Loving Nigerians, Just The Way We Are?

by Joy Bewaji

There are several things that can keep you miserable about Nigeria. Like our epileptic power supply – after eight long years of democratic delight, the bad roads that kill people daily, poor facilities that dwindles productivity, I guess we can name a hundred more…

But I’d like to take a big break from being the pessimist so as not to sound like a broken-record, and see some of the things that seem to be ‘working’ in our country. I mean, there’s hardly any land that doesn’t have it’s bonuses. Surely, if you think hard enough, you can come up with a lot of ‘goodies’ that can happen only in this part of the world.

So would you oblige me the pleasure of taking you through this merry trip?

Let’s start with our ceremonies, a typical wedding event. There’s no country that can boast of flamboyant weddings like Nigerians. It’s amazing how two individuals whose combined income will amount to something as ridiculous as sixty thousand naira (monthly) would be able to host a grand wedding lavished with assorted food and meat, drinks, liquor, and creams in an out-of-this world auditorium that can make the queen of England go green with envy. If you go hungry on a Saturday, it may well be your fault. Nigerian weddings are an all-comers affair. No invitation is needed and there’s no gate fee; so you can leisurely walk into any hall nearby and join the happy crowd. You neither need to know who the groom nor the bride is. And for just attempting to look sober and properly dressed, you’d be treated to all the meals available- no brows will raise in suspicion. Isn’t that heavenly?

I have heard of the strangest things happening in places like America, where siblings do not set eyes on each other for years and they live streets apart! That can never happen in Nigeria. Over here, we do not only mingle freely with our loved ones, we even adopt ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ who we have no blood relationship with but are fortunate to have met through providence. These ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ always turn out to be very rich and generous. We simply stick around them like magnet to steel and help out in every minor detail. Once in a while these bighearted uncles and aunts are glad to grease our palms with those colourful notes that would keep anyone happy for a long time.

The whole idea of informing a relative before visiting their home is totally ridiculous to a Nigerian. How do you ‘collect’ permission from your brother before you can see your little nephew and niece? It’s unthinkable. Everyone is part of every other person’s life. And if at all you try to show some western traits by demanding your mother posts a mail or your brother calls before coming for the weekend, you’d stand out like a sore thumb and be made to repent from your sinful ways.

Isn’t it blissful to live in a place like Lagos? Apart from the comic relief you get with the ‘area boys’, Lagos is like having a four year old child in a room full of his favourite toys and chocolate and TV all to himself- complete paradise! Anything goes in Lagos. You can just alight from your vehicle in broad daylight and decide to ease yourself right beside your car in traffic jam!

Around here, you can park your car just about anywhere. There’s no way in hell a policeman will give you a ticket (ok maybe that’s stretching it too far considering the role of LASTMA). But what’s a ticket anyway? In Nigeria the only tickets we are used to are those for a show where you’d have Tuface, Modenine, and Basket mouth performing. Good ticketing if you ask me.

It’s amazing how many people bother to go to school in Nigeria. I mean what’s the point anyway? They all go to school, graduate, and cannot differentiate a triangle from a rectangle. Mediocrity reigns supreme on our shores. It’s okay for a twenty-five year old lady to have no ambition but that of dreaming of settling down with Mr. Right. No one’s going to make her feel like her life isn’t directed towards anywhere. It’s really alright for a thirty year old male to wake up every morning analyzing the country with his neighbours till dusk. Nobody bothers him for not making any attempt to do something (else) with his life.

Right here you can perch with your parents for as long as you want. We do not have the ‘above 18’ clause hanging over our heads. A healthy guy at thirty-five can still decide to stay in his father’s house and no one’s going to show him the exit door as long as he remains daddy’s good boy.

While youths in places like the United States break their backs with multiple jobs while studying for a degree, over here being a student is a fulltime employment. You are not expected to try anything else except concentrate on your studies. And with all the strikes and delays in our institutions, some people can spend three decades on earth without ever having to make a dime for themselves.

Ah! This one right here is one of the biggest reasons why we love being Nigerians: isn’t it incredible how Nigerians become celebrities with many houses scattered all over the world, fleet of cars, and no one knows or bothers to question what they do for a living? It must be sheer bliss to be a fraudster in a land where all they care about is the acquisition and display of wealth and not in the source of such wealth.

I hear in other countries even churches are probed and men of God are made to account for any form of extraordinary ostentatious lifestyle. Here in Nigeria, a man of God owns the souls of his congregation and if anyone dares to question how he came about the Mercedes E-class in his garage (considering the fact that he has no job except that of shepherding God’s people), such a person will have the rest of the church members label him the Anti-Christ.

There’s no better place to be a woman than in Nigeria. In some places women are expected to do so much. They are turned into breadwinners while their husbands sit on their lazy behinds giving orders; in some other places women have too many rights. If your husband upsets you, you can call the cops and demand he be arrested. In Nigeria, we may not have the liberty to get our men arrested (you wish!), but at least we are allowed to be dull, helpless, and useless without a man. It’s soothing being a Nigerian woman, all you need to wish for is a husband and many children. Nobody is going to worry you over getting a job, or going to school, or even learning a skill. You’d be surprised how many women fantasize with this idea, life couldn’t be better!

As a Nigerian man, you can have as many wives as you want (did I just hear you scream in delight?). You may be charged for bigamy in most parts of the world, but on this soil, you reign as king for acquiring as many wives as you desire. The traditional marriage ceremony makes this eternally possible.

Surely you must admit it is liberating being a Nigerian- no winter that wrinkles and freezes your ears; no hurricanes that lives you homeless, no guns in your neighbours’ compartment that can be used to threaten or blow your head off if you create a nuisance; no regulations as to where and when you can hold an ‘owambe’ party; no serious competition in any sector- anybody dogged enough to make it surely will; no self-discipline- a lot of factors (remember the ‘no light’, ‘no good roads’ factors?) makes excuses a part of our lives.

So, are you excited, or is your head buried in shame? If all of this is just a big laugh to you, then I’m sorry for you. But if it gives you cause to worry, then I guess you are one of the few who may just bring about a change (no matter how little) in our deplorable society. We have to learn to do things the right way. Stand for what is right; and it may well start with the coming elections- vote for the right candidates. Do not sell your vote and your dignity for a few naira notes or empty promises. Do what is right in the sight of God and man. Our dream Nigeria is all in our hands – let’s make it work.

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ejiro February 26, 2007 - 2:29 pm

my people una try ..abey lets continue to talk about our high and low,for me it simply brings out my sense of respect for my fellow nigrians…and when i do go home to visit it only makes me humble when i see young men and women still expecting allowance from popsie or momsie they are simply living their nigerian life as they know it ..it very well could have been me. where there is life there is hope GOD BLESS.

enitanmason@gmail.com February 21, 2007 - 6:05 am

Someone once said something like this – The further away you are from the problem, the more optimistic you are. Another person said something about the truth being bitter. I am certain the author of this article is Nigerian and does not seek to malign or discredit Nigeria for personal entertainment. Let's not shoot the messenger. Anyway I recently returned from yet another extended – 2 month – trip to Nigeria. Hope that gives me some credibility.

While there is no perfect place on this universe as far as I know, America with all its shortcomings affords THOSE OF US WHO FOUND A WAY OUT TO STRIVE FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM a much greater opportunity to thrive and hopefully to reach back into Nigeria in a productive way.

Yes. There are many things that should cause us to feel great shame as Nigerians; not shame for BEING NIGERIANS. Our decaying society DOES NOT in any way diminish the good that some Nigerians do.

However, it is that opportunity to bring that which is deplorable about our society to the attention of the public at large with the hopes of seeking improvement that marks the beginning of change.

Furthermore, we all like to believe that every member of our family is an upright and outstanding citizen but when we look very closely and very honestly, we may find that our world is not as perfect as we'd like to believe. Yes. We are not all peas in a pod.

It is important to credit our individual parents/ families. Truth be spoken, it is what we as a people COLLECTIVELY hand down to the next generation that creates its foundation.

Not everyone will find Mr. or Mrs. Right. One mans wonderfully perfect child may end up as the spouse of another mans outrageously imperfect child in spite of the best efforts of a family! Its far better for us to work together than to quibble over fine points.

Life is just like a box of Chocolates, you'll never know what you're gonna get. — Forrest Gump

Opeyemi February 20, 2007 - 3:49 pm

While I do not completely agree with you, I must concur there will continue to be social deviants who take their liberties in public, Vagabonds in Power who rub their ill gotten gains in peoples faces, the slothful idle who will never physically do anything but will have that sense of entitlement- the world owes me attitude is more than a chip on the shoulder. In other areas I must take up for my comrades in arms

Weddings- Id better be the envy HRH Margaret if my larger than life Nigerian family bands together to throw a lavish affair. My bottom line ceases to be an issue. Family works for me.

Permissiveness- Time is valuable to me and I would hope to you as well. Youd better find out if your niece and nephew are home before you venture out and Id love to know when you are coming so I dont take them out. Not all siblings are like peas in a pod.

Run of the mill- I think Nigerians as a whole are one of the most intelligent groups on the face of this earth. How is it that doctors that have limited training go overseas and excel in institutions there? Our standard in mathematics, sciences, language arts etc are far above the levels of our peers in some western civilizations. All this flourishing in less than ideal conditions for developing minds. Higher education has failed generation X so yes we will spend time talking about the Vagabonds excuse me Very Important People who have diverted our destinies for their own gain. After all thats the only thing on my mind.

Failure to Launch- Is Nigeria really ready for a slew of 25-30 yr olds living on their own. There is neither the infrastructure nor the gall to afford such liberation. Think about it a min. Images in movies like Girls Cot come to mind. They society is already in a death spiral toward a Sodom and Gomorrah-esque end why speed it up to a crash landing.

9 to 5- In an ideal setting I would be able to choose my own schedule at Unilag, navigate bus schedules and or traffic to get to my 1st job which might be at Mile 12, Ikorodu, Lagos Island or Mushin and then on to my second job in Apapa, Ikoyi, Yaba or wherever. All the time praying I do not meet with armed robbers, mami market operatives or Arigh Sa/Area boys on my way home to Lekki oh and that exam I have to study for will be done by candle light… hmmmmm

Stepford Wives- I mourn for you that your experience of a Nigerian woman has been the one you described. Thank God for the matriarchal trailblazers in my family. In no way can the word dull be used to describe grandmothers, aunties, daughters, wives, and sisters I grew up with. My ambition is to marry Mr. Right as opposed to what Mr. Wrong. There are many women who while they dont work outside the home are assets to their husbands in a wide variety of ways. I would take a stay at home mom with pennies and no education who nurtured me over an absentee daddy war bucks any day. I think that paragraph of yours grieved me the most.

I will never bury my head in shame for being a Nigerian. While I am not a champion of the It is what it is brigade, I cant abide by people who knock experiences they havent lived. For the 99.99999999999% of Nigerians who are making it the only way they know how the reality of their lives are not excuses. Until a whole generations mentality can be wiped out Nigeria will never move on from the deplorable situation we find our motherland in.

As someone who found a way out to strive for the American Dream it ain't all cracked up as its made out to be. There are social miscreants everywhere. Some countries have a better way of hiding them. The aftermath of hurricane Katrina showed that even in so called developed countries they still have those cousins that will be a repraoch to you in public. Selah… Opeyemi

enitanmason@gmail.com February 18, 2007 - 10:33 am

I don't know about the marry or die thing. Marriage is a sport for the fierce and ferocious. It is not about dying if you don't make it happen for you. It is about how many marriages you can successfully wreck as you seek to get your financial needs met. This goes for both men and women.

In Nigeria, from my observation, marriage has become a heightened and costly survival tactic. It's not about procreation. It's not about having all your physical needs met in one place. It's about temporarily securing ones meal ticket and financial connections through a channel that is tolerable for an unspecified length of time until either spouse finds a better opportunity … or victim.

If you have other ideas about marriage stay out of the demolition derby game. Look for your spouse elsewhere. Your talk about love, commitment and the future might get you laughed out of town. Nicole Smith like girls do best in the Nigeria of today.

Aisha February 18, 2007 - 1:39 am

Wow, i really thought you were going to outline "good" stuff about Nigeria, and I eagerly clicked thee link. It's sad. At the end of the day, is there anything good about Nigeria? We should be all be ashamed. What you write about the majority of Nigerian women is true: sole ambition: MARRY or die. Sad


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