The One Thing Education Is Powerless Against

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We all remember last week Friday and the nationwide call for everyone to bathe with hot water and salt. Some of us remember the wonder investment houses of 2008, promising you double your investments in few months. How people sold their properties and family land to participate. Some will never forget January 27, 2002, how so many lives perished in a canal while fleeing the Ikeja Cantonment armoury explosion. There is only one thing common to all these events and it is not lack of education. Both the educated and non-educated plunged into that canal on the day of that Ikeja armoury explosion. Many lecturers were financial burned in the 2008 investment scam. And though most people don't know that common cold is caused by a virus and viruses can't be killed by drugs, yet their uneducated schemes of curing common cold work.


The one thing that is common in all those events is simply herd instinct. The natural tendency we have to do what we see others around us doing. It's how we learned to walk, to talk and to write. Unfortunately, it is also the reason we do so many wrong things, like bribing LASTMA officials (because everyone does it and even the official fine you pay won't get to the government account). And it's the reason stock markets will always rise and fall.

Someone came up with the idea of hot water and salt, most likely an MLM guru, told his contacts and achieved a remarkable feat of reaching all Nigerians in just a few hours. Some people got calls from their entire extended family and that was the main reason most people did it. That many people can't be (completely) wrong. PDP must be searching for the initiator, he is all they need to win elections. 

In 2008, people saw their poor neighbours suddenly become rich. The saw friends who participated in the wonder investments become overnight millionaires. They had more than enough evidence to be convinced that the scheme works. How it works is secondary, it wasn't along the line of our expertise. We just knew everyone was doing it and getting the promised results, and everyone can't be wrong. The herd instinct. Even the professional investment managers are not immune. A Wall Street investment banker once said, "No one will pay me for correctly predicting a recession, but I will get fired if my prediction is wrong." Practically, it means you won't make any gain by suspecting every scheme but for every one you are wrong about you have lost a great opportunity. And that is what motivates us the most, we don't want to be left out. To be wrong when everyone is right is worse than to be wrong alongside everyone.

The 2002 disaster is no different. People were running from a visible danger, and naturally they ran together, in the same specific direction. It's the same thing we do when driving along a terrible road, we follow the tire marks of the other cars. The herd instinct.

Unfortunately, education is powerless against it. Every country has its own. What is different is the logic in the explanations we give to back our actions. The well educated will find a smooth sounding logical explanation, the uneducated will just say I was told to do so.


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