By Stephen Chidiebere Ikebude
Dated: Saturday, 23 September 2017
The ideology of ‘who a Nigerian is’ is changing, evolving from time to time as we experience different political and regional changes. Though we’d expect the ideology to remain constant irrespective of politics but Nigeria remains a country in evolution. Who is a Nigerian in Nigeria? What does it take to be a Nigerian abroad? And, how is ‘Nigerianness’ in Nigerians expressed? These are questions that intrinsically require the activities of my nervous system, demanding cogent answers as I pen this article.
The recent happenings in Nigeria, the militarisation of Aba, Abia state by the Federal Government of Nigeria and ignoble silence of the Presidency towards the massacre in Northern Nigeria conspicuously signify a complete reduction of the parameters making us Nigerians. The sudden upward agitation for regional divisions and tribal conundrums in Nigeria are gradually and separatistically redefining our national identities.
In the North, the Arewa are demanding sovereignty, IPOB in the East are asking for Biafra, somewhere in the West, there is a call for Oduduwa republic, while in US and Europe, Biafrans are rallying international attention against our beloved country they now refer to as “zoo”. I pondered on these latest happenings in Nigeria and how our President via his interview and speech downgraded the inhumane treatments and maiming of Ndigbo during his UN trip. I am pained by the conclusive thoughts I reached.
When did we throw away the unifying icon of Nigeria that was birthed in 1960? Most of the people that were born in 1960 are mostly parents and grandparents now, does that mean that Nigeria wants to birth its own children in disunity: Biafra, Arewa, Oduduwa, etcetera? I sincerely doubt!
While growing up in the locales of Amuwo-Odofin local government area of Lagos state, I played with everyone irrespectively of tribe, religion, language or colour. I attended public schools and mixed with lots of people from various backgrounds. It was never an issue to play, eat with or hang out with others.
The differences in our national tongues, religious backgrounds and tribes are exceptionally beautiful, they strategically influenced my ability to speak in different languages, a prominent characteristic that helped my adaptability outside Nigeria. More so, our national differences diversify us and make Nigeria a rich, divergent, colourful, attractive and traditional alluring.
Vividly, I could remember playing football with my Muslim and Christian buddies – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa friends in a Muslim playground, beside a mosque at Oko-efo, 2nd rainbow bus terminus, just at the back of NNPC fuel station. On weekends, we don’t miss it! I feel like going back to those teenage years, the atmospheric possibilities of associating with fellow Nigerians without societal categorisation and othering is divine, being among Nigerians and loving ourselves for who we differently are is heavenly.
More so, my early life abroad saw the colourfulness of being a complete Nigerian. I was greeted into Finland by a Muslim Yoruba friend who homed, taught and mentored me right into self-dependence. I received useful information by associating, hearing, listening and watching other Nigerians including Igbo, Yoruba and Edo, learning how to successfully adapt, acclimatise and independently grow in the Finnish society. I had Nigerian course mates during my BSc and MSc who were Muslims and Christians and lived with a Hausa neighbour too.
Distinctively, I find it difficult to differentiate the kind of Nigerians I see in Nigeria from those I see abroad because Nigerians are alive, fun to be interact with, easy-going, hungry for success and ready to hustle. We are not lazy people.
One distinguishable factor is that Nigerians abroad thrive better, quite discernible from their counterparts in Nigeria. Nigerians abroad are socially and knowledgeably developed because of the functional societies they live in.
The leaders of those foreign societies are young, smart, energetic, able health, industrious and ready to imbibe better and science-based approaches in developing their lands, people and society.
A lot of people will argue that every society has its own peculiarities. True! But, the societal indicators of healthcare, educational standards, power supply, employment, standards of living, pipe-borne water, public office transparency, institutional accountability and valuation of human lives are vital, necessary and should be provided in sacrosanctity to develop a society. What other rationale explains why there are more Nigerians wanting to emigrate abroad than those immigrating to Nigeria?
The foreign developed societies have better provisioning of the above-mentioned parameters while Nigeria and Nigerian leaders are busy prattling, packaging, looting, pillaging and ceaselessly talking about election while denying their own people accesses to better living conditions amidst the surplus wealth, natural resources and human capital of our dear country. In talks, Nigerian leaders are the best in the world but in actions, they ask their people to pray and fast for good leadership.
Nigerian leaders are lazy, sluggish, unimaginative, crawly and stubbornly repugnant towards changes to their leadership styles. In fact, they prefer today over tomorrow because in today, they can maintain the status quo that preferentially benefits them, their family members and their inner-circle cronies.
Those abroad will bear witness to the fact that Nigerian leaders behave differently whenever they find themselves abroad. They humbly become so simple, approachable, attentive to people and tolerant to oppositional opinions. I have seen Nigerian public officers in public trains, hotels and events abroad, they carry themselves right, without much ego, unnecessary security, assistants and positional affluence.
It has long dawned on me that Nigerian leaders when abroad act differently from the ways they action themselves when in Nigeria. But why? This is because someone else have provided them with secured environments, functional healthcare and enlightened society to feel safe in.
The societies abroad are not crawly, despondent or the people there are not begging for political cronyism or appointments. The leaders of the foreign societies provide a safe, liveable and conducive environment for all their people to live in but Nigerian leaders come here to speak at events, holiday or do medical check-ups like our President is presently doing in London.
Furthermore, Nigerian leaders send their children to study in choice schools here because they are failures, they have failed to provide these social valuables to themselves and to Nigerians in Nigeria. Shame to Nigerian leaders, SHAME!
As followers, we also share a portion of the blames. We are susceptible to everything these failing leaders throw at us. All we do is sit down and pray. We pray, fast and do nothing while the devourers action their ways, stealing away our collective wealth.
In my research in trying to unravel who we are as a people and how Nigerian society shamefully finds itself in downtroddenness, I discovered the disparity in the societal constructs of Nigeria and those abroad.
I also realised the dissimilarity of knowledge, the latter’s application and the environmental attitude towards creating and abiding by laws. If you have been privileged to see Nigerians abroad, you will understand what I mean. Nigerians are calmer abroad.
They respect laws and order without being told to do so because they see law and order being applied to all and followed by all in the environment they find themselves in. The knowledge utilised in doing things abroad also contributes to the nature of Nigerians abroad.
But why do Nigerians in Nigeria suddenly change in attitude when they move abroad? Anyone with travel experiences can attribute different answers to this question without doing a research. The moment you leave the Nigerian airport for the first time to a better environment in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, you’ll be wowed.
The wow feeling will calm you into realising you have a lot to learn, signifying a need for adjustment to the new society. As you live and learn, you learn to live and apply what you learn in the new society.
Nigerians abroad are calmer because there is evidence of knowledge, wisdom and developments in their immediate environment. They see possibilities and potentials for growth because the environments for knowledge application doesn’t require government consent, societal status or affiliation with those in power. When they apply their knowledge and put in efforts, their immediate environment rewards their efforts.
They are encouraged as their social and societal status grow in their environment. Their progresses are measurable, see-able and enjoyable. They do not have to fight for recognition, be seen with celebrities or interact with government officers to appear successful. They do not require any form of bribes to obtain documents to travel around, feel safe or plan their lives because the systems are true and the societies work.
Nigerians abroad are one of the immigrant groups with the best living conditions in Europe, Latin America and Australia. Our landmarks on education, societal growth and inclusion are second to none. Nigerians are law abiding, less crime history, results oriented, educated and employable people. Abroad, Nigerians thrive and succeed!
But, Nigerians in Nigeria do not enjoy these kinds of general social provisioning. Yes, there are evidence of differentialism faced by Nigerians abroad but the latter is minimal compared to the social challenges, ludicrous leadership and inhumane standards of living in Nigeria.
The Nigerians in Nigeria deserve to experience the kinds of society Nigerians abroad are experiencing, they deserve an environment that emancipates them and accords them the opportunistic platforms to plan and achieve their dreams.
No one wants a nepotistic society, a system that rewards only those at the top and ridicules all at the bottom. Why should anyone be extremely talented, powerfully connected, politically networked or with a historic family background to survive in a country? What happens to those who are just humans? Should those Nigerians who are ordinary citizens die because they are children of those who are not in power? NO!