Self-centeredness: Nigeria's major psychological issue


  • Author Samaila Muhammad
  • Published February 7, 2022
  • Word count 2,179

Self-centeredness is a surface trait associated with psychological disorders such as antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders. Self-centeredness is a trait that makes people ignore or forget the needs and conditions of others. A self-centered person normally focuses only on their life and doesn't care about the necessities, problems or deficiencies in the lives of other people whom he may think aren't worth any sacrifice. Most of his ideas, contemplations, sacrifices, efforts and compromises are directed towards his self-aggrandizement. Such an individual is known to give a shrug over what others perceive as problems so long as he feels satisfied with his own situations.

Other people might be highly useful to him while they often persistently struggle with gross dissatisfaction as they relate to him. If ever such a person makes a suggestion for the provision, stoppage or prevention of anything somewhere, he must be doing so because he has the thought that he is most likely going to be a beneficiary directly or indirectly.

Obviously, every human being instinctually loves themselves more than any other person. But, every time an individual is adorned with a negative psychological attribute, that impliedly means that the level of negativity of that attribute is above the normal or natural instinct level. When someone is said to be moody, for instance, my mind will quickly perceive that the specified individual keeps a frowned face most times. That never means that someone else around him doesn't also frown their face at times when disappointed or exasperated. Also just like scoring a respondent greedy. Every person may show signs of greed in some situations, but this particular respondent obviously is on an average or high level on the scale used. This is why most personality traits are scored on a scale of low, average and high levels.

All the power placed in the hands of constituted authorities in a given country is futile and meaningless, and can't impact life positively if such a society generally is not ready and willing to witness the targeted outcomes. Nigerians all groan of price hike, insecurity and corruption. We talk extensively on these issues because they affect us so much that, as a result, life becomes difficult and extremely boring. In fact, these three conditions have for decades been the major themes of our discussions and conversations at any level.

But, why do we seemingly forget the fact that we're active participants in almost everything that poses a threat to our social, economic and political wellbeing? Basically, every grown-up Nigerian is self-centred— only concerned with gains, advantages, opportunities and achievements of which he is the primary or major beneficiary no matter the negative consequences that may turn out for others.

In other words, a typical Nigerian thinks of himself first in most things he's doing. This could be the reason why we at times see some lopsidedness or misplacement of priorities in the execution of contracts in our states, local governments or even residential areas. A leader may feel urged to develop his own area for it to be better than other places as long as that will bring him applause from his folk.

Sometimes, a leader may seek to make a reform so that his own profession gains a momentum, and for all the practitioners in that profession to get better opportunities or privileges.

Just how many people in Nigeria, can you remember, have been turned in to the police, prosecuted and eventually convicted for trading or consumption of heroin, Indian hemp, cocaine, fake or expired drugs, and other bad substances? These were Nigerian citizens; mostly residents of Nigeria; having families they catered for with proceeds dripping from the sales of intoxicants or fake drugs. These people don't dispense their illegal merchandise somewhere else away from their native land. Many people in society could identify them, and had much information about their illegal transactions, but chose to let them be because they were lavish to them and didn't want to see them jailed. For which the criminals forged ahead with businesses that were tremendously corrosive to the medical, psychological and moral wellbeing of the country.

Sometimes, neighbours or acquaintances of such criminals get no material benefits from such filthy transactions, but feel intimidated to keep mute due to the criminals' perceived closeness to some political bigwigs or some bad eggs among the security operatives. It's an indefatigable fact that there are highly-placed security officials and politicians who fuel the proliferation and consumption of prohibited substances by preventing the apprehension of suspects, or by having them set free after their arrest, prosecution or conviction. If such a situation doesn't exist, why are trafficking and consumption of illegal drugs and substances on the rise despite the exaggerated arrest of suspects and public display of sacks and cartons of exhibits? Drug traffickers and those shielding them from arrest and prosecution are both criminals in the eye of the law.

What surprises normal people is the deliberate choice these people are making to ruin their own nation by making millions of people develop different physical and psychological disorders from bad drugs. Those falling victims are their parents, uncles, spouses, children, friends, and so forth. Nothing worries them at all; they shrug off nonchalantly. They’re in that racket just because they're obsessed with having certain personal gains with their minds completely blank about the gross negative consequences of their actions on others. This is the height of self-centeredness.

Consider the story of a demoted and dismissed Army General in Nigeria who got convicted around July 2021. He had been the Commanding Officer of the 26 Battalion, where he had been suspected of misappropriation of funds meant for his subordinates. Hundreds of soldiers who had been deployed to counter the encroaching gunmen around the state were said to have been deprived of their allowances for several months. These were funds meant to boost their morale in their battle against hoodlums notorious for cattle rustling and abduction of people and seeking ransoms.

Villages were often ransacked; people maimed, and houses burnt. While the inhabitants of the rampaged villages were in agony and calling for help, an official who was supposed to be committed to their safety was busy packing away the monies meant to entice the deployed troops to remain at the battleground. He considered his joy and luxury more important than the safety and tranquility of thousands of people living in or travelling to the hoodlum-infested areas.

Normally, it's the degree of a person's self-centeredness that wipes off compassion from their mind and plants the seed of viciousness in stead. There could be other personality traits driving ruthlessness, fraud and breach of trust, but self-centeredness is always a major factor sighted in activities that have to do with duping, murdering, marginalizing and terrorising of others. All that is meant to take or destroy the wealth and positions of others, as that's the kind of satisfaction sought by the perpetrators.

It's, however, unnecessary to keep blaming the ruling class at any rate for our woes as a people. If we think our leaders are unscrupulous, we can't different. We create them through our votes or endorsements. Our leaders are not from heaven, neither are they from another planet. We and they have a common heritage as a people, and share common personality traits. Such traits are known as 'collective personality' as theorized by Henry Murray. This is the reason why we think and behave almost alike. Someone may doubt this last statement. Let me clarify it with an example.

The way a governor or any other powerful official in Nigeria blows a siren to send traffic veering out of the road to allow him to pass without delay is how an ordinary person bypasses the queue at a petrol station to get served ahead of those who arrived earlier. That is what a Corporal also does at an ATM point; he feels he must withdraw cash before others because of his uniform.

I once came across some motorcycles that blared like trucks just to scare other vehicles to veer off. Such motorcyclists wanted the same jam-free traffic sought by governors, ministers, army generals, police commissioners, and so forth.

I also came across a group of young men laying a claim at an office of the Nigeria Police Force against someone over misappropriation of funds belonging to their private association which he headed. The association primarily relied on grants and contributions. The embattled President of the organization was accused of emptying its accounts by forging the signatures of other signatories to the accounts. Earlier on, he had made sure that all notifications of transactions on the organization's accounts came to no one but him alone. Therefore, he was absolutely confident that his thick withdrawals would be unnoticed— at least for the time being. Really, even if he were just borrowing the money with the intention of returning it later, the move was still selfish and amounted to a breach of trust. Imagine what such a person would do with state coffers if in a public office.

Many of the officials perceived today as the architects of Nigeria's problems leapt almost from nothing to positions of authority. Some of them were comrades in various activist groups and were constantly on the media castigating those on the authoritative ladders. They seemingly found flaws to comment about on any bill, policy, or scheme unveiled by constituted authorities. After they had jumped into the corridors of power like chimpanzees across tree branches, they quickly blended in with the old-timers and moved on.

Besides, the people referred to as 'looters' are often the people engaged in building of mosques and churches, sponsoring of clerics, giving alms to the needy, and lots more, and the masses still admire and cheer them— making them look like kings. This is internationally embarrassing to the nation. The mansions of these people, however, are always overflowing with men and women waiting for alms. Wherever they are, people chant praises upon them for their philanthropic services in society. No one ever turns down their donations or presents. So, their suspected plunder is apparently considered good and palatable by the society itself.

It's therefore not out of tune to infer that the Nigerian societies are happy with all the misappropriation of public funds which the EFCC, ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies have been established to fight. This in no small measure weakens the morale of the anti-graft agencies.

What the masses probably don't like seeing is the flamboyant lifestyle of these 'looters', leaving them in shabby and bug-infested homes. The sight of luxury cars and massive buildings all belonging to the 'looters' is primarily the envy of the masses despite their concealed admiration, love and support for what the bigwigs are suspiciously into.

Look at the shortages of life's necessities suffered in every state in Nigeria. Of late, a renowned Islamic jurist in northern Nigeria urged the Buhari administration to open its doors by granting a blank amnesty for bandits whom he thought would lay down their arms and be rehabilitated and assimilated back into the society. The scholar showed some semblance of sympathy for the rampaging bandits despite their repeated brutalities on humanity.

His perceived pity, however, sprang from his consideration of their purported marginalization over the years by government for failing to bring political dividends to such communities, and from his consideration of their purported terrorization by cattle rustlers who for decades were believed to have scared them and shepherded away their cows without commensurate moves by government to tackle the menace by securing them against extortion and rustling. This was the much they had wanted from government. They hadn't asked for roads, clinics, taps, and schools. They were known to have lived in their undeveoped enclaves for centuries.

Surprisingly, apart from cows being rustled away, every other life's problem experienced in such rural communities is also present in other Nigerian communities. In Nigerian cities, where life should be easier and more gratifying, people suffer from shortages of basic necessities ranging from water, energy, healthcare, to bad roads and poor or inadequate educational services. But, those in the corridors of power still have nothing short in their lives.

Every occupant of any high political seat in the country drills a borehole in his home and installs massive tanks overhead to ensure a constant flow of water for his family. Furthermore, to dodge the epileptic power supply coming from the national grid, there is always a solar system and a high-voltage standby generator installed. And there are well-equipped clinics where only that class can afford to go to.

These people know too well that life is never enjoyable without such amenities, but too self-centered are they to provide a level playing ground. They prefer to take funds from state coffers to provide themselves all that they need, leaving the grassroots with crumbs and in penury. This is an outcome of self-centeredness.

The whole situation in Nigeria and even in some sub-Saharan African countries alludes to the allegory set long ago by George Orwell in his fiction— The Animal Farm.

I'm simple, straightforward and compassionate. My email:

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Khalid Aliyu
Khalid Aliyu · 1 year ago
What a nice piece! Keep it up.

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