Have you ever asked yourself what the Nigerian dream is?
A lot of people believe that the Nigerian dream is to travel and settle abroad. While we have witnessed a steady and mass movement of people from here to overseas since the 80s, this isn't the Nigerian dream.
Yes, many Nigerian youths dream of getting away from here and settling in greener pastures abroad. This, however, isn't a dream. We cannot ignore the reality that many Nigerians find themselves abroad- doing menial jobs and living from paycheck to paycheck.
Not every Nigerian who travels abroad to settle is guaranteed a life of comfort and stability. Many learn quickly that life on the other side is not a bed of roses that Hollywood sold to them. There are plenty of Nigerians who want to come back home but they can't because they are ashamed that they will be coming back with nothing.
This is not the Nigerian dream because many are living in nightmares abroad. So, what is the Nigerian dream? It is simple. The dream is to make it by any means necessary.
Think about it for a second. Life in Nigeria is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The life expectancy here is 53 years of age. 67% of Nigerians live below the poverty line The constant supply of electricity is still a myth. Police brutality is high with operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squadextorting, illegally detaining and assaulting Nigerian youths daily.
Inside this heap of harsh conditions called Naija lies the Nigerian dream, a perverted ambition.
The Nigerian dream is simply this 'to succeed against all odds, by any means necessary'. And there are a lot of odds. Apart from the aforementioned ones, add a non-existent public health care system, poor level of education and unemployment. The odds are stacked against the Nigerian youth to make it in life.
Nigerians are tenacious, they will succeed despite the obstacles. With our backs against the wall, we have continuously found a way not only to survive but to thrive as well.
Let me break down the word 'succeed' in this context into street lingo, you are familiar with. Succeed here means 'hammer', or 'blow'. When a Nigerian says 'I wan blow', that is just the Nigerian dream. When Olu Maintain sang 'When I hammer, first thing na Hummer' on 'Yahooze' that is just the Nigerian dream in play.
Our country people just don't want to get by. They want to be successful, they want to have lots of money because tomorrow is not guaranteed. In a society where there aren't strong safety nets (reliable pension scheme and good health care) people will enter the rat race. The aim will be able to make the most amount of money within the shortest possible time.
That is why as Nigerians we do not operate on a long-term level. Your landlord asks you for a year's rent upfront despite knowing you get paid monthly. He wants the rent for a year because who knows, by tomorrow you could get fired with no notice or your company starts to owe you months of salary.
The American dream is to have a nice house with a picket fence, the identity of middle-class America. In Nigeria, the middle class is very thin, one wrong move you are in poverty land.
'Any means necessary' means we are willing to bend the rules (also break the rules) to be rich. The high level of corruption indicates how we are willing to break the rules to make it in life in a society that has lost its moral compass.
In a society where there is little or no justice and safety nets, citizens would do all within their means to have a decent life. And this is what is happening in Nigeria right now. From politicians to every day Nigerians, we are trying to grab as much cash within the smallest amount of time to ensure we have a fulfilling life.
This is why we have Internet fraudsters. The dream to 'hammer' and 'blow' is what fuels crime in this country. Young men are willing to do anything it takes to be rich in a society where the odds are stacked against them.
Perhaps we shouldn't call it the Nigerian dream but rather the Nigerian Nightmare. If life is hellish here then surely then the dreams you have cannot be beautiful but rather a perversion of healthy ambition.
And this is why the Nigerian society is excessively materialistic. The drive to show you are better than your neighbour comes from the crabs in a barrel mentality. You want to flaunt because you want to announce that you have made it from the hellhole. You want to proudly proclaim that you did all that it took to be successful.
This is the Nigerian dream, the burning desire to be successful against all odds by any means necessary. Take a look around and you will see that most of the successful people believe in this dream.