Nigeria And The Plight Of Containerism

By Ganiu Bamgbose, PhD
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Ganiu Bamgbose, PhD

Should I begin with an apology for the coinage of a new word? That should not be too much ego to exhibit for a PhD in English. No, you will not find "containerism" in any English dictionary. I have coined it for two reasons. First, it is a morphological extension from a word which captures my intention. Second, I wanted a strange word for the strange situation I wish to describe.

To operationalise my coinage, containerism is any situation where container (the package of a product) takes glorification over content (the actual product). It is the preference for that which sells over that which serves. It is the mindset that boycotts pain to arrive at gain. Containerism places impression over expression and takes story out of glory. With this demystification, I can proceed to discuss this phenomenon as a plight in several sectors of the country.

Starting from the first point of existence which is the family, it is worrisome how parents who know nothing about what their children engage in welcome such children warmly when they return with unexplainable and undefendable riches and wealth. You hear a fraudster say my mother is my backbone. You find parents who say they fast and pray so their children do not lose their "magas" (victims of internet fraud). Yoruba proverbs such as that which says "ọmọ yín ò ṣe àgbàfọ̀, ó ń káṣọ wálé. Ẹ rójú olè, ẹ ò mu." (your child is not a launderer yet he comes home with clothes. You find a thief and you didn't arrest him/her) seem to have lost their potency. Many parents grew at a time you must not come home with an ill-gotten wealth, but it matters no more; just come home with the bags.

Away from the family institution, containerism has its manifestation in the educational sector which is resulting in decrease in Intellectualism. Starting with secondary schools, it is now the norm for private schools to advertise themselves on print and electronic media with the number of distinctions they are capable of making students get in external examinations. "Do you want your child to get 7 A's at a sitting? Search no more!" This is what many schools pride themselves in. One wonders how this becomes a statement of value upon which young people are to be moulded. Now at tertiary institutions of learning, the gist of every convocation ceremony is always the number of first class students the universities are graduating. It does not seem to matter any longer if these are first class brains; let there "sha" be first class and yearly there are. What happens with universities priding themselves in students' innovations and interventions in different fields? This does not seem to matter so much like the A4 paper which passes an unmeasurable judgement of excellence. If these A's and First Class(es) are as they are so presented, should this not be evident in the country's level of development? Shall we also ask what the many researches and publications by academics do for the country? Definitely nothing commensurate to output.

It is not any different in the political sector. The quality of manifestoes is determined by the availability of money to support its motion. In fact, thy shall not aspire if your account cannot explode like wildfire. Money answereth electoral calls in the country.

It is my submission that until we begin to take the subject of integrity seriously and until we stop underplaying content for container, containerism will continue to hinder genuine development in the country. Everyone is a stakeholder; everyone has a role to play. We all must live beyond mediocrity to guarantee individual and national prosperity.

(c) 2023 Ganiu Bamgbose writes from the Department of English, Lagos State University.