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As many fans closely follow the Nigerian football team, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes in the New York Times of the country's caste system, in which you're either on top or dismissed without a second look.

BIGOTS and racists exist in America, without a doubt, but America today is a more civilized place than Nigeria. Not because of its infrastructure or schools or welfare system. But because the principle of equality was laid out way back in its Declaration of Independence. The Nigerian Constitution states, in Section 17(2)(a), that "every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law." However, this provision is in a portion of the document that contains "objectives" of the Nigerian state. It is not enforceable; it certainly isn't reality.

The average Nigerian's best hope for dignified treatment is to acquire the right props. Flashy cars. Praise singers. Elite group membership. British or American accent. Armed escort. These ensure that you will get efficient service at banks and hospitals. If the props prove insufficient, a properly bellowed "Do you know who I am?" could very well do the trick.

This somebody-nobody mind-set is at the root of corruption and underdevelopment: ingenuity that could be invested in moving society forward is instead expended on individuals' rising just one rung higher, and immediately claiming their license to disparage and abuse those below. Even when one househelp is made supervisor over the rest, he ends up being more callous than the owners of the house.

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Read Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's entire piece at the New York Times.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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