“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Nigerians are a funny people; we worry too much. We worry about our country, our economy, our president, our first ladies, our family, we even worry about ourselves. Recently, the new kinds of worry Nigerians have been having is a worry of having a bad name. Bad name; can you imagine? Nigerians are worried of bad publicity on the world stage. We are worried about a two hour CNN program; we are worried about how our politicians cower to the power that play on the world stage; we are worried about other countries perceiving us as weak, corrupt or simply criminals. What is there to worry about?
Bad news and Nigerians are almost like synonyms; it will always be safe to assume that whenever Nigeria or Africa pops up on any media screen, nine out of ten times it is for one bad news or the other. In fact, my own country particularly has mastered the act of snatching bad news from the mouths of good news. Case in point is the Miss World debacle; of course, after giving the world Ms. Darego the best way we could consolidate our position on the world map was to go on killing and rioting rampage to commemorate this great event one year after. What a country! Another sorry trend between the western media, Nigeria and invariably Africa is the penchant for both sides to engage in what I call journalistic jingoism. What else can we call New York Times an influential yet widely derided newspaper (at least by the Republicans in power in Washington DC) and Fani Kayode exchanging words? New York Times is obviously seeking relevance on Nigerian issues (call it some street cred) and Fani Kayode was getting free international air time. Period.
Many have whined, others have written of the deleterious effects of bad media on Africa but few have hardly scratched the surface of truth. The truth is it does not matter what the world thinks about us. None of the facts presented by the media in any shape or form can be said to be a blatant lie that was only a product of their imagination. Before you scream blue murder – is the fact that quite more than a few Nigerians are dubious and cut corners really a fable? Please and please, is the famine and unmanaged disaster brewing in Niger and Somalia a managed lie or an exaggerated truth? Is the activities of a power drunk, senile dictator President Mugabe of Zimbabwe a choreographed antics of BBC or CNN? Fact remains, that Vice President’s Atiku and his Ghanaian counterpart’s involvement in the US Congressman bribery scandal is not in anyway a news to the pedestrian Nigerian or the avowed new day haters of CNN who many times have called for the head of the Vice President for corrupt practices and his resignation for disloyalty or being unpatriotic as they might call it.
While you might hate to hear it, the work of laundering Nigeria’s image is not that of the Nigerian Embassy or should it be the favorite cuisine of the western media or their audience. What the media presents is news, glamour and entertainment. You obtain glamour and entertainment from news by exaggerating it. Just watch Fox News on a typical evening and you will realize it is no miracle CNN is being rendered only as the cable network of choice for colorless, old and haggard retirees or political honchos of the liberal leaning. People with blood gushing in their veins will either go for Fox or their liberal hoarse shouting and adrenaline oozing cousins: CNBC or MSNBC depending of course on whether you think Jim Cramer is a mad man. It is a well known fact that before the advent of military rule in Nigeria and well into the early eighties Nigerians were a respected bunch in the world. We traveled to Europe, America and even USSR with little or no immigration hassles.
Try to fly to Ghana today and the Ghanaian immigration officer will grill you as if you are a WAEC resit candidate begging for handouts. That is the nature of our country. Talking of Ghana, I am curious if any commentator will accuse the Ghanaian press of racism or bad press over the latest news of Nigerian final year students recently expelled for cultism in University of Kumasi or Legon? That is your country for you; we take our madness to the hilt and destroy our name and the moment the media picks on it or us (since we are such an easy target), then we begin to cry over split milk. You my friend reading this, how many times have you attempted to smuggle Oporoko smoked fish across US Immigration in your way back from vacation in Nigeria? How many times have you failed to properly declare all you had and lied on the declaration form? Think, think very hard.
Nigerians are not in any way in a unique position. Years back, Ghanaians were distrusted as fraudsters and criminals. Even Nigerians had the nerve to kick them out of their country accusing them of armed robbery and being undercover agents for criminals while they go about their shoe cobbling business. But twenty years later the reverse is the case. Ghanaians are respected and they are even going to the world cup! I have a right to lament over our absence from the Mundial my friend. What of China and Taiwan? These places were known for manufacturing everything fake from electronics to drugs with poor quality. But today, there is hardly any conglomerate of international repute that does not have a made in China product. Is it your I-pod or your laptop, chances are that they are Chinese products. What of the Irish? Highly distrusted among their European brothers for one too many crimes, today their economy is booming and people are ready to cross the British straits to land Irish citizenship even at the cost of their lives. The question is what changed?
What changed was the people were ready to clean up their act and take responsibility. What changed was that Ghanaians were tired of having bad names and righted their behavior in and outside the country. What changed was that change started like charity from home. What changed was that the people of China or India did not care what the media thought about them. They cared rather what they thought about themselves. These countries including Ireland saw a new country born out of the old with new attitudes towards citizenship both as a citizen of their respective countries and a citizen of the world. What changed was that people became more interested in how their nation’s were ran and change it from the smallest unit i.e. the family. Not until Nigerians put the job of laundering our own image rightly into our own hands we will continue to whine in vain and throw surreptitious pity parties over the internet while the world feed on our madness and irritable stupidity for time immemorial. The time to change is now, and the person to change is you; when you change, then the world is bound to notice because good news will outsell bad news any day- at least for those who care to listen.