“No Gree for Anybody” is a perfect reflection of the current Nigerian experience

“You wan gree? If you like, gree!”

Primarily because they’ve become a symbol of civil antipathy towards authority, there’s a general shrug when the Nigeria Police Force is strongly against something. In this case, it’s a viral social media parlance that’s now been adopted as a widespread mantra. About two weeks ago, The Nigerian Police force spokesperson held a press briefing to state that ‘No gree for anybody’ is a threat to national security. “No gree for anybody has been seen as normal talk, but in the security business and the security community, we have seen it as a dangerous slogan that can trigger crisis,” Muyiwa Adejobi said.

Yeah, right.

Not to make this about the Nigerian Police, an institution that’s definitely not a friend to the vast portion of Nigerian youth, but its stance can be classified as further validation for the “dangerous slogan.” In a time where insecurity keeps hitting alarming highs, with entire communities being attacked by terrorists and kidnappers even breaking into homes to abduct entire families, it’s disturbing that words, with incredibly clear meaning, got the attention of the institution that should be serving and protecting human lives.

The exact origin point of “No gree for anybody” is somewhat hazy, but it generally caught on during December, last year. As with many things, it was amplified on TikTok, where random videos of people fighting went viral, with the catchphrase as the tag for these videos. In one of the videos I saw first, a woman who’s hawking her goods in traffic pulls a passenger down from the bus and the duo slug it out on red clay. What kick-started the fight was unclear, but the passenger had hit the trader, and because the cars were parked in standstill traffic, she decided to dish out some get-back, plus more.

The context of “No gree for anybody” is simple: Stand up for yourself. Opening 2024, it has carried over and has been adopted as a mantra for wanting more and wanting better. Not ‘greeing’ means doing whatever is necessary to achieve set personal goals for the year, even if that means the anybody is yourself. As people have applied it to the annual resolutions conversations, there have been tweets like “No gree for yourself,” with respect to complacency and procrastination. As a resolve, it’s has the same galvanising yet jovial force of slangs like “Standing on bidness” and “Keeping it 100.”

Just beyond the immediacy of its personal context, the mantra also has its wider importance, in response to the conditions of Nigeria’s ailing economy and general social issues. Over a week ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that headline inflation for December 2023 hit 28.92%, and food inflation rose to 33.9%, both significantly worse numbers compared to a year ago.

Generally, the mood is sour, with the aforementioned insecurity woes being a prominent theme, and a social infrastructure that doesn’t elevate the quality of life for everyday Nigerians. Electricity supply has become worse, the price of petrol has reached historic highs, transportation has gotten more expensive without being more efficient, and for many there’s lack of faith in the federal administration that entered office following last year’s controversial elections. All of this, plus more, has pushed Nigerians into high alert mode, where survival is essential, however, we also want to find pockets of joy without our actual pockets drying up.

@enioluwaWho else is with me? This Year We TakeOver!♬ original sound – 📍Eni

“No gree for anybody” is a self-serving mantra in service of the difficult times we find ourselves in. There’s always been a prevailing theory that Nigerians often look out for ourselves first, many times at the expense of others—this slogan might as well be evidence. But it always bears mentioning that it’s in response to the times, desperate times warrant desperate measures and other similar sentiments. Perhaps, the positive part is that the generally agreed measures that align with “No gree for anybody” means Nigerians, especially the youth, are doubling down on working hard and working smart. It’s not like there are any other viable options, earning more (as a lazy Nigerian youth no less) is a necessity.

No one is going to define Nigerians as altruistic but, even in our prescribed self-absorbedness, there’s a communal aspect to our lives that’s been amplified in bracing moments, from the EndSARS protests, to the crowdfunding for victims and survivors of insecurity attacks, and even a woman and her family’s life changing overnight. (For the latter, let’s save the discussion about broke-shaming and fragile male egos for another day.) These instances would make it disingenuous to reduce “No gree for anybody” into a clarion call for selfishness. The fact that it was unanimously agreed upon speaks to the dynamism of the Nigerian experience.

It feels apt to end on the addendum: “You wan gree? If you like, gree!”

@ayomidejai “No Gree For Anybody” is not a criminal statement – Lagos Commissioner of Police, Fayoade Adegoke Mustapha #foryou #foryoupage #duet #viralvideos #trending #viral #fyp ♬ original sound – Ayomide Jai