Ogbuagu Anikwe ponders how the world understands and copes with the reality that Nigeria can but won’t solve our problems.
Last night, I watched Liberian President, George Weah, dancing to Kizz Daniel’s monster hit, Buga. This is the second time this year that a Nigerian hit song lit up cyberspace. And forced celebrities around the world to pause and dance a jig.
Watching Weah try the Buga moves made me realise something. The world understands Nigeria better than those who live here in endless lament. I don’t mind admitting that this realization made me tear up.
It was one of the rare moments when one struggles with tears contemplating an improbability. How does a broken and fractured country manage to provide real pleasure to the world? Keep in mind that this pleasure is not confined to the entertainment world of sports, music and movies. It extends to the world of social service, engineering and technology, arts and literature. Indeed, this comprises other value-laden achievements for which our ambassadors stoop at world stages to receive garlands.
The tears came because I looked beyond the Weah dance moves. My mind on the pleasure we gift other people who emerged from ferocious Civil War to heal their national wounds.
African has heroes
Africa is replete with heart-warming memories of heroes. These were leaders who mobilised their people to abandon bitterness and hate that pushed them to kill each other. Their countries emerged from a bitter past and decided to construct a future of inclusiveness and growth. In West Africa, Liberia and Sierra Leone exemplify this spirit of forgiveness and growth. On the Eastern front, Rwanda is a shining light. The Arab Spring countries of North Africa quietly overcame and rebuilt from ruinous years of ethnocentric dictatorship. Down South, Nelson Mandela’s South Africa snatched the crown that Nigeria refused to wear after Gen. Gowon proclaimed the No Victor, No Vanquished Policy after the Civil War.
Gowon received the Biafra instrument of surrender from Gen. Philip Effiong on 12 January 1970 and made the famous proclamation. He was hailed around the world. The earth blessed his good heart by opening up stupendous wealth from the bowels of the Niger Delta. This wealth was better than the American Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. Unfortunately, he was misled by youthful exuberance and toxic ethnic and religious politics. His deviated from the task of reconstruction and reconciliation that the country needed to heal from past hurts.
The George Weah skit reminded one of another dexterous dance moves by Shaquille O’Neal, the power play basketball legend. Shaq did some fancy footwork on Dorime, an adaptation of the Ameno Amapiano by Edo-born Nigerian rapper, Goya Menor. This was what made me conclude that the world has decided to leave us in Nigeria with our problems. The world rather resolved to take what they need to entertain and prosper individuals and societies.
The Nigerian Spirit
The world understands that Nigeria is a sick, complex society that refuses to harness its strength in diversity. Nigeria has the potential to become the greatest country in the world because of what I call The Nigerian Spirit. It is an indestructible spirit, a mind-set of fortitude and forbearance that comes from a singular focus on survival and excellence. And this spirit thrives in positive and negative ways. The politicians, fraudsters and self-called men of God negatively develop it to a fine art. They do it same way that men of letters and scientists focus their intellect like a laser beam on success.
The Nigerian Spirit is strong and will never be broken. Not by the negative forces that hitherto frustrated efforts to repair the country using its vast positive energies.
The world understands that ethno-religious forces use identity politics to divide and make unity and progress unattainable. Identity politics is engineered and sustained by clerics and their political allies in our Churches and Mosques. They empower and install leaders that occupy our executive mansions to promote hate and exploit the hard-working. Identity politics sponsors use fear of eternal damnation, poverty affliction, and ethnic domination to freeze brains of the hard-working people. They become a captive audience, easy to fleece. Their relentless feasting on individual resources and our common patrimony ultimately birthed Nigeria’s army of poor, dispossessed, unemployed and unemployable citizens.
The World Understands Nigeria
From the outside looking in, the world attests to Nigeria’s potential to become a powerhouse of talent and achievement. They keep an eye to select and use what they need from the talent inside this jungle of confusion. And they cluck in sympathy but face their business even when see that the majority has its backs against the wall, fearful and unable to push back against the relentless ethnocentric forces of oppression and corruption. The world sees and knows that these forces will not let Nigeria be but looks away for three apparent reasons.
The world therefore sees that the Nigerian Spirit has developed a resilience against the relentless bombardment of these forces. It’s what Fela sang as Suffering and Smiling. Again, the average educated Nigerian citizen does not critically evaluate and push back against the evil forces that condition them to close their minds to the devastation that identity politics indiscriminately inflicts on individuals of various ethnic and religious persuasions. Finally, the world recognizes that Nigeria’s population diversity and its Spirit of excellence will continue to produce a talent and skill pool. It becomes easy for achieving nations to easily tap from this pool to improve their societies and peoples. Because we have no institutions to harvest and harness these talents, our loss becomes their gain.
A fearful future foretold
Looking forward, how long will Nigeria continue with this system that makes us, in the words of Chinua Achebe, live by the banks of the river but wash our hands with spittle? I look at the issues that occupy our attention on the February 2023 Presidential Election and my doubt grows. The way we are going about it, people of my generation will be lucky to see a positive change in our lifetime.
Anyone who disputes this should listen carefully and watch closely how we forgot the sufferings of the past seven years. As usual, most of us have scampered back to hide in our religious and ethnic cocoons from where we plot how we shall vote and decide who to vote for. The plotters do not care about how Nigeria will dig itself out of the hole, only about electing their own person who is almost guaranteed to dig us deeper into it.
We have three frontline candidates that have emerged in the contest. By coincidence, they come from each of the three regions that Nigeria inherited after independence, East, North and West. Is your prayer that the best man wins or that your man wins? May the Almighty in His infinite mercy continue to bless Nigeria and shield it from the machinations of identity warriors selling divisive narratives to keep our country poor, disunited, and weak.
Ogbuagu Anikwe: The world understands Nigeria better