The Performance Of Humility

There Is A Line That Exists Between Humility And Boot-Licking

by Gottfried Moh

The Performance Of Humility

"For me to fake humble is a corny way to be arrogant" - Jon Bellion (Adult Swim, 2018).

Nigerians love a grass-to-grace story (cue Olajumoke the bread seller). It is believed that if you did not “suffer” before making it, then you haven’t earned the right to really enjoy the riches and wealth when fortunes change for the better. But where does this notion stem from? Is it religion, or due to our cultural inclination? Do we just have this strange attachment to servility that borders on Stockholm Syndrome? Some even confuse a calm demeanour with humility. I frankly think that reserved people are the ones you should be wary of.

A lot of individuals leverage on this perceived “humility” to carry out their own individual exploits. It’s no news that politicians in these parts never toy with their “grass root formula” when elections are fast approaching. When Senator Dino Melaye was seeking re-election, images and videos of him carrying oranges on his head and selling surfaced on social media. What was the significance of this act? Of course he knew that a lot of the public will resonate with the concept of humility and it would ultimately influence their votes. Of course, we remember the President that regaled us with tales of how he went to school with no shoes. Even in the entertainment scene, Timaya makes references to his days as a plantain seller on virtually all his hit tracks.

Pastors also enjoin members of their congregation to be humble. If it were simply for application to their day-to-day dealings, there wouldn’t be any real problems, but when the humility translates to the Pastor’s word being law and members of the congregation being his subject, then we have to start a dialogue. Imagine a member of a congregation in his early sixties calling the pastor daddy because according to him, said pastor is now a spiritual father to him.

In the office space, people take this humility charade to otherworldly levels. Allowing your immediate superior walk all over you isn’t a sign of humility, it is foolishness! Leveraging on position to bark out orders to your subordinates is a misuse of power, and perpetrators should be ashamed of themselves. Beyond that, kissing up to your employers to gain favours is no admirable trait, it strips you of your dignity, and even creates a bad impression in the minds of the people you are trying to impress: you would be regarded as nothing more than a tool, and when they feel that they no longer have use for you, they would kick you to the curb.

Graduates with a first class from Nigerian universities are almost always lauded for their humility and conduct in carrying out their academic programme, but is that really what it’s about? A graduate isn’t able to think and express himself freely, because over the course of his stay in the university he has been conditioned to being a “yes” man, agreeing with every single thing the lecturer says because their word is law. Imagine a first class graduate saying that the reason he got a first class was because he “didn’t keep many friends and made the Head of Department his mentor.”

A certain tribe in Nigeria pride themselves of being the most respectful of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria and rightly so with good reason. The outward practices of bowing and curtseying is absolutely fantastic and I subscribe to them (even though I am of the view that politeness does not necessarily translate to respect), but in some cases a remark can undo all the good work. How do you say “with all due respect sir, I think you’re very foolish” with a straight face?

Don’t get me wrong, there is indeed a reward for the humble, afterall scripture makes reference to humility attracting graces from above. It is the feigned obeisance, lip-serving obsequies and contrived mien that I seek to address. Do we have to be so pretentious?