Dealing with ‘Awuf’ Mentality

Sometimes ago, we looked at how to handle freebies. I’m hoping we can explore this issue further by looking at the infamous concept of ‘awuf’. In our society, whatever we are not paying for is generally regarded as ‘awuf’ or ‘awoof’. This includes freebies, someone else’s phone or even food. This probably led to the coinage of the phrase “awuf no dey run belle”. However, what one person regards as ‘awuf’ would in all probability have been paid for in time or money by another person lending credence to another phrase that says “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. The issue is that those who are taking advantage of the ‘awuf’ are either knowingly oblivious or simply callous, and naïve. Please pardon my strong language but I do not have other words to describe a person who visits a friend at home and brings out his address book to start to make phone calls on the friend’s line. (Sorry, land phones and address books are items of the pre-GSM era in Nigeria). Several calls are made when the host is not in sight and unaware of the havoc caused until six weeks later when the telephone bill arrives. You begin to rack your brains to analyse the events of six weeks ago – Who visited? Where were you? How could they have spent 15 minutes on an international call without anyone seeing them? And so the list of probing questions goes on.

If you have the unenviable task of mediating in such a matter, what do you say to each of the parties involved? Do you tell the person whose telephone has been used without his consent to forget about it? If he does; who will cough up the money to pay the bill? Sadly in matters like this, the power of sentiments overrules logical reasoning, and fairness is replaced by the need to save face for the culprit. Shouldn’t he be made to face the music and pay the bill, perhaps he may learn a lesson or two. You may be wondering why a harsh sentence is being meted out by me to the party who has used another person’s phone without their consent. My question is ‘Who should be expected to pay such a bill? Is it the innocent party who has allowed a guest into their home? Is this fair?

What does not change regardless of how many questions you asked is the telephone bill which remains unpaid until you tendered your hard earned money to settle the bill. This is a matter that has caused many a quarrel, some of which may result in bitter feuds between family members or lifelong friends.

The point of this article is to examine the mentality of the average African person who is quick to assume that anything that appears not to be tightly controlled is free and should be quickly exploited. We often refuse to be reasonable with other people’s property or anything loaned to us simply because we did not pay for it. Our thinking is that nothing free must be let go even when it is of no use to us.

Further examples are food at parties, office luncheons, in-flight wine. Many people who may not be habitual consumers of alcohol become drunk on flights for no other reason than this ‘awuf mentality’. It is a mentality that causes people to misbehave and destroy their dignity. Some people even take home flight blankets justifying it by saying, “it’s part of the money I paid for the flight ticket”. Little wonder that Nigerians are mistreated by many airlines.

A few points to ponder:

1. Whatever may be on offer, learn to put yourself in check so as not to disgrace yourself. The natural tendency of many of us is to grab what we can when the opportunity presents itself, particularly when it is free, or to take as much as you can regardless of who else is entitled. This is why our politicians loot, our public servants steal and our corporate executives are crooks.

2. Think! Do you really need those things that are given out freely at parties?

Do you really need an extra mug for tea?

Do you really need an extra bin made of metal that will probably cut your finger?

Do you really need an extra bowl?

Think about the many bowls, mugs and bins you already have at home that are littering your kitchen. If we think properly, we will realise that the only reason we take those things from parties is because of ‘awuf mentality’ not because of need.

3. Consider the damage to your relationships when you use something that does not belong to you without the knowledge of the owner or when you over-use what was lent to you. Consider also the other major consequence of such a behaviour. Often you miss out on a big thing because you mishandled the little.

4. There is no such thing as a free lunch; almost nothing in this world is actually free, even if you don’t pay for it somebody else does.

5. Some people over-eat at parties or eat food that have gone-off and spend the next 24 hours paying for their foolishness with ‘running’ tummy. Who says awuf no de ‘run’ belle? It does.

We all benefit when we do things right!