Have you ever been to a Nigerian embassy? Or ordered clothes from
designers tailors in Nigeria, because #buynigerian? Or have you been to a post office in Nigeria? Notice what these places/events have in common? People in “important” positions, who have something you want. The little authority they are given has so gotten into their heads, that they don’t know how to act anymore. I call that the nigerianism attitude.
This attitude cuts across all different levels; from the hiring manager interviewing you for a job, to the woman by the roadside selling roasted corn. Take an extra second to pick which corn you want, and you’ll get an “aunty, you go buy abi you no go buy?are you going to buy or not?” speech, accompanied by the face of annoyance and irritability. I almost want to ask – “madam, are you mad we’re buying your goods? Or, what exactly is the matter?”
Why does this woman think she has authority, you ask? It’s simple – she has something you want, and that’s all that matters; customer service means nothing. This is such a narrow and short-sighted way of thinking. It makes no sense because while she acts like she is doing you a favor, in reality, she is dependent on you, the customer. And technically, we shouldn’t return to patronize her; but because mediocrity is the norm, and quite frankly, we don’t have enough convenient options, we return.
About two years ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria required all Nigerians to register for a Bank Verification Number. I found the only location near me where I could get registered. So I made an appointment on their website a week in advance, took the day off from work, and drove an hour there in my miserable first trimester sickness. I mentally prepared myself before leaving home – “Abisola, you are going to a Nigerian office. DO NOT have high expectations, DO NOT be irritated, and DO NOT be surprised if things don’t go as planned. Remember, IT IS A NIGERIAN OFFICE!” I was prepared for the worst of the worst; my phone was fully charged in anticipation for a long wait, I had my pack of chewing gum, and I took a book to read to distract myself from any ridiculousness that might happen.
However, nothing prepared me for the note I saw taped to the door, stating that the office was closed for some holiday. I was livid! I looked at my appointment confirmation again to see if I had things mixed up. I didn’t; the date was right, and the time was right. They just didn’t update their website to block out that date from appointments. I wish I could call it an oversight, but it is more than that. It’s a nonchalant attitude to their work.
It didn’t end there. I made an appointment for the following day, and arrived bright and early. After waiting four hours to get called (because everyone there had a PhD in inefficiency), I explained what happened the previous day. “Surely, they will be shocked,” I thought. Want to know the response I got? “Yes o, we were closed. EeyaWhat a pity you did not know?” That was it; there was no apology, there was no “we’ll cut your fee in half for the inconvenience,” and there was no “we’ll update our systems so this doesn’t occur in the future.” They got away with the nigerianism attitude.
Even though I call it the nigerianism attitude, I think it’s really an africanism or even a blackism attitude, because this thing seems to go deep into our blood regardless of where we live. Think about your last encounter at the DMV, or at an admin office in a historically black college. How did it go? Okay, fine. Maybe it’s just in Baltimore.
There are three things at the core of this type of behavior.
- The idea of exercising power. Because they may have been on the receiving end of abuse of power, they feel it is their turn to exercise the little authority they now have on people that so happen to need their service.
- Unprofessionalism. Because somehow, you can get away with being mediocre in Nigeria, as there is no standard of excellence.
- Lack of kindness. Because we forget that at the end of the day, we’re humans, and we deserve kindness from one another.
For those who are still courteous, professional, kind, and have good customer service, because we realize we actually need customers to have a thriving business, I say kudos!
I bet you have plenty stories to tell on your encounters with nigerianism/africanism/blackism, and I’m eager to read them. Please share in the comments section. If you enjoy reading my posts, kindly subscribe, and share with your friends.