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Big Man's Culture; Black Man's Burden Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Wilfred Mamah, United Kingdom Apr 15, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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A destructive culture is holding sway in Nigeria and most African countries. It is the culture of Big Man. This culture is a burden on Africa’s shoulders. It has made hay of the cherished African ideal of collectivism and replaced it with destructive individualism. It is at the heart of the crisis in Africa. Hence, when we reel out statistics, like the following: 200 million Africans have no access to health services; over 20 million Africans have died of AIDS in the last two decades; nearly half of the 600 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa, live on less than one dollar a day; over 9 million Africans have died in war etc, we are actually demonstrating, to a large extent, the evils of individualism, embedded in the utterly impeding culture of “bigmanism”.

Culture and Psychology

The culture of big man thrives on selfishness. It draws a line between the liberated rich; the rich at heart and the shackled poor. The liberated rich are stupendously rich. Most often, their sources of wealth are shrouded in mysteries. A typical Nigerian big man is fabulously rich without corresponding work. “Wealth without work”

The rich at heart are not rich in terms of having material possessions to show, but, as result of inferiority complex, occasioned by the ravaging big man culture, the rich at heart, want to be seen and be adored like the stupendously rich. They live in the utopia of “bigmanism” and share the same world view with the big man. Those in this fool’s paradise derive a lot of pleasures, telling stories of how connected they are to the real rich in town. They lie to themselves and can go to any extent to prove that they are big men.

The shackled poor do not need to be defined. Over 70 % of the country’s population falls within this category. People here are like refugees in their own country. Food and other basic essentials are luxuries, for this class. Poverty has almost stripped them of all dignity. They know their source of oppression, but lack the courage and leadership to confront the oppressor.

It is important and interesting to note, that some, who ordinarily would have fallen in the priority divide of ‘rich and liberated” are poor at heart. These are big men that have refused to imbibe the big man culture. They are not easily seen. They talk less and are concerned about the cycle of poverty in the country. They are value-conscious. They show commitment and leadership to work many people out of poverty. For them, the opportunity to be rich is a call to service; a call to invest in the society. The problem at hand is that the numerical strength of the rich-poor is weak and diminishing by day. In fact, this class of people is rapidly going into extinction as the big man’s culture ravages the land.

I am intrigued by the psychology of the Nigerian big man. He is driven by greed and power. Nothing demonstrates this greed more than his unquenchable desire for wealth and pleasures. He is in love with power, which he sees as an instrument of coercion and suppression. He is politically aware. His primary political motive is to wield power and use same as an instrument of oppression and personal enlargement, call it aggrandizement. A typical Nigerian big man has successfully killed the still voice of conscience. He does not care that those around him are dying. He dismisses the poor as incurable lazy people. He possesses an astonishing foresight and can smell pound sterling where others are seeing naira. When he makes deals of any kind, he goes for the kill. It is immaterial that the interest of the society is involved in such deals. For him, his interests supersede that of his society and he interprets this as being clever.

“Bigmanism” and political power are in hot romance. But curiously, the big man does not believe in the institution of government. Neither does he believe in the potency of the Law. For him, the wealthy individual is a government unto himself. He builds empires around himself and compels the poor to owe allegiance to him as they would have the government. On the issue of Rule of Law, incorporating equality of all human beings, the big man dismisses it as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. The Nigerian big man is an embodiment of human rights abuses. When he employs you in his company, he will make you to work like a jackal and pay you peanuts. If you are a woman, your case is different. Your growth in the establishment will be dependent, not on what you can offer, but on how willing you are to compromise your dignity and give in to his unreasonable demands. He does not take ‘no’ for answer and the fact of marriage, means nothing. After all, he has the cash and for him, it is “cash and carry” It should be noted that those I have earlier described as the rich-poor do not have this type of sordid view of entrepreneurship. They are gentlemen, but they are few, very few.

How the culture affects the society

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Wilfred Mamah

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joy koneh | Jan 9th, 2012

enlightening and thought-provoking
Sahra Ahmed Koshin | Oct 29th, 2007
Thank you for this piece. The same is true in many parts of africa such as Somalia, Kenya and Zambia where i have been. I will post this to many of my friends. Indeed, a well-written and informative article.

Hello dear
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