Realism without idealism: hindrance to progress in Nigeria

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After Spartacus was kidnapped and sold as slave to join Battiatus’ gladiators, he continued dreaming and planning to gain freedom. While Spartacus dreamt on, Crixus and other gladiators competed to become champions among slave-gladiators by fighting to death as Roman entertainment. The other gladiators mocked Spartacus as a naïve idealist dreaming too high, instead of embracing their ‘reality’ of slave-championship. Sometimes prisoners focus on struggling to get better-slave-treatment than other prisoners, that they totally forget they are still prisoners. And without recourse to idealism of freedom, many social achievements and scientific inventions will be hindered by dwelling on realism.

Intellectuals and advocates of social reformation are often mocked as dreamers wishing to change Nigeria instead of benefitting from existing realities. When you talk to people about the possibility of a better Nigeria, you hear comments like: “e no fit happen for Naija”; “don’t dull, take your own share and go”; “Naija no go better again”. Avoiding corrupt practices attracts mockery from people who tell you: “stop living in the clouds, this is how the world works”. Sorry, this is not how the world works. This is how their world has been conditioned by them or other factors, until they realize and change it. For man always has a choice, and even refusing to choose is already a choice in itself.[1]


These negative comments show the type of scorn many inventors faced as dreamers before achieving success in history. Talking to people in 13th century about the possibility of an airplane or car would have provoked laughter and mockery. Despite the mockeries about their ideas, persistent inventors and social reformers eventually create new realities from their idealism. This is how many societies and modern technologies emerged from people’s idealism despite environmental pessimism.


Merriam-Webster dictionary defines REALISM as the “concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary”. Nigerian realism would imply interacting according to survival instincts on present circumstances, while rejecting/doubting possibilities of a social change. It embodies a social pessimism about the society, leading to fear and excessive consciousness for physical, financial and emotional security.


Contrarily, idealism is the belief that all existence is governed by thoughts and all changes are products of ideas. Nigerian idealism would imply interacting with the environment from a conviction of achieving an ideally conceived better society. It embodies a social optimism and hope for a better society, leading to generous sacrifices for the society. Without the use of idealism in conceiving a better society, the society may never grow more than its present state.

In the present Nigeria,

  • Reality is that Nigeria is a colonial prison imposed on unconsented peoples for providing raw-materials to Europe and other foreigners, which has generated so much hatred and suspicion among the peoples, such that collaboration for productivity is too difficult.
  • Reality is that despite your productive initiatives, you may never access the needed resources or support, since few people in charge of governance benefit from Nigeria’s unproductivity, and the exportation of crude resources in exchange for foreign products and money.
  • Reality is that economic power in Nigeria is very shallow since it is not rooted in productivity but marketing foreign products and exporting crude resources, and anybody can be displaced anytime depending on foreign producers’ policy or new regime’s mood. Hence, Nigerians fight against one another to please foreign producers, their indigenous allies and whoever is in seat of government.
  • Reality is that this post-colonial economic structure fully shifted Nigerians from collaborating for a better and productive society to fighting for individual survival on foreign products even at the cost of other people’s lives and wellbeing.
  • Reality is that reforming Nigeria for productivity and economic independence will be difficult as you may not get initial support for social-reforming initiatives.
  • Reality is that even when you abandon your productive and social reforming initiatives, you may not succeed without lying, bribing, breaking oaths, losing morals and being greedy.
  • Reality is that the value of life in Nigeria is reduced to food, house, sex and bragging inside the colonial prison, since the basic needs have been made scarce by the seizure of resources for production.
  • Reality is that many people turn to religion in frustration only to be devoured by shepherds who should feed the flock, but have aligned with political wolves.
  • Reality is that many Nigerians rush to school to get certificates as tickets for surviving on foreign products, and have to cram things they do not understand or practice, instead of studying to transform their society.
  • Reality is that even after passing, without access to resources for productivity, you have little hope of flourishing except you cut corners or know someone that knows someone.
  • Reality is that many good people have given up hope on the possibility of a better Nigeria.


Despite the ugliness of present realities in Nigeria, Nigeria can still be redeemed. In many occasions, some Nigerians have described the type of Nigeria they wish to see and bequeath to their children. Many Nigerians have imagined and dreamt of a better Nigeria where the different parts will develop and contribute their expertise. This type of imaginations, descriptions and wishes constitute what realists and cynics call dreamers’ idealism. Yet, we may never leave this prison unless we cherish and work towards that idealism of true socio-economic independence.

The underrated idealism that will eventually rescue Nigeria are:


  • That though Nigeria is a prison of several ethnic communities that were forcefully merged by colonialists, we will eventually discuss and agree on a new path to productive collaboration and thus, convert the prison relationship to a free relationship.
  • Then creative and intelligent Nigerians will get access to loans and other resources they need to manifest their productivity and greatness.
  • The idealism is that when Nigerians become productive using their local human and mineral resources, they will attain a high level of economic independence from foreign manipulations.
  • The idealism is that when Nigerians start collaborating for productivity, most of the bitterness among tribes, ethnic groups, religious adherents and other groups will reduce significantly.
  • The idealism is that Nigerians will recognize and support people with feasible ideas on social reorganization for more research and collaboration.
  • The idealism is that you will not need to lie, bribe or know public officers to manifest your greatness in social or scientific advancement.
  • The idealism is that the value of life in Nigeria will rise from food, sex, shelter and petty rivalry to our creativity for a better society.
  • The idealism is that we will turn to God in appreciation, no more in desperation.
  • The idealism is that Nigerians will be able to study what interests them for impacting the society positively, instead of rushing to particular fields just to survive in the economy.
  • The idealism is that hope will rise in those who had given up, to light up a new Nigeria.


For posterity, Nigerian idealists will continue to perfect the ideas of a new Nigeria and how it can be achieved. Even in the lack of adequate support you deserve, Restartnaija encourages you to not give up hope. Humanity progresses because of the presence and resilience of idealists, who consistently believe and work for improvement. Though it may take some time and hard-work, but a new and productive Nigeria will be achieved in this our lifetime.


Nigeria’s present reality is yesterday’s colonial idealism, and settling in the present realism without creating and cherishing a new idealism blocks the senses, kills the hope of meaningful living and begets fear, greed and opportunism.


[1] Jean Paul Sartre