By Ayodeji Morakinyo
Management history has it on record that in 1954, a year when even my father had not been born, Professor Abraham Maslow of the Brandies University developed a theory on human hierarchy of needs. In the theory which has been published in several management books since then, the Professor stated that motivation depends on the realisation of a certain priority of specific needs and he classified these needs into five levels: physiological, safety and security, belonging and social, self-esteem and status and self-actualisation needs. He described man a wanting whose needs and behaviour depends on what he has already and further classified these needs into lower/primary needs and higher/secondary needs. The diagram below shows the hierarchy Professor Maslow created:
According to him, human beings seek to satisfy the lower needs (1-3) before considering the higher needs (4-5). In other words, man tries to satisfy the first level of need before considering the second level. Then the third, fourth and fifth levels of needs are pursued consecutively. As such, the physiological needs (food, water, sex, etc) are what bother human beings basically and once those are met, they seek to satisfy their safety and security needs (clothing, shelter, insurance, etc). When those too are met, they aim to join clubs and religious organisations, open a facebook or twitter account, know the latest fashion or music albums, etc (belonging and social needs). Next, they strive to own luxurious properties, organise parties, aspire for better jobs or more education, etc (self-esteem and status needs). Finally, they aim to reach the peak of their careers, become the richest, help the poor, etc (self-actualisation/fulfilment needs).
But opposed to these thoughts are the lifestyles of people in Nigeria. Many hungry people are now on social networks (facebook, linkedin, twitter, myspace) seeking to make friends with well-to-do people who might be generous enough to help or employ them. Virtually all the religious adults in Nigeria belong to one religious group or the other. Even when they have not eaten and are not fasting, they give offerings and attend vigils. Many market women would rather pay their children’s school fees before thinking of what they themselves would eat. And, a lot of youths would have renewed their blackberry subscriptions before they think of buying lunch. Though relatively low on the average scale, there are hardworking career women who are unmarried and uninterested in premarital sex. An average Nigerian man would rather be alive with an empty stomach than die in a royal feast. On a lighter note, even certain among the unhealthy politicians in Nigeria have evolved from humans to extraordinary beings whose physiological needs now include the accumulation of public funds. So, the assertion that human needs follow Professor Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not applicable to the current trend in Nigeria.
His theory also stated that only the human needs that are yet to be satisfied can influence people’s behaviour. This applies to Nigeria because the reasons why people leave the comfort of their homes every day is to go and earn a living. But the Professor also stated that a time would come when the triangle will invert itself because majority of the people in a society would have attained the lower needs (1-3) and be yearning for self-esteem and self actualisation (higher 4-5) needs. By implication, human lower needs in terms of clothing, food, shelter, insurance, properties, memberships in clubs and associations, etc, will no longer be sought by most people since they would been satisfied. Now, that may be true for developed countries where electricity, food, housing, etc are available and well-catered for by government but it is precisely wrong in the Nigerian context. The poor quality of governance and ethical management in Nigeria and many African countries has negatively influenced the continent’s developmental status which has in turn made this aspect of Maslow’s theory inapplicable here.