"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"

This was the question that the wife of my American friend asked me when she and her husband came to pick me up from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on August 12. What did I miss about America while in Nigeria? Hmm.

Now, how do you answer that kind of question? Where do you begin? Should you tell the truth and expose your country—and probably yourself—to well-deserved derision? Or should you simply be mealy-mouthed, skirt around the truth, and say some nice but insincere and extravagant pleasantries like “Oh, I missed my amiable friends and colleagues and, of course, my teaching and research activities”?

I don’t expect anyone who has never been deterritorialized from Nigeria for a sustained period to appreciate this false, self-imposed and, frankly, pointless dilemma that I grappled with. You see, one of the tragedies of exilic (or diasporan) condition is the irritating narcissism it breeds in people who experience it. I once characterized this phenomenon as the narcissism of transnational citizenship.

This is how it works: In the privacy of our Nigerian company (both at home and abroad, offline and online) we say the unkindest things (most of it, sadly, warranted) about our country but pretend that all is well when we are in the company of non-Nigerians. We shield our country from critical searchlight before non-Nigerians not necessarily because we are patriotic; we do so often for self-indulgent, self-serving and egotistic reasons: if Nigeria is portrayed in a bad light in our countries of (temporary) residence, we fear that the bad light might also reflect badly on us and thereby injure our overblown but fragile egos.

On this day, I decided to liberate myself from this self-imposed mental prison. I told the truth about what I missed about America. And that truth wasn’t friendly to Nigeria. The first thing I told my friends was that I missed the order and relative predictability of life in America.

I told them I missed the steady, uninterrupted electricity in their country. During the three months that I stayed in Nigeria, I lived without electricity from the national grid for the most part. If we had electricity for six straight ours we would always chant, “NEPA don try today o!” (I can’t help calling it NEPA even though it has changed its name to PHCN).

 But it was not just the exasperating inconstancy of electricity that gnawed at me; it was also its unpredictability. And this had an unbearably disruptive effect on life. I often rushed to iron my clothes each time it pleased PHCN to bring electricity because I couldn’t tell when they would take it. I always had to leave everything else I was doing. We have a generator at home, like most people in Nigeria, but there is only so much it can do. Plus, given my environmental consciousness, I was often sensitive to the environmental pollution and danger to human health that generator fumes pose, and this sensitivity often dissuaded me from using our generator as often as other people did.

The real tragedy, for me, is that smaller and poorer countries like Benin Republic enjoy steadier electricity than Nigeria. When I visited Benin Republic about a week before I returned to Atlanta, I noticed that there were no power cuts there. I asked one of my uncles when was the last time he experienced power cuts. It took him about a minute to remember. “Over a year ago, I think,” he said. “They seized the light for two hours to do some repairs.” And this was preceded, he said, by an announcement in the radio and in the local television.

There can’t be any doubt that Nigeria has the worst electricity problem in the whole wide world. Now, how do you “rebrand” that fact, Mrs. Akunyili?

So I told my American friends that I missed the regularity of power supply in their country. “Is it really that bad in Nigeria?” my friend’s wife asked. It is actually worse than that, I said. She was puzzled. Even Aso Rock, the Nigerian equivalent of the White House, suffered an embarrassing power cut during a Federal Executive Council meeting while I was in Nigeria. And this was in spite of the billions of naira that the president has budgeted this year to buy generators not only for Aso Rock but for Nigerian embassies in such countries as America, the UK, Germany, etc where electricity is as constant as the Northern Star! How more hopeless can our situation get?

Of course, nobody who hears this fails to question the mental and cognitive state of Nigerian leaders. A genuinely concerned and angry African American friend once asked me, in a fit of frustration, if congenital idiocy is the precondition for ascension to leadership in Nigeria. Perhaps it is. Or how else do you explain the quality of leadership we have had and continue to have in Nigeria at all levels? How do you explain the fact that Nigeria is one of the world’s top 10 largest oil producers yet imports refined fuel from the West and suffers periodic bouts of crippling fuel scarcity?



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"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"
Olamide posted on 09-07-2009, 04:48:01 AM

I live in Sudan and the Sudanese also complain of the over-bearing presence of the government in their lives but they have electricity 24/7, their taps including public ones have water always, they can park their brand new cars outside without locking it in Khartoum, a city of about 8 million inhabitants. Armed robbery has never occured there and there are no police check points even though the police have the capacity to seal off any part of Khartoum within ten minutes if need be. You do not sneer when you are pulled over by a police officer because you might just find yourself on the way to the magistrate court and a hefty fine or a prison sentence or both. You are never afraid of being kidnapped or robbed as you go around for work or enjoyment. Loans are available for all Sudanese to build houses at reasonable interest rates (Which the government remits to mosques for disbursement to other Sudanese as soft loans for small businesses)


And by the way, Sudan generates extra 3,500 Megawatts of electricity daily which they have no use for. Given the choice, I prefer more government where everything works to a parody of government that we have in Nigeria where nothing works. We are at par with Somalia because if we provide our electricity, dig boreholes for our water and employ security guards, buy security dogs and have our Imams, Pastors and Dibias praying for our safety because the government cannot guarantee it, how different are we from them (Somalia)?

Re: [Article Comment]"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"
Onyeije posted on 09-07-2009, 09:53:46 AM
Nice article,but these also made me reflect on what a former colleague asked me sometime ago,he said,and i quote,"why are you here".I do not know how to start enumerating the one thousand and one reasons why i am here,i do know how to tell him that for almost a decade i am in Germany without power black-out ,to have these impression in my country,is a crime,not to talk of itseffectiveness,why indeed will my friend know why i am here when over one hundred years ago,GERMANY has solved the problem of universal health care,how will my friend know why i am here when at the end of the month, he gets paid as a lecturer.Now Oga mi,how do you the writer and readers answer such a question;,,Why are you here,wherever you may be outside Nigeria,why are you there.
Re: [Article Comment]"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"
Iye posted on 09-07-2009, 10:23:47 AM
I get the same question all the time from people over here……"Oh you are long ways from home, why did you come?"…… to be candid, I hate that question, I simply tell them the same reason your ancestors left Europe 100yrs ago.

Am simply fed up trying to explain that life is more comfortable here than in my country…blah… like they don't know.
"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"
10Kobo posted on 09-07-2009, 17:58:23 PM











QUOTE:
So I told my American friends that I missed the
regularity of power supply in their country. \"Is it really that bad in

lace w:st=\"on\">Nigerialace>
?\" my
friend's wife asked. It is actually worse than that, I said. She was puzzled.
Even Aso Rock, the Nigerian equivalent of the White House, suffered an
embarrassing power cut during a Federal Executive Council meeting while I was
in

lace w:st=\"on\">Nigerialace>
.
And this was in spite of the billions of naira that the president has budgeted
this year to buy generators not only for Aso Rock but for Nigerian embassies in
such countries as
America,
the
UK,

lace w:st=\"on\">Germanylace>
, etc
where electricity is as constant as the Northern Star! How more hopeless can
our situation get?


Now that is really worrisome! Especially the highlighted
part!!


Another example of stinking corruption by this Yar ‘Adua government



>



>


QUOTE:
Similarly, I missed visiting some of my favorite
sites on the Internet because the sites won't allow me to access them from

lace w:st=\"on\">Nigerialace>
. A case
in point: Pandora.com. Pandora is a free personalized Internet radio service
created by the Music Genome Project, which allows users to choose what kind of
music they want to listen to and helps them find new music based on their old
and current favorites. Each time I tried to visit the site in

lace w:st=\"on\">Nigerialace>
I often
got a message that said they had not yet extended their service to Nigerian
users. It was the same story with Google voice. I didn't know it was possible
to discriminate against Internet users based on their geographical location.



>


Your lack of access has nothing to do with

lace w:st="on">Nigerialace>
or the
bandwidth and l surprised you don't know! Wetin, "Oga for

lace w:st="on">Americalace>
"?


First, discrimination is not done based on "geographical
location", in internet parlance, it is done based on "Originating I.P. Address".
Certain information are "filtered" for I.P. originating from a certain range, (outside

lace w:st="on">U.S.lace>

specific ranges).


I also experienced this even when l was in U.K and later

lace w:st="on">Spainlace>
, during
the last U.S Presidential election. I could not re-play some of Obama's
interview and it will let you know that "it is restricted to U.S based audience"
or simply deny you access.



>


Despite that, l am also aware that some trading sites will
not allow user-I.P. address originating from Nigeria and much of Africa, to "trade",
l  guess it's a reflection of the
confidence they have in our "I.T cum financial security" implementations,  and tariff agreements, not to mention the ‘yahoo-yahoo'
boys!


But, if l may also add, there are softwares designed to "mask"
ones I.P. origin and get around that problem. No big deal, should not be used
for nefarious purposes sha.



>



>



>


QUOTE:
We have no such comfort in

lace w:st=\"on\">Nigerialace>
. And, for much of the time
I was in
lace w:st=\"on\">
Nigeria
lace>,
I lived with disabling anxieties about kidnapping or robbery - which is actually
a holdover from a previous experience two years ago.


From News report on CNN, ABC and other American Networks, l
will say kidnapping and Robbery in
Nigeria
is "child's play, when compared with its prevalence in
lace w:st="on">
America
lace>.


What with all its senseless and bizarre mass-murders by some
deranged student or one man that lost his job or wife!


What about its rampaging Pedophiles?  The last kidnapping that made headlines was
that of "Daddy & Mummy' that kidnapped an 11yr old girl, for the last
18yrs! You don't get such "fantastic kidnappings" in

lace w:st="on">Nigerialace>
, just some misguided
militants looking for a few bob. May be you should try
Afghanistan,
Somalia,
Sudan or

lace w:st="on">Iraqlace>
, if you
want to talk kidnappings!


And imagine that "you" a complete stranger so to say, a rich
one for that mater, came, saw and conquered, without a mishap, for three
months?  Really,

lace w:st="on">Nigerialace>
is
safer on the average though it could be better.



>


QUOTE:
Interestingly, many Americans, especially
conservative Americans, chafe at what they call \"too much government\" in their
lives. It would seem that most human beings don't appreciate what they have
until they lose it. I often advise my conservative American friends to live in
Nigeria (or, for an extreme experience,

lace w:st=\"on\">Somalialace>
, which
has had no government since the early 1990s) for just a few months to
experience what it means to have no government. They can then return and
compare it with the \"too much government\" they resent in their country.
Nigerians would gladly trade places with them.


The only Nigerian that would trade places are those that
have not spent extended periods in

lace w:st="on">Americalace>
or any of the European
country. ‘Too much Government' and ‘No Government' are two extremes that no one
wants to live with.


Anyone that has lived in both worlds will agree that
lace w:st="on">
Nigeria
lace>
is a "paradise" when it comes to Govt "noseying" around into private lives. Monitoring
private communications!


They want to know how you spend your money, what you say to
your wife, how you train your child, interfere in family squabbles and blow it
up (in Nigeria, family members make peace between parties), encourage children,
wife and husband to squeal on each other, regulate how much money you may have,
carry or spend, and l can go on for ever. This is what Americans detest. Even
as l may add, the current hoopla about "governmentism" has more to do with
scare-mongering from Republican-extremist and far left conservatives. Nothing
has changed except that the President is black skinned!!



>


But we Nigerians also detest our "Sleeping Govt" that just
collects and squander national income or siphon it to private offshore
accounts. If you watch "CNNBackstage" as l type this, Micheal Holmes showed
the Governor of Bayelsa State, Timpriye Silva (one of the oil states)
squandering billion of Naira on a "Government House" which he compares to the "Roman
Coliseum! I mean, in the midst of poverty, all he could think of is to build an
Entertainment Arena!


He even ridiculously said a particular stone pavement in the
building could make wish-come-true! How l wish that man would ask the stone
pavement for wisdom to govern his people rightly (like Biblical Solomon!) That
is the kind of government Nigerians don't want.



>


QUOTE:
Of course, in spite of everything, I can't quantify the joy I felt
being with my family and friends and seeing the familiar sights and sounds of
the country of my birth. For all its failings,

lace w:st=\"on\">Nigerialace>
is still where my heart is.
lace w:st=\"on\">
America
lace>
can't take that away even it were paradise itself, which it is not.


I guess you can imagine, how

lace w:st="on">Nigerialace>

would look like, if we can get good leadership that can inspire the citizenry
to patriotic ideals? A
lace w:st="on">Paradiselace>. If for example,
Health, Transportation, Security and Power problems are resolved, 80% of
Nigerians abroad will (either) return home, save for those who will feel out of
place, having been out for too long! We will get there if and when we decide ‘enough
is enough' and chase these usurpers to the barrel. It wont come easy, l know.
>>


QUOTE:
I am unsparingly tough on my country because I am impatient with its
unnaturally prolonged gestation in developmental infancy as a result of the
incompetence, sordid avarice, and base venality of the leaders it has had the
misfortune to be saddled with.


Overall, nice article, very reflective and true.
>>


QUOTE:
@Olamide:


I live
in
Sudan and the Sudanese
also complain of the over-bearing presence of the government in their lives but
they have electricity 24/7, their taps including public ones have water always,
they can park their brand new cars outside without locking it in

lace w:st=\"on\">Khartoumlace>
, a city of about
8 million inhabitants. Armed robbery has never occured there and there are no
police check points even though the police have the capacity to seal off any
part of Khartoum within ten minutes if need be. You do not sneer when you are
pulled over by a police officer because you might just find yourself on the way
to the magistrate court and a hefty fine or a prison sentence or both. You are
never afraid of being kidnapped or robbed as you go around for work or
enjoyment. Loans are available for all Sudanese to build houses at reasonable
interest rates (Which the government remits to mosques for disbursement to
other Sudanese as soft loans for small businesses)


>>


I don't
know which Sudan is being described here, but certainly not the one we watch on
T.V, the one where U.N staffers are being kidnapped randomly, the one that
hosts Darfur, which has been described as the worst human disaster in history,
the one where the "Janjaweed militia" reigns supreme, the one ethnic militias
rape women and children and burn down villages of opposite ethnicity and
religion, or the one whose President is a world Pariah and can not step out of
the "embrace" of a few African Despots and Islamic concubines!
>>


Or
could it be the same

lace w:st="on">Sudanlace>

where women get flogged for wearing hot-pants? If Hillary Clinton was to be Sudanese,
she would not even be able to contest the last Presidential nomination
election, be a serving Foreign Secretary, not to mention that her "buttocks"
will be disfigured with cane-marks!
>>


Truly, "when
a big calamity floors the giant, small, impetuous, insignificant and non-entities
would raise their ugly head".
>>


I don't
blame you sha, l blame our leaders that allow us to hear this kind of insult!
>>



Sudan koo,
lace w:st="on">
Sudan
lace>
nii.
>>



>

Re: [Article Comment]"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"
Dewdrops posted on 09-08-2009, 19:11:31 PM
What did I miss?

Everything!!!! Including working my arse off......I missed the clubs and great music on Friday/Saturday nights especially.

I missed everything....no comparison at all.

I even missed Rush Limbaugh.


Thank God I am back....what do I miss about Nigeria....absolutely norrrrrrrrrrrrring....including catching all the 'craw-craw' and 'heat rashes', good riddance to the 'smell' of excrement outside the so-called mansions.....not to mention the extremely suffocating stenches of assorted body odors in closed spaces.
Re: [Article Comment]"What Did You Miss About America While In Nigeria?"
NoLongThing posted on 09-09-2009, 03:45:30 AM
There is absolutely nothing to rebrand in Nigeria - that country cannot be saved - total disaster everywhere. At the very best, Nigeria can only pray for a peaceful break-up.
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