Yesterday someone asked me why Nigerians ridicule Nigeria insomuch that folks have decided to name the now good-for-nothing Nigerian Olympic athletes with such names as “rubber”, “wood” and “plastic” medalists; since they couldn’t win gold, silver or bronze.
The simple answer to that question is that for most Nigerians, Nigeria does not exist. Granted, the physical mien called Nigeria may be practically perceptible, the government that drives Nigeria is apparently anonymous and wanting.
Most Nigerians feel it is not binding upon them to “give back” to a country that they have not “taken” from. Many Nigerians feel they were born in a country that is completely putrid. For example, the paroxysm of angst that frustrates Nigerians due to electricity scarcity in the country has haunted our national psyche for years.
Many Nigerians never lived in a Nigeria that boast of round-the-clock electricity. Many Nigerians do not know how it feels like to travel in Nigeria with a minimum road traffic discomfort. Many Nigerians do not know how it feels like to live in a house un-caged; without (what Nigerians call) “burglar-proof” windows, thanks to the insecurity.
Young Nigerians do not know how it feels like to attend a university without university strikes. The examples are endless. But the point I seek to make is that too many a Nigerian have never lived the life of their dream; a life in absolute tranquility. Most Nigerians harbor a life that is spent in the constant fear of what it is like to live in an atmosphere of terror, not knowing who or what will strike next.
Quintessentially, young Nigerians have never felt the presence of a government; they usually owe their significant and trivial successes to the individual and collective sacrifices of family and friends.
But let us look at the other side of the coin: in a country like America and other serious nations, an individual starts to benefit from the government right from infancy: you’re given a free and compulsory good quality education, and you are constantly reminded that with hard work and perseverance, a better future awaits.
I have seen a sick, bedridden American whose last words on earth were that he was proud to be American. I do not know any up-and-doing (perhaps the opposite of bedridden?) Nigerian who maintains that he is proud to be Nigerian!
Because they are grateful to their country, many Americans willfully keep US flags and other statist symbols in their homes so that these icons can constantly remind them of what they owe their country: gratitude.
I have never in my life seen a Nigerian flag in the private residence of any Nigerian. According to the grapevine, Nigerians do not feel they owe anything to their country and/or government, no wonder they exhibit a persistent disconnect between them and the symbols of their country, Nigeria.
Until the Nigerian people start to feel the presence of a government in the delicate phases of their personal lives, they will not only stop at ridicule, they’ll always cling to narrow parochial interests before sovereign national interests.
In brusqueness, Nigerian leaders are known to always cast disparaging remarks on Nigerians, whom they claim, do not have faith in them. Who will tell them that faith is not entirely a self-colored affair? Who will tell them that the citizenry of Nigeria like other citizenries the world over can only be devoted to that which is devoted to their personal causes?
Does this explanation give any tip-off on why it takes two to tango?
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu writes from Yola, Nigeria. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org