The One On Oyibos, Nigerian Pride and the National Inferiority Complex

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oyibo in Nigeria

Disclaimer: This write-up has gratuitious use of the word Oyibo

You are at a restaurant, you have been there for 40 minutes trying hard to get the attention of the waiter, in the time you have been here she has come but has not even given you a chance to get in a sentence when she darts off again. You see your waitress moving up and down like a bush rat whose tail is on fire. You try to find another waiter but to no avail. A group of oyibos come into the same restaurant and instantly the waitress stops perambulating and stands at attention. She is now quite the stiff hen (cock). She puts on her best attempt at a fake smile and walks up to the group of “Oyibo” people. On closer inspection you notice that this group of “oyibos” is of Middle Eastern origin and their English is not too great but in spite of this the waitress puts on her best oyibo accent which comes across as some American/British/Ajekpako hybrid. I sense she would have been more accurate if she had imitated Borat’s accent. Nonetheless, she smiles, greets them politely and proceeds to seat them down, and takes their order. All this while, you have been waiting to get someone’s attention. It seems no one cares that you might be a millionaire who might actually bring in more service to the restaurant or buy more stuff than the oyibos. All they see is a young Nigerian in a t-shirt and jeans. It does not help that you are not the aggressive type to start making lots of trouble; you know the type of Nigerian who goes, “Do you know who I am? Eh?!! How dare you not serve me on time?!!! Do you know I can buy this place if I want to? Eh?! The president is my brother’s uncle’s sister’s niece’s godfather”

Maybe I should start a humanitarian organization or NGO called Crazy Nigerian’s Society for the Humane treatment of Nigerians in Nigeria because evidently the oyibo is a demigod that we all strive to please. Well I am sorry my pseudo-black power self cannot stomach such rubbish. I guess before I go ahead, I think I ll need to define what oyibo is,

Oyibo is an Igbo term I believe that has been incorporated into pidgin/local Nigerian speak to refer to foreigners typically white people or those of the Caucasian race. The term in many quarters has an extended use and has come to be used to refer to people of non-negro races which includes the Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern populations present in the country.

It is said that Africans and by extension Nigerians are very hospitable and welcoming people but riddle me this, where does hospitality end and blatant display of inferiority complex and denigration of people of your own country in favor of foreigners and foreign goods begin? I am not being xenophobic; at least I don’t think so. I just can’t wrap my mind around this behavior. It is a mindset that says the oyibo man should be given preferential treatment, the oyibo man’s opinion ranks higher than the opinion of your fellow country man. It is a mindset that says the oyibo man with basically the equivalent of a secondary education can be paid three times the wage of the average Nigerian worker for copying and pasting design documents from one folder to another. Bullshit. I definitely hold one truth self-evident that although all men were created equal, I have more of a right to be in my country and hence deserve to be treated as such. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not overreacting. Have you ever witnessed how the home countries of some of these people treat Nigerians? Watch the TV show UK Border Patrol. If that’s too far of a stretch, observe how we are treated at foreign embassies when we go to look for visas to travel. Heck, peep the quality of airplanes used to fly the Nigerian route as opposed to other routes.

It is ironic because I am of the opinion that few nationalities on the African continent possess the sense of national pride that Nigerians do, yet when it comes to dealing with oyibo people we lay whatever national pride we possess at the altar of the oyibo. What the hell happened to our damn national pride. I believe there are 3 culprits to blame for this.

Colonialism. You see the by-product of the colonial system was that it embedded a sense of subconscious inferiority in our people. This has manifested over the years in people speaking with ludicrous accents, a certain preference for foreign degrees which is not entirely unrelated to the current state of the nation’s education sector and a preponderance to believe the sky is red if it is said with a british accent. The abandonment of our traditional language, cultures and religions have helped to embed a strong sense of Nigerian/African as being inferior. Children were and are discouraged from speaking vernacular in schools. A lot of times, school uniforms take a western form and maybe have one day a year when children wear traditional wear. The juju and traditional religion were abandoned for the most part at the altar of Christianity.

Government. Yes it is a bit trite to blame Nigerian problems on government. However, successive governments have failed to formulate policies to develop the country and as a result a lot of the quality products that have been used in our country are made abroad. They have failed to develop our education sector hence a preference for foreign degrees. It has failed to develop our health sector hence the wealthy fly abroad for treatment. They have failed to accurately enforce a foreign quota system has resulted in a plethora of foreigners in the country doing jobs that Nigerians can do. This is especially telling in a country with high unemployment in Nigeria because these oyibos get paid twice or three times what the Nigerian would be paid so to be honest it does not make sufficient economic sense in my opinion. You also have Chinese companies that bring completely Chinese staff forces into the country including laborers, brick layers and so on. Do we not have bricklayers in Nigeria? The government has also displayed this inherited colonial inferiority complex by consistently supporting foreign businesses at the detriment of Nigerian entrepreneurs and startups. You have companies that come to our country and pollute our lands and seemingly go scott free. I dare any Nigerian company to pollute the gulf coast and get away with it. Heck I dare any Nigerian company to completely infiltrate and influence “developed” country policies the way some companies have in this nation.

Poverty and Ignorance. These two go hand in hand in explaining why I would walk into a restaurant and get horrid service while the oyibo man will get fawned over. Notice I did not say lack of education. There are people who have PhDs but aren’t really free of the inferiority complex. You see when a person is poor and has never met a poor oyibo man, it is fair for the person to deduce all oyibo’s are wealthy and hence he/she will shun his Nigerian brother in favor of the oyibo who is probably wealthier and “dash” him/her some money from his treasure drove of dollars/pounds. As for the myth of the intelligent expatriate, how else do you expect people to think when most of the things they use are not made in the country. Of course an ignorant person will view any form of technology as oyibo magic. Go figure.

I would like to think there was some purpose to my rant. I strongly believe there is a need to develop a sense of National pride that is not restricted to football or the insecure defense of our nation anytime a foreigner criticizes it. Our national pride should go beyond that, we should be proud to be Nigerian. We should be proud of our culture and heritage. We should be proud of our race and the fact that we are a hardworking and intelligent people capable of surviving anywhere and surviving anything. This is our most redeeming quality; we should bask in it and not let ourselves be intimidated in our country. It is our Nigeria, it belongs to us. Be hospitable to foreigners but lets treat our fellow citizens as co-owners of this great land.

Have you ever been looked over in favor of an oyibo? Do you think this disproportionality exists or is it the imagination of a young man who has lived in a racial society? What are the reasons for this behavior if it exists? What can we do to remedy this situation without resulting to xenophobia?

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9 thoughts on “The One On Oyibos, Nigerian Pride and the National Inferiority Complex

    African Mami (@afrikanmami12) said:
    May 21, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Yes, I have been looked over in favor of an oyinbo!! TWICE, but one incident is still patched clearly in my memory. I was getting back to where my family was seated for dinner, when this yeye looking waiter and waitress, told me arrogantly that the section was closed, and I could NOT pass through. Mind you, as they are tuning me out, this white couple is allowed to pass! GOTDAMN! I was only 14 at the time, but guess what I went kray on their azzess!!! To sum up what happened, I called them HYPOCRITES for treating a white man better than they would treat their own, and told them they wouldn’t even get the same treatment in Germany. The manager was called in, YES, I refused to let that shit slide. My dad stepped in, and all I remember was that it was a pretty good vacation after that incident.

    Reasons: Stupidity.

    Of course it exists. People in Africa always be kissing an oyibo’s ass as if he is God! *sucks teeth*. I don’t have time for that nonsense!!

    This behavior exists because again of stupidity.

    I do not know what can be done to remedy the situation other than people using their brains for what God intended them for!

      Sir Farouk responded:
      May 21, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Lol @ stupidity. It can be really annoying. Almost like you are second class citizens in your own country. I never really got it. I guess Marley was right about mental slavery.

    hajjoh said:
    May 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I have had similar experiences many times in abuja, its shocking that a fellow citizens/ waiter will snub me in favour of another because of the color of my skin. Then again nigeria is a cess pool of lame and complex social structures bais and prejudices. We must ensure we do not internalize or permit discrimination, we must speak up about it . We must look beyond hate and. Fight it with a voice of justice, confidence and fairness.

      Sir Farouk responded:
      May 24, 2012 at 7:41 am

      “nigeria is a cess pool of lame and complex social structures, bias and prejudices” I could not have said it better.

    Single Nigerian Man said:
    May 22, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Well, it hasn’t actually happened to me before, but then if it did, I strongly doubt if I would be anything but irritated. The problem starts with us though like you rightly pointed out and our refusal to be proud of our identity. E.g. People calling themselves African Americans.. I mean you are either African or American, why become Alcoholic Anonymous? Jews are Jews first before anything else. Irish people in Boston who have never been home, call themselves Irish, Italians are Italians. These are people who will be looked down on if they ever go home, why? Because the Irish, Jews and Italians see them as below them. We on the other hand worship the ground they walk on. It is not just whites, it applies to blacks too. Anyways… Make I no too talk, before oyibo come slap me for here.
    I am African, no need to be proud or shout about it. My colour, attitude and culture should speak it long before my mouth says it. We have been civilized long before or at least at the same time as the rest of the world. They just advanced technologically long before we did.

    sugabelly said:
    May 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    This is so true, but a small point of correction.

    Oyibo is an Igbo term not a Yoruba term.

    It comes from the British mispronunciation of Onye Igbo.

    Igbos started calling whites Oyibo to mock their way of pronouncing Onye Igbo.

    Probably it became shared vocabulary between Igbo and Yoruba and filtered into pidgin.

      Sir Farouk responded:
      June 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks! didnt know that, I thought it was a yoruba term. WordPress spammed your comment for some reason. just checked it today.

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