One of the first things I told myself when I was going to start this blog was never to write anything too lengthy, because people will lose interest and not read it. Truth be told, many Nigerians don’t read. Which is probably why someone once said, “If you want to hide something from a Nigerian, put it in a book.” This may sound over the top, but I believe it is true to a large extent. The average person can’t be bothered about reading or engaging in any other seemingly serious mental activity. We don’t like anything that involves racking our brains because we believe it is too much work.
I remember an experience I had writing my first GCE exams as an SS2 student, (my parents wanted me to get a feel of it before my final exams in SS3). We had settled into writing this particular paper when I observed the girl sitting beside me copying exactly what was on my answer sheet. Naturally, I became worried not just because it was cheating but mainly due to the fact that she didn’t have enough sense to coin her own words after getting the idea from what I had written. She was copying me word for word! I didn’t want to report to the invigilator so I wouldn’t get her into trouble (besides, I was a teenager…it wouldn’t have been cool to do so), I figured it was better to help us both by trying to develop some points for her, so I started by asking her to write a particular word in capital letters, and guess what?! She spelt out C-A-P-I-T-A-L L-E-T-T-E-R-S, I was confused and told her “No, I meant Block letters” (silly me, I should have known better) and to my shock she spelt out the words again! That was when I gave up. I almost started crying because I didn’t know things had gotten so bad.
Our inability to think is part what has dragged Africa into the doldrums of poverty and mental slavery. Even the internet and the proliferation of all kinds of gadgets has not helped us, because most of what we do with it is junk reading, as opposed to quality reading or research that will increase our knowledge and improve our vocabulary and writing skills. We don’t read anymore…we can’t spell properly because we are now used to abbreviations. Social media slangs have filtered into our official lives. An applicant sends an email full of social media abbreviations such as “pls”, “ofz”, “10q” to a prospective employer and expects to be taken seriously, and possibly get the job! How many of us buy books or newspapers? How many of us can tackle simple arithmetic questions without the aid of a calculator? The girl in my GCE exam hall just wanted to wanted to copy me and submit, she wasn’t interested in thinking at all.
Reading, which is one activity that provokes thought has always been my first love and number one hobby. As a child I was (and still is) fascinated with words, and was always quick to check up the meaning of words I didn’t understand in the dictionary or ask my parents if they were close by. Now I wonder how many of us encourage our kids to read or think for themselves even if we have given up on ourselves. The founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford said “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” Even though we have legitimate excuses of being too busy trying to fend for ourselves, to attain our full potential as individuals, or be the next Wole Soyinka or Albert Einstein we will need to start engaging our minds more. Thinkers rule the world!