Discover Coal City

What kills us are our perverse social norms

Sam Amadi
Sam Amadi

Dr. Sam Amadi reflects on our perverse social norms and wonders why and how we expect a female undergraduate to be moral without needed parental, family or public sponsorship while in school.

It is condemnable when 16-year olds post pictures of themselves in private jets with politicians who ought to be at work solving public problems, not ravishing young girls whose parents they make poor and absent everyday with terrible policies and incompetent execution.

As I continue to reflect on moral confusion and irresponsibility that have griped Nigeria for too long, I believe we should not lose sight of the atrocious moral behavior of public leadership. Since I deleted my post on rampant sexual predation of young females in Nigeria, I have received many calls and messages arguing that I should not have deleted it. Many people have assailed my decency with more horrifying tales of rampant, irresponsible and predatory sexual dalliance of high profile Nigerian leaders with very young Nigerian students.

The moral crisis in Nigerian public life is not a mere tale. It has become a crisis of corporate existence.

People are corrupt because they expect that others are corrupt and other expect them to be corrupt. That is social norm at work.

Sam Amadi

Some people associate morality with religion such that they don’t distinguish between private end public morality. Although they reinforce each other, they are not necessarily the same.

Private morality is mostly a function of religious or philosophical comprehensive moral doctrine. Public morality is mostly a function of social and economic dialectics and dynamics. A country may have a high private morality amongst its citizens and still have a low public morality. But low private morality may likely result in low public morality. Social and economic dialectics and dynamics also affect private morality.

While researching for a paper on institutional and cultural dimensions of corruption in Nigeria, I encountered the difference between moral norms and social norms. It goes like this.

Nigeria is also different in another sense. We have no sense of dignity and value. We want to go to university without financing not because we really love education and want to take studies seriously. We do that mostly because it is another form of hustling.

Moral norms may prohibit something while social norms approve it. For example, moral norms in Nigeria prohibits bribery. That’s why no one goes to church or mosque or even the village meeting and talks about how he became rich through bribery. That’s moral norm at work. But in Nigerian civil society, everyone expects you to be corrupt. So when like some of us you leave public office and tell folks that you only have your salaries and allowance (no matter how large or small), no one believes you, even if you are Adeboye or the Pope. That is why I almost fought with a dear friend because he was angry that I lied that I did not have a front who was keeping at least 3 billion Naira for me.

Madness. As far as he knew, no one should hold such high office without making big deals for himself. This is what scholars of corruption call “collection action problem”. People are corrupt because they expect that others are corrupt and other expect them to be corrupt. That is social norm at work.

So what is killing us today is perverse social norms. We expect a young girl to be in school and pay school fees and look good and eat well without any parental, family or public sponsorship. So how would she get the money to do all these things? How do these Nigerian girls whose parents can’t fund their University education, and have no public scholarship or private structured benevolence to help them, manage to get by? By building apps? By inventing vaccines? By social media marketing? How?

I have received several requests from students telling me they have no money to even eat on campus. Some of them are plain criminals but some of are genuinely without help and hope. Some boldly decided to start school without any financing because they know the market. I have assisted some, after verification.

She noted that one thing peculiar to Nigerian men is that they are not accountable even to their wives. So your wife’s friend knows that you are sleeping with her other friend and she still respects you and keeps quiet

The point, however, is that we are seriously a corrupt and almost useless people now. Must everyone go to a university? I have met many reasonable and contented people in the US who never went to college. They really don’t care that much. But they are focusing on doing something to live on. I know that Nigeria is different and we don’t have jobs and opportunities.

Nigeria is also different in another sense. We have no sense of dignity and value. We want to go to university without financing not because we really love education and want to take studies seriously. We do that mostly because it is another hustling. “We go make am through immorality”. Of course the rich man will not think of free sponsorship. It is a trade. The buyer is willing and the seller is more than willing even if poverty is an enabler.

Our social norms do not constrain anymore towards any real form of accountability. A Dutch lady friend brought this home to me. She noted that one thing peculiar to Nigerian men is that they are not accountable even to their wives. So your wife’s friend knows that you are sleeping with her other friend and she still respects you and keeps quiet. She will not denounce you and possibly slap you. Not that she hates her friend, your wife. No. She just feels that is one of the male privileges. And she laughs it off. Your male friend who is a family friend and close to your wife will be comfortable with your prostitution with females and would not call you to order. I am not talking of hiding and doing bad. I mean doing it before him. He continues to care so much for your wife and family.

But we can do something. We can improve our moral clarity and help recreate better social norms. I myself try not to sink into these terrible and dystopian social systems in Nigeria.

So what’s the problem? The absence of accountability. Some lady human rights activists only care about rape. They attend parties together with 16-year olds and laugh off the orgies with bottles of Hennnessy helping their incoherence. Yes, that’s the feminist; that’s the human rights activist.

It is probably not their fault. It is just one thing: bad social norms.

But we can do something. We can improve our moral clarity and help recreate better social norms. I myself try not to allow myself get sunk into these terrible and dystopian social systems in Nigeria. In all my years as a special adviser in both the legislative and executive branches of government, none of my principals, who were really close to me, has ever got me involved in any such misbehavior. I can even swear that they are not into these sexual immorality because they never ever mentioned anything close to that to me. They clearly knew there was no room for those. May be they had other enablers.

Now, a little advice. The women and ladies who misunderstood my message on the Transcorp encounter, do me a favor. Please call out any politician you know who takes advantage to these hapless young Nigerian ladies. Your advocacy is not only against rape. Enticing young girls with money and privileges of office in order to have sexual orgies with them is condemnable. It is condemnable when 16-year olds post pictures of themselves in private jets with politicians who ought to be at work solving public problems and not ravishing young girls whose parents they make poor and absent everyday with terrible policies and incompetent execution.

We are doomed with this sort of social norm