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Western Culture versus Nigeria Economy

By: Tosan Okotie

Published October 5, 2010

The dress code of the West has caused a drain on Nigeriaís economy. Most Nigerians believe that you cannot perform the duties of a chief executive if youíre not on English suits, a white shirt and perhaps a red tie to match. This is not a myth because the dress code has no relationship whatsoever with the process of management at its hierarchy. Agreed the English people introduced their dress code to Nigerians during the era of colonialism, but the question that must be asked is whether Nigeria is still in that era? If the answer is no, why would Nigerians not fashion out their dress code that would be suitable to their economy and environment? Picture in your mind how all the chief executives from both private and public sectors go to Aso Rock and they bow down their head to respect the office of the president and the man in charge who wears his native attire. The consequences of Nigerians continued patronage of Western suits and its accessories are that, Nigerians create huge market/employment for the Western world while unemployment rates continue to rise in Nigeria and the people are impoverished on a daily basis. To this end, the people of Nigeria/government should have a re-think at this time of global economic melt-down. Letís get it clear; your dress code does not make you efficient/inefficient at work neither does it makes you strategize better. We can categorically say that the English suit is as good as the buba/sokoto in all ramifications or the shape of attire of the current president. For all intended purpose, the ďagbada or popularly called babarigaĒ is out of this discussion because the over-flow of the agbada would interrupt with office equipment and other working tools. The fabric to make buba/sokoto is ďAnkara or AdireĒ or materials that can be made in Nigeria. While the men can go on buba/sokoto, the women can go on skirt over blouse or the female version called buba/iro made out of locally manufactured textiles. In the Nigeriaís economy, clothing takes a good chunk of total expenditure; as such, one of the ways to fix the economy is through reduced imports and increased usage of home made goods.

Every nation on this planet is clamoring for improved economy right now and all hands are on deck to ensure success, so why should Nigeria be an exception. If countries of the Western world are going back to their drawing boards to fashion out for example alternatives to energy so as to improve their economy, why would Nigerians not utilize what Almighty God has placed in their hands? The guts to discuss this issue at the Federal Executive Council meeting in order to implement an official dress code policy from the federal to local levels would make Nigerians dress in their home made attires from Mondays-Fridays. This would bring about huge employment ranging from farming (cotton production) to manufacturing of the textiles, then to sewing of the materials. Yes, the machines to sew these clothes would be massively imported at the onset, but chances are that with time, same machines could be manufactured in Nigeria. That is a discussion for another day. For Godís sake, Nigerians need to take a second look at the matters within their control, such as this. A nation must as a necessity strive to make ends meet without the influence of outsiders. Agreed, no nation is an island, but there are some issues that can be handled without much interference from outside.  In this era when the rest of the world are brainstorming on ways to improve their standard of living, Nigerians must sit down, think and be able to stand firm on issues that are within their reach as well as better their economy and lifestyle. Apparently, the lands are fertile and there are sufficient lands to commence serious farming for cotton. Some Nigerians are gifted with creativity, so the tailoring aspects of these attires are not a problem, so why canít we reasonably compare costs and benefits at some point in time? Huge foreign exchange will be saved and used for other areas of human development such as hospital equipment, education materials, etc fashioned to the 21st century. We know that fashion and human looks are synonymous with man/woman relationship.

That a lady is dressed in buba/iro does not make her unattractive to men, neither does a man dressed in buba/sokoto look awkward to ladies. Letís take our minds back to the days when ladies were using tread to plait their hair and some used stretching comb to stretch their hair, these ladies had boyfriends/husbands and the so call ďsugar daddies.Ē In effect, the issue of man/woman courtship is not dependent on what the ladies/men wear. Rather, itís dependent on nature. Nature has it that the urge for both sexes to interact is inevitable regardless of what kind of dress code that is available. In my days when I had choice of ladies, I never admired a lady because of her London imported clothes and paintings. I preferred natural looks to artificial beauty that would provoke my sight very early in the morning when she wakes up from sleep without make-ups and those dresses skillfully tailored in Great Britain or France. These days, some people have started using ďAnkaraĒ to sew uniform (ashoebi) for parties and the reality is that they look gorgeous in them. Itís therefore left for the three tiers of government to officially make it possible for everyone to dress in these attires to work in order to create employment for Nigerians. If Nigerians in Nigeria cannot get involved with modern day science and technology, then to make use of what is before them shouldnít be a problem. I still remember vividly that when I went to Abuja early in 1987 to serve a court subpoena, the young man who attended to me wore buba/sokoto. Though his spoken English was not clear, but I got the attention I needed.  Nigeria is a place where implementation of polices are difficult due to the corrupt nature of the citizens. However, if the Federal Executive approves this dress code its implementation would be easy.

Infant industries in Nigeria have always suffered a setback because men of the Customs are made rich when an item is banned from the ports/markets as they are adept in laying out strategies to collect huge bribes from importers so as to allow the banned commodity gets into the country. Likewise, the Policemen in Nigeria had the opportunity to have free sex when they were ordered to arrest prostitutes. In this dress code matter, once the policy comes into effect, a supervisor or manager that allows an employee to violate the policy will be queried. With this, itís very easy for the supervisor to tell his/her subordinate to go back home and dress properly. This way, the Custom officers would have no back-door businesses. On the other hand, itís also easy to align the private sectors such as the banks with government policy like this though the government has no direct control on the banks. Because government offices are the biggest sources of bank deposits, bank executives go to these offices frequently. So when the bank executive comes through the door and he is told by the government official that he as a bank executive has a role to play in shaping the nationís economy, and that his eighty thousand naira suit is a drain to the nationís economy, itís obvious that the man would go back to his office and have a re-think.

Nigeria is a country with good weather all year round. Perhaps, most people donít even understand that the wearing of suits in the Western world is partially due to the cold weather during the winter season. There is something wrong being a copy-cat in a direction of waste and senselessness. One of the ways to rejuvenate the Nigeriaís economy is to implement a simple policy like this. When you travel to other parts of the world, one common thing you see on the streets is that countryís home made products. At this point in the global economy, Nigeriaís government doesnít have a sensible choice other than to develop its own strategy of survival of which this dress code in all government offices is one of it. Why can this dress code not be possible when the man that occupies the highest office in the land wears his native attire that does not interrupt any form of office equipment, and the shape looks more or less like the English suits? Indeed, Nigeriaís economy and the ways to fix it should be uppermost in the minds of Nigerians if the huge population and the use of the nationís resources are concerns to the leaders.

Tosan Okotie

Lives in Texas, USA




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