‘We Don’t Even Trust God’
For the past three years, I have been searching for why Nigeria is the way it is. And honestly, despite the fact that all Nigerians say they know what’s wrong with Nigeria, it’s hard to put your finger on it. But one issue in particular that has given me numerous headaches is the issue of trust. Trust is nonexistent in Nigeria. The people don’t trust the government, employers don’t trust employees, business people don’t trust customers and so on. For a person that comes from a country built on trust, it’s difficult at times getting anything done.
I experience this lack of trust virtually everywhere. Among my staff, in retail stores and shops and even in church. Which is why a Nigerian friend once told me that “We don’t even trust God in this country!” Which is a crazy statement based on the fact that Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world, evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Churches clog roads on Sundays and the Mosques basically shuts down Abuja at 1:00pm on Fridays.
When I arrived in Nigeria I attended a mega church that had a very complex parking situation. The parking situation is made even more difficult because most drivers didn’t follow the instructions of the parking attendant. They often ignored the parking attendant and made their own parking space. When I would inquire why the driver was not following the instructions of the parking attendant, I was told that “the parking attendant didn’t know what he was doing.”
For an American, our society is based on trust. Most Americans don’t live in gated compounds and many of us have access to instant loans when we are in the supermarket or any retail store – credit cards. We buy homes with 30 year mortgages and purchase cars with low interest car loans. If you don’t finish paying off your loans, the financial institution has a way of recovering the money.
Trust in government and institutions are key for the future success of any country, including Nigeria. Extending credit is essential to helping citizens buy homes, cars and other important items. But this also requires governments to develop schemes and programs for minimizing uncertainty during difficult economic times.
Because Nigeria lacks the programs to keep citizens above water during times of hardship, Nigeria is always teetering on the brink. Former US Ambassador described it as “Dancing on the Brink.” Sadly, 90 percent of Nigerian citizens are always dancing on the brink of disaster. They are always one step away from a financial disaster that will wipe out savings and redirect their future. It’s unfortunate but this is the country that they inherited from their forefathers. I only wish that government leaders in Nigeria would work on building trust among its citizens and putting mechanisms in place to protect them from corruption.