The Low Hanging Fruit Mentality: Fueling Mediocrity in Nigeria

I saw a documentary on AIT a while ago. And it was on a water fountain…yes a water fountain. The Governor had apparently called for the construction of a water fountain with glowing lights. The documentary interviewed a lot of people who were impressed with what the Governor had done. Apparently, the fountain represented the amazing progress in the State. The fact that a water fountain signified progress worthy of a documentary on national television should make us sob. Likewise, the egregious TV cast of poor women/men dancing for gloating public officials over the supply of subsidized kerosene was enough to make one gnash one’s teeth. It shows that we’ve anchored ourselves to the mediocre. Our mediocre has become our zenith. We’ve essentially fallen into what I describe as the low hanging fruit mentality i.e. a complete focus on targets or goals which are easily achievable and do not require a lot of effort to the detriment of harder, but more essential targets.

One of Aesop’s fables describes a fox, who driven by hunger, tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked, ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ So to comfort himself, the fox found a way to disdain the same thing he previously strove for. Just like the fox, we’ve slowly begun to disdain those high-hanging fruits which we view as unattainable and focus on low hanging fruits.

We settle for the low-hanging fruits because we either have no idea what the high-hanging fruits look like or because it’s too painful to desire them. This adjusts our expectations downwards. We are in a position where we learn not to expect greater things and we get used to the unfortunate things. When we hear about amazing achievements being made in other countries, we shrug and go back to wishing for roads without potholes. Gradually, we begin to incorporate these downfalls into our culture. Corruption becomes normal. Then it becomes part of our culture. Just like the kidnapping, ritual killings, sexual molestation and armed robbery. This should unnerve us all. The infallibility of culture ensures that we vociferously defend most parts of it. And before long, just like how we’ve viewed corruption as ‘here to stay’, we’ll view our retrogression as cultural and immutable.

In other words, the low hanging fruit mentality desensitizes us to the retrogression of our society and keeps us constantly comparing to the worst, until we become the worst. A dozen students in Yobe were killed last week. This shakes us for a while and anchors us to that horrific incident. Unfortunately, when next 5 students are killed, it doesn’t shake us as much. After all, we’ve already witnesses twice a dozen die. Just like a student who feels comforted by a D-grade because he last got an F-grade, we’re unaware that we’re still in a state of failure.

It takes critical and honest analysis for us to realize that we’re still staring at the bottom of the tree when there’s better at the top. When a tarred road or water fountain becomes the best we expect from our Government, then we’ve been scammed by our leaders. Until Nigerians stop being impressed by low-hanging fruits and request for those that are much higher, we’ll get mediocrity, we’ll settle for mediocrity and we’ll be mediocre. Keep this in mind, no country that compares itself downwards ever moves upwards.

  • Wow! This is extremely important and rather timely. Sadly, it’s one of the many things we tend to take for granted as Nigerians. We have already accepted mediocrity as the norm and that’s why most people never push themselves to do more than they normally would. We must keep pushing and pressing. As individuals, as a country,we have amazing potentials but we just let ourselves be lured into the comfort of mediocrity. After all, it comes pretty cheaply, at almost no cost at all and does not require that we leave our comfort zone. I have often said that nothing good ever comes cheaply. The price of greatness is pretty high, if it wasn’t, there’d be no such thing as mediocrity.
    Why on earth should we celebrate a fountain in a state? Is that how lost we are as a country? Why should we celebrate one day of absolute power supply? These are questions we must ask ourselves? We should quit the “at least I better pass my neighbour” mentality and reach for the stars. There’s just so much out there we can achieve, we should stop limiting ourselves.
    Brilliant piece dear. Cheers 🙂

  • Leroy Iguma

    Totally agree with your conclusion. However,the people are manipulated, deliberately misinformed and to a large extent easy to satisfy.

  • Chuba, I always look forward to reading your posts. Please do not stop even if someone puts a gun to your head !(just joking!). Wish to invite you sometime to talk if you do not mind to a larger audience. Silva.

  • Anonymous

    thanks for gd analogy, may our people read and change.

  • @iwugideon

    Happy to know someone, atleasts, shares my pain.
    Sincerely I must say this, we are the more reason why our leaders tow the mediocre line to a far extent because they originate from among us: we breed them, and they just conform, fittingly, to the setting. Imagine election debates on construction of roads, bridges, pipe-borne water, building of school blocks etc, while ISSUES (economic, social, health, education among others, in all their forms) are neglected. I just concluded, we deserve the leaders we get, even though, these leaders emanate from us, we allow them confine us to the level we are at present.
    And to be candid, in my own personal life, too, there are aspects of my life that I admittedly have gone for low-hanging fruits, but as I’m trying to retrace my steps cos these are areas the regret will live with me till death,and I’m just going to take my time. I’m almost out of both, though.
    Thanks for this piece.

  • The sad part is that we are gradually moving to state where the general public does not even have LHF expectations even
    You are expected to provide basic amenities per household
    Public amenities are something other countries have not us, so there is no expectations in that direction
    Public water- A dream
    Public Primary health – Are you suffering from a malaria dream?
    Security – Put in prison bars on your windows
    In fairness to most of the governors building and commissioning fountains and similar ‘kindergaten’ level projects, they actually do not know any better.

  • Ng

    Your posts are always enlightening and insightful. We’re the future leaders of tomorrow and hence need more of your calibre of persons to bring the desired change our great and dearest country deserves. May God continually give u the wisdom to bring up more ideas that will lead to the development of our great nation! @ceezeks. Remain BLESSED…

  • Chuba you have really got it again.
    This is the strategy used by Northern Elites who perpetually keep their people illiterate & misinformed so they don’t know their rights, ask less questions and develop THE LOW HANGING FRUIT MENTALITY as a norm. The North Koreans too.

  • Moving from Grade F to D is an improvement. But sitting on grade D after 5 attempts is deserving of critical review.
    Sadly, when people like you and I have high expectations from the government, the majority of the people who are more concerned about making it big the easy way live in admiration of the government. They’re only one thing on their minds – one day my person will be in that position and I will get a share of the cake. This is what forms the core of our electoral decisions – what the masses think.

    How can we help to redirect the infectious mental orientation in this country?

    • Constantly show Nigerians videos of better countries? Ha. Kiddin. Although, we need to sensitize the people to realize what they should be getting from the govt, given the amount of resources the nation has. Also, those who are more aware need to place more pressure on Govt not to be complacent in their performance. That’ll serve as a buffer against their self-adulation. It won’t significantly change things, but it’ll help.

  • Efiong baa

    it’s always sad those things we see, poor school children in the community standing on dusty road to welcome govt ..wat

  • Ayo

    Nigeria will get better when families begin train their children well and in the right direction. It starts from appreciating others rather than competing, learning not to jump queues and all those other things we think don’t matter. The little things in life we often ignore are the important things that make the difference in other countries where life is more valued. The people in power are all from one family or the other. Are their families concerned about how they are doing things? What are our expectations of these people? If they are our families, do we put pressure on them to do things for us knowing fully well that they can meet those demands?
    Now to everyone us, let’s truly search ourselves, would we really do things differently if given the opportunity or we are just talking the talk because talk is cheap.

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