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Is the Concept of Neighbourliness a Thing of the Past?

Do we still trust our neighbours, talkless loving them the way we love ourselves? Can we even wine and dine with the present neighbours we have? Are our neighbours people we will naturally love to have as neighbours or are we left to just cope with the choices made by our landlords? This article addresses the concept of neighbourliness in this present times.

There was a time when our neighbours were like family. Growing up at a block of flats in Festac Town, Lagos, everyone felt like family. You need to come see the various families during the end of year block party, you would think we were all kinsmen. That was how tight the bond was amongst all 16 families that lived in our block of flats.

But it seems like those days are gone. The concept of neighbourliness is now becoming obsolete, or is it just me thinking that way?

A private survey suggests that our level of neighbourly trust these days is pretty depressing. More than 47 percent of tenants in the country either don’t trust any of their neighbours or trust only a few.

Sadly, these results may have a link to safety concerns and also the high frequency of crimes such as drug trafficking and abuse, advanced fee fraud and internet scam or cyber crimes has made it difficult trusting neighbours because, basically you don’t know who is who.

Some people don’t feel “at all” safe from crime walking in their neighborhoods at night but actually trust the people next door. And, perhaps not surprisingly, those in rural areas are more apt to feel safer and trust their neighbours than urban dwellers, probably because the lives of rural dwellers isn’t as complicated as those who live in the city.

Although most adults believe it’s important for neighbors to look out for each other, today’s neighborhoods are not as tightly knit as they were years after the civil war, the 80’s and 90’s, when neighbors knew one another well. In urban cities, families no longer hold regular social gatherings with their neighbors. Indeed, today, people are more apt to recognize their neighbors’ cars than the neighbouring adults or their kids.

Not forgetting that what happened during the Kano riot of 1956 and the insurgency that’s still happening in the north is a warning that neighbours of varying tribes cannot be trusted. You can’t imagine an Igbo man trusting his Hausa neighbour no matter the cordial relationship that exists between the duo, history will always serve them a reminder.

According to social scientists, the way we react and behave toward each other is less civil when trust is low, which is a vicious circle, as this only exacerbates the trust deficit.

The problem is fixable, though; neighbors can rebuild community and strengthen civic life (perhaps by harnessing technology to widen their circle of acquaintances) and become more civically involved.


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