Although the December 25, 2009 bomb plot by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, is still fresh in global memory, Nigeria remains a powerful global brand worth trillions of dollars, unlimited natural resources, millions of hectares of fertile lands, over 250 ethnic groups and 150 million industrious, determined people. It is also often said that there is a Nigerian among every four black men anywhere in the world.
There is no place like home. But it’s also a privilege to see other parts of the world. As much as these trips gave me pleasure in showing my ‘Nigerianness’ by being an unofficial ambassador for the country; I have also been miffed to hear different tales, from reality, fiction to the utterly absurd, about Nigeria from Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike.
During a trip to Berlin, my Vietnamese friend had to quiz me on the Nigeria portrayed in Tears from the Sun, a 2003 movie starring Bruce Willis. In the film, a bloody coup d’état overthrew the Presidential family, and established the dictatorship of a rebel general. The Northern Fulani Muslim rebels then executed a violent ethnic cleansing, against the Christian (mainly Catholic) Igbo tribes in the southern region. Call it the fertile imagination of one Hollywood movie director, but it certainly did not portray Nigeria in a good light. I had to ‘rebrand’ him, letting him know that my country is far better than that and that Nigeria has witnessed tremendous improvement in different areas of its national life over the years. At another occasion, I took different nationals on a journey as they quizzed me about Nigeria’s complexities. “You should become an ambassador for your country,” one of them could only say afterwards.
On a recent trip to South Africa, I met a jovial white South African man who took his humour to pit level when he questioned the integrity of the country with the largest black population in the world. “I can tell you anything you need to know, but I won’t give you my bank account details,” he joked during our chat. It was an absolute fallacy to label all Nigerians as drug peddlers, simply because of isolated cases, I told him straight faced. At some other times too, I have witnessed the cruel remarks about Nigerians. One Ghanaian friend once told me bluntly that Nigeria was proudly the home of advanced fee fraud, popularly known as 419. The unscrupulous activities of a small majority of Nigerians have unfortunately placed a suspicious tag on many hard working and honest Nigerians.
However, the good news is that, for each of the negative stories told about Nigerians or Nigeria, I have also heard, directly or indirectly, ten to a hundred more positive, even great, inspiring stories about Nigerians and their exploits in different fields of endeavours, at home and abroad.
Do the math.
All the same, one out of maybe four Nigerians still desire to escape this country due to a myriad of problems – epileptic power supply, bad roads, unemployment, corrupt leaders, security issues, tribal wars, ethnic confusion, religious intolerance…Because of these tethering problems, many Nigerians may have been forced, at one time or the other, to paraphrase a Bible quote; “can anything good come out of this country, after fifty years of appalling leadership, endemic corruption, broken down value system and general disillusionment with the Nigeria project?”
To these ones, I will answer – a hundred and fifty one million times over, times fifty – YES! YES! Not just good, but great. But, it really is up to Nigerians to change Nigeria, for the better. Change will certainly come. Yes, for Nigeria and Nigerians, everything good will come, to borrow the title of Sefi Atta’s award winning novel. But, it’s up to us, Nigerians, to make that happen.
Despite the news of crime, drug trafficking associated with some, Nigerians have also not been applauded for so many good things; maybe because we – government and citizens – have allowed the rest of the world to ignore it and, instead, project the few bad things about the country. However, there is more to Nigeria than all the negative news of religious crises and corrupt politicians. Nigerians could do more to salvage her image by celebrating their uniqueness and diversity – in every good way possible. Have you ever wondered why they say that there is a Nigerian out of every four black men in the world? It is because Nigerians were created to make global impact. That is why the map of Nigeria looks like a trigger on the map of Africa. Let’s all contribute to making the ‘good and the great’ count more.
Just like He made every other person on earth, God made every Nigerian for a divine purpose. There is no reason to owe the world any apologies for ‘being’ from a particular country all because of a few unscrupulous elements. Nigeria indeed is full of great people and is a great country. This budding generation should ensure that we leave a legacy that the next generations would definitely be proud of.
God’s Masterpiece. Proudly Nigerian. No apologies.
Happy 50th Independence celebrations and God bless Nigeria!