Do Generational Social Trends Exist in Nigeria?

We often hear people talk about how society has changed over time. Sometimes, this notion has a positive connotation. However, it’s often meant with disdain: that today’s society represents the bedrock of moral decadence. This opinion is sentimental and represents a fact about humanity: we tend to miss days of the past and struggle to conform to current trends. Certainly, Nigerian society isn’t the same as it was forty years ago, but how significant are the societal changes? 

Over millennia, change has been a constant theme. Societies that refused change have crumbled and become memories of old without songs of their mighty and frivolous deeds. Our current societal fabric exists due to our staunch obedience to the tides of change. As the world moves, our society accompanies it.

generational social trends

People think societal changes are sudden and immense in their effects, whereas the opposite is true. Just over a hundred years ago, some Nigerians still sold slaves, believing the practice to be customary. The slave trade in Nigeria didn’t end until the 1950s. Change, albeit good, occurred at a slow pace. 

Generational trends are becoming more prominent. Globalization and economic conditions have led to differences in beliefs among older and younger Nigerians. However, we need to know how customs and previously held beliefs are changing.

Shifts in customs over the years

Culture births society, and communities, in turn, births culture. Nigeria has a rich culture spanning centuries, with some abolished, forgotten, and remaining. Most abolished customs were practices that brought harm to the individual. Yet the community bonded over the outcast of the individual. Child marriages, tribal marks, and female genital mutilation are some abolished practices in most parts of Nigeria today. 

Looking at the grim nature of these customs, we ask ourselves why they were revered. Ignorance is often the familiar answer that comes to mind: “They did so because they were ignorant.” They were ignorant, and we’re less unaware by virtue of education and globalization. In the coming years, some of our cultural practices will be termed ignorant by future generations. Such is the irony of culture—it changes with time. 

Notable generational trends in Nigerian societies

The younger Nigerian generations, gen-z, and millennials, believe themselves aware of the world. In some way, they’re right and wrong. What’s responsible for their awareness is the rise in globalization, especially with the prevalent use of social media. Despite the rise in awareness, it doesn’t come with the experience that age brings. 

On social media, younger Nigerians are vocal about the parenting styles they wish to practice. The parenting styles of old have been criticized because they feel the Nigerian societal moral fabric exists as a mirage. One aspect of parenting that has come under scrutiny is the enrollment of children in boarding schools. It raises a lot of questions that Nigerian youths who passed through boarding programs do not want the same experience for their progeny. Why are boarding schools becoming unpopular among young Nigerians? 

There are horror stories of physical, mental, and sexual abuse in boarding schools. Tales of senior students maltreating younger students with impunity are prevalent. Severe cases of bullying have left their mark on young Nigerians. Unfortunately, such experiences carry their trauma, and more young Nigerians prefer their children in day schools for a closer upbringing. This generational shift is recent and wasn’t the case years ago, but it exists today. Hence, we have to question our society and culture of inflicting violence on those we consider powerless. If teenagers are inflicting trauma on fellow teenagers, our societal fabric needs a revamp.

The scripture, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” carries reverence in Nigeria. If there’s one thing Nigerians shun, it’s a child they consider spoilt. Many Nigerians believe discipline accompanies the “rod.” Therefore, the culture of hitting children is prevalent among Nigerians, but culture evolves. Young Nigerians, albeit few, are starting to shun the practice of hitting children as a form of discipline. They believe it escalates into physical abuse, which leaves a scar of trauma.

A personal opinion of mine is my lack of belief in hitting children as the best form of instilling discipline. I believe it’s the easiest way to correct misdeeds. It takes more time and effort to correct children and raise them than to hit them for their wrongs. Today’s climate and the scene of Nigerian boarding schools show the cycle of violence. Children raised with violence as a tool of correction end up perpetuating violence toward their younger peers. To reduce violence in our society, we must begin with how we raise children. 

The past decade has seen an increasing global acceptance of LGBTQ+ culture. However, Nigeria and other African countries regard homosexuality as a crime and immoral. In specific classes determined by age and wealth, homophobia is shunned. Although more young Nigerians are embracing LGBTQ+ culture, controversy exists due to Nigeria’s laws on homosexuality and the influence of religion in society. In the years to come, an increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ is probable.

Another compelling shift between generations is the gradual decline in reverence for older Nigerians. Younger Nigerians are less likely to acclaim older Nigerians as worthy of respect by virtue of their age. The quote “Respect is a two-way street” is becoming a tenet, which has led to a switch in social dynamics.

Is society changing for good, or is it regressing?

To answer this question, ask if you would have been better off being born in an older society. Thus, your answer remains subjective, but the current Nigerian society has become more progressive, albeit at a gradual pace. We fail to notice changes in generational social trends. These shifts—sometimes seismic and always minuscule—have pros and cons. Equality and a fair distribution of wealth are what we’re advancing towards. Hopefully, we will see our society meet these targets in our lifetime.

Olaleye Olorunfemi

Olaleye Olorunfemi is a Nigerian writer who writes about life, culture, and society. He tells stories from the first person perspective and has been published on Kalaharireview. He's also a cinephile with an active interest in movies of different genres.