I think bundling every member of a country into such a stereotype is pretty unfair. But then again, I guess it is safe to say no one should bother since our own president did not hesitate in throwing such humiliating comments about the people he should be leading either. What was he expecting? That others with any regard after that uncalculated move? As a Nigerian who understands the impact of such misleading comments, I will not ignore it.
Everybody, yes I said everybody, has the tendency of being corrupt (including Brits). It is the state of the human mind to want to cheat, to cut corners, to try to make their lives easier. Except one makes a conscious effort to overcome the urge, we all have the tendency, so I don't see why a certain people should be stereotyped. Have you ever wondered why you can translate the term 'corruption' into your different languages? Because it exists where you come from too. Corruption is not a Nigerian word. Or do you think Nigerians coined the word 'corruption'?
I am not trying to make an excuse for corruption, don't get me wrong. This is just me crying out for the millions of Nigerians who wake up everyday and try to brave all the setbacks that being a Nigerian has imposed on them to make a genuine and honest living. Setbacks that only a Nigerian may be able to describe in a way that may be at least comprehensible (never relatable) to others. I repeat, it is so unfair to have to deal with such an offensive tag. Most of our political leaders are corrupt. We understand that. Do we have a few misfits in the society as well? We are not denying that we do not. But does that make every Nigerian corrupt? That stereotype is not fair to all the Nigerians that are out in different parts of the world contributing massively to International development at all. Shall we start calling out some names incase someone has forgotten that we have those sorts as well?
I will share my personal experience so you can understand how misleading this tag is.
Another time, we went to practice in a rehabilitation room of a pediatric clinic. He wanted to take some of the soft balls we used for the kids because he said he wanted to use them for something. I asked him why he didn't just go to the stores and buy them rather than stealing them.
And he told me "C'mon these things cost nothing, it won't even take anything from this place if I took some of them." And I told him that was the more reason why he should go buy them. "Didn't your conscience tell you that this is wrong, or is it still the school you're trying to pay back by stealing from an independent clinic?" I asked him. And this time, he tried to convince me that picking a few of those things wasn't exactly stealing. But the next thing he said shocked me. "I know you are just being very sensitive because Nigerians are usually known to be corrupt." He also added that I was only trying to use reverse psychology on him.
"Seriously? You're the one that is always looking for a chance to cheat others and this is about me because I am Nigerian?" This is the kind of stories a lot of Nigerians will tell you.
Let me play this scenario that I am sure most people can understand perfectly.
I have met a lot of non-Nigerians; I have lived with them and interacted with them, and I can tell you categorically that it is hypocritical to give Nigerians that tag.
I will share another experience from back when I was in the university. It was the time I got to meet people from diverse places, hence my plenty references from back then. All the teachers always had something to say about the Nigerians that studied there. "They're hard working and very determined."
I heard it so much that I decided to do my own little survey too. In all the years and classes, Nigerians had some of the best students. I engaged the other Nigerians I met in a discussion about it and I will not forget what one of the girls I spoke to said. She said there was no way she could leave school without being able to defend her certificates, walking around with the consciousness that she didn't merit any of them. And that is someone you can readily bundle into a single stereotype as corrupt?
I was studying with another of my classmates one time who obviously wanted to come see how I studied. The course material was pretty voluminous and we had little time to go through all of it. He suggested that we shared some of the work into two parts so I could study a part and allow him to study the other. The idea was that we would master each part and sort each other out during the exams. I told him, I couldn't risk it. "I'm not going for this exams knowing that the only way I can get a good grade is by cheating. It is undermining my capabilities and I know I can do better." And to my utter shock he told me, "C'mon Nigerians are usually the corrupt ones, I don't understand why you like acting like you need to force anything down anybody's throat. We already know the truth, you can only try so hard." He said that to me and I felt so humiliated. There we were trying to deliberate on how to pass a course. While I concentrated on genuine ways of making the job easier, he kept thinking of the best ways for us to cheat, but I still get to bear the name somehow.