It’s something that first began to really strike me when I visited Nigeria for the first time about 6 months after relocating to Cotonou.
I mean the fact that there are a LOT of (indeed too many!) VERY angry people within the geographical entity called Nigeria.
One time I was in the chauffeured 4 wheel drive of a Cotonou based Nigerian diplomat as we drove through the border town of Badagry, on our way to his farm house in Ekiti.
I could not help pointing out to the driver how readily one could see people shouting insults and curses at one another on either side of the road. Some were even fighting – right next to the highway, with most others simply walking past.
Motorists themselves acted no different as we continued. The tiniest misdeed on your part as you drove readily earned you a torrent of insults – or if you were lucky an impatient look of contempt!
This was in stark contrast to what I’d seen and experienced during the tough first 6 months I’d stayed in Benin Republic. Indeed, the only time I ever saw ANY form of aggression displayed by locals in Cotonou was when 2 robbers were given the beating of their lives, and left bleeding for the police to pickup, after they tried to rob a woman emerging from a bank around Etoile Rouge.
Look, as I’ve said in past articles, I once spent 3 months – in 2013 – living among undergraduates half my age, in a room on the National University campus Calavi, when I failed to find accommodation in Cotonou.
It was a last resort arranged by a friend I made which saved me from getting further duped of 2,000 FCFA multiples, by the greedy estate agents I naively trusted to take me around to see flats I could rent.
But my housing problem apart, I NEVER once saw a single fight occur on that campus all through my 90 day stay there. Not once – and believe me, I moved around a lot.
If anything, I discovered from being among those young Beninese male and female students, that theirs was an environment in which PEACE MAKING valued in the larger society, was not only actively promoted, but also strictly enforced.
Indeed, if you were heard or seen shouting at one another, without so much as physically touching one another, chances were good that those involved would get summoned and possibly disciplined.
I saw that happen at least once, before I left that campus.
One day in Cotonou, after I’d left Calavi and found my own apartment, I recall seeing a commercial bike rider accidentally splash water in a pothole on a man standing along the road.
The latter angrily called out to him, and the bike man stopped and retorted in like manner. Before they could do anything more, a 3rd person who was just passing by, stepped between both of them and said, in French “Ici au Benin, c’est toujours la paix!” (Translation: “Here in Benin, it is always peace!”).
Magically, that simple statement instantly deflated the anger in both men, and I marveled as all 3 men smiled, shook hands and parted ways!
That was the day I realized that citizens of a nation have the power to determine whether or not they get along – regardless of the antics their leaders may try to use to cause conflict among them.
Sadly, this is one more truth I see too many people in my country, Nigeria, simply do not understand: As a result, they routinely let their emotions get out of control in relating with one another, especially when holding opposing views, to the extent that understanding and peace become strangers in their societies.
I argue that we must “learn to disagree without being disagreeable“.
It’s hard to remember where I first read or heard the above phrase used, but it has stuck in my mind since.
Life would be a joke, or an exercise in deception if human beings did not periodically disagree with one another.
There is a quote I once read that:
“Where everyone thinks alike, no one is doing any thinking!”
For some strange reason, people raised in the Nigerian society arrive adulthood with a notion (and a VERY faulty notion it is!) that one must accept the reasoning or thinking adopted by the majority.
Some will even parrot the popular saying (used most times out of context) that “majority carries the vote” – to justify going along with what others say, and demanding that you do the same.
Anatole France, the shipping magnate however wisely noted as follows:
“If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”
Sadly, Nigerian society is a place where those willing to express divergent views on an issue often find themselves in the minority…
This is because most others would rather quietly align with the majority to avoid criticism, or worse, from others who have been taught o be viciously intolerant of opposing views.
It does not matter what the subject is – be it religious or intellectual. It does not matter how logical the arguments made need to be: If it so happens that some people are more “friendly” with one another, chances are good that they will simply gang up against those with opposing views – even if their own argument makes no sense!
After observing this happen for some time, and having it done to me several times, I conceived the following quote in an article published back in 2006, to describe those who allow themselves to be brow beaten and stifled by irrationally argumentative others who predominate in society.
“Some people join the crowd in order to become “hidden” or “protected” from criticism or scrutiny. Since they also take care never to voice contrary (and at times ANY) opinion, they are rewarded with the anonymity they seek – and the insignificance that results from it.” – Tayo Solagbade
I’ve done additional research on this subject and found that such irrationally argumentative people also exist in other societies around the word – including the wonderful US of America!
The difference I’ve noticed however, especially in the developed societies, is that those who hold divergent views from the irrationally argumentative group, generally REFUSE to give up their rights to FREELY EXPRESS their difference of opinion in public or private.
Not just that, the various sociopolitical structures extant in those countries make it literally impossible for ANYONE to stifle or intimidate others, even if they are a minority, from VOICING their opinions as and when they please, where and when they want.
It’s every human being’s fundamental right to speak FREELY what s/he believes about an issue. You do NOT have to accept it, but you must RESPECT his/her right to do so.
That is how a civilized society functions. We must never let our emotions blind us to the proper ways of doing things – or stop us from acting with consideration for the feelings of others around us!
It is my considered opinion that given what I see in today’s Nigeria, if Socrates had been born in our time, in our country, Nigerians would probably have lynched him to death before he could make a name for himself!
Yep. He would have probably been shouted down – or worse killed – for his adopted questioning technique, which forced those he debated with to furnish credible logic based arguments to defend their adopted positions on issues.
People intolerant of others unwilling to agree with them would find a person like Socrates simply intolerable!
Yet, if Nigeria is to evolve and mature into a progressive society, the QUALITY of debates we are able to have among ourselves, without rancour, really needs to improve.
I’ve witnessed lively debates on various issues under the sun by Beninese adults holding opposing views over the last 3 years, and NOT once have I ever seen it end in broken friendships, or harsh language. It seems to be something they’ve learnt to do from their youth – as my stay on their campus indicated!
Now here’s one quote I especially LOVE, because I think many people fail to realize how doable it is:
“I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.” – Anthony Bourdain
You see, it is my considered opinion that unless a person you like, love or respect has done something UNWORTHY or UNBECOMING or simply BAD, you really have NO NEED whatsoever to CHANGE how you feel about him or her.
So, if s/he chooses to support a different candidate during the elections for instance, you will understand that s/he holds a different view of what that person is capable of achieving in office, compared to the candidate you prefer.
That should not stop both of you from remaining friendly with one another during or indeed after the elections are over.
I recall we used to say back in my undergraduate days that:
“We can agree to disagree”
Only people who take things too personally, fail to understand the need for this matured way of living. They believe they must either win you over to their line of thinking or stop liking you or speaking with you. Haba!
The quotes below provide a fitting end to this piece, and also throw a challenge to ALL of us, regarding our adopted attitudes towards debatable issues.
“I will never compromise Truth for the sake of getting along with people who can only get along when we agree.” – D.R. Silva
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – S.G. Tallentyre, The Friends of Voltaire
“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions.” – (Essay to Leo Baeck, 1953) Albert Einstein
“It’s okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. That doesn’t give you the right to deny any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they are saying. Learn to recognize good writing when you read it, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what is comfortable.” – Ashly Lorenzana
Final Words: The ability to act in line with the above admonition will often be a function of the DEGREE of Emotional Intelligence(EI) an individual possesses.
It’s a shame that in this part of the world many still do not realize that EI is more important than IQ for achieving success in life.
Actually most do not even know what EI is or means!
And the few who do fail to understand that unlike IQ, it can be improved by any person willing to make the effort. Indeed, many progressive societies are modifying their schooling systems to incorporate activities that help learners (especially kids) develop their EI.
Click here to read my widely syndicated article on EI – based on what I learned by reading Daniel Goleman’s similarly titled book back in in 2006.
Here’s one final quote to drive home my point…
Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it. – Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed
So, dear reader, I say this to you:
Engage in intellectually stimulating debates with others, without letting your emotions get out of control. And while doing so, be sure to remain objective in looking at the issues from all perspectives, while keeping an open mind to acknowledge possibilities you may not have considered previously.
Most importantly however, AIM to always end your debates on a positive note with him/her or them.
Make it your resolve to never take anything that is said personally. The world NEEDS diversity to evolve – but the truth, about all issues, even if initially hidden will eventually be revealed to all!!!
You’re reading A People’s Ability to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable is Crucial for Societal Advancement [Hint: Why Too Many of Today’s Nigerians Are Often Too Angry to be Reasoned With!] by Tayo Solagbade, originally posted on his Daily Self-Development (SD) Nuggets™ blog. If you loved reading this post, be sure to follow Tayo on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
On 4th May 2014, Tayo’s 9 year old domain (Spontaneousdevelopment dot com), was taken over by Aplus.net. Within a few days however, Tayo used his advanced self-taught web development skills to build (and move his website contents into) a SUPERIOR “reincarnation” at http://www.tayosolagbade.com.
Most URLs bearing the old domain name appearing in search engines should now work if “spontaneousdevelopment.com” is replaced with “tayosolagbade.com”. If you experience any difficulties finding a page or document, email Tayo at tksola dot com.
Click “Tayo, What Happened to SpontaneousDevelopmentDotCom?” to read a detailed narrative about how the above event occurred :-))
Here’s an article Tayo wrote, to inspire others to defy adversity, and bounce back to even greater reckoning at what they do EVERY time:
Succeed by Emerging from Adversity Like a Phoenix (TayoSolagbade.com launches extra Hosting plan with FREE Web Marketing!)
And he wrote the one below, to explain why losing a domain name, no matter how old NO LONGER determines your online success or otherwise: