Giant Of Africa, My Foot

by Patrick Okigbo

Please hear me out because I have to say this before my heart explodes with grief.

One of my earlier childhood memories is of my grandmother, Oliaku, reprimanding me (in her halting English) that “a fool at forty is a fool forever”. I am not sure if she understood that as a teenager, I still had ways to go before turning 40. However, her quick tongue made me vow that when I turn 40, I would be far from a fool. I doubt if Nigeria was fortunate enough to have such a dutiful guardian. Recently I received an email on the 2004 UN Human Development Index that ranked Nigeria 151 out of 177 countries. As I clicked on the email to open it, the first thought that crept into my head was “a fool at 40 is a fool forever”.

To seek morbid consolation from the fact that Nigeria – Giant of Africa – performed better than at least 26 countries, I quickly went to the end of the list to see the least performing countries. Giant of the Africa, we truly are because of the 26 countries we beat, only 2 are not on the African soil: Haiti and East Timor. Giant of Africa!

I decided to see how many African countries were in the Top 20: NONE. Top 40: NONE. Top 60: Ok, one – Libya. LIBYA??? No! How can a pariah state that has suffered trade embargoes over the last decade perform better than the 6th largest producer of oil? Haba! It is not possible. I look at the Top 80: one more African country- Mauritius! Mauri-gini? Who is Mauritius? Who is their father? Do they have a Zik of Africa or a Pa Awo or a Sarduana? No! There must be something wrong with this ranking.

I continue down the list and looked at the Top 100. Surely, there must be more African countries in this bracket. Heart-broken, I realize that there is just one more: Tunisia. Ok, I know Tunisia – soccer! Africa Nations Cup. But what else is in Tunisia? How can they perform better than Nigeria – Giant of Africa? May be they made more than “$12.6 Billion windfall” during Gulf War I? There must be something wrong with this ranking.

I was about to delete the email because surely the UN must be lying, however, I decided to look further down the list. I checked the Top 120 countries and I see 5 more African countries. I am happy for South Africa yet sad that a nation that just emerged from apartheid the other day is ranked higher than the Giant of Africa. But among this group are Cape Verde, Algeria, and Equitorial Guinea. Now, how is this possible? May be these countries decided to build a new stadium in their Abuja while their schools do not have libraries and their hospitals do not have drugs. Yes, that must be why they performed better than Nigeria.

At this stage, I am really convinced that something is criminally wrong with this ranking. So I decide to look at the countries within Nigeria’s bracket (140-151). Isn’t it sad that a country like Pakistan (most corrupt nation on earth) is higher than Nigeria on the HDI? I guess even in the midst of their corruption, they still find it in their hearts to show compassion on their people.

I wonder whose Giant we really are when 24 African countries rank higher than us on the index. Amongst these 24 countries are countries at war (Sudan, Uganda, etc); nations under dictatorships (Togo, Zimbabwe); nations we laughed at in the past (Ghana – of the Ghana Must Go saga, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, etc). Something has gone seriously wrong in Nigeria. Meanwhile as our house burns, half of us are chasing rodents, while the other half are in a daze, sleep walking like zombies.

I will not even look at the other countries that are ahead of Nigeria on this ranking. And before you think that they are all “developed nations”, note that Cuba is ahead of us too (despite their trade embargoes). Even the “Banana Republics” are all ahead of us too. Palestine, Israel, Lebanon all better than Nigeria. Croatia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Western Samoa. Brothers and sisters, a fool at forty is a fool forever. The only person worse than a fool is a fool who does not know that he is a fool. Giant of Africa, my foot.

Before you pass judgment on me, let me quickly add that I have not given up on Nigeria, but I think it is time we woke up from this slumber to realize that we are sliding deeper and deeper into this abyss. It is time we said enough is enough. Like the activist of old, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”. We all have to do something to stop this rot or generations yet unborn will never find it in their hearts to forgive us.

Thanks for letting me vent.

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Ephraim February 7, 2006 - 6:19 pm


It is easy for many of you to sit abroad in the white man's land and yab Nigeria, what are you doing about it. You talk about vision Nigeria-more than a year ago, I had a discussion with someone who saw my passion and introduced me to vision Nigeria. I got only one email from Patrick or someone in the organisation and that was all. I think we set up these pseudo organisations sometimes just to attract attention without real, meaningful and practical agenda for change. Its "our" fathers, brothers and uncles that raped Nigeria and many who pour vituperation on Nigeria benefiting from the produce of such stolen wealth. In the countries were we sojourn lets become true ambassadors, then lets come home and contribute rather than "venting" from afar. For those still in Nigeria, lets all do a soul searching and CHANGE OUR WAYS- how many shouting today are truly not guilty directly or indirectly of conrtibuting to the perpetuation of a culture of corruption and wrong ways of doing things. Lets search ourselves!!1 welcome reactions to through my email


H20 April 10, 2005 - 1:08 am

WE NEED A REVOLUTION. A large scale civil disobedience as a COLLECTIVE — all of us must support it, be part of it. Our brightest and best from around the world MUST lend their voice to it and not behave as if it does not concern them. Enough is enough!!!

III April 8, 2005 - 7:22 pm

There is a group known as VISIONigeria that has begun to do something about the Nigerian problem.

VISIONigeria is a group of young Nigerian professionals who are constructively dissatisfied with the way Nigeria has turned out and are constantly looking for wasys to make positive contributions to building a new Nigeria.

For more information on VISIONigeria, please send a mail to


sk April 8, 2005 - 7:05 pm

I read ur article and if it’s true then we really need to do something, fair enough, we all say “we really need to do something” but how do we proceed.

I am embarrassed.. CUBA! and did u mention PAKISTAN?! (shock horror) u most be kidding.

V April 8, 2005 - 11:01 am

It is ok to vent. But the question still remains.. What can be done to move Nigeria in a positive direction???


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