A couple of days ago, I went with a classmate of mine to see a typist on campus. We had a group presentation to make, so we needed to type our researched topic. As expected, the typist gave us a service charge way above what we budgeted. She even told us she was doing us a favour as she already cut down on the charge. After much haggling, we came to an agreement as to the cost of our work. We then made a part payment and told her we’ll pay up once the work is done, a term to which she agreed. Just as we were about to leave her shop, I heard my classmate saying thank you to her. I turned to her and asked: What was the thank you for? She thought about it for a short while, smiled and said: Actually, there was no reason for the thank you. I guess that’s it’s a product of the Nigerian habit of unsolicited courtesy.
Come to think of it, what benefit did we receive from her that warranted a thank you? In the first place, we did her a favour by approaching her to do the job-there were others we could have approached. The annoying part was that we paid more than we should have done on a good day.
A conservative and courteous Nigerian notwithstanding, I tend to frown at some aspects of our culture that makes people feel they are altruistic. I know of a Yoruba adage that says: oun semi oun gbami; aati dupe lowo eni to oun seni toun gbani (How do we say thank you to a man that seems to be a beneficiary yet the cause of ones problem)? Although a grateful being, I consider it an act of hypocrisy to give someone an undeserving kudos just for the sheer sake of courtesy. Why receive a pat on the back instead of a knock on the head? Even the bible tells us to give honour to whom honour is due.
A local government chairman sinks ten boreholes throughout his 4-year tenure and we rollout drums and canons to celebrate his achievement. Your boss eventually gives you two out of four months’ unpaid salary and he expects you to bow at his feet. I remember, back in secondary school, been asked to say thank you by my principal after he had administered twenty strokes of the whip to my buttocks. What a great injustice!
The more we give undeserved praise to undeserving people, the more they feel they are doing us a whole lot of good. They continue to live in their fool’s paradise while we suffer in silence. Other than improve on the quality of service they render, they feel they have done more than enough. Why should we blame a man for wrongdoing since he has no one to fault his actions?
No wonder folks in developed countries fare better. They give no room for mediocrity. You have to work for the money you earn. They don’t feel obliged to shower unnecessary praise on people. Ironically, they show genuine appreciation for services well rendered hence, the tradition of giving tips. A tip is a gratuity or gift of money given for a service that has already been paid for, as token of appreciation. That’s the way it should be. If I must say thank you for a service I paid for, it must be one that is well done and to someone deserving of it.
Image credit: United Rescue Aid