This is a topic that has generally come up and one I discuss with my friends routinely. It is the enigma that is Nigerian men.
The general consensus if you ask most Nigerian women, heck most African women, is that their men need to unlearn a lot of things. What exactly do we need to unlearn, and why? I mean after all, Nigerian men are one of most educated groups in the world. You see our names littered in the halls of excellence; in revered corridors of historically great universities. Surely there isn’t a lot wrong with our thinking?
I think the first point to make here is that the premise that holding numerous degree certificates means you’re educated is just wildly false. I guess it is an easy mistake to make, but going through university and getting good grades is not really a measure of education.
Being truly educated can mean a number of things, but generally you're looking for knowledge, obviously, but also two other major components: critical thinking and willingness to learn. Critical thinking and a willingness to learn are the ones that are often missing members of my cohort and hence where we fall short. I mean, it is laughable to even start to highlight critical thinking, when firstly, we are distinctly unwilling to learn something new other than the truths that already serve our privilege.
To even think critically, you have to have an objective awareness of both sides of the argument, I mean you actually have to want to listen to both sides. Unfortunately most of our early education (from our parents, churches and our schools) in Nigeria is often you being told one single version, of which has never really been challenged. Their teachers told them, or their father told them, and so on and so forth. So information, no matter how false, or incredible, has gone unchallenged for decades even centuries.
How many of us moved to the US, UK, and other countries of the world and realised that there was no 'Essentials' equivalent, where you can just regurgitate a regulated version of truth back at teachers. More was demanded of us. Our new educators felt it necessary to constantly inform us about critical evaluation, and expressing our own views based on facts from both sides of the spectrum. How many of us did our grades suffer initially as this concept was so foreign, so alien.
This is what is required of us now, in real life, to educate ourselves. Ultimately, us men struggle with critical thinking, because we don't consider both sides. Even when we do consider it begrudgingly, our conclusions ultimately are a result of what we saw our fathers do; what our uncles did, what the pastors said to do.... all of which tends to be deeply steeped in Patriarchy.
This leads nicely to my second point. A general unwillingness to learn. When you engage us Nigerian men in any topic, it doesn't matter what it is, Football, Basketball, Politics, Race, Gender relations, Sexuality, Morality, you name it... It doesn't matter the topic, we are always resolute! We never engage in a way that seriously changes our position. You can never convince a Nigerian man that his argument on the best starting 11 for Manchester United is faulty or wrong. In fact many of them believe they know better than the actual coach on the best line-up.
When having discussions, we look like we're listening, but in reality all we are is doing is waiting for you to finish speaking so we can say our own opinion, which we consider to be absolute fact. There is that innate belief that what we know or believe is absolutely unequivocally true.
To believe that so strongly is just incredibly illogical. It really is, but we do so anyway. Our knowledge and understanding is always greater than the next person's. This manifests itself in so many settings in life, at work, in marriages, friendships, you name it. Why do you think when 2 or more Nigerian men are gisting about sports and politics, we progressively get louder, animated and angry.
That belief comes again from... you guessed it... Patriarchy!!! We grew up in homes where Dad was unquestionably the most knowledgeable alive. We get conditioned into thinking that a man needs to be 'right' about everything irrespective how limited our knowledge is on the issues or topics being discussed. Therein lies a major problem. We don’t engage in other viewpoints because we have grown up to believe that because we have a penis, our view is always right and everyone else in our family unit (our wives, children, friends) have to just suck it up and accept our truth.
It's sad, but we have to admit that it's a problem before we can fix it. We all do it, and I don't exempt myself from it, far from it. I always defended my actions with,
“well, I’m reasonably clever, and well read, so it makes sense that my opinions are right a lot of the time”.
But, we men need to realize that irrespective of how amazing our knowledge and insight, there are people who just know more than us or have a different perspective. Diversity of perspective is so important in business and in life.
Giving serious consideration to different perspectives, and I don't mean entertaining them in a patronizing & condescending way, but doing it seriously, listening not just to respond but to understand; will makes us stronger men. It makes us better leaders, it makes us greater husbands, amazing fathers, it makes us better human beings.
This is why a traditional 'head of the house' position is illogical. Because no one's knowledge is absolute. I don't have great financial knowledge, so why on earth should I be in charge of home's finances?! In a relationship, each party should play to their strengths. Both parties carrying each other along, listening to understand, and making decisions together but based on the skills of each individual. Gender roles are as a result of a bygone period where human day-to-day survival was solely dependent on physical attributes.
We are no longer cave men, so why do we let our thinking be guided by stone-age behavior?
Just because our parents did things a certain way in the past and were very happy, does not mean it's fit for purpose now. They wrote letters that took weeks to deliver, doesn't mean we should eschew our knowledge of technology. You don’t see people taking 3 months to travel by the seas, when air travel could get you there in less than half a day. Why do we let our thinking be constrained by historical and extinct practices?
Please know that this isn't a critique of our fathers and mothers. For the most part they are a product of the time they grew up in. And did not know better. But we do. We know better therefore we can be better, we should be better, we MUST be better.
Words by Dayo Adedapo
Dayo is a lover of sports, books, music, films & good food. You can read more of his thoughts on his twitterpage @TrophyHusbandD)