Tags and Labels: A Social Barrier 

“Labels are for fillings. Labels are for clothings. Labels are not for people.” – Martina Navratilova 

Back in 1990s/early 2000s Nigeria, every parent wanted his/her child to go to a Unity School as they were the leading secondary educational institutions in the country. The name ‘Unity Schools’ was coined by the Federal Government of Nigeria, and comprised of a number of colleges spread across the nation, which were used to promote national unity via the admission of “intelligent” students from all parts of the country and all ethnic groups. Little wonder the motto of these schools is Pro Unitate.

I was opportune to attend a Unity School, Federal Government College Enugu (in Fedi lol), to be precise. It was an eye-opening experience. You have people from all walks of life, background, ethnicity, religion, culture all mixed up in one place.

Ironically, this was the first place I learnt about labels and tags, and the effects they could have on both “the tagger” and “the tagged.” It was a typical high school, with so many people forming cliques, which differentiated the cool from the uncool, the smart (nerds) from the dullards, the boarders (gnashites) from the day students (day goats), ‘guy men’ from the ‘Jew men’, the rich from the poor etc.

The first place I witnessed the effects of tags and labels

Last year, I met some folks I went to secondary school with and they all addressed me as a “bookworm.” One even told me, “I’m surprised you drink.”

I couldn’t help but laugh as that’s the worst way to describe me. Although I did well in school, I can’t remember ever sitting in front of the class nor count the number of times I was disciplined by the teacher because I was a perpetual noise maker. I seldom paid attention but I get it, I did well so the bookworm tag fits perfectly.

Similarly, we place tags and labels on others in our minds the moment we meet them, based on different parameters, and most times, we are wrong. To be fair, labels and tags are all around. We are all labelled and tagged by either sex, race, ethnicity, religion, anatomy/physique, sexuality, socio-economic status, music we listen to, sports we play/sports team we support, clothes we wear or the job we have. Sometimes we don’t mean to label and tag others but we can’t help it; it just happens.

I wonder if labelling will ever stop. It has been used as a means of discrimination for thousands of years. It is like clothing people with what you want them to be whilst covering their real identities. However, human beings are complex and multi-dimensional.


I was taken aback when some folks asked if I was gay and gothic because they heard me play and sing rock hits and songs made by openly gay music artistes like Frank Ocean and Sam Smith. Even though, research has shown that music tells you a lot about someone’s personality, it is disputable. So I’m really curious, why can’t a straight man gladly enjoy good music made by gay musicians? Does being gay suddenly make their good music bad? I listen to and enjoy different genres of music, as far as it is good music. And for the record, Ocean’s Lost remains one of my best songs ever.

The problem with labelling others is that it limits the perceptions of the “the tagger” and “the tagged” about life creating a tunnel vision of some sort. When we tag and label others, we are overtaken by unintentional and unconcealed prejudice hence losing our ability to think objectively. It leads to segregation and as a result, we miss out on a lot of good things in life. We miss out on friendships, interesting conversations, business deals, good music, marriage/relationships, food, travel experience, family (via adoption), life-changing experiences etc.

Naturally, people cling to things and people that they are used to but I find that boring. Is it possible to change your perception about life if you stick so religiously to what you are used to? During my masters degree in the UK, there was a huge divide between the British and foreign students – it was as obvious as the midnight stars. And it did affect the budding understanding, friendship and relationship between both groups.

Labelling is a lifetime trigger. Once we have an encounter with another person, we tend to hold on to that memory for so many years until proven otherwise. As a consequence, a bad experience with someone can make us hate an entire race, religion, tribe or sex hence forgetting that we can also have similar experience with people from our own comfort zone.

There is no problem in using your past experiences to shield yourself from future hurt. No problem at all. However, it becomes a problem when you use your personal experience/standards to ill-advise and judge others. I mean your personal standards could be mere opinions or blatant assertions, not facts.

This is evident in our relationships and marriages. I had thought that what really matters is finding someone who is good for you, in every meaning of the word, regardless of his/her religion, race or ethnicity. Oh boy! How wrong was I?

Inter-racial, inter-ethnic, intra-ethnic and/or inter-religious relationships/marriages are still a “taboo” to many people across the globe. To even make matters worse, amongst Christians in Nigeria, there is still animosity towards members who marry Christians from other denominations. And most of the time, this segregation is heavily influenced by the church, parents/family and/or friends.

A person’s race, religion, sexuality, socio-economic status, calories, sex, tribe, nationality or intelligence does not define him/her. That black people like dancing does not mean all black people know how to dance (I mean, I don’t!). That white people can’t pronounce black names does not mean there is no white person who can.

Let go of tags and labels, and see people for who they really are. People are not their hairs, skins or your expectations. They are souls that live within.

What do you think of tags and labels? And how have they limited your views about others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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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.

Sexism: Men are Victims Too

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Feminism is a delicate topic in Nigeria. The movement has been bastardized but one is yet to fully grasp the agenda of Nigerian feminists.

There appears to be a conflict of interest in defining the essence of their feminist movement. It could be that many of them are either confused or ignorant of the core values of the feminism ideology. As my friend Moji once said, ignorance is a silent, parasitic affliction that twists and bends the lenses of one’s eyes to produce a distorted view of reality.

Today, they are pushing for gender equality; for men and women to be recognized as equal. Tomorrow, they are advocating for gender favouritism; fighting for causes that favour only women – a battle of sexes per se.

For instance, there’s always a special prize for the last woman standing at TV shows like the Gulder Ultimate Search and I have never seen any feminist stand up in its disaproval. This makes me wonder if we inadvertently propagate gender inequality and sexism.

To be fair, sexism is not anyone’s fault. It has become imbibed in our society. As a result, both men and women, directly or indirectly, make sexist comments on a daily basis.

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Nice guys are often ridiculed by both men and women for their niceness and lack of masculine energy to take the bull by the horn. ‘He is not man enough’ is often the derogatory comment used to describe these guys. And that is also sexism.

Recently, I read an article about an emotional man who often sheds tears for women whenever he is heart-broken. As expected, the comment section was rife with sexist remarks. Both men and women were quick to judge the man and say things like:

“How can a man be heartbroken?”

“Do you listen to RnB songs? Gangstas don’t play that shit. They listen to rap.”

“Real men aren’t emotional.”

“Only weak men cry over a lady.”

I had to ask, why can’t a man be emotional and cry over a woman? Is there any law out there that forbids anyone with the male genitalia from crying? I mean, if it is therapeutic for him, he should go ahead and do the needful – there’s no shame in that.

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According to Wikipedia, sexism can affect any gender but it is particularly documented as affecting only women and girls. And this is evident in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to rescue the 219 Chibok girls that were abducted by Boko Haram. There’s no mention of the young boys that are also victims of such abduction or sex trafficking.

Women, not only men, also perpetrate domestic and intimate partner violence, falsely accuse men of rape and other devious acts, molest/sexually harass young boys and commit paternity fraud. Even cancers affecting women get more attention than those affecting men.

Despite all these risks men face, support services for men are almost non existent compared to services for women. There are also ministries for women affairs, but none for men, in the UN and virtually all Nigerian Governments both at Federal and State Level.

Like I aforementioned, our society upholds sexist attitude, directly or indirectly, through the media, culture and/or education. Despite the patriarchal nature of our society, every child, whether male or female, is instilled with a woman’s point of view. The boys are taught to protect and give the ladies special treatment as the head of the family whilst the girls, in total submission to men, are taught to expect preferential treatment from men.

If there’s any justice in the world, no individual will be judged based on appearance and/or masculinity/femininity. Unfortunately, there is none.

Social Media And Averting Cancer in Nigeria

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For many Internet users, social media have become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. A large number of online users prefer to get their news and other relevant information through what others, including news agencies post on social media.

As a result, it has become a daily routine for many people, especially parents, to complain about the “fixation” of young people on their smartphones and social media. They feel a surge of anxiety about the dangers social media and technology pose to the future of millennials. I must admit that I used to belong to this school of thought but I have come to accept that social media is part of evolution. Naturally, we abhor any opinion that contradicts status quo – what we are used to. So it is understandable why many think social media is a time bomb.

The most overwhelming thing about social media is its reach. Through social media, the world has become a real global village thereby bringing us closer to the audience we seek. If social media were countries, they would make up 7 out of the 10 largest countries in the world by population. 

In recent times, we have seen social media exert outstanding influence on the real world through various harshtag advocacies, including medical advocacy. Since social media have a huge presence in our lives, it is only right that we apply social media to our health and well being.

Yesterday, I read about the 12-year old Indian boy, Sparsh Shah, who broke the Internet with his own rendition of Eminem cover ‘Not Afraid’. What caught my attention was the song but I was astonished when I watched the video. The boy uses a wheelchair because he suffers from a rare disease of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease I had never heard of. With the help of social media, he was able to get his message across; letting the world know about his talent, disease condition and resilience.

The most successful health awareness campaign on social media so far remains the #IceBucketChallenge. This helped raise $115 million for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease – a motor neurone disorder that attacks nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

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Social media has also helped in tackling the cancer scourge. In 2014, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the world’s largest independent cancer research and awareness charity, raised over $13m in six days through Twitter and Facebook from the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign. They asked women to post selfies without makeup on social media using the hashtag #NoMakeupSelfie. The money generated has since been reinvested into clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries that will eventually lead to novel interventions for patients.

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This got me thinking of ways we can harness social media properly and change the medical landscape in Nigeria. The power of social media to bring patients, clinicians, scientists, advocates, innovators and financiers in the country to the same table is fairly underutilised.

It is speculated that about 100,000 new cancer cases occur annually in Nigeria. As a consequence, it is dire that we act fast and nip it at the bud. Using social media, we can create awareness about the disease and also promote researches into cancers affecting Nigerians.

Online surveys on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can go a long way to ascertain public awareness of the risk factors and symptoms of most common cancers in Nigeria. Many Nigerians are averse to paying a visit to hospitals when they notice a symptom; they often wait until their medical conditions deteriorate. This online campaign will help in sensitising people to become aware of the risk factors and symptoms of the disease thereby increasing early detection of the disease. Early detection helps a patient to seek medical treatment early enough to boost chances of survival.

Also, encouraging cancer patients in the country to share their stories and experiences via social media can go a long way to dispel the myth that cancer is a spiritual disease and help others to understand the magnitude of the disease. This can also spur online readers to donate money to fund treatment and research institutes/groups striving to find a cure for different types of cancers, including HIV/AIDS-related cancers.

Listening to patients, who are living with specific cancers speak publicly about their experience via Facebook pages, tweetchats, blogs, vlogs, podcasts and websites, can also be therapeutic for other patients. It creates an avenue for them to come together and form support groups or even charity organisations or companies around cancer.

However, there are risks involved with using social media in rapid spread of information about cancer in the country. There’s an abundance of information on the social media, some of which could be too much for some or inaccurate or misleading. Despite its shortcomings, I sincerely believe that someday social media will lead the change we desperately need in the Nigerian health sector as one of the tools that can help deal with cancer and its impact.

Are Men Intimidated By Smart Women?

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Human sexuality has always been an interesting part of our existence. A person’s sexual orientation, which is heavily influenced by social norms and status quo, has an ample effect on their sexual interest/attraction for another person.

In recent times, it has become a norm to hear young Nigerian men and women declare their sexuality as sapiosexual – being attracted to or sexually aroused by intelligence and its use. However, when critically analysed, are we really sapiosexual?

According to a friend, most Nigerian men aren’t sapiosexual; they feel intimidated by smart women. This echoes the recent findings of researchers at the University of Buffalo, California Lutheran University, and the University of Texas at Austin which showed that men are sapiosexual in theory and usually lose interest in smart women after encountering them.

Interestingly, there is an iorta of truth in both opinions. I do like smart women, however, there’s much more going on than merely a meeting of the minds.

Naturally, intelligence often comes with a certain amount of arrogance, pride, autocracy and being opinionated. In this clime, some smart women exhibit sheer arrogance and a dire need to be an authority in the relationship. And this is what often scares Nigerian men away not the lady’s smartness.

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Masculinity often comes with a big ego as well as social and hierarchial dominance. As a consequence, anything that puts men in danger of having their ego bruised or losing their territory makes them scamper and run for the hills.

This doesn’t mean that the man is weak or intimidated by a smart woman – even though in most cases it appears so. In dating, we are being evaluated on far more than our most attractive traits. And as aforementioned, there seems to be a strong correlation between our attractive traits and some unattractive traits.

For example, it is still an enigma why women turn down nice guys. American singer, Mary J Blige said in her song, Mr Wrong Good guys ain’t no fun.” A female friend went further to succinctly explain it. She said good guys have a certain mentality – things should be easy for me because I’m good mentality. The same applies to smart women. Smart women have a similar type of mentality – I am a strong woman who is not scared of sharing my opinion. If you can’t handle this strong woman, you are weak.

Men do value intelligence as much as women value nice guys. Women want nice guys who exude masculine energy and scoof at the constant need for others’ approval whilst men do want an intelligent woman who gives them warmth, affection and peace of mind thus making their lives easier and more pleasant.

Human relationships require social and emotional intelligence, which are based on viewing people through the lens of their own social and emotional needs. Nevertheless, many people focus their attention inward instead of outward. As a result, they find it hard and painful to acknowledge that their strong traits are often accompanied by significant downsides. If you are smart, opinionated and domineering, don’t be surprised if some of your actions turn people off.

P.S. these things go both ways. Some ladies are too awed by a smart man’s intellect and demeanour that they lose interest. They want someone who completes them and sometimes a smart person lacks the qualities they seek in a partner.