I think of my Country

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Reflecting on Nigeria

I couldn’t count the number of times I rolled my eyes while listening to this young man mouth off about the demerits of Nigeria. By the time he described Nigerians as narcissistic I had just about had it. In his opinion, Nigerians are always quick to remind the world that we’re the “giants of Africa” but what do we have to be proud of? The smug look on his face spoke volumes to me. He was either trying to annoy somebody (eg. Me) or he honestly believed what he was saying and was daring the audience to disagree. I would not honor his desires then simply to spite him but I will speak my mind here.

As Nigerians we love to complain. Its a natural talent that we seem to possess. If we do well, we ask why didn’t we do better? If we fail, we ask why didn’t someone else stop us from failing. We complain about the corruption in our country like we invented corruption. We complain about our diversity like its the greatest curse. We would complain about anything as long as you give us the chance. What we fail to do however, after all this complaining is 1) look at what caused the problem  and 2)work to make it better.

Every time a Nigerian stands before me and tells me that we have no national identity all I see is a lack of understanding for where we as a country have come from. The country we now call Nigeria was a colonial construct that was set to ensure ease of colonial rule. The way Nigeria is set up was not for Nigerians to govern. It is a perfect representation of divide and rule because the people from one place to the next are so culturally different. It is hard to believe, with the sheer diversity of the nation that our people would mobilize to fight for independence; but we did. Our national identity should come in our shared history. We do not have to be Nigerian in the way that Americans are American to claim our national identity.

Every time a Nigerian suggests that secession of either the north or the south of Nigeria would solve all of our problems, I wonder how quickly we have forgotten the pain of the civil war. The lives of many people thrown in complete jeopardy because some people did what “seemed” to make the most sense. The north and the south of Nigeria have become very co-dependent irrespective of what some southern people might think. One would find it very difficult to survive without the other. The lives of civilians living in both parts would be horribly affected, and for what reason? Tribalism is our problem in the way some other countries have to deal with racism. As much as I hate to compare sites of inequity, I find this necessary in order to put things in context. Yes managing the power relations between multiple tribes is an incredibly difficult task but I don’t believe that it is impossible.

I am not naive. I know that there are many issues with Nigeria. I am often disappointed and frustrated with the people who lead us. I want more from and for the citizens. I expect so much from this country and it repeatedly falls below my expectations but I am not ashamed. I see potential in Nigeria. I am hopeful for a brighter day. Most importantly, I believe we have plenty to be proud of. There are Nigerians within the country and all over the world who are positively impacting the lives of millions. We are a resilient people who still find something to laugh about even in the darkest situations. We are smart, strong and we have such rich cultures. I don’t think that’s being narcissistic, it is choosing to acknowledge the positives when everyone insists on reminding you of the negatives.

picture by  willyverse