Sharp Guy No Be Thief

Has anyone ever known that he could get away with cheating someone, and not taken advantage of it?  If so, he deserves his wealth, and everyone will praise him for his generosity. – Sirach 31:10b – 11 (GNT)

In Nigeria, there is a general belief that everyone is out to manipulate you until proven otherwise. As a result, we try to “outsmart” everyone in our path. After all, that’s what a “sharp guy” does – scheme or get schemed. 

In the Nigerian context, a sharp guy is someone who wastes no time in taking opportunities (or should I say taking advantage of others) whenever the chance presents itself. It is our default survival tactic and defence mechanism against manipulation and scam. Infact, you either “get sharp or get schemed.”

This mentality is ingrained in us from an early age so we often mistake “dishonesty” for smartness and “integrity” for stupidity. As a consequence, a person who clearly states his terms and keeps his words is seen as a fool or a “mumu.” 


We pride ourselves in what should be termed ‘indecent behaviour’, believeing we are smarter than the next man. We exhibit this “smartness” even when it is unnecessary. For example, the average Nigerian would rather make funny attempts at something (s/he knows nothing about) than accept that s/he doesn’t know.

Why do we do this? The answer is simple. Even though it is obvious that life is a continuous learning journey – in which we learn, relearn and unlearn, we have a disdain for being tagged a learner or a dulling guy

Are you a learner? Don’t dull! These two statements were popularised by two Nigerian music artistes – Olamide and Wizkid- respectively. These have become an integral part of the daily Nigerian conversation used to mock a beginner or someone who is starting or  learning a new skill, trade or profession. 

In these situations, the rules of engagement are well laid out but one wrong step and you are left to rue your mistakes. The moment you acknowledge that you know nothing about whatever thing you may be involved in, you have shown your hand and managed to relegate yourself to the background. In every card game, you don’t show your cards lest you lose the game. The same applies here because at the end of the day, that is what is it is – A game!

Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), our future encounters/deals with others depend a lot on our ability to deliver on our promises/words. Every deal tests our integrity, trustworthiness and reliability. Money is the ‘acid-test’ of people’s integrity. It’s often reveals who we really are especially when we are under pressure. And the thing about business is there’s always another one coming.

For many, inability to keep one’s end of a  deal automatically rules out any chance of another deal in future. That’s it! The bridges have been burnt. No one likes being cheated or taken for a fool.

Don’t lose your integrity over just one deal.

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