Nigerians And Tragedy of The Commons

How do you solve a common problem in a community that seems unwilling to change?
Why do people care more about their private space and not the public space?
That's the tragedy a lot of leaders struggle with in a country like Nigeria, where people are use to doing things in a certain kind of way.
We seem to always blame Corrupt politicians and Dysfunctional Government for our lack of simple Civic duties




What is the 'Tragedy Of The Commons'
In Hardin's classic piece "The Tragedy of the Commons," a commons is a natural resource shared by many individuals. In this context, "shared" means that each individual does not have a claim to any part of the resource, but rather, to the use of a portion of it for his/her own benefit.

The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual tries to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.

The point is when humans face the same issue, each person would act in his own self interest and consume as much of the scarce resource as possible, making the resource even harder to find.

The human mind is wired to think logically, that means there are certain things people just cant do. For instant, every hawker, Preacher and Drugs sellers in Lagos know that they are not allowed in Lagbus so they stay away from such places while they conduct their trades in Molues and other Buses across Lagos. The same goes for Public Urination, as most people doing it look for the dirtiest part of the street to urinate.
In a city like Lagos, open garbage is the common way of disposing dirt, and that goes for majority of the cities in Nigeria, as these acts has zero consequences.


How did we get to a point where Nigerians no longer care about the common good of the community they live in, and everybody now have to care more for themselves.

Oil was discovered in Nigeria in 1956 at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta after half a century of exploration. The discovery was made by Shell-BP, at the time the sole concessionaire. Nigeria joined the ranks of oil producers in 1958 when its first oil field came on stream producing 5,100 bpd. After 1960, exploration rights in onshore and offshore areas adjoining the Niger Delta were extended to other foreign companies. In 1965 the EA field was discovered by Shell in shallow water southeast of Warri. By the late sixties and early seventies, Nigeria had attained a production level of over 2 million barrels of crude oil a day.

Since then, the country has made hundreds of billions of Dollars from oil revenue.

But the Country has got absolutely nothing to show for it. Year in, Year out, billions of dollars are reported stolen by the same trustees whose responsibility is to manage same resources and build infrastructure. For every other Nigerians, we wait for our turn to plunder same resources living Schools, Roads, Electricity and other basic societal needs to suffer.

As time went on people lost trust in the Government, reason been that a lot of Nigerians had to build their own infrastructure, from access road, schools, water, electricity and all other things that guaranteed their comfort. 

The proverb 'Every man for himself and God for us all' became the general logic for decision making that involved public good. Politicians stole the more leaving the masses poor, despite enormous amount of money generated from oil by the country yearly. It didn't matter how people got rich as long as you can meet personal and family needs. Public facilities were treated like nobodies business, as people created their own Government living by some basic rules like;

  • If the roads are bad buy an SUV.
  • There is no Power Supply from NEPA, buy a Generator.
  • No water Supply from the various water Boards, sink a borehole.
  • No good Teachers in Public Schools, move them to Private Schools.

When what we should have done is demand that the Government of the day provide the said Infrastructure.

Now even the good leaders are finding it difficult going through with certain projects as it has become a norm for people to behave and live in a certain way.
Community and Youth Leaders demand money for projects that are suppose to benefit them. 

While hoping that some very few can start the movement of getting us out of the deep hole we have dug for ourselves, it’s likely we are programmed to identify and replicate the behavior of others, rather than think independently.

The question is how can we turn this 'Tragedy of the Commons' to 'Victory of the commons' because its doable.

ossy ilumah

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