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What kind of people are we?

The above title is from a story narrated by a senior journalist. He said that as student at the University of Lagos in the 70’s,…

The above title is from a story narrated by a senior journalist. He said that as student at the University of Lagos in the 70’s, whenever an absurdity (Nigerian thing) was reported in the media, his Cameroonian classmate would be shocked and ask him: “What kind of people are you?”

Let us try to understand the kind of people we are by asking questions and trying to provide answers to them.

It is only in Nigeria that people have little regard for traffic regulations. For example, they will be riding motorcycles against the traffic and if a motorist mistakenly hits one of them, his colleagues will rally around him and give the motorist a beating of his life that might even lead to his death. What kind of people are we?

It is only in Nigeria that some citizens will vandalise oil pipelines, railway tracks and electricity cables. They sell the cables to people who make cooking pots. What kind of people are we?

Nigeria is the only country in the world that is a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) but has no functional refinery, therefore, imports all its petroleum-related products. What kind of people are we?

It is only in Nigeria that for over 10 years kidnappers and insurgents have been killing thousands of people and the lucky ones pay ransom for their freedom. What kind of people are we?

It is only in Nigeria that a public official will be convicted for corruption and his kinsmen will insist that the conviction is an injustice because the oil belongs to them and you cannot steal what belongs to you. They even have the guts to be on the offensive: do you have oil in your village? What kind of people are we?

Somebody said that, it is only in Nigeria that people open a meeting with a prayer, lie throughout the meeting, and close with a prayer. What kind of people are we?

Can you think of many “Nigerian thing” that will make foreigners ask you: what kind of people are you?

For now, let me tell you the kind of people I think we are, and why. No country in the world has over 300 ethnic groups, with diverse cultures and values, other than Nigeria. This makes the citizens more interested in their ethnic groups and religion because they perceive the country as too far away from them. They find more socio-economic security and hope in their primordial values and enclaves.

Also, in virtually all countries of the world, you have one dominant religion which forces others to accept minority status. But in Nigeria the population of Muslims and Christians is almost equal; therefore, each group is struggling to assert itself which accounts for the many religious conflicts.

The tension created by the same faith ticket in the February 2022 presidential election cannot be an issue in many countries. Interestingly, in a reliable survey by the United States-based organisation, Pew Research Centre, Nigeria came second, narrowly defeated by Afghanistan, in the hierarchy of “prayerful” countries in the world.

The research is reliable because it reflects reality. For example, the most “prayerful” countries are the least developed not because of the prayer but because, in my view, they do not match prayer with character, knowledge, skills and hard work. If at all they are both religious and Godly.

Here are the scores of the most and the least “prayerful” countries: Afghanistan 96%, Nigeria 95%, Algeria 88%, Senegal 88%, Djibouti 87%, Iraq 87%, Niger 87%, Indonesia 84%, China 1%, UK 6%, Switzerland 8%, Austria 8%, Czechoslovakia 9%, Germany 9%, Estonia 9%, France 10% and Denmark 10%.

Nigeria has been degenerating in leadership since independence in 1960. The nostalgia about the First Republic is misplaced because the crises in the Republic led to the two bloody coups and a civil war that consumed millions of lives. The leaders have been weak in enforcing the rule of law and their contempt for the citizens is legendary. This is why they say, according to Fela: “my people are useless, my people are senseless”.

Some people even believe that Nigerians may not reach a national consensus on any issues other than entitlement to corruption, forgery, lying and hypocrisy, therefore, minor issues can easily trigger monumental crisis. I believe they are exaggerating our problems. Forget about services like health, education and economic growth.

Also, foreigners believe that Nigerians are loud and pompous even when they are wrong. They are also surprised that Nigerians will say that Naija no dey take last but seize every opportunity to demarket the country.

The truth is that Nigeria has never been great. But it has all the potential to be. Therefore, there is hope. When will the glorious dawn come after the darkness? Wallahi, I don’t know. Only time will tell because nobody can stop an idea whose time has come.

For Nigerian workers, they should learn from Fela who said, Doctor wey no sabi his work na Pako, na Suwegbe (big fool) For now, be happy. Laugh at the “Nigerian thing” even when “Naija happened to you”. You may find below my palliative quotation interesting. Cheers! “For me, that getting free involves laughter: laughing at the man. Laughing at the madness. Laughing at the po-faced (looking very serious as though you do not approve of something) and the humourless absurdity that is all around us.

“The attraction of comedy (is that) it allows some freedom and perhaps might grant freedom in turn. A way of diagnosing what’s happening to us but not being crushed by it. Perhaps it might be the beginning of a critique which is only possible if we can find others to laugh with”.

 

Dikko resides in Abuja

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