A lot has been said and written following the recent verbal assault on a journalist by the now infamous FFK.
Despite his public apology, many Nigerians are still incensed that as a public figure, he dared to speak in such a manner to a man who was only doing his job.
But are we really surprised?
This is a country where many ‘Honourables’ have been caught on camera treating staff with humiliating disdain.
In 2016, during a fellowship program in the United States, comprising of 1000 young people from all over Africa, my Kenyan friend said to me: ‘You know Nigeria is the America of Africa’.
We had gone to a mall where they seemed to be amazed by some of the sights and sounds of Chicago.
Noticing my indifference, she asked me why I seemed unimpressed.
I replied that we had similar malls back home comparable to some of the ones in Chicago.
It opened up a discussion on how Nigeria fared compared to other African countries and they told me of their perception of our country based on what they had seen online and in movies.
In a nutshell- they thought us loud-mouthed, uncouth, yet brilliant and most importantly, rich.
The conversation left a funny feeling in my stomach.
In an episode of CNN’s ‘The Daily Show’ where Trevor Noah interviewed Burna Boy, I remember him saying jokingly ‘Nigerians and humility don’t mix’.
It was in response to Burna Boy’s comment on why his name was written in small print on the Coachella poster whereas Beyonce’s name was written in larger font size.
The truth is that the average Nigerian is not really humble.
I don’t know if it is because we grew up hearing phrases like ‘Nigeria is the giant of Africa’ and the likes that have made us so pompous.
Even the humble ones among us are just a government appointment away from screaming ‘Do you know who I am?’.
Try taking a dirt-poor person from any part of the country and elect him as the chairman of any LGA, within months, he would have grown a potbelly, start strutting around town displaying arrogance and oppressing people to show his inflated self -worth.
In medicine, we call it delusions of grandiosity.
It is when a person has an exaggerated or over-inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge or identity.
It is a common symptom of many psychiatric disorders and is only considered a problem when it affects a person’s function.
For example, do you remember the young officer from Katsina who visited the Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), in his office and asked to take over from him as directed by President Buhari?
That is a classic case of grandiosity as a symptom of mental illness.
Therefore, it is only when this symptom affects a person’s ability to function properly at home, at work or society at large that it is considered a mental illness.
The grandiosity section of the Diagnostic Interview for Narcissism (DIM) describes it as when a person regards themselves as unique or special when compared to other people or when a person downgrades other people and regards them as inferior.
However, when seen in otherwise mentally stable individuals, it is considered a personality trait and it is safe to say, a vast number of Nigerians exhibit this trait all too often.
In this country, our collective delusion of grandiosity plays out in every part of our lives.
When that rich madam treats her domestic staff as less than human beings.
When the director at a federal government agency refuses to stop at the traffic light because he feels nothing can be done to him.
When that wealthy businessman talks in a condescending manner to people who serve him: sales girls, security men and the likes because in his mind, God has made him ‘better’ than them.
And again, when that ex-minister or senator is stopped by the road safety official who dares to ask him for his driving license and he nearly pops an artery in anger screaming: ‘Do you know who I am?’.
Based on these scenarios one could argue that arrogance or grandiosity is part of the Nigerian DNA- but is it?
Why is it then that when Nigerians travel outside the country, we suddenly transform into humble, law-abiding citizens or at least pretend to be?
Why do we not shout at the airport officials who randomly stop us to check our luggage?
Why do we not scream at the police who pull us over to ask for our license and Visa?
Why do we suddenly become courteous, saying please and thank you to waiters and waitresses in a foreign land but behave in a demeaning manner to our kind?
Does FFK imagine that he can spew such venom at Mehdi Hassan or Christiana Amanpour and go scot-free?
So, what really is our problem?
Is it the sycophancy associated with wealth and office in Nigeria?
I remember a former governor of one of the northern states saying that when he first assumed office, he used to call up his former friends and keep them in the government house for days, just eating and sleeping, refusing to see them, so that they knew that his status had changed.
That he was no longer the person they knew before.
Please, if this is not a delusion of grandeur, then, what is it?
The ‘Ranka ya dade’, ‘Yes sir, No sir’, and all the bowing and dobales that accompany public office is the cancer that gradually spreads in the mind of most Nigerians when they are given even the slightest hint of power in the form of public office.
Some may argue that as the most populous black nation in Africa, we have a right to be arrogant.
That we can justify our lack of humility as we have achieved a lot.
But have we thought of the consequences?
Can a country with a population of above 180 million afford for the few rich to have grandiose ideation?
To feel that they are above the law?
The consequences of this unrealistic sense of superiority is consistent anger when confronted with unmet expectations or any perceived slight or accountability for actions as was exhibited last week.
Do they not know that it is this resentment for the rich who humiliate others, that builds up in the minds of people and fuels the crime that is rampant in this country?
That it is one of the reasons our youth believe in ‘get rich or die trying’ by all means possible?
For the sake of our dignity and global image in the world- we need to tone down our collective pompousness.
From the disrespectful police officer to the professor who feels he has been violated just because his vehicle was impounded for having expired papers.
We need to teach humility as a civic service so that our young ones can imbibe the culture of not feeling downgraded when someone else asks a question, they are not comfortable with.
We need to demystify public office so that people will not willingly accept ridicule from people in higher offices when they are only doing their job.
We need to teach the younger generation that the question ‘Do you know who I am?’ can be answered sarcastically with ‘I am sorry about your amnesia, but that is not my concern.’