So being outside the country, especially visiting other African countries can be very disheartening for a Nigerian. A few times I've been tempted to claim another nationality, or hang my head in shame when my classmates begin to talk about the huge mess the giant of Africa actually is. A particular classmate of mine keeps taking jabs trying to stir me but I thank God for maturity, I never give in.
It's actually much worse when you hear Nigerians talk about Nigeria. You'd wonder, what place is this? Tell me so that i never have the misfortune of finding myself there, either by mistake or by design.
A couple of weeks back in Kigali with the boys, they couldn't stop talking about the many travails of Nigeria, to the point where our driver, Peter, began to shake his head in pity. I could actually get where they were coming from. Rwanda, even after the war, the genocide, the setbacks and plain evil that plagued that country and left if bereft, is actually now such a beautiful place with systems in place that actually work, like, really work! I remember when we drove back from the club at 4 in the morning, I saw couples taking romantic strolls on the roads, I saw people jogging, I saw some just hanging around and gisting leisurely. At 4o'clock in the morning. Yes the country is that safe! One of the safest in Africa. It's also said to be the cleanest in Africa. It might be a small country but Kagame is a strong, decisive, visionary leader. So yes, it certainly boggles one's mind that Nigeria is in the state it is, while Rwanda has gone ahead to go far ahead.
So these darling men of mine continued in this path. Back in Kenya, one evening we were out drinking some Kenyan wine, they resumed what had become their new favourite pastime; Nigeria-bashing. I noticed that those at the surrounding tables, Kenyans and Caucasians alike, had stopped their own conversations to listen to ours. And so I listened to our conversations through their ears and I was suddenly flooded with shame. Then, I had to ask; So are you guys telling me there's nothing good you can say about Nigeria? Nothing at all?
And Bassey began, surprisingly heartily...
"Ha! Nigerians are industrious o!", he said. "Very Industrious!" Someone else echoed for emphasis.
Yes we Nigerians are very industrious, very hardworking people. We are not content to sit and eat crumbs, many of us are not afraid to work hard for a better life.
We are very Enterprising. Nigerians are resourceful individuals that somehow find a way even where there seems to be none. Look just about anywhere in this world and you would find a Nigerian, even in the most remote, most unexpected places. We are there, and we are thriving!
We Are Creative: We have creative thinkers, small and large. Even when we copy we put our own unique spin on things. We are creative in so many ways but can we take the time to applaud our creative thinkers and writers, I just had a conversation with some Kenyan friends of mine who couldn't stop gushing about Chimamanda Adichie, made me remember the saying "a prophet is never welcome in his own home". It took foreigners to remind me of the literary greatness of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and many others whom they mentioned by name.
Our Entertainment Industry is bad-ass! There's rarely ever a day here in Nairobi that someone doesn't ask me about Tuface or Patience Ozokwor or Chacha Eke or Wizkid or Davido. Our industry is so extraordinary that even some Kenyans think their sole popular artistes; Sauti Sol are Nigerians! At the lobby at my school what's always playing; Nollywood movies. At the cafeteria at my lodge; Nollywood on replay. At the clubs; Naija jams. Even local radio stations, Nigerian songs. We bad! 😉
Our industries are more evolved, probably the most evolved in Africa besides South Africa. It's not just our entertainment industry, our fashion and beauty industries too! I have a friend here who wants to be a fashion designer but can't because that's not considered a real job around here, in fact it's looked down on. The fashion industry in Nigeria is actually capable of boosting the country's economy. Our beauty sector is doing great too. Some of our makeup artists are seriously cashing out at the banks every month, something you won't see in many other African countries.
We are friendly and accommodating. You wouldn't appreciate this until you're outside the country and every "Good Morning" you offer is met with a scowl, or everytime someone notices that your accent is different from theirs, their first instinct is to either scam, shortchange or overcharge you.
You think our Lagos drivers are bad but you haven't seen bad until you meet some mean drivers here that won't even let simple okada overtake them. Days ago I wanted to catch a flight out of Nairobi and I was running very late for the flight because of my classes. I rushed home, packed a small bag and then realized that my only chance of making my flight was either by chopper or by bike. So, errr, bike it was! I rushed to the road and flagged down the first bike I saw and sensing the urgency, he assured me that I'd made the right decision by going with a motorbike instead of a taxi as we'd avoid the hectic Friday traffic. He was wrong. Normally I should have gone through a long stretch of road in less than 10 minutes with a bike, but it took me almost 30 because each car we approached, on sighting us, would immediately move closer to the car in front of them until they're only a hair's breadth away, just so my bike won't go through. Crab mentality at its worst! I wondered, how is my bike stopping you from getting to where you're going, or even delaying you? But this is what I've seen happen here nearly everyday.
Also. Us Nigerians have a super ability to be Happy despite the circumstances. Nigerians have a cheerful spirit, a mysterious ability to laugh no matter the circumstances and find good cheer even in dire situations.
We have Swag. I've been to a few African countries and all I can say is MY PEOPLE HAVE SWAG! I cannot expound on this without sounding offensive or incendiary and since I'm still in Nairobi, lemme just keep my lips sealed and keep walking before I enter yawa 😊😝.
Survivors. Nigerians are survivors. That person's mother whose husband left with nothing, sits down and fries Akara on the roadside and sends her five children to school on the proceeds, even "trains" them in the university. We see this happen everyday in Nigeria; people making something out of nothing and getting by somehow...
We are Ambitious. After mass this morning I got approached by a young guy from a West African country. He came to chat me up and afterwards my friend asked if I could marry someone from that country. I shook my head. "Why?" She asked. "They lack ambition" was my sincere response.
Many people say we're greedy, they say we're not content with what we have. But why should we be when we can always have more, do more, be more? These people in some of these other countries, many of them are indeed very laidback and content with the little or average that they have. And that's ok. But "OK" is not the Nigerian spirit. We are risk takers, explorers, we are driven to be more. We push boundaries and explore possibilities. We do not wait for opportunities, we CREATE opportunities! And it's this spirit that has made us the Giant of Africa! We indeed are. Look not on the temporary economic setback of this nation but on the great potential and remarkable human resources this nation possesses and you'd sense that Nigeria is truly GREAT.
One day soon you will not only sense it, but see it. I strongly believe.
I'm sure you guys also have a lot of positive things you've noticed about Nigeria and Nigerians. Do share! ☺️😌😉