Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PASSPORT IDENTIFICATION: PROUDLY NIGERIAN














I wished I had an international passport with this inscription boldly written on its cover page: “God’s masterpiece. Proudly Nigerian. No apologies”. Nigeria is a powerful global brand worth trillions of dollars, unlimited natural resources, millions of hectares of fertile lands, the third largest economy in Africa, over 250 languages and the eight most populous country in the world, with over 150 million industrious, determined people.

They also say that there is a Nigerian among every four black men anywhere in the world.

As much as trips outside Nigeria 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'├ętat overthrew the Presidential family, and established the dictatorship of a rebel general. The Northern Fulani Muslim rebels then execute 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.

Well, I am, unofficially, for now.

On a recent trip to South Africa, I also met a jovial white South African man who took his humour to pit level when he questioned the integrity of 150 million Nigerians. “I can tell you anything you need to know, but I won’t give you my bank account details,” he joked. 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 419ers. It was one of the rare times I couldn’t put up a convincing argument. The unscrupulous activities of a small majority of Nigerians have unfortunately placed a suspicious tag on hard working and honest Nigerians.

However, the good news is that, for each of the negative stories about Nigerians or Nigeria, there are also, directly or indirectly, ten to a hundred more positive, even great, inspiring stories about Nigerians and their exploits at home and abroad.

Do the math.

All the same, one out of maybe four Nigerians still desire to escape this country’s problems – epileptic power supply, bad roads, corrupt leaders, tribal wars, ethnic confusion, religious intolerance…

But, it really is up to Nigerians to change Nigeria, for the better. And I strongly believe that that great change will come in my lifetime. 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, wherever you may be on the globe, to make that happen.

Because of the country’s myriad of problems, many Nigerians may have been forced to paraphrase a Bible quote at one time or the other; “can anything good come out of this country; despite 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.

Nigerians have not been wholesomely applauded for so many good things, maybe because we may have allowed the rest of the world to ignore it. It’s high time Nigerians celebrated our 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 is like a trigger on the map of Africa. Let’s all contribute to making the good count more.

God made you Nigerian for a divine purpose. You owe the world no apologies for ‘being’ one. Just be the best you can be, in whatever way you can. So that the world may know that Nigeria indeed is full of great people and is a great country. Let’s leave a legacy that the next generations can utterly be proud of.

God’s masterpiece. Proudly Nigerian. No apologies.

Happy 50th Independence celebration. God bless Nigeria!

© ARUKAINO UMUKORO