It was Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, who in his famous book Leviathan that described life as ‘nasty, brutish and short’ where the scramble for survival is the order of the day, where human adopts any possible means to exercise power over the other to feather his nest in pursuit of personal agenda – purely driven by survival instinct. For him, in a world of scarce resources and many ‘chasers’ if you need to steal and murder to live in what he called ‘a state of nature’ and carry on with life, you need to do that. In his opinion, even the so-called reserved ones are also criminal in their heart. They are only retrained by fear of being caught and possibly punished.
In 1651 when Hobbes wrote this book, the quest for survival probably wasn’t as aggressive and highly contested as it is today. Even when people resorted to short cuts as a survival means, that was with a reasonable amount of discretion. Understandably, in Nigeria where the government functions only as a tool to enrich the few privileged and their cronies, intimidate, subjugate and pauparise the rest, Hobbes’ theory of survival becomes an escape window for many. Again, one may argue, if all citizens should resort to an iron feast under the veneer of survival quest, we will be breeding a society of chaos, anarchy and lawlessness.
Irrespective of how we may view it from our little corners, morality is rapidly fading and things we considered abominable yesterday adopted and deeply entrenched as norms and part of our daily living. Such ‘new normals’ are even openly and licentiously celebrated in utmost libidinousness. This unbridled desire to ‘hammer’ through the backdoor has further discouraged hard work and excellence. Students who come home with first class are not often celebrated like those who absconded with their employer’s funds. They are sometimes shielded and rewarded. Those who develop computer applications that will solve man’s daily problems are not celebrated as much as those who openly commodify their bodies in a national television in the name of reality TV shows. They sometimes receive a governorship handshake and gifts. Those who come top at sporting competitions are not celebrated and rewarded like political thugs who snatch ballot boxes and cause mayhem during elections.
Undeniably, we are living in the most difficult and thorny times. All man is for himself and God for all. Unemployment rate is skyrocketing while thousands are annually offloaded into the already precarious and fragile labour market through the NYSC scheme. Means of production is phasing out of circulation and where available, an exclusive reserve of the affluent. Standard of living is dwindling. Our health system is excessively over labored. Infrastructure, particularly road and effective transport systems which ordinarily should grease the wheel of the economy, is in perpetual decay. The rail transport system functions skeletally. Arm robbers and kidnappers are permanently on ambush waiting for hapless citizens to prey on. Inflation figures are constantly on the rise and prediction from African Development (AfDB) that more Nigerians will further sink into abject poverty this year did not come as a surprise.
All these put together may have exacerbated and sharpened the desire for survival in an environment where the government at all levels does next to nothing to touch the people’s lives for good. Today, our youths out of desperation to raise their heads above waters openly and unapologetically profess to be internet fraudsters. They go by the nomenclature “system guys” which they bandy about as a status symbol. Interestingly, society does not see them by what they are – people who feast in another person’s sweat through dubious means and false pretence. How they have managed to curry so much empathy for themselves remains to be understood. Our people fall at each other to deodorise these elements as ‘hustlers’.
We are permanently on a shopping spree for excuses for their defiance. We see them as victims; people who have been pushed to the cliff by an unjust and hostile society. Others say they are helping us repatriate funds illicitly taken out of this country by the colonial masters. Whatever the reasons are, this ring has continually remained powerful by the day with thousands of people seeing them as models and ready to belong. This is manifestly seen in the number of people harvested by the EFCC across the country for involvement in financial crimes. Who would have imagined that it would degenerate to a level where we have ‘Yahoo Yahoo Academy’ in Bwari Abuja and other parts of the country where people are tutored on the art of cybercrime? We have so idolised decadence and rewarded immorality in the altar of stomach infrastructure. As religious as we may seem, we can no longer decipher criminality from legitimate ‘hustling’. Those who have gone a step further by adding ritual and human sacrifice are honoured with the title, ‘Yahoo Plus’.
In a nation where we roll out drums to celebrate illegitimate acquisition of wealth, where families struggle hard to raise more ‘yahoo boys’ than journalists, lawyers and doctors, one needs no soothsayer to predict where the future of the country heads. We have sufficiently demonstrated that we are on a throttle down to destruction by things we have decided to accord priority to. Our image as a country is irreparable battered before the international community on the account of the criminal tendencies of few individuals. Again, the need for our young people to be mindful of the characters to choose as role models cannot be overemphasised. Entertainers whose musical lyrics tend to promote depravity, perversion and indecency are undoubtedly toxic influences.
This is not to slam many of our industrious youths who deploy the internet to make legitimate income with the paintbrush of fraud. We must begin to de-emphasise on the get-rich-anyhow philosophy being poisonously spread in our religious gatherings under the guise of ‘releasing blessing’. We should rather encourage hard work and contentment which in my understanding are virtuous in the doctrinal slates of dominant religions in Nigeria.
Nigerian youths are without any scintilla of doubt very resourceful, resilient, productive, adventurous, creative and equipped with capacity to mill the proverbial milk and honey from the rock.
Great Nigerian youths!
Enemanna an Abuja-based journalist writes from [email protected]