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The Nigerian love of board games

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All of that may be true, but for good or ill, it’s also a symptom of our herd mentality. Not long ago, basket ball was all the rage. No alleyway in any city was too narrow to be turned into a basket ball court (or whatever it's called). And before that it was football, which still drives us insane with passion. I've observed perfectly normal people who were supposedly in the middle of a serious discussion or transaction suddenly explode with deafening, manic excitement (often with matching applause) in response to some English premiership goal which he was secretly watching. And it’s not enough to watch the game: people have exchanged punches following arguments over what Messi ate for breakfast the previous week.

In case you think it’s merely a function of our competitive spirit, consider what we've made of Pentecostal "Christianity". There's hardly a building or undeveloped land in any city that hasn't become a church of some kind. Never mind what they preach or do; it's our unquestioning mass-embrace of the thing, either as pastors or their flock – "flock" in more senses than one, because we've happily made multi-zillionaires of the pastors, and impoverished a great many of ourselves. We all now shop in Dubai, not for any particular reason than that Dubai is the place to shop these days (it's certainly not for the eye-watering prices).

It infects our business culture too. There was a time when we were all IT entrepreneurs, not necessarily because we'd caught the Silicon Valley bug (or even understood the meaning of "IT" itself), but primarily because it was fashionable "to be in IT". And among the very wealthy these days, your wealth counts for nothing if you don't own a private university. Or take the phenomenon called Nollywood, our own version of Hollywood. A promising cultural/commercial revolution has become a cesspit of fly-by-night operations, as every chancer and charlatan is now a film director and producer, crowding out the talented.

"But where's the harm?" I hear you wonder. None, on the surface. And competition is a good thing in itself. It is the only way through which the best emerges in any activity. It is when we act like a herd that it becomes quite harmful, if not suicidal. And you only need to consider how that mentality has infected our politics, and the untold miseries it has wreaked. We think nothing about making a messiah of every crook and scoundrel, not because we don’t know about his crookedness, but because everyone else endorses him. And look where that has got us.