By Nehru Odeh

Professor Femi Osofisan, academic, poet, playwright and essayist, has said Nigerian leaders treat the masses with contempt because of the lord/master mentality they inherited from the British colonial masters.

According to Osofisan, at independence, Nigerian elites did not only occupy the positions the whites left, but also acquire their mentality, adding that it is the contemptuous way the whites had treated Nigerians that they too are currently treating the masses. The distinguished writer also said Nigerians acquired that mentality because we did not fight for our independence like in countries where there were liberation movements.

Osofisan said this at a symposium, with the theme, How did it go awfully wrong? at the just concluded Lagos Art and Book Festival, LABAF, which held at Freedom Park in Lagos. Osofisan chaired the event, while Mr Kayode Komolafe. Journalist and columnist moderated it,

“They (our leaders) were not coming to build the nation, they were coming to take their own parts. That’s why they came and relocated to the GRAs, the GRAs where the white people lived, away from the common people. That was the mentality that we had because we had not fought for independence like the liberation movements. So it wasn’t a question of destroying the impunity, the self-promotion that the whites had created. It was to replace them

“And then the rest of us were brought up to admire the white people, to respect them. That mentality has continued with the people who have replaced the white people. We respect them. We don’t question their immunity because we could not question the immunity of the white people. That mentality has remained. The elite did not identify with the people.

“They created a class above the people. And that is why many of the governors are very contemptuous of their people. They see them as fodder to get to power. And the people also accept It because they think that the man at the top cannot be questioned, should not be questioned,” he said.

Osofisan, however, regretted that that lord/master mentality is still there. And that there is need for the masses to identify themselves as black people in need of development, in need of certain things, if not things will continue like that. He also bemoaned the fact the people themselves will fight you if you question power.

“The slave mentality is still there. The lord-master mentality is still there. So that we do not question the person in power. In fact we are not supposed to. In fact, there were precolonial organizations that were organized differently. But the white people made sure those people did not come to post. The fact is that the democratic principle has not been planted in our people. The people themselves will fight you if you question power.

“That’s why when a Nigerian makes a shoe for instance he better put ‘Made in Italy’ if it is going to sell. If you say ‘Made in Aba’, nobody will buy it. So that mentality is very crucial to development as far as I am concerned. We must do something about it,” Osofisan maintained.