oppose his nonsense because even a grown accomplished woman (wife or sister) will be made to kneel and say sorry for his madness – what a great tradition.  

This is the foundation of Nigeria’s problems as citizens.  From the day we are born to the day we die, we are taught to respect, even if we have no food, money, education, or are born sick and will not even leave long.  In some Nigerian homes, you must allow the elder to dictate how you utilize your salary, when you are allowed to go get an apartment and live on your own, and if you are allowed to drive after buying a car or you will be made to kneel down for the ultimate crime of disobedience in an attempt to prosper.  This is why Nigeria is the way it is to this day.  No one can stand up to speak, tell the truth, and defend what is right and keep it stable.  This is because the value of respect in our society is so high that it comes before truth, progress, happiness, honesty, and harmony.  Respect without purpose is dead.  Nigerians have no independence of thought and action.  We take permission and want people’s blessing for everything.  This is why we are exploited without conditions or explanations, and a people that are exploited and are dependent can never prosper.  Let us practice to respect without being psychologically degraded or compromised. 

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