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Something intrigues me about the average Nigerian; how they make stable efforts to achieve specific goals. The average Nigerian is steadfast in whatever they do so long as the intended outcome is attained. I am astonished at the manner Nigerians persist in most of their endeavours despite the odds that prevail.

For most Nigerians, the word “guilt” is eccentric and mislaid in their lexicon. The common Nigerian believes that they will succeed whenever they attempt a project. They are prepared to put in all to ensure that they are not counted as failures in the end.

Recently, this essayist was in the company of a group of young boys.

 In the conversation that ensued one of them, who had just returned from Australia, narrated how in that country graduates commit suicide for their inability to secure jobs upon graduating from school. Others perpetrate same for their failure to gain admission to the university. Compare both scenarios to what obtains in Nigeria, where a thousand and one reasons exist which could cause the termination of one’s life.

Young Nigerians make repeated attempts to succeed in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) without success, but hardly give up. Think about the rising spate of unemployment in the country, leading to unimaginable frustration of our youths and turning the knowledge they acquire from school into utopian ideals. Some graduate with high grades but remain for years without jobs. These youths are still in search of jobs without giving up.

The apparent frustration faced by jobless youths causes them to engage in unsolicited postgraduate programmes and become a burden to their parents or guardians. This, nevertheless, does not alter the situation. For them, life must go on unhindered, job or no job. 

It was this same spirit that informed Nigerians’ rating as the happiest people in the world in a global survey conducted sometime ago. What weighs down people in other countries and occasion them to terminate their lives hardly has impact on the average Nigerian given the same variables. A die-hard spirit you would call it; you can’t be wrong. However, as there are advantages to these personality traits, so are there disadvantages. But first, the advantages. Just as the adage goes: “There is always a light at the end of the tunnel” so are there some sure rewards for one’s ability to persevere.

A case that readily comes to mind is the event between Elijah and Elisha as recorded in the Holy Books. Elijah was Elisha’s master. When it became clear to the latter that the former would soon be transfigured, he made sure they were in one accord. Even when Elijah repeatedly told Elisha to wait till his return from his journey, Elisha declined the offer but rather clung to his master, because he knew he was about to be blessed by him, but on the condition that he must witness Elijah’s translation to heaven.

His perseverance, however, paid off as he was eventually rewarded with the double portion of his master’s anointing in a befitting proportion. This is an example of what accompanies perseverance. As one persists, one must not lose focus. These qualities are pre-requisites to success. Conversely, when perseverance is not regularly appraised and received, it could lead to hallucination. Psychologists see it as something that could fixate one both in thought and action.

Our leaders abuse these traits of the Nigerian. They see this resilience as weakness, docility and naivity. Is that not the reason corruption thrives as our leaders stare us in the face and stash the people’s money meant for development without question? Is that not why GSM service providers afford to render poor services to Nigerians and the heavens do not fall? Is it not for the same reason the government has failed to fix the nation’s power problem many years after the inception of democracy?

But in the midst of these, I have one worry. If a global survey has rated Nigerians at 70 points for optimism and by contrast Britons deeply pessimistic 44, won’t we be denied aids by the industrialised nations? This is because happiness presupposes contentment and if this logic can be sustained, won’t it mean that the Nigerian is at ease at home?

For the purposes of dialectics, abject poverty in which most Nigerians live and happiness ought not to be universally related.

But this is Nigeria where anything goes and usually contrary to established norms. This might be why the nation is seen as a summary of a wasted potentiality and extravagant opportunity. If one looks harder, one may be tempted to conclude that the Nigerian’s optimism is misplaced. This is a country regarded as a place where corruption thrives. The newspapers are full of sensational allegations of crooked officials and mind-boggling haul.

Sectarian violence is steadily on the rise. Then there is grinding poverty. To cap it all, there are the advance fee “419” scams richly embedded in the business life of many citizens. In the visage of these, what in the world makes Nigerians so happy, so optimistic and undoubting in spirit? It is the spirit of entrepreneurship which fuels their optimism.

An African proverb says: “If Friday is to be sweet, you will know by Thursday.” It might not seem that Nigerians have much to be happy about, but they have already seen what Friday holds and this reinforces their resolve and ambition. This is the spirit of a true Nigerian. We mustn’t give up.

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