“A good country is one with a Nigerian”
by Billy Schirmer Nigeria, located in the west, is the most populated country found on the African continent. It shares land borders with The Republic of Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. It has a population of over 150 million among which are found three major ethnic groups, the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. I interviewed an acquaintance who was born and lived in Nigeria for over thirty years but is now living in Ecuador. Peter is from Lagos, a city in the southwestern part of Nigeria. He grew up speaking and studying both English and Yoruba. Peter tells me Nigeria is a land of many cultures. Languages, customs, religions, and traditions were different depending on what part of country you are in. Peter claims to be apart of the educated part, which he indicates is found in the south. The Eastern and Northern parts of the country are less interested in formal education putting the focus on day to day survival and helping the family. Nigeria has a democratically elected government. All laws are voted in by the people. Peter did mention there has been a lot of governmental corruption in the past. Like many other cultures the North and East have a “Macho” society which is in contradiction to the South. Peter says in the south men and women are looked upon equal. Women have just as many opportunities as men. This paper is written based on Peter’s view of South Nigeria where he grew up. Childhood
Peter remembers his childhood being very regimented. He had many rules and regulations and recalls living in a very disciplined family. Education was top priority. He felt pressure, not only from his parents, but from other members in his community to excel in his studies. The most important accomplishment of all southern Nigerians is successful completion of university studies. As a result, Peter grew up working very hard in school. He feared that if he did not succeed, he would not only be letting down his family, but also shaming his community. He told me that if he was caught misbehaving by other elders in the community who were not his parents, they would be expected to reprimand him. Afterwards, it would be customary for his parents to thank these elders for properly punish their misbehaving son. When at home in Nigeria, the parents have all of the authority. What they say is the law. Respect was of the upmost importance to Peter while growing up. When he wasn’t at home, he was at school, and here the teacher was the boss. He describes teachers as having just as much authority as parents.
As mentioned earlier, the elders in the family were to be respected. Many rules were given and they were expected to be followed. Despite this strict and disciplined relationship to the family, family closeness was not all that prevalent. A member was only expected to do what was expected of them, which was to graduate from university. Members of the family are not expected to spend much time together as long as they fulfill their parents demands. Family pride of their children comes from the degrees they receive and the jobs they hold. Peter says that life is very hard in Southern Nigeria. There aren’t a plethora of jobs and in order to provide for the family, one must work and send money from outside Nigeria.
Friendship is a very important value to Southern Nigerians. Close friends are considered to be closer than family members. All information is shared with friends as opposed to family, where only certain details are shared. It is not uncommon seeing to male friends holding hands walking down the street. Unlike in other communities, this show of affection between two friends would not be conceived of as “gay”.
Nigerians are a people of strong national pride. The saying there is that, “a good country is one with a Nigerian,” indicating that Nigerians make the country legitimate. All Nigerians are held accountable for giving a good name to the country. This accountability creates an environment of collectivism where all members of a community are extremely close to one another to the point where it is encouraged for elders to reprimand children even if they are not blood related. If one member of a family messes up, the name of the family is shamed. This collectivist attitude also spills over to their relationships with friends. They will go to great lengths in order to help their friends and expect the same favor in return.
In Nigeria you find aspects of high power distance as explained in “Exploring Culture.” You find a huge separation from parents and children. The kids live in a very rule regulated society where discipline comes before praise. Subordinates must respect their elders. Along with the high power distance comes dimension of uncertainty avoidance. Peter mentions that all kids must be educated and those who aren’t are looked down upon giving the idea that, “what is different is dangerous.” Everything in southern Nigeria is “black and white.” That is, there is a clear way to behave well and poorly. The rules are very rigid and are interpreted in only one way. Also, Southern Nigeria is found under the virtue dimension of long-term orientation. Working hard is considered extremely important. The quest to graduate from university is of the upmost important in Peter’s community.
Despite the very structured and rule oriented society, gender roles in Southern Nigeria tend to be equal. That is, men and women share the power, work the same jobs, and enjoy the same amount of respect from same or opposite sexes.
In relation to the United States, Nigerians tend to be way more collectivist than us. In the United States it would not be acceptable to reprimand someone else’s child. We are more individualist in the States. Unlike Nigeria, we are not concerned about what others in the community are doing as long as we are succeeding. In the States there is less of a power gap between parents and children. Children are given more power to decide what to do on their own as opposed to Nigeria where there is a rule and the kid must follow it. In the States the same work ethic is found that is also present in Nigeria. Hard work is extremely important in both countries. Also, gender roles seem to be the same in both the United States and in Southern Nigeria. Nigeria is just one country, with many different cultures that adds to the variety found all over the world.