This is from a piece I wrote in October 2010 for some competition I clearly didn’t win. I hate essay competitions. Especially when I’m not winning…
Right now, it really sucks to be a Nigerian.
Post-September 11, all the heat was on the Arabs. A turban here, a full beard there and your fellow passengers would be counting their rosaries on that flight from London to the Arctic Circle. I wonder how it was for Arab astronauts: “Hey Abu, please don’t blow up the moon. We need it for nighttime and stuff. What are the youths going to make out under?”
But dear old Mutallab fixed us up real good didn’t he? Now, our tribal marks are an open invitation to be strip-searched. Till all crevices are sore and itchy. If I wanted a colonoscopy, I’d pay a doctor whom I could sue if he left a lens in my large intestines.
In spite of all this, I’m still proud of my roots. I’m very Nigerian. Heck, let me rephrase – I’m very 9ja! Amidst all the dung thrown at our image in international circles, amidst all the rubbish we hurl at ourselves locally, ours is still a great nation.
Sadly, I’m really not sure why.
Over the next thousand words or so, I’ll attempt to figure out what the allure of the green passport is. And why it can sometimes be an albatross. Shall we?
We begin our journey in a slick but ultimately explosive fashion. Oil.
Once upon a time, we really were just a bunch of farmhands. Then crude popped up and we abandoned tilling the ground in favour of drilling it instead. Nigeria is far and away the largest producer of crude in Africa and one of the top producers globally. Truth be told, everybody (and I mean everybody) knows why we are in the quagmire we currently find ourselves.
But I have the luxury of 2,000+ plus words so let me rehash:
A bunch of thieving baggers (popularly known as ‘our leaders’). Since Independence, we’ve only had about twenty years of civilian rule in total. Not that they (civilian heads of state) have been saints, by the way. But at least you can attempt to hope to caution them some and call them to order. You can attempt to hope:
Soldier go just flog you keep one side…
Now, we are plagued with poverty of astronomic proportions, pipeline and tanker explosions and the whole Niger-Delta fiasco. Corruption is also a factor and it is safe to say the infant has grown to a corroded giant. From the tout on the streets to the policemen who pretend to be against them, all the way up to very highest corridors of power, corruption is ubiquitous.
All things in Nigeria start with good intentions. All things. Every parastatal, every project, every budget, every adopted ideology always came to life as a result of hugely magnanimous intentions (yeah, right!). But in the past, now, and very likely, in the future, execution has been a problem. Take our cute nascent democracy for instance. We lauded General Abdulsalam Abubakar with all we were worth when he initiated and successfully orchestrated a handover to civilian rule – but to an ex-dictator no less! Surely somebody can spot the irony! Once the alleged democracy was in place, things began to take shape. Not necessarily a good shape. Like our ruse of a multi-party system. Seriously, it’s a ruse. YOU KNOW it’s a ruse. Consider the gusto with which the ruling party announces their presidential candidates. Like he’s the next president already. Who can blame them: they’ve always been right in the past haven’t they?
Fifty years on and our electoral process has gotten worse then better then horrid again. June 12, 1993 (how many times have we heard this date mentioned? I’m tired too!) would have been our stand-out achievement in this area but IBB had to be a punk about everything, no? Also, it seems that for a fruitful stay in our topmost legislative houses, a passable knowledge of the martial arts is in order. Talk about fighting for your rights! Seeing members of the House of Representatives bash each other’s overpaid heads in will always be a memorable albeit embarrassing sight.
But let’s step back for a bit. Yes, we are so corrupt some of our people could probably attempt to bribe Jesus into saying he was black. Yes, there’s almost always the belief that the winner of an election is the person who rigged harder and better. But it’s not all bad. Nigeria has produced scores of good leaders and genuine patriots. From the Ziks who championed freedom to the Doras that fought adulterated medication with their every fiber, to the Donald Dukes who turned their home states into virtual tourist utopias. We’ve actually had some good ones. Just not enough of them…
No story about our political landscape will ever be complete without the tale of Biafra. I can trivialize it now when I write but if you lived in Eastern Nigeria in the late sixties, it probably wasn’t a time of joy and limitless gladness. The Igbos thought: “I can live without you. Let me be!” And the rest of Nigeria went: “Oh no you don’t!” Guns went off and a few million corpses later, the Igbos caved in. People please – war no more. I could go on and on and on but frankly, I’m tired of this political gist. Too predictable, in my opinion.
Permission to switch? Thank you!
Our leaders should have figured out by now that the easiest way to unite this country is sports. More specifically, football. We just LOOVE us some soccer. I’ll start where I have more vested interest: Nigeria’s women footballers rock! They show unrivalled commitment to the cause unlike our men. Especially at youth level where they recently got to their first finals in any FIFA-organized tournament. The Germans were even lucky to have won us. Hmph!
In 1994, Nigeria’s men qualified for her first World Cup. The gender placement of nations as female always cracks me up at times like these considering said World Cup was an all-male affair. But oh well… USA ‘94 was a blast though. A real blast – though I heard Argentina did ojoro on their way to defeating us. Maradona just had to get high, didn’t he? And who says I can’t say ojoro where I want? There’s no better way to describe what he did jare. What? Certainly if ojoro’s allowed, jare can’t be embargoed now, can it?
Anyway, speaking of jare and ojoro, we come to what I would want to describe as a high point in our growth as a people over the past 50 years – our pop culture.
It all generally starts from the music. Nigerian music has moved on over the years. In the past, we were good no doubt. What with all the Bongos Ikwes, Onyekas, Sunny Ades and Felas of the past generation. They set a pretty high bar and I think it is safe to say that the current crop has matched – if not surpassed – the accomplishments of the previous crew. If nothing else, we’ve gone global with it now. The world over, Nigerian music now has a face. And a sound. Thus, with regards to influencing pop-culture, things have gone a step further. And it has helped reinforce a sense of national identity especially with the youths. You’re patiently waiting for me to illustrate, no? Well, think of the fact that these days most people say “naija” instead of Nigeria. In fact, we write it as “9ja.” How cool is that?
Our movie industry isn’t doing too badly. However, it’s not doing great either. With the rise of more varying forms of media, came the unfortunate birth of widespread piracy and this has greatly limited the amount of financial risks filmmakers are willing to take. But we’ll get there. At least I hope so.
Nigeria’s biggest issue has to be power. Changing names from National Electric Power Authority to Power Holding Company of Nigeria hasn’t equaled a change in output. Or stability. Power is still uncomfortably erratic. Nigerians are unbelievably tenacious I have to say.
And herein lies the one constant through the years: the people. Irrespective of the fact that Oprah devoted an episode of her show to make us look like a band of cyber-criminals, or the fact that the popular American filmmaker (Peter Jackson of “Jurrasic Park” fame) produced a movie depicting all our women as prostitutes (District 9), Nigerians have remained a mentally strong force. A people who thrive in thick and thin. Little wonder that the rest of the world finds it lucrative to poach our best brains off us.
So what’s the solution to everything? Off the top of my head, prayer. Oodles of it. Aside from that, we really need to take responsibility and stop blaming everybody else: like the media, America, our colonial masters and religion. The time to act is now: action is the greatest present the present can present to the future. It is also the only solution to the errors of the past.
I’m going to be brutally honest: I wouldn’t turn down the offer of a passport to a developed country (even if na to travel once) but I wouldn’t give up my green one. Not for some other one, not for the world, not for anything…
A Proud Nigerian…
PS: If you’re up for it, visit my blog: http://c1kko.wordpress.com/