On Being Nigerian and Citizens of The World


The post today has been long in waiting, it was meant to be a sort of second part of the one I wrote about Christianity and buying naija to grow the naira . However I had a few issues with harnessing the ideas I had, until I saw the tweet above. It gave me a clearer focus as to what I want the piece to be about and I hope it would do the same for you too.

At Akefestival 2015, Chris Abani talked about the time he met the former coordinating minister of the Nigerian economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala at a function. When he greeted her in fluent Igbo, Dr Okonjo Iweala not knowing him, turned to the person she was with and asked in Igbo “is that an Arab speaking Igbo? How come?” She was however suitably chagrined when  Abani proceeded to  tell her that he is infact Igbo and that he spent a large chunk of his childhood in Afikpo, Ebonyi State. To Dr Okonjo Iweala in that sense, Chris Abani, has the looks of a stranger and the fact that he is speaking a language indigenous to her raises a red flag.

Still on the above tweet , when Concussion, the movie about Dr Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian American doctor who discovered some unsavoury facts about head injuries and the American National Football League, came out, the immediate reaction of some Nigerians was not to hail Omalu for his achievement but to express the fact that he should have been using his brains in Nigeria, the land of his birth,  to benefit Nigerians, instead of using it to help strangers in the USA. The same thing when Tottenham Hotspurs midfielder Dele Alli decided he wanted to play for England instead of his native country Nigeria, the immediate reaction was angry messages denouncing him as a prodigal son, and declaring that his adopted country will surely use him and abandon him. Also in the same Akefestival 2015, Pius Adesanmi, Professor of English at Carleton University, Canada admitted that he often faced abuse over his writings about Nigeria, especially from people who feel he has no right to talk about Nigeria from his armchair in Ottawa. I can go on but I hope you get the gist.

It is not just people either,  whenever a politician as much as hints that Nigeria imports  some commonplace/not very significant item. With the frenzy that follows, the politicians might as well have said Nigeria is a failed state. While I understand the need for Nigeria to make her own products and train her own brains for her own benefit, I fail to understand the single-minded “Made in Nigeria good, Imports bad” or “In Nigeria good, in the diaspora bad” attitude Nigerians tend to have when the question of what is local and what is foreign comes up for discussion. It is the underlying vibe of one of the issues so many people have with the Buhari presidency, the fact that he spends too much time out of the country. I think as Nigerians we are making a mountain out of an anthill (to redo the English expression a bit) on the issue. If the country is affected so much by Buhari’s frequent travels, it is a sign that there is a serious flaw in our political and economic system, and Buhari staying at home to watch Nigeria 24/7 is not the solution to that flaw. After all, was it not under the previous president who did not travel anywhere that an armed insurgent group carved a swathe of land the size of Belgium in Nigeria’s sovereign territory? But that is a discussion for another day.

  I recently watched Batman vs Superman:Dawn of Justice recently, and I picked up something interesting about this “foreign” vs “local” discussion. The reason why there was so much debate and hysteria about Superman in the movie is that Superman is an invincible alien who cannot be subject to American laws and thus can do whatever he wants because nobody can control him. However because Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, or Pius Adesanmi are not Superman, the fear in their own case is replaced by anger, anger at their wanting/claiming  to be Nigerian yet being out of Nigeria’s control.  It doesn’t matter if like Jelani Aliyu or Jidenna Mobisson, the said Nigerian in diaspora has tried to identify with his homeland,(like in the incident above, Chris Abani could just have spoken English in an American accent to NOI and not exposed himself to the embarrassement), he is still a stranger to be viewed with suspicion. The consensus seems to be, unless you live in Nigeria you are not pure enough. It is part of the underlying vibe about Buhari’s frequent journeys. The general feeling is that President Buhari creating the impression that like Dele Alli, or Chinwetel Ejiofor, he is just not loyal to Nigeria enough.

As I also argued in the post linked to the the article, I think it is time that Nigerians stop the mental discrimination against their country men in diaspora. We should be happy that Nigerians are being good citizens of the world wherever they are. If Dele Alli performs well for Tottenham Hotspurs  and England and Pius Adesanmi has been appointed Director of the Institute of African studies at Carleton University, we should be proud and happy for our country men keeping the Nigerian flag flying out there and winning acclaim for Nigeria and not be angry that they are not doing it in Nigeria. The world has become a global village and one doesn’t have to be in Nigeria to contribute positively to Nigeria, I mean Jesus Christ hasn’t even been on earth for the last two thousand years, yet he is still giving Israel a positive image the world over. So why then are you vexing with someone “in the abroad” that you can reach in less than two days?

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