Picture credit: ynaija.com
Yes I am a Nigerian. And before you call for the lighter and stakes for this unpatriotic Nigerian please hear me out.
My three-year old tells me every other day “everybody likes me!” I can’t help thinking “in your dreams honey” but all I say out loud is “why do you say so?” to which she says ” I just know they like me. Everybody likes me because I’m cute”. So here’s my dilemma; do I burst her bubble now or should I let her continue to live in that fantasy universe where everybody likes her till another five-year old punctures it on her first of Kindergarten?
But what, pray tell, does this have to do with Nigeria? Everyday I hear and see people who say “Nigeria is great” or Nigeria is about to become a world leader in “name your own arena of choice”. And I wonder, “is it the same Nigeria I know or is there another one?” A nation where the citizens and inhabitants cannot take electric power, potable water, and security for granted, is not great. A nation where the healthcare delivery is so dismal that members of the political master-class junket around the world to receive medical treatment for basic or chronic medical conditions (such as trauma from a minor road accident, or weekly dialysis) is not great! Nor is that nation great, which cannot guarantee the quality education of her young.
In Nigeria everyone is a state, people generate their own power, drill and pump their own water, provide their own medical treatment etc. You can say Nigerians are great in our perseverance as we tolerate and live under these conditions while politicians loot our nation’s coffers. But No! Nigeria as a nation is not great!
Unfortunately I hear these “Nigeria is great” statements a lot from Christians like myself who promote the idea with illicit misuse of scripture.
Below is a recent example which I found on one website promoted by people I know:
Do you know that Nigeria is leading the world?
within the world are over 90% gifted Nigerians discovered to be world potential gifted inventors of products and programs for global need.
IT IS TIME FOR NIGERIANS TO FOCUS ON NIGERIA BECAUSE THE WORLD’S FOCUS IS NOW ON NIGERIA.
The leadership of world power has begun to shift from America to China, and finally to rest in Africa. The revelational word of this great change speaks specifically without distortion that soon Nigeria will stand at the head in the leadership of world power.
The one statement I agree with above is that world’s focus is on Nigeria. It was on Nigeria when Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram fame was designated a terrorist in 2012 and later added to the Rewards for Justice program with a 7 million USD price tag. This is hardly the kind of world attention we want.
But hold on, there’s more…
In 2010, specifically the 50th year of Nigeria’s independence, a new age with prophetic impact and a wind of change began in Nigeria….Nigeria is in that prophetic age where the government of this nation has been taken over by the rulership of God… the seal of this long awaited prophecy was revealed in Leviticus 25:10 to usher in the passage of change leadership age of the nation.
I am still trying to figure out what an Old Testament passage containing God’s instructions to Israel about the year of Jubilee, has to do with Nigeria ascendancy to world power! If you can figure out that mystery, please clue me in.
Nigeria is becoming a global leader in the minds of these people, and there lies the biggest problem of all – the delusional tendency for us not to realize the truthful state of affairs in Nigeria because we keep comparing ourselves to an imaginary standard based on our experiences and yet remain in voluntary blindness to the fact that many of the ‘smaller’ African neighboring countries are better off. The politicians can delude themselves that Nigeria is the giant of Africa in any way other than population. This can lead to continental grandstanding though ECOWAS chairmanship or the alleged run for African Union (AU) chairmanship; or even profligate programs such as African first ladies summit, for which it was rumored and the Nigerian presidency had to deny that it acquired 200 exotic cars! However, the citizens know that those who cannot afford US or European education but want their children to get a good tertiary education today, send them to get a university degree in Ghana. Yet we persist in this make-believe patronizing attitude towards the rest of Africa, because as my ‘friend’ Pius Adesanmi says eloquently here, we have been programmed to be underdeveloped in our minds. So forgive me if I say No! Nigeria is not great!
But make no mistakes about it, Nigeria can be great. She has many resources – mineral, petroleum & natural gas, agricultural as well as human resources. For the past quarter century she has focused on petro-gas resources and neglected the greatest of her diverse set of resources – the human one. It is this human resource that is further denigrated by the imaginary claims of economic and political ascendancy. These claims distract people from the arduous task of nation building. Adding God into the mix makes people believe that despite the corruption, incompetence, government by nepotism and celebration of mediocrity (described here), some miraculous magical wand will wipe away all Nigeria’s problems without requiring any change of attitude, behavior or culture. Hear this more eloquently in Chinua Achebe’s stinging words:
“One of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a land of make-believe and unrealistic expectations. This is the cargo cult mentality that anthropologists sometimes talk about – a belief by backwards people that someday without any exertion whatsoever on their own part, a fairy ship will dock in their harbor, laden with every goody they have always dreamed of possessing.
Listen to Nigerian leaders, and you will frequently hear the phrase this great country of ours.
Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is one of the most expensive countries and one of those that give least value for money. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest, and vulgar. In short, it is among the most unpleasant places on earth
Achebe wrote these accurate words before he passed away earlier this year. Yes, he wrote it before he passed away alright, but he didn’t write them this year, or last year. He wrote them in his 1983 book “The Trouble with Nigeria“. Thirty years ago! I was in elementary school, and 73 Kobo (0.73 NGN) exchanged for a US Dollar. Comparing just one economic metric (currency exchange rate) the US Dollar exchanges today for about 160NGN!
I also believe that, hopeless as she may seem today, Nigeria is not absolutely beyond redemption. Critical, yes, but not entirely hopeless. But every single day of continued neglect brings her ever closer to the brink of the abyss. To pull her back and turn her around is clearly beyond the contrivance of mediocre leadership. It calls for greatness.
I believe we have arrived at the brink of that abyss and are presently teetering on the edge. We need to work towards developing Nigeria instead of waiting for the fairy ship to arrive. We don’t need people who believe Nigeria is great as she is! Because those people do not know the meaning of greatness. We need people who believe that Nigeria CAN be great, and who will work towards it by contributing to its growth, and by holding the leaders responsible for doing what they are elected to do, not praising them falsely and proclaiming them Messiahs from unrelated Bible passages.
I love Nigeria, because that is where God chose to situate my birth and nationality, and it is therefore where I have a responsibility to help develop. I believe God will use people to do that work. I sincerely hope that it would not be as prophets under the influence of the lying spirit of Micaiah’s vision in 1 Kings 22. I read a lot online about how “Nigerians are good people” or how “we should remain hopeful and not give up on Nigeria!” – These are both sentiments I share deeply. However, most of them are invariably accompanied by the present description of Nigeria as a great nation, therefore I have chosen to part ways with that message for the purpose of this post. Saying Nigeria is great and just believing that because we merely think it and say it, she will become so, is not faith – it is idle speculation! See James 2:26!
Nobody enjoys pointing out failings and flaws evident in his country (okay perhaps some people do – I don’t), but it is necessary here because unlike in Achebe’s 1983 diagnosis where it is largely the political leaders rulers who suffer this delusion of grandeur, today many of us citizens seem to be afflicted with the ailment. Nigeria can be great, but she is not great today. And the path to greatness begins with a recognition – and rejection – of her present condition!
Anything short of this frustrates me! That I gladly admit – because of my wish to live in the real world, not the imaginary world where everyone likes my three-year old and Nigeria is leading the world!