There was a time when Nigeria thrived-- decades before my birth. Like all forward-moving nations, Nigeria’s fuel for growth was not its rich natural resources, or its population, or its geographical location, but simply its choice to be run by meritocracy. Back then, tribe, race, religious affiliations, none of that mattered. To make it to the top you had to be amongst the best. I am not saying nepotism or tribal sentiments didn’t play any role in who was hired, or in who climbed up the economic ladder. It would be naïve of me to think that. Even amongst the most advanced nations today we still see nepotism and racism dictate who advances and who gets left behind. The difference however is how unabashed we now are about our anti-meritocratic mindset. Take civil service for example. Medical doctors are becoming labor ministers; zoologists are becoming presidents. Even when we do find political appointees with the appropriate educational background, more often than not their educational background is the only experience they actually have.
Currently, in the NBA, 93% of its players are black. An amazing feat considering that just 60 years ago, blacks were not allowed in the NBA. The reason for this is simple, for whatever reason blacks played better, and so blacks played in the NBA. Race, thank goodness, became a non-factor. As diverse as America is, a sect of people thrived in certain sports, raking in billions upon billions of dollars for the industry. The best were undeniable, and for that reason, they were chosen. And you can see the greatness of the NBA when they play in the Olympics and other international competitions. They toy with their opponents. This is what happens when meritocracy is the order of the day. The best rise above the rest and the worst of the bunch gets used. There is nothing wrong with this… it is how every functioning society should function. I will coin this Ofor’s hierarchy of citizenry.
Sitting on top of the pyramid is the A citizen, who must possess wisdom, intelligence, love (or hate), and high moral standing. Their wisdom comes from their years of experience in their respective industries, with career opportunities only made possible thanks to their sound mind. As with all highly impactful leaders, their passion comes from one of two things; the love of something, or the hate of something. When you think about it you’ll discover it’s kind of the same thing really. To love something is to hate something else. To love your children, for example, is to hate not having them around. To love wealth is to hate poverty. I know a guy who absolutely hates traffic violations. He will chase a car down three blocks just to yell at them for beating a red light, or speeding down a one-way street, or stopping in the middle of the road to pick up passengers. If this guy ever finds himself in a position where he can dictate traffic rules, many people will be going to jail. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, that guy is me. The A citizens lead effectively because they love something and want to preserve it, or they hate something and want to destroy it. It is as simple as that. Perhaps what they hate is marginalization or state oppression. Their hate for these things will drive them to make a long-lasting change. It will keep them up at night, long after everyone else is tucked into their beds. Their passion usually sets them apart from the rest and lifts them above all others in time. Show me a leader that doesn’t love or hate a thing, and I will show you a terrible leader… and opportunist. The A citizens are not opportunists, rather they truly, honest to God care about what they do. They detest excuses or half measures and are more than willing to step in and do things by themselves. They also live by a moral code; a code no amount of money can buy them out of. A code that if anyone around them dares break, they’ll be kicked out the door so fast that their head will spin. We all know one or two A citizens. My advice to you is to keep them close because they will rise to the top in spite of every and any situation.
Sitting below the A citizens are the B citizens. The B citizen must be a person of high intellect and wisdom so as to process high amounts of complex and varying information, simplifying them for counseling to the A citizen and for direction and delegation to C citizens. With his high intellect and knowledge of the subject matter, he can engage the A citizen intellectually. This is necessary not only to ensure that the best options are presented but to also check if the A citizen is still sound in mind or knowledgeable in matters regarding his office. A B-citizen is the unresolved usurper. A worthy filler for the throne, mired only when love or regard is shown by the A citizen. The B citizens are the CEOs and Board chairs. The political appointees. The generals. This group is less interested in money, and more interested in value. Money, suddenly, is beneath them. They talk less about it. Think less about it. Are moved less by it. Show less of it. Rather they speak of value. They speak of influence. They speak of power.
The C citizens are expected to be smart, creative, and hardworking if they hope to remain in their position. They are weighed not only on how smart they are, but how hard they are willing to work. This is normally due to their lack of experience, and thus wisdom. There are many intelligent people working around them and with them, so much so that their intelligence doesn’t quite cut it—not as much as hard work or creativity. This group of people work tirelessly, fighting to stand out above the rest of their peers. They are the financial analyst, the bankers, the teachers, the student, the artist, the secretary, and so on, in the hopes that one day they would be rewarded with more time, less work, more recognition. More money.
The D citizens are those lacking creativity, but make up for it in hard, redundant, easily replaceable work. They are also expected to be smart ( or sharp). They are the people that wake up before the sun is out and go to bed long after the sun has set. They are the used and often abused. The drivers. The domestic staff. They are dictated to, and not expected to question authority. For their subservient nature, they are allowed to survive, without a clear path to growth, or a clear promise of change.
The E citizens are the obedient. That is all that is demanded of them. Their obedience. Their compliance with the rules and laws forced upon them. They lack creativity. They lack intellect. For whatever reason, they do not work hard. But they do not break the rules unless asked to do so by their betters. They are the hawkers. The beggars. The shoe shiners. The old man in the village that only seems to appear when rice is being cooked. The fundamentalist. They are instantly replaceable. What they offer is not needed, and in many instances, not wanted. They are usually engaged out of pity and they offer next to nothing in return. They are the fillers of society. The fluff. They fill churches and rallies. They are the ones that dance to the beat without care for lyrics. The ones that sell their vote for bread and rice. They are the fools. The tolerated. The manipulated.
Last and least are the F citizens. They are the disobedient… the offshoot of the Es. They lack the intellectual capacity to work smart, the zeal to work hard, and the humility to obey the laws of the land. They are the prostitutes. The area boys. The cultist. The internet scammers. They are the ones who thrive in chaos and despise order. They are utterly shortsighted about everything they do, so they spend it as they make it. They are the reason we wear condoms. The reasons we lock our doors at night. The reason we move in groups. The reasons we hide our laptops under our seats when in traffic. They are the reasons we buy cheaper expendable phones. They lie. They cheat. They steal. And when they do make it out of their runt, they celebrate buffoonery. The Unique thing about the F citizen is that they actually do not stay below the rest of the citizenry, rather they lurk around. They are the SARs officers that protect your street. The professor that sleeps with students in exchange for passing grades. The internet scammers that pop bottles at the club. The politician that will do and say anything to obtain power. The F citizen is your nightmare. He is your neighbor. He is your friend.
This is the natural hierarchy of citizenry in a functioning society, all things remaining equal. Of course, other factors come to play. For example, an unintelligent, lazy, and callous citizen born into wealth will find himself struggling amongst the B or C citizens, never quite fitting in… and always being called out for being counterproductive. An A citizen born into poverty may find himself amongst the D citizenry, rising slowly, but surely. Several other factors play major roles in how quickly or slowly a person settles to their natural place. Appearance, health, age, all play a factor to varying degrees. Still, in a normal functioning society A’s stay on top, Ds stay below, and F’s hang about.
In the uniqueness that is Nigeria, the Fs are in charge of the public sector. Our politicians nowadays are made up primarily of F citizens. You see it in the things they do, in the way they think. You hear it in the way they speak. They speak the language of the Es and Ds. They seduce them and are empowered by them. This is because the Fs understand the Es so well. They understand the way they operate, and what they are moved by. They understand that the Es do not want to be taught. They do not want to learn. They refuse to wait. They have no patience for grand plans and bigger pictures. So, when the As and Bs stand on the podium and talk about the future. When they spew big words, and talk of a necessary period of austerity… when they talk about the separation of religion from state affairs and the outgrowing of certain beliefs and traditions, the Fs will make clear promises of change, with vague implementation strategies, with God being their helper. They will feed into the divisiveness and hatred. They will give them bags of rice and yam. They will remind them that this isn’t the Christian, Muslim, Yoruba, Igbo, way. They will win because the majority of the masses are the Es. They will then hire the Es to run important positions. And so you have Nigeria, a country where the Fs are As, Es are Bs and As are Fs.
The above content is an excerpt from Obinna Ofor's upcoming book, Potatoe Pie: a satirical and morbid reflection of our paradoxical society. Obinna's Debut Novel, The Sky Sage, is available worldwide.