THE NIGERIAN MENTALITY TOWARDS “SAMARITANISM”

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At the mention of “Samaritan”, what comes to the mind of a Nigerian, especially those that took Bible Knowledge as a subject back in primary school, is the story of the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help the victim who had been ambushed by robbers. Little wonder those from the Yorubaland are quick to tag anyone who is thought to be showing mercy in an unreasonable way to those in need of such as “Alaanu Samaria”. It brings me to the question of when it is reasonable to show mercy to those in need of it. For most of us Nigerians, there is never a reasonable time to go out of your way to show mercy to those in need of such, no matter how desperate they appear.

I took a moment after I stumbled upon an accident scene in Ibadan to ask around why no one saved the deceased, whom I gathered was still alive some minutes before I stumbled on the scene. I got different responses which I was able to place under these two headings: the “Fear of being implicated” and the “Cunning mind of Nigerians”.  Really, I couldn’t agree less with the responses I got because they could also make me hesitate in playing the role of a Samaritan.

Whenever I imagine the fear of being implicated, the popular song of Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde always comes to my mind. The song simply appeals to everyone who chooses to play the role of a Samaritan to be careful while being the Good Samaritan. In Nigeria, everyone is cautious when trying to lend a helping hand simply because should the scenario play out differently, only few if not none at all will believe you were only being a Samaritan. Talking about being implicated, the Police and the hospitals have not been helpful in any manner. I recall a popular story of a man who tried to lend a helping hand to a fellow Nigerian who laid on the bare ground in a pool of blood. The injured fellow who had just been mugged by God-knows-who was in a very bad state with a look of someone who was going to die in few minutes if medical care wasn’t given to him. The Samaritan took pity on the fellow and picked him up, rushed him to the hospital where the medical practitioners on duty requested a police report upon discovery of a bullet wound in the abdomen of the injured fellow. In the short time of trying to clarify issues, the fellow gave up the ghost before first aid treatment could be given to him. What ensued afterwards was very hurting as the Police failed to believe the story of the Good Samaritan who unfortunately for him had no eye witness. The matter became a court matter; during which time, the Samaritan was in Police custody. By the time the matter was resolved, the Samaritan had spent some good number of years behind the bars. I keep wondering if the Samaritan would ever lend a helping hand to anyone in need of it again in his life.

Another reason why everyone in Nigeria would mind his business rather than be the nice man on the streets is the bad attitude or allow me to say the cunning mind of some Nigerians. The cunning mind of few Nigerians have made the innocent man in need of help on the street to get nothing from a would-be Samaritan. This story happened to a family friend. This man has a kind heart, the reason he stopped by one morning to pick up a lady who looked very stranded and in need of help. In his car, he slowed down and asked the woman why she sat by the roadside in tears looking tattered. The lady claimed she had just been mugged by some wicked looking men. Moved by pity, he asked the lady to come into the car and offered to drop her off at a bus stop which she claimed was very close to her house. To cut the story short, by the time they got to the bus stop, the lady came down but something else happened, something which the man never thought could have happened. The lady came down and screamed “thief and cheat” on the man. By the time busybodies gathered around the car, the lady claimed that the man had taken her to a hotel the night before and they had spent the night together with an agreement to pay her off that morning. The man just sat dumbfounded while the crowd failed to help matters as they began to call the man names. In the end, to salvage the situation the man had to give the lady the five thousand Naira in his wallet. Before you say five thousand Naira is small, have at the back of your mind that this happened in the year 1995. I could go on and on talking about the ills of being the Good Samaritan, I could talk about how a Samaritan had vanished into the thin air while trying to help and about the man in need of help who uses the money received from Samaritans to buy drinks at the Beer Parlour, but that will be too much of ill-talk, because there are really good people in need of help by the roadside.

Back to the issue of the Nigerian mentality, I recall on one of my trips to Abuja, we came across a young man who looked very sick lying at the side of the road, but instead of the driver slowing down the bus, he took off with a great speed. All he could say was that it surely was a set up and that if he had slowed down any bit, his gang members would have stepped out of the bush and robbed everyone in the bus. This is the typical Nigerian mentality towards playing the role of a Good Samaritan. When I got to Abuja later that night, I shared the story with a friend, asking what if that young man really needed help. The reality is I might find it a bit difficult to stop too if I were the driver. I could only pray in my heart that someone stops for him – maybe the Police, for I’m almost certain that no one would dare stop to be the Good Samaritan.

I would like to conclude by saying that the both the Police and the hospitals should try to be less difficult in instances where lives are at stake. The hospitals should at least try to save the dying victim before calling in the Police, after all, there is nothing wrong in saving the life of a robber (assuming he is really a robber). Secondly, I would also appeal to Nigerians to be of assistance the little they can – I have heard of stories where the Samaritan drops the victim at the gate of a hospital and zooms off in his car to avoid interrogations from the Police. Thirdly, I plead with the Police to be less difficult when interrogating a Samaritan, for crying out loud, he just played a bit of the role of a Police man and finally, I hope Nigerians can be less tricky so that fellow Nigerians like me can have a positive mindset towards lending a helping hand to those who really need it.