now reading...

#Occupy…and the Nigerian Psyche

Over the past week, there has been a resounding clamor for some form of a reactive and compelling protest in the similitude of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Spontaneous suggestions like ‘Occupy Nigeria’, ‘Occupy National Assembly’ and ‘Occupy Abuja’ have been posited on Nigerian social media platforms. To be or not to be?

‘Occupy Wall Street’ has been described as a series of ongoing protest demonstrations originating in New York City. These protests kicked off on Sept 17, 2011 and by Oct 9, had spread to about 70 cities all over the world. The protesters, self-named as ‘the 99 percent’ have taken to the streets to publicly declare a fight against all forms of economic inequality, corporate greed and the absence of evident justice post the global financial crisis. Initially triggered in July 2011 by Adbusters, a Canadian based group, the concept was to actualize a peaceful occupation of Wall Street in protest. It is seen here there was a trigger, the sense of a tipping point – “….there was a feeling that, ‘wow things are going to change’….we are going to take these financial fraudsters and bring them to justice…among the young people, there was a very positive feeling…Now, we’re despondent again”, said Kalle Lasn Founder and Editor of Adbusters.

Anyone familiar with the current Nigerian political and economic landscape certainly will perceive obvious similarity in that last statement. For many, at some point, there was the infinitesimal hope for justice to be meted out and corruption tackled squarely, a silent prayer for fiscal prudence and cuts in government overheads, a hope for transparency and accountability, a longing desire to see the implementation of campaign promises. For Nigerians, it becomes almost apt to conclude this with the same phrase “among the young people, there was a very positive feeling…now, we’re despondent again”. Does the similarity of triggers then justify or guarantee a prediction of similar responses?

The Nigerian psyche so far reflects certain features including brevity of memory, especially in the face of transient gratification. Does it not appear as though the average Nigerian, triggered by similar inequalities and injustice, complains and protests for ALL till he gets reprieve for self? Once reprieve is obtained, via that juicy contract or influential office position in Abuja, Port Harcourt or Lagos, it becomes as though the neo-activist within activates an auto system shut down, forgetting ongoing societal and economic issues. In other matters in this regard, what trend do we observe with the cases of the ongoing trial of Hon. Bankole, the alleged injustice to Justice Salami, the ABSU gang rape video? The Nigerian psyche agitates momentarily, then moves on swiftly, relegating past issues to oblivion.

Further examining the Nigerian psyche in the light of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs gives the vivid impression that many or perhaps most Nigerians are at the lower layers of the pyramid, with their foci transfixed on meeting the basic needs of life, what Maslow described as deficiency needs – food, water, power supply, security in all forms, health, friendship and family. Maslow’s pyramid suggests appropriately that unless these basic needs are met, people rarely focus on ‘Being’ needs – self actualisation, self esteem, achievements and problem solving. Drawing inferences, people whose daily attention is totally drawn into meeting basic/deficiency needs will have little or no motivation to ascend to levels of societal or economic problem solving. So, it is very likely that the average Nigerian will devote his energies to provide a roof for his family, ensure a steady supply of water, alternative or backup power supply system, and some form of home and communal security. A nation filled with many of such does not appear to present a compelling cause for ‘Occupy Wall Street’ type protests. Why? People are overwhelmed with struggles to meet basic needs, why should they endanger themselves? They hustle, longing for future prospects, and that breakthrough moment, which will make life much better for them, positioning them above the struggle line. Such individuals are more likely to be engrossed in an ‘occupation’ than the thought of ‘Occupy Abuja’.

These factors that characterize the Nigerian psyche (brevity of memory and the encumbrance of basic needs) portend to be potential terminators to the possibility of an ‘Occupy’ protest happening here.

The antithesis to this reasoning will be to prove and demonstrate clearly that a Nigerian tipping point has been reached. Each time a national event or change seems to suggest such, the preoccupation with basic needs and the brevity of memory surmount the challenge, fueling the resilient nature of Nigerians. Is there currently a cause, strong enough, as the transference of presidential powers to Goodluck Jonathan in March 2010, to guarantee another ‘Enough is Enough’ march?



11 thoughts on “#Occupy…and the Nigerian Psyche

  1. “Such individuals are more likely to be engrossed in an ‘occupation’ than the thought of ‘Occupy Abuja”



    Posted by Feyi Fawehinmi (@DoubleEph) | October 17, 2011, 10:11 pm
  2. You’ve said it all. Occupy? I laugh in greek.


    Posted by eefeanyi | October 17, 2011, 10:18 pm
  3. ‘the best predictor of future of future behaviour, is past behaviour’. until it isn’t.

    what you are saying above is exactly what they said of the Egyptians last year. All i am saying is: certainly ruling out mass protests is just as naive as certainly ruling them in. i don’t think anything of this magnitude will affect so many nigerians at ONE time. there will be no place to hide from sharp rises of the most basic things.

    I don’t know about you, but if protests suddenly erupt, it won’t surprise me one bit.


    Posted by Joachim MacEbong | October 17, 2011, 11:02 pm
    • Well said… in this world of complexities and uncertainties, it will be unwise to certainly rule anything out.. however, if the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, till disproved, then the Nigerian context suggests a lower probability of the occurrence of sudden protests …..at least, till push comes to shove!


      Posted by kunledurojaiye | October 17, 2011, 11:15 pm
  4. Whether or not the “Nigerian psyche” is capable of an #Occupy will continue to be up for debate (another reason why I doubt we are capable of it).

    What I do know though, take this from a man who visits Egypt often, is that we DO NOT want an equivalent of the Egyptian revolution. You only need to walk the streets of Egypt to know that things have gone from bad to worse… Not even just about the military that litters the streets of Cairo, not the sense of distrust between the youths (who mostly led the revolution) and the elderly, not just the palpable tensions when you walk the streets, not the fast dying tourism (Which used to be a main stay of their economy), not the sectarian violence that has once again reared its ugly head… not any of the many ugly things in Egypt since the revolution… but the actual uncertainty, about the future of the nation. It is now whispered (whispered but certainly expressed) that Mubarak was maybe a better evil.

    The people still fight today for what they chased away Mubarak for… Check your facts.

    If we must #Occupy like we say, there must be a purposeful, goal-driven and importantly strategic plan for the occupation of the corridors of power while we are at it, which does not only have to be politically but also in Enterprise.

    “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11: 25


    Posted by Dayo Fagade (@obadayo) | October 18, 2011, 3:03 am
  5. You simply expressed the average Nigerian cynicism. It’s ok though. It’s not peculiar to this country or this generation. Regardless, what will happen will happen.

    Revolts, Revolution and uprisings are as old as Man. As long as the sun shines, men will always rise up against “careless” oppressors. History has enough examples.

    Our oppressors are getting more and more careless. Subsidy removal in the midst of Mind boggling legislative salaries? In a society that has become more information crazy? With hungry young people you actually manipulated into believing they were powerful enough to elect you president?

    These oppressors getting careless sir.

    Like Joachim alluded to, because it has not occured does not mean it won’t. This is not math. It’s not easy to predict human reaction. Even Maslow cannot do that.

    I really don’t think French peasants waited till they got to the top of Maslow’s pyramid before they guillotined Louis XVI. -their pain and a few Robespierre’s and Desmoullins convinced them they could do it.

    Here, in present day Nigeria, while It may not sound sexy and hip today, the 1928 Aba Riots against oppressive British imposed warrant chiefs was not carried out by people at the top of Maslow’s Pyramid.

    Same with the Wetie of the 50s/60s, the Agbekoyas revolt and the recent protest against rigging in the North. Wether you agree or not those were uprisings. I’ll not mention Biafra.

    I see more in our near future sir, as long as the oppression continues.

    The only thing you can apply a formula to is the fact that an oppressed people will eventually revolt. Maslow’s pyramid can’t predict when.

    “Na the person wey wear tight shoe know when the pinch don tire am.”


    Posted by Lemisegra | October 18, 2011, 4:18 am
  6. I dont think Nigerians can do anything remotely resembling the Egyptian uprising. Like you said, the average working class Nigerian is occupied with providing the basics and I bet you if there is an Occupy Abuja, It will be a celebrity and faux celebrity show where they celebs are showcasing themselves. Enough is Enough came at a time when it was almost impossible to deny Yar’adua was incapable, Nigerians have a high threshold for suffering.


    Posted by Sir Fariku | October 18, 2011, 6:48 am
  7. I a̶̲̥̅♏ yet to understand the aim “occupy Abuja ȋ̝̊̅§ set to achieve. Nobody ȋ̝̊̅§ explaining to mi the result they wish to get. I can say that Nigerians can not pull of wat Egyptians did. Who r the brain behind of occupy, who will lead the masses, any revolution in this country wil spring us to another civil war cos it wil either turn to tribal or religious war. Before we revolt we need to know categorically the outcomes we ® expecting and weter the masses, i mean the grass roots pple r in support, not just idea by some power hunger pple to further distablise the country.


    Posted by zynnnie | October 18, 2011, 9:40 am
  8. Can we all for once ask those pushing for #occupy what they hope to achieve? What would post-occupy Nigeria be like? Reduced salaries for senators? Subsidized fuel products? Jailed corrupt leaders? Then what? I keep saying I see a lot of clear the ground talk but nothing major in turning the economy around. Let it be known to the #occupy youths that an economy does not turn around after ‘clearing the ground’.Planning & intellectualism plays a key role & not sitting behind a keypad typing: Blah blah is corrupt,we will #occupy.


    Posted by eefeanyi | October 18, 2011, 9:45 am
  9. Just thought i’d comment and say neat design, did you code it yourself? Looksvery good.


    Posted by backlink pyramid | November 6, 2011, 1:00 am


  1. Pingback: Governments Up, Governments Down - History In Progress - October 19, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: