Maslow’s theory and the Nigerian reality by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

Maslow’s theory and the Nigerian reality by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

One of the main problems with Nigeria is that we have too many social climbers without ladders. You heard it here first. Well, maybe you have heard it before but I am repeating it here for emphasis. There are too many abracadabras, out of the blues success stories. So much fluff with no material plus a zero keen sense of reality. And like everything artificial, everything that does not rest on a solid foundation, everything without a strong essence, we keep collapsing like humpty-dumptys at everything we do.

Maslow 3d

You see, Abraham Maslow was not on cheap crack when he proposed his Hierarchy of Needs theory. Even if we assume he was, he couldn’t have gotten the entirety of the world drugged such that his theory continues to enjoy rave analysis in business and management classes world over. You see, one of the problems we have is that we have too many MBA holders who are neither masters of their own thoughts nor competent managers of people or business. We keep studying and writing thesis on what people in similar classes years ago propounded but we make little sense of these concepts in reality. Immediately after we earn the MBA pali, we go shopping for suits and become briefcase consultants and overnight experts dropping corporate jargons at every turn like we know what we are talking about.

But I digress. We were talking about Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs. This theory remains valid today for understanding human motivation, management training and personal development. Indeed, Maslow’s ideas surrounding the Hierarchy of Needs concerning the responsibility of employers to provide a workplace environment that encourages and enables employees to fulfill their own unique potential (self-actualization) are today more relevant than ever.

Now replace employer with “government” and employee with “Nigerian citizen” in the above statement and you get a glimpse of what I am on about.

You see, I was reviewing some notes recently and it hit me. Each of us is motivated by needs. True. Our most basic needs are inborn, having evolved over tens of thousands of years. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs helps to explain how these needs motivate us all. The theory states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most basic needs for survival itself.Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher order needs of influence and personal development.

What do we have in Nigeria today? We see people from nowhere, all sorts of characters, riff raffs, simpletons, people without a clear understanding of where they are headed themselves suddenly doing double summersaults and finding themselves in places and offices at the very top of Maslow’s chart, effectively skipping the preceding steps.


What happens is that when they get there, they still retain the mind set of people in the lower levels. For example when a fellow with little or no education or reasonable means of livelihood (an occupant of the lowest tier of the chart) who is most bothered about physiological needs of food and shelter suddenly, by associating with the right political party finds himself in the State Assembly, he is not concerned about the esteem his new status accords him. In his mind he is still at the ‘physiological needs’ level and so he busies himself stealing and embezzling funds just to meet those needs to such extent that he accumulates enough for two generations.

Those are the social climbers with no ladders I am talking about, the gate crashers to power and fame. Pretenders. Empty vessels. If you think they only exist in government or that this phenomenon is restricted to those in places of authority you are as Dbanj will say, sitting on a long thing. Perhaps you should take another look around you. Start from your blackberry messenger or Whatsapp list. Navigate your way to Facebook and Twitter. By the time you have successfully done the blog rounds and read all the empty talk and disturbing perspectives of young people some of whom, in fairness to them, are (by our standards) ‘successful’ people, you will appreciate that what I mean when I say that the quantity of ‘matter’ without ‘mass’ we have around has entered worrying proportions.

You see, when someone suddenly begins to enjoy celebrity status by doing next to nothing or by riding on the shoulders of some forces, to certain levels of influence without putting in the requisite hard work or learning the rudiments required for such ascension, it is not hard to tell. And when a generation is no longer motivated to put in their best as dictated by their immediate needs in order to move to the next stage of life but is in a hurry to fly up to the top; then you know that there is a problem.

Believe it or not, this is the root problem with our society today.


Sylva NzeIfedigbo, author of The Funeral Did Not End tweets from @nzesylva


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