I am a foreigner in Nigeria. The largest part of my job is to study societies and build products for them on behalf of either my company or larger corporations. I have worked with every industry ranging from medicine to politics. And I believe I am qualified to answer this more than even a Nigerian. Because I look at it with a foreign analyst’s perspective, not a country man’s view which may greatly be subject to nationalistic bias. But I will tell you for free from the jump, NIGERIANS are not smart. Well they aren’t dumb either but they aren’t smarter than your average Rwandan or Kenyan. If anything, the dumbest people I have been amongst have either been Nigerians, or Americans. But surprisingly, both people are looked at as the smartest nations from their continents. One being a global world leader and the other Africa’s leader.
But, Nigeria has constantly disappointed the global scene. It has constantly elected dunderheads into power, it has constantly eroded systems that were of value to its people, Nigerian city girls at an alarming rate double between their day to day jobs and prostitution and it is deemed normal, Nigerian people are constantly hoodwinked by pastors with even the stupidest of magic shows passed off as miracles, Nigeria’s infrastructure continues to crumble, an oil producing nation that imports gasoline and has fuel scarcity of celestial proportions year in year out, a nation with corruption so high you can literally buy your way into heaven, Nigerians believed it when a clerk claimed that over $100,000 of government money was eaten by a snake. She stood upon this in court and won the case. Without evidence of the snake, or the money in its snake belly. Although they reported that EFCC acted on her, insiders know she got away with it. Why the public didn’t riot about this, your guess is as good as mine.
I can go forever with examples but you get the deal, they don’t exactly portray smartness, or a smart nation. You cannot get away with saying a snake ate money in China or Singapore. Hell I doubt even trump can pull that one off. But then, Nigerians still appear the smartest. What gives?
The keyword lies in the word “appearance”. They aren’t all so smart, they appear smart. And convincingly so. But walk with me and let us debunk this smartness thing a little more shall we?
I will tell you for free that you cannot match a Nigerian man’s acting. Not in their movies, those have gone downhill the past few years, but in real life. Majority of city borns are taught from day one the art of “packaging”. And they call it that. They will read up on anything, dress, look like and talk like someone or something they extremely aren’t. For as long as it serves whatever goal they are after. Even when they don’t have enough knowledge about it. They will find all the buzzwords and use them. When we worked on the 2019 campaigns for a bunch of candidates, the buzzword was Cambridge Analytica. Everyone used it to figure out a way of landing that senator, governor or presidential marketing contract. 99.5% of the people that used it hadn’t the first clue of how it worked or even what data mining operated. They knew this was the buzzword to package with, and they rode it. To whomever they would have convinced that they indeed are Cambridge Analytica type people, they would’ve appeared super smart. To whomever knew what it took to run a Cambridge Analytica, they were just posers. I was the latter. I interviewed a ton of teams over a 1 year course and all of them looked and spoke Cambridge Analytica, until you asked much more technical questions, then the smartness vanished. They were terrible data miners, but incredible actors. They appeared smart. Because of Packaging.
Nigeria is a rough market. It is rougher than Southern Sudan or even Somalia. Lagos is ranked 3rd
most stressful city in the world. And rightfully so. The cost of doing business is sinfully high, the government is always out to get you, your entire neighborhood and family is at most times envious of you so they are always up-to some sabotage in form of witchcraft or whatever medium they find, the service providers are garbage, the fastest consumer internet service provider boasts 6mbps, that is a sad laughable number to Norwegians, or even Kenyans and Ugandans, electricity is off 80% of the time, the roads are bad and there is nepotism like no other.
It is almost impossible to build a business around here. So, what do you do, you adapt. To everything. You figure out how to beat the government, your family, you’re the electricity among other things. In other terms, you “menege” it. As they rightfully call it in pidgin. To mean manage. The conditions Nigerians thrive under would kill any first class citizen. Or any citizen of any other country at all. So when they visit other countries where conditions are favorable, they instantly soar above everyone else. Not because they are smarter, but because they are used to the worst so they manage to take advantage of the good that is in your nation. One that you take for granted.
They in the long run appear smart, not because they indeed are smarter than you, but it is in their DNA to adapt and survive, by default. And so they do.
Majority of what Nigeria boasts about isn’t originally Nigerian. The idea of good African movies didn’t originate from Nigeria, South Africa had Generations, which till today is among the longest TV series on the continent. And Generations was the quality of Breaking Bad. Nigerians, though, recognized an opportunity, so they replicated the Generations quality and story lines and scaled it. The same goes for Music, which is why their mainstream afro pop sound has been monotonous since R2Bees did that song with Wande coal in the early 2000’s. Everyone imitates everyone. And they ride that wave until another catchy fad comes along, and then imitate that for forever. Thing is, majority of the things they imitate come from smaller countries, that don’t have enough numbers to scale and make the noise, so they become obsolete. A gospel singer in the 90’s remade Miriam Makeba’s song Malaika and cashed in on it more than Miriam Makeba or Boney M did. They imitate so well that they make the original creator seem like the copycat.
Americans did this too, a lot. From the invention of the light bulb, to the automobile, to the writing of the Matrix trilogy. All non- American but historically credited as American inventions. Imitation. Makes you look smart.
Connected to the one above, some Nigerians won’t just simply plagiarize an idea and scale it. Some will just take away the entire infrastructure and use as much local power against a foreign investor as possible. Example is the sad dark story of Jumia’s origin. I couldn’t find the link to the report but I will and add it as an edit. But the story goes that a foreigner came to Nigeria with the idea, built it with the assistance of some Nigerians, and after it took off, they ousted him and ensured he never returns here. And they ran with it after that. I would know this 100% because even I was once in a similar position. Had it not been the fact that I knew powerful people in over 3 governments, I would’ve suffered the same fate. SO to the outside world, they are smart for having invented these services and softwares, but the backstory, just doesn’t say the same.
A Nigerian will stick to a thing until it works, sometimes it may be a dumb idea, but they will beat it into you until you accept it. I have service providers that have consistently given me bullshit until I gave up on protesting against it and accepted it. This may not be an entirely smart thing, but it is brutally efficient. And in the long run, their consistency teaches them more and then they appear smart.
Nigerians are loud, Nigerians are extra, about everything. You must notice them. One of the most reoccurring statements from Nigerians in other foreign countries is “do you know who I am?” or “I am NIGEIRANNNN”. They wear their nationality like a badge of honor. In positions where they exist, they will amplify it. Most recently, American singer SZA wrote her Nigerian name on her Instagram bio, over 40 Nigerian blogs screen munched it and wrote articles about it. Ugandans wont write extensive articles about Daniel Kaluuya or Loubega or Kenyans about Lupita. They will most probably just reflect off of whatever Hollywood may write. Uganda and Kenya constantly produce Africa’s most Olympic gold medalists in running. But that’s all there is to it. They don’t market it. Nigerians will make noise about it. The world cup was a prime example. Coca-Cola NG blew an entire 2-year budget on the world cup, original soundtracks were made, new catchphrases like ‘’izze goal” were coined. All in support of Nigeria. Hell, Nike noticed this loudness and capitalized on it. Helping them run their most successful African campaign ever by building an entire clothing line out of the Nigerian Super Eagle’s Jersey.
Nigerians amplify even the smallest achievement in their country, while they with all efforts mask their very, very, very many verminous are dwarfed by this marketing. A Nigerian has a right to demonize Nigeria as much as they want, but a foreigner has no right to even point out a slight obvious shortcoming or they risk being crucified. I learnt to keep my mouth shut. Don’t be honest about Nigeria among Nigerians. You won’t have any friends left.
This marketing makes them appear smart and overachieved, but that’s all there is to it, marketing.
Nigerians are just very many. The odds are always tipped in the favor of the biggest numbers. If out of 100 Africans that go to American schools, 50% are Nigerians, and out of the 50%, 20 of them are straight A students, it is going to appear like Nigerians are the smartest. But it fails to take into account that there may have been 7 out of 10 Ugandans that got A’s. 6 out of 10 Rwandans, 8/10 Kenyans, 5/10 South Africans and 8/10 Somalians. Pair this with the fact that Nigerian families go really hard on educating their chi8ldren, and it balloons the numbers even more.
The numbers. The numbers. Big number dynamics greatly skew statistical results.
So really, Nigerians are just like myself or any other person living in Africa. They just have a lot going for them. But believe me, they have as much dumb as they do smart people in their country. If anything, my experience inclines me to believe that the dumb ones out rank the smart one 8:2. But I digress.