In spite of all the public warnings against flouting COVID-19 safety protocols as well as the frightening statistics of infected person and fatality figures which the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) have been publishing in the past six months, the manner in which Nigerians in most parts of the country move about as freely as air and without observing non-pharmaceutical safety measures has continued to give health authorities some worry.

That’s a symptom of strong-headedness.

Many years ago, I read a newspaper article in which the writer attempted to define the predictable attitude of different African nationals. The writer described Nigerians as naturally stubborn people. He said when you see anyone either being too foolhardy or is refusing to listen to the counsel offered by others, you would be right to call him a Nigerian. I have also heard someone trying to justify stubbornness. He said many law-abiding citizens in Nigeria do not get their rights protected and preserved until they exhibit the other side of their nature. To be stubborn, according to behavioural scientists, is to be foolhardy.

Foolhardy is a combination of the noun “fool” and the adjective “hardy”. When you put the two together, it gives you the meaning of a “foolishly brave” person. A foolhardy individual throws caution to the wind and takes reckless chances. Stubbornness, which is a synonym of foolhardiness makes us do things we shouldn’t do, and cuts us off from others including those that might be useful to us. To insist on our own way or viewpoint without a space for admitting that we might be wrong in our opinion is to be foolhardy.

Stubbornness is a personality trait in which a person refuses to change his opinion about a situation or refuses to change his mind about the action that he has decided to take. A stubborn person generally has a strong resistance to change. Stubborn people are rigidly attached to their beliefs, opinions, and ideas. They become stubborn to the point that they feel threatened by people who disagree with them. To be foolhardy is to be close-minded. Indeed, stubbornness cuts us off from Allah, because it makes us refuse to seek His intervention or listen to His message as contained in the Qur’an.

A foolhardy individual misses opportunities to grow and change because he would refuse to listen let alone accept someone else’s point of view. His refusal to listen in the first instance would stop those who have good counsel from making another offer in the future. In the real ‘Kingdom of knowledge’, many of us don’t really know as much as we think we know. A stubborn person denies himself the privilege of learning something new.

It is pertinent here to remind readers of how stubbornness led to the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean, four days into the ship’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. As the largest ocean liner in service at the time, Titanic had an estimated 2,224 people on board when she struck an iceberg at around 23:40 (ship’s time) on Sunday April 14, 1912. Her sinking two hours and forty minutes later at 02:20 (ship’s time; 05:18 GMT) on Monday 15 April, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people; making it one of the deadliest peacetime marine disasters in history.

Responses by captains of the Titanic to the six warnings of sea ice received on April 14, 1912 were, at best, foolhardy. The first warning came at 09:00 from RMS Caronia. When the final warning was received at 22:30, Phillips cut it off and signalled back: “Shut up! Shut up! I’m working Cape Race.” Although the crew was aware of ice in the vicinity, they did not reduce the ship’s speed, and continued to steam at 22 knots (41 km/h); with only 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph) short of her maximum speed. They were moving at close to their full speed; treating hazard warnings as advisories rather than calls to action. When the Titanic consequently sank, over a thousand passengers and crew were still on board. The disaster shocked the world.

Stubbornness is a personality trait in which a person refuses to change his opinion about something or refuses to change his mind about a decision he has made. Stubborn people have strong resistance to change, especially when others inflict the change on them. A stubborn person has the “No I won’t” attitude. To understand why some people are stubborn, we must first realise that most human behaviours are either reward-seeking or pain-avoiding. Sometimes, an individual may be stubborn only because he knows that stubbornness helps him gets what he wants. In this case, an individual may use his stubbornness to prevent the resistance that others may offer to stop him from getting what he wants. Stubborn persons can be difficult to handle because they tend to be closed-minded and inflexible. A stubborn person hates being controlled. Some people use stubbornness as a defence mechanism to avoid the ‘pain’ of being controlled by others.