Several foreigners, including a Chilean who recently visited Nigeria, have described Nigerians as euphoric. These foreign observers claim that Nigerians frequently have smiles on their faces. These foreign folks sustain their misconceived perception, apparently oblivious to the fact that there is more than meets the eye. Of course, they’re visitors, so they won’t even know if the smiles are smiling in jest, amused at the image of the foreigners who resemble albinos.

True, a proverb says you can’t be your own mirror, so we can accept the foreigners’ observations as real, even when we clearly know that their conclusion is a myth. Those who visit Nigeria from the outside world cannot imagine the sadness of a country which, despite all her God-given wealth, has the majority of its citizenry living in abject poverty. For sure, in the absence of revolutionary resistance by the oppressed masses, the foreign observers can’t be blamed if they conclude that the people are happy. After all, what does a smile mean? Naturally, it denotes happiness because your facial look is an expression of your inner mind. On that note, Nigerians are a happy people because they smile most of the time.

But what about the smiles on “oyibo” faces? It’s real because their inner thoughts are more than happy. On the other hand, the “wayo” on “oyibo” faces in terms of their smiles may not be real as we think some time. We know that, even when they’re killing you in their inner thoughts, “oyibos” are capable of deceiving you with smiles. In a sense, that’s part of their cultural upbringing, something they learned from their ancestors.

The key word to Nigerians’ seeming happiness is ignorance. Most Nigerians have lived through oppressive governments that they seem to lack rudimentary ideas about social expectations of life; hence, they need to be trained in their early education to be civic-minded. Nigerians are resilient because of their ignorance. Otherwise, how would members of the military juntas that looted their nation’s treasury only yesterday now have the audacity to stage a come-back to contest for election in 2007? I recall that the national conference that was called last year by President Olusegun Obasanjo extensively discussed the idea of restricting the ex-military thieves from contesting future elections. My recollection is that the proposal was widely popular among the delegates to the conference. Even so, that important measure was swept under the carpet in the ongoing review of the Constitution. Does anybody know why Nigerians are reticent on this point? Certainly, ignorance is at the root of this abandonment of an important political provision that would have rid our politics of greedy ex-military thieves.

In the face of such apathy, why would the outside world not see Nigerians as happy? When after decades of squandering the nation’s resources, these rogues are still ambitious and vociferous in society. These ex-military people took Nigeria as a nation away from the path of modern civilization and democratic growth. They used grenades to kill ordinary citizens. They maimed many Nigerians, they pushed drugs, and they annulled genuine elections. The cancellation of healthy political activities was one of their signature legacies. They introduced policies that suffocated and ruined Nigeria’s economy. Worse still, they legalized corruption and 419.

It’s still fresh in some of our minds that, in a bid to sanitize the Nigerian society, assets were confiscated in the mid-1970s from many corrupt persons. That action sent moral signals across the board and people knew that it was traitorous to steal public funds. However, what happened thereafter? Another government came and had the impudence to return those seized assets.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the cronies who got their seized assets back have since jumped into boats and are campaigning in the creeks for the return of their cohorts in criminal activities. This immoral sign has been the key to the nation’s deep-rooted corruption till date. As it is, you’re not even sure if the unborn child in her mother’s womb is not corrupt in Nigeria. Within the same period, all manners of atrocities were introduced to Nigeria; our image became badly damaged to the extent that the Nigerian passport became an object of suspicion around the globe.

The man whose regime quickened the destruction of Nigeria is on the prowl again. He wants to snatch national power. It’s still fresh in our minds that just before his rotten regime came to power in 1985, Nigerians could hop into the plane and head to London without a visa. But this changed overnight as the British immediately requested Nigerians to obtain visas before entering London. Yet the originators of this national humiliation are moving insidiously to capture the presidency in 2007. Why? Because too many of us are ignorant and prefer to look cool as “happy people.” Sure, they think nothing can squelch their desire to occupy Aso Rock again, but the biggest surprise awaits them, as Nigerians are “happy people.”

Happiness! Happiness indeed. When you talk of happiness, you must be talking about a society with high gross national product (GNP). In 1999, Nigeria’s GNP per capita was estimated to be 310 compared to Mexico, another developing country, that had 4400. For sure, different people use the same words differently. You definitely cannot say Nigerians are happy when, at the slightest opportunity, they flee their fatherland because the place is burning them like hell fire. Of course, the ex-military killers dehumanized and corrupted them with their stinky leadership. They drove Nigerians to the wall. Rather resist, Nigerians let themselves be crushed against the wall and continued to smile because they don’t know their rights. “If you cannot hold on to something, you will fall for anything,” says Toye Ademola, an anointed Pastor at Dominion International Center, in Houston. Unfortunately, the masses in Nigeria did not know anything about civil right, so they took anything the military vagabonds brought their way. Yes, when foreigners visit Nigeria, they see the unusual idiosyncrasy of people suffering and smiling, as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti said. Nigerians can be described in the major Urhobo dialect as “ekpado_-o_o_n”. This means that a fool is never angry and therefore accepts anything. The truth is that this proverb is too esoteric for foreigners. The same dialect has another proverb that it is better to have a thief as a child instead of a fool. Though stealing is a crime (negative), but the whole concept is that, that same child will be able to convert the negative sense to a positive sense tomorrow. But a fool will always remain a fool and can never do anything good in the future.

Nigerians need to be tenacious in defending their rights. Sadly, one often encounters a well-educated young man with degrees in political science or psychology but exhibiting absolute stupidity. Driving his vehicle that has correct documents, he takes ten naira from his pocket as he approaches a police checkpoint. “Officer,” the young man shouts to the police and hands over the ten naira. Driving past the checkpoint, he turns to his passengers and gloats: “I got him cheap with ONLY ten naira.” Obviously the police are ahead: they received ten naira from a fool who should not have given them a dime. The result is that both parties parted ways happily. If one of the passengers in the car is a foreigner, he will say that Nigerians are a “happy people.”

If a well-educated person behaves this way, what is to be expected of the illiterates that are in majority? Why would the foreigner not say that Nigerians are a “happy people”?

April 13, 2006