Are Nigerians the smartest people to walk the earth?


Nigerian footballer holding the nation's flag.

I think Nigerians are relatively outspoken, resilient and feisty people. Most have the ‘break all barriers and go for gold’ attitude that is not seen in many other Africans. They have survival skills and can contrive to make it out of any situation. But that trait is surprisingly missing when it comes to how they deal with their leaders.

As subjective and unfair as this question can be, a user put in up on Quora. For the uninitiated, Quora is a question and answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. Users can ask any type of question on any topic and others can answer them. Then the range of answers is upvoted or liked by users and ranked in order of most viewed by users.

Although I have stayed in Lagos, Nigeria for about a week, answering this question is a very uphill and almost impossible task. With a population of over 170 million, Nigeria is the most populated country on the African continent and is believed to have the highest number of nationals in the diaspora. It is silly to generalize the whole population and define them within a single vein. I have met Nigerians of all shades: shy and bold, intelligent and dumb, talented and less talented, creative and boring, fashionable and dowdy, the list goes on. Nigerians are everywhere in their numbers. From Malaysia to Ghana to Saudi Arabia, Nigerian spread their wings very far and in droves.

what-is-the-largest-city-in-nigeria_70140611-2472-4936-a691-59b551dfb517But let’s review some of the responses that flooded the thread after the question was posed.

Nigerian user, Quadri Oluwaseun, replied in the affirmative yet raised some red flags about the phrase ‘smartest people’. “…Yes, most Nigerians have great instinct for survival (It is also a feature other countries possess) but they tend to disappoint when it matters most. The Nigeria people are bullied by their Government but the people still don’t have an idea on how to respond. They support/vote for these same set of corrupt people during elections as long as they (corrupt politicians) have few money (food) to entice them (the people). That is not smartness.”

I think Nigerians are relatively outspoken, resilient and feisty people. Most have the ‘break all barriers and go for gold’ attitude that is not seen in many other Africans. They have survival skills and can contrive to make it out of any situation. But that trait is surprisingly missing when it comes to how they deal with their leaders.

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During my stay in Ikeja, Lagos in February this year, I was shocked to the core by how incredibly worse and crushing the electricity crisis was. I never enjoyed power for more than three hours consecutively. In the night, the electricity fluctuates like a video game session, where each game pad button pressed takes the light and then turns it back on. Everyone I met was used to it and not bothered so much about the negative impact of the problem. The big question I kept asking myself was, ‘Where is the fighting spirit of Nigerians that can hold the feet of their leaders to fire to fix the problem? Where has all the outspokenness and smartness vanished to when it comes to dealing with their leaders?’

Quadri’s reservations are not limited to only Nigerians. Governance, in many developing nations, is taken for granted. There is less empathy and more impunity on the leadership front. Politicians bribe electorates for votes and make bombastic promises that are never fulfilled. Yet these same leaders are kept in power for long to cripple the system and make it work to their favour. Voting for leaders is based on tribal, religious or physical outlook, which betrays the biased reasoning ability of majority of voters.

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Quadri also makes an important point in his answer, ‘some Nigerians tend to spend money lavishly instead on using it to better themselves and the society. That is not smartness.’ I agree. Ostentation, flamboyance and showiness are not smart moves. Lavish weddings, parties and gatherings do not necessarily better the lives of the celebrant or the revellers. How is that developing your person positively? How is it impacting society? How about contributing to improve the livelihood of the underprivileged? African lawmakers are some of the highest paid in the world yet their impact and influence in terms of transforming society for the better are rarely felt.

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Another Nigerian Quora user, Tee Wale, builds a case around Nigerians being ‘street smart.’ He says “ In Lagos you need to be on your A-game all the time. You need to be smart to feed yourself and your family, you need to be smart to avoid almost constant danger, you need to be smart to avoid getting scammed (419). And with population almost amassing 173 million plus, you will never be short of experience on everyday life.”

Lagos is a brisk city. It looks like no one stops to breathe. There are numerous tales of confidence tricksters in the business capital of the West African nation. You need to be smarter to evade scams but should scammers be termed as ‘smart people’? I don’t think so. Profiting from innocent and unsuspecting individuals is fraud. Dishonesty is not smartness. The distinction needs to be clear.

The answers to this Quora question, as expected, are varied. I hope more and more people will associate smartness with positive impact, delivering on promises and finding solutions to real issues. As smart as Nigerians and Africans as a whole will love to make the world think they are; holding leaders accountable, striving for real progress to uplift the poor and underserved and working towards collective development of our communities will send a more rock-hard message of smartness to people the world over.

 

 

 

 

 

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Are Nigerians the smartest people to walk the earth?

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