Olajumoke, Bread-seller-turned-model: Nigerians Elevate the Spiritual Above the Rational

I don’t like the Jumoke, the bread-seller-turned-model’s story. And I’m sad about how it has become an ‘inspiring’ story that’s circulating all over social media. I’m happy for her and I congratulate her but that’s just about it. The way people have gone about it is comical to me & also insults my reasoning. It bugs my mind.

First of all, why has it made so much news around here? Because we’re a superstitious people under prolonged suffering and oppression. The situation in the country has made people hopeless on what to do to achieve any level of comfort in life. So we’ve resigned to fate. So when they hear the story of someone that ‘achieved’ something great (more like ‘that something great happened to’) without any effort, it touches them in some serious ways. In a country where opportunities abound, this lady’s story would’ve still made rounds but not at this intensity. Next thing, everybody has loads of her pictures on their phones. I’m worried!

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Why aren’t I happy about it? Because one, it’s a sign of how much we’ve fallen in our expectations in life. We no longer believe in what we can do for ourselves. Rather, things that are not our making (e.g., being born a slim instead of fat person) are now what we rely on to make it in life. As if this lady put in any work or intelligence to have that height and body shape!

And two, because it speaks to our innate desire to want to achieve something without much effort. Everybody wants divine favour. People don’t even mind if they don’t deserve what they’ve got. They just want to get what they haven’t worked for. That’s why they fill up churches and1 camps everyday — unmerited favour, overnight success, etc. What a sorry set of people we are! No economy can develop with that mindset.

Of course, we’re all happy that MSc. holders are finding it difficult to rent an apartment in Lagos. The drama of an illiterate bread seller that now lives in a posh estate is sweet enough for us to relish. If you say she’s gotten the reward of her diligently hawking her bread, I’d feel better. That someone became an overnight success without any effort is a good thing but not something to celebrate so orgasmically.

Of course, she has become prayer points, just like Goodluck Jonathan became prayer points. And when Linda Ikeji too would share her success story, didn’t she play down the hard work part and promote the divine favour part? And the Jumoke lady too has attributed her stuff to God. She’s right. She neither used her brain nor her diligence. Just God. That’s the kind of story we like in Nigeria. Story of God. No wonder God has developed our economy without our brain and diligence!

Naij dot com made a video about her & tagged it ‘Miracles do happen!’ We like miracles, things that happen that we can’t explain. God’s plan and purpose. And all other nonsense. No wonder Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the busiest road in Africa, gets locked up for a few days every month. No wonder we don’t want to work. If you work hard & you make it, your success has an explanation. And God doesn’t want your success to have an explanation as he doesn’t like to share his glory with anyone including you. So he prefers to bless you by grace, without your work. Just like Jumoke. Let’s pray for this unmerited favour to develop Nigeria and remove the bad roads, improve the value of Naira & the unemployment rate!

Unfortunately, if you think this is a miracle, you’ve missed it. There’s nothing miraculous about this. And if you’re to celebrate a fluke that happened to only one person and might never happen to anybody else in the next 200 years, shouldn’t you wake up from the fantasy of the Disney Wonderland? Why should a freak occurrence to one person increase the hopes of 180 million people? Why shouldn’t we celebrate what a large number of people with some level of certainty can aspire to achieve?

But of course, I’m assuming that we’re a serious people. No wonder our politicians embezzle large sums of money once they assume office: we all love overnight, unmerited success, don’t we? The holy book says ‘the race is not to the swift…and wealth is not to the intelligent…’, doesn’t it? Victories without swiftness and wealth without intelligence is your portion: ‘oya, take it now!’ (using Oyakhilome’s voice)! Pscheewww!

Of course in Nigeria, all our celebrities are entertainers, pastorpreneurs, and politicians. They’re the ones our kids look up to. None of the big companies sponsor competitions in science and academics. They all sponsor music, drama and modeling talent shows. You see how a bank has quickly grabbed Jumoke and made her their ambassador? And they want to inspire us with her story saying ‘If you believe it, you can achieve it’? Yes. She believed and with no effort at all, it materialized out of thin air! No wonder we voted en masse for Goodluck Jonathan. Overnight, untested successes.

Wonder no further about why we’re backward in industrialization and technological development. We don’t need it. We don’t need more PhD’s & improved universities. All we need are more Jumoke’s, overnight successes, and lottery winners. We don’t need inventors and successful business people. Let’s just get many more slim girls out of bread hawking into modeling and they’ll ‘take us to the moon’ (quoting GEJ, January, 2015).

This article originally appeared on my personal Facebook page on February 18, 2016.

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