Mediocrity: A Way of Life in Nigeria

Mediocrity is worshipped in Nigeria, where it is rife and readily accepted. So pervasive its stench and so strong its waves that no corner of society—from government offices to corporate teams to classrooms— has been spared. The bar of excellence has been set so low that it doesn't take much to be considered a genius.

Nigeria, with a population of 170 million minds, could become a great country if it terminated its destructive affair with the soft bigotry of low expectations, the mental stance driving its citizens to eschew hard work and/or accept dismal performances.

There’s no reason, for instance, why Nollywood is still producing sub-par movies despite its twenty-plus years of existence. Nigerian movies ought to be competing with Hollywood, if not in special effects and epic sets then at least in compelling storylines, but because the audience expects little from Nigerian producers, directors and actors—and hence, makes no demands, trashy Nollywood movies continue to thrive, obviating the quest for excellence. What’s the point of striving for perfection when someone’s willing to reward a shitty job well done?

Making a quick buck is far more important than artistry, personal and professional reputation and self-pride. We’re content with being the world’s second largest movie industry, churning out mediocre movies by the minute, as if in the world of creativity—where quality trumps quantity—that’s a commendable feat.

While atrocious movies and music can easily be ignored since they don’t yield any serious consequences in the grand scheme of things, we can’t afford to tolerate mediocrity in governance and other spheres of life.

And yet we do.

Every four years we elect governors, presidents and lawmakers. They claim to work for us, they want us to believe that they’re earning their keep, performing inconsequential acts while ensuring the news covers them to prove they’re working. But in the end, there are no visible results. Roads remain potholed, airports, schools and hospitals gutted, and the masses impoverished and unemployed.

This vicious cycle of mediocrity persists year after year, election after election, administration after administration, because Nigerians demand nothing in return for their votes and insist on heaping misplaced praises on governors for, say, constructing a new road, as if that’s not part of their job requirement.

In private life, mediocrity presents itself in variants of this all too common scenario: A carpenter hangs your door; it doesn’t close properly but he swears that’s the way it should be, or worse, pretends not see the problem and launches into a circuitous argument. His insistence might even make you question your sanity or wonder whether you’re a mutant with special vision.

This peculiarity to come off ignorant or blind in a bid to cut corners or avoid correcting a blunder is widespread in Nigeria. We’ve become inured to second-ratism, and as a result, anyone insisting on excellence is branded a difficult person or a bitch depending on their gender.  

In every encounter with the unexceptional, you must learn to choose your battles or you’ll die before your time. You must decide whether to fall in line with mediocrities or go against the grain; to overlook the problem or go to war over it—and determine for how long as well.

That anyone has to make such a decision is disheartening.

Lead Photo: Shayera Dark

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