Stockholm Syndrome: A glance from a Nigerian Lens.

I have been livid for a while now about the state of things in Nigeria, but I often overlook them. The recent #endsars protest awoke my patriotism, it ignited enthusiasm for a while until the lekki massacre quenched it, I returned to my default setting, but a video I came across recently poked both my patriotism and my emotions. A woman made a video complaining about her son’s weight loss — she had taken her son to a boarding school in Akwa Ibom state, in the video, she spoke about how her son was allegedly bullied in school and how he had become a shadow of his former self — he was a jolly and loquacious boy, but when she visited her son, he was now a reserved and pale looking kid. He was asked what was wrong, his reply wiped off the normalcy that was swarming my face, “if I talk, they will kill me, ” the mother frightened by this, withdrew her ward from the school immediately. When it was clear the boy wasn’t going back to the school again, he loosened up and told his mother everything, this boy was sodomized and bullied in school, this video was not the catalyst for this article though, but comments in response to the story, a comment read ” why did you bring the story to social media, how sure are we that this woman doesn’t have ulterior motives,” this comment lacked both common sense and human sympathy, but it was a reflection of the thoughts of many. In my brief time here on Earth, I have seen weird things, from citizens pampering the egos of tyrants to people staying in abusive relationships and the most shocking is people glorifying oppressive systems, these are examples of Stockholm syndrome. You may ask what is Stockholm syndrome? According to Wikipedia, Stockholm syndrome is a condition in which hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity, Britannica defines it as a psychological response wherein a captive begins to identify closely with his or her captors, as well as with their agenda and demands. Stockholm Syndrome is not talked about often because, in this clime, we consider suffering a gateway to success, success stories are not complete without grass to grace examples or rag to riches anecdotes.


An article, what is Stockholm syndrome who does it affect, medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Kimberly Holland on November 11, 2019, stated: ” While Stockholm syndrome is commonly associated with a hostage or kidnapping situation, it can apply to several other circumstances and relationships. Stockholm syndrome is not an official mental health diagnosis. Instead, it is thought to be a coping mechanism. Individuals who are abused or trafficked or who are the victims of terror may develop it. Proper treatment can go a long way to helping with recovery.”


The Nigerian schooling system is a vivid example of where Nigerians galvanize an oppressive system, I was like that until a few weeks ago, I passed through hell in boarding school, I thought it helped me develop survival instincts and a thick skin to suffering. When I have a chit chat with my peers we always laugh about the abuse we received from school, we were flogged, starved(of food and peace), and robbed(of our rights), but guess what? We were happy and unperturbed, I displayed my scarred experiences like a medal of honour, telling my stories for ears that were willing to listen. I am not innocent of the aforementioned abuse, I also flogged people, we were taught that it helped in molding people into better individuals but they were lies, people got used to the strokes and continued flouting the rules. Boarding schools in Nigeria are becoming a dangerous place for parents to take their children, some persons that have attended boarding schools have bad stories piled up in their memories waiting for the right persons to tell, they are afraid to tell people because our society has tagged abuse in boarding schools as normal. They keep these bad experiences to themselves, and suffer alone with no one to help them, some end up committing suicide due to depression. A problem I faced in boarding school was hunger, despite paying a good sum of money, we still ate a very small amount of food, and to top it up it was lacking sufficient nutrients but we were always told it was part of our training, even though the principal and his deputy ate better and nutritious meals, some even say: ” If I could survive hunger, you can too, ” others added” You will thank us one day, not many would give you this type of training, ” I was brainwashed into thanking them in my subconscious. They were schools that gave their students adequate meals and the students were still disciplined as well, starvation is no training, it brings out the worst in people, I have seen what it can do to people. Nigerian universities are one of the hardest institutions to go through not because of the complexities of the teachings but because of the complexities of the system, examples of these complexities are constant strikes, inadequate learning facilities, bad lecturers, and corruption in the system. One of the shocking things that happen in Nigerian universities is the payment of acceptance fee, students are made to pay money to accept admission, after the struggles of getting admitted into the university, you are forced to pay money to the school for admission, I paid ten thousand naira to be accepted into the university. Admission is not guaranteed in Nigerian universities, you are either admitted by luck or you have a strong ‘connection’ not even an extraordinary JAMB( Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board) score guarantees you admission. The schooling system is an oppressive one but we seem to be in love with it because we believe it helps to ‘ build’ us.

One of the things that open your eyes to the dangers that the Stockholm syndrome pose is politics. A good number of Nigerians are always devoted to a politician regardless of his competence, especially when we share the same tribe, we defend these leaders to the latter, even when it is glaring they have no love for us, some may go as far as putting their lives on the line for them. Nigeria has not been able to grow to expected heights, because corrupt leaders always have apologists who would do anything for them that includes helping to promote oppression, a good example is the Northern support base of the current president, President Muhammadu Buhari, his supporters are ready to look beyond his failures and keep throwing their weight behind him. When people vote for politicians based on tribal leaning instead of competence those people are exhibiting symptoms of Stockholm syndrome — when do you things that don’t benefit you but leaves you suffering, and continue doing that same thing then you are implicitly saying you are comfortable with it. We have been blindfolded by the tribe card for too long, sadly, a large percentage of Nigerians prioritize tribe over comfort, our leaders ( oppressors) are aware of this fact and they use it to their advantage, whenever they goof and the people want to revolt they play the tribe card and our determination scatters like a broken glass cup.


The Nigerian society is an oppressive one that needs an overhaul in virtually all sectors, from the citizens paying the police to perform their duty, to the politician receiving a bribe to award a contract, many problems are etched on facets of our society. Hardship is not a determinant of resilience in people, maybe it is for some, but resilience is found in people who make the conscious effort to be resilient and not in people who we think the society made them resilient. We need to denormalize oppression, it is not normal to be oppressed by a system or a person, it is evil. I saw a quote recently, ” if you make people go through what you went through because you turned out fine, then you didn’t turn out fine.” Some countries don’t suffer from a bad leadership or system but their citizens still turn out fine, sugar coating a problem makes it less of a problem.


It’s no surprise we are lagging as a country, when you are in love with your oppressor you get more oppression. Stockholm syndrome has blurred our vision and made us comfortable with discomfort, if we keep clinging to the idea that abuse and an oppressive society helps build our resilience, then the society would get more oppressive, if we do not discard all these innocuous ideas soon I am afraid we would be sitting on ticking time bomb waiting to wait to blow us up. All my life I have been conversant with this phrase “Nigerians are resilient, ” but is this resilience a euphemism for silence in the face of hardship, or a compliment?

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