Welcome to Nigeria, a country where mediocrity is celebrated.
How do I mean? Well, something happens in my neighbourhood almost every time – and I am sure it happens in yours too; except the nation’s power companies aren’t responsible for supplying your own juice. If they are, then you can relate to this.
NEPA (the catch-all word for all the electric power companies) restores power, the lights come on, and everybody’s happy. Then, about two hours or more later, they ‘take’ the power. And then, you overhear your neighbours say: “But they tried o.”
It’s interesting (and saddening) to realise that many people think a brand or service or politician is doing them a favour when they do their jobs, what they are being paid to do. I tell my friends all the time: “Do you realise you pay for this service – and whether or not there’s electricity, you will pay?”
They look at me like I’m crazy.
Another example is the Jega thing. Professor Attahiru Jega was appointed Chairman of INEC and he conducted “free and fair” elections, the “first of its kind”. Jega became a legend, a much-hailed man for doing what he was supposed to do.
The thing about the mediocrity mentality is that it breeds people who are complacent and have a false sense of comfort and an entitlement mentality. People start to expect some kind of reward for doing what they are normally supposed to do.
Have you ever been in a place, say a bank or supermarket or cinema, where you run into a helpful security personnel that helps you maneuver your vehicle, puts you in a near-perfect parking space, and so on? And then, when it’s time for you to leave he hangs around, expecting something for his efforts?
That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.
Mediocrity is a very clear and present danger. With that kind of mentality, it is almost impossible to be great. When you’re conditioned to think with only minimal effort, you get by; when you start to think that because you show up at work early, you deserve some special recognition…
You’re supposed to show up at work early!
It’s like a Chris Rock joke. He says it’s funny how some African American men walk around bragging about taking care of their kids and not going to jail. Well, he says, you’re supposed to take care of your kids, stupid! You’re not supposed to be in jail either!
It’s a very dangerous and backward mindset.
How are people supposed to do incredible work when they are being taught that their barest minimum is enough? How are we ever supposed to be the Giant of Africa if people get applauded for doing what they’re already obligated to do? In almost every aspect of life in Nigeria, mediocrity is the order of the day. And if you dare say something about it, you are looked at like you fuss too much.
I always recommend to my students to leave this country at least once before they are in their thirties – so they don’t start to think that this is how life is; so they don’t get used to the idea that the craze in Nigeria is normal everywhere else.
This is a country with humongous potentials, but until we take the charge and challenge ourselves to be better, that’s all Nigeria will ever be – a nation with potential. Our attitude concerning a lot of things needs to change, and that’s the only way the change we have all been clamouring for can ever happen. Until we learn to take responsibility for ourselves and our contributions into this nation, nothing is going to change.
And maybe, the first step towards that is to simply resolve to do better.
No matter what it is we’re doing, we can always do better. Why do we expect a pat on the back for doing our jobs? I mean, it feels good to be complimented and such, but is that why we do what we do at our various points of responsibility?
Do you thank your boss for paying your salary?
Maybe you do, but I’m sure that’s more out of politeness than actually being grateful. I mean, your salary is your due, is it not?
Our attitude needs to change; and once it does, who knows what else will follow?
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