From Washington with Love: A Critique of Nigerian Critics<!--[endif]-->
I have previously published, here on NVS, an ode to my dear country titled "Nigeria: Love it or Leave it". With my heart now palpitating, as Valentine's Day approaches, my vocal chord resonates, once again, in tandem with my love song for my dear country.
In my heart, as well as in my head, perhaps because I have an unorthodox approach to critical analyses and empirical verification, I believe that Nigeria is the best country in the world. I respect your desire to run away from her. But for me, my heart belongs to her.
I live and work in the capital of the United States of America. I live here by choice. I work here by choice. Right here I have seen the corridors of power up close. I have seen the movement of dollars, by legitimate governmental process, through congressional bills, congressional debates, congressional approval, and finally the official appropriation, disbursement, and consumption of the public funds. It is smooth, transparent, and devoid of the intrigue of midnight deals and Ghana-must-go bags. You get the feeling that the law and obedience to it equalizes all citizens. It is a thing of joy. It makes for a peaceful life. But, in the midst of all of these, I still miss the uncertainties of my Nigeria.
Right here, I have seen, up close, the political newsmakers, without bodyguards, and without the usual makeup and airbrushing of news-magazines and television news. It is indeed a humanizing experience that reminds me that the mighty and the low are, when the masks are taken off, all the same. In Nigeria, I don't get to see the mighty so close. But I still want to go home.
Right here, I walk into the courthouse, and the same lawyer who was just on television representing Monica Lewinsky of the Clinton indiscretion fame, is my opposing counsel; but the judge only sees two lawyers; the judge does not see one senior and one junior lawyer; there are no special privileges for him; there are no caravan of praise-singers behind him. I am happy that I don't have to bow to him. He is just another lawyer, just like me. He is not a SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) to be worshipped and feared. Wouldn't you think that I would like to remain here? No way. I want to go home.
Right here, I personally walked into a conference room of the Grand Hyatt Hotel to shake hands with the great Zik of Africa, just one year before he died. He came with just his wife for a reception. I pinched myself to assure myself that I was not dreaming as he regaled us, my friends and I, with stories of his days as a student here in the United States; he told us how, during his school days, the white man, unable to pronounce Azikiwe, nicknamed him Zik, and the name henceforth stuck. He told us all the menial jobs he held and tricks he used to survive as a student here. To put my awe and joy in perspective, you should know that Zik was already in his forties before my father was born. Zik was older than my grandfather. You would think, therefore, that Washington, which allows the high and the low to mix on equal footing, would be where I want to be. No, I want to be in Nigeria.
Right here, I have walked, and you can walk, into receptions for Nigerian governors and ministers, without the usual Nigerian style roadblocks, red tapes, bigmanism, and busybodies that obstruct your access to public servants. It was right here that I saw some of the prominent actors of the Nigerian theater including Soyinka, Achebe, OBJ, El-Rufai, Orji Kalu, Udenwa, minor Ministers, and several Chief Judges of the Nigerian states who came for judicial conferences. I did not have to bow to any and none had to bow to me. The great equalizer is one of the nicknames of the United States and the equalization of all people is done mostly here in the nations capital. You would think that I should sit comfortably here. No way, sir. No way, madam. Nigeria is where my heart is.
I want to go home because the critics have failed, some miserably, in their logic, their reasoning, to educate me on why Nigeria, my Nigeria, is not the best place in the world. The critics are confused in their logic of equating every bad Nigerian with the nation of Nigeria.
To criticize individual Nigerians (that is civilians and specific government officials) is healthy. But to confuse the individual subject of the critic with Nigerians in general or with the sovereign entity Nigeria, is a common mistake that, invariably, leads to faulty reasoning and illogical conclusions. With the exception of a few intentionally mischievous sophists, I believe many of those guilty of these intellectual infractions are merely negligent or simply in a hurry.
First example: Your foreign friend, in London, Washington, Madrid, praises you by saying: "Tunde. I like you because you are honest, hardworking, trustworthy, unlike other Nigerians that I have met, all engaged in fraud. I like you because you don't behave like Nigerians". No kidding. In the euphoric spirit of accepting the compliment of your praise-singer, you smile from ear to ear, hug or shake his hands and, in the process, surrender your reasoning to a faulty and dangerous conclusion. Sure your friend may logically conclude that you do not behave like the Nigerians that he knew but what he said was that you do not behave like Nigerians. In other words, Nigerians are bad but you are the exception. Why did he not say: "Tunde, you are a true Nigerian: all the other fools from your country whom I met behave like (criminals? Indians? Americans? Mexicans?).
If you were not in a hurry to accept the compliment of your friend, and you took the time to reason, you should have said to him: "Mr. Powell, did it occur to you that I may very well be the first Nigerian that you have ever met who has authentic Nigeria attributes; and that the previous ones you had the misfortune to meet were those whose activities are the exceptions to the virtuous Nigerians? How many of the 140 million Nigerians have you met? ".
Second example: Obasanjo, the president, is alleged to have trampled upon the rights of politicians X, Y, and Z, made life miserable for his political enemies, enthroned and incorporated corruption in high places; therefore, says the critic, Nigerians are corrupt and Nigeria is a bad country. Really? Sure the president of a country is a symbol of that country, but the lazy critic has failed to provide a necessary factual ingredient for the validity of his conclusion, which is: that all Nigerians engage in or support the vices attributed to the president. (If the factual premise, that Obasanjo committed those alleged vices, is the only predicate, without more, the logical conclusion should be only that OBJ is bad and corrupt, period.). Leave Nigerians and Nigeria alone from your faulty logic.
Therefore, the critics having failed, and myself having seen the top of the mountain, I am eternally persuaded that Nigeria is the best place for me and for you. I will send thirty-six e-roses in anticipation of Valentine's Day, Nigeria.
(a Washington, D.C. attorney)