Why The Nigerian Project Must Succeed

by Nana Manu

As an avid soccer fan, I have always loved the use of the term “Project” when players and managers bloviate on the current incarnation of some famous FC (i.e., football club). It is much more impressive to have stars such as Didier Drogba proclaim their unyielding commitment to the project started by his new coach, Scolari. Very workmanlike!

So, why is it necessary for Nigeria to be great? Let me answer this from the point of view of a fellow African (Ghanaian). The answer may surprise you!

When Africans, including Ghanaians, dwell on Nigeria’s prospects, there is usually agreement on the need for Nigerian greatness. The oft cited reasons for such boosterism are as follows.

There are a lot of Nigerians! They dominate the African population charts. In fact, they make up a large percentage of the total black population worldwide. Going by the numbers then, in order for Africans and Africa to prosper, we need Nigerians to make good.

The other reason why Africans, especially those close geographically to Nigeria, fervently wish for prosperity and peace in Gide is the hope that Nigerians will be happy enough with their homeland and stay home. Given the numbers involved and the perceptions of the baggage that accompany Nigerian sojourners, most neighbors of Nigeria are uneasy at the thought of increased refugee flows across their borders.

Now it is all good and proper to militantly shout that Nigeria must prosper for Africa to prosper in order for Africa to progress. Such sloganeering has a nice idealistic ring to it and tickles my pan-African fancy. But then I sober up and a somewhat subversive feeling wells up in me. If Nigeria cannot find the will or ability to do the right thing by its own citizens, why should one dream or expect it to do the right thing by folks outside of its borders? As the saying goes, charity begins at home.

As for the politically incorrect feelings of wishing Nigeria and Nigerians stay home, one should never underestimate the instinct of self-preservation. When people feel swamped, they are apt to give into xenophobic feelings and there are no shortage of political leaders across the continent who see tapping into such ugly feelings as a surefire way to boost their careers. It is vitally important to manage inter-country flows of people so that we don’t get to the point where demagogues can find fertile ground for mischief. Again, you can dine with your neighbor but you will surely want to save your love for your own family.

To me the more positive reason for wishing success for Nigeria runs along less well traveled tracks. Nigeria is big in many respects: geographically, demographically, problematically etc. But what Nigeria has lacked to date is a big narrative or mythology that can be used to power the country forward in a united way. I believe fervently that such a “storyline” is essential in uniting the country together towards common goals and to achieve true broad-based development that significantly improves the lives of all citizens.

Given the intractability of the problems facing Nigeria, if it does manage to pull this project off, think about the inspiration it will provide to other African countries! Think about the possibilities for offering a proven mode of development for other African countries that is realistically grounded in the peculiarities of life in Mother Africa. That is why Nigeria must succeed in its own way and using its own vernacular. Success by “Big Brother” will illustrate the kind of mythology that should be kept in mind by other African countries who are looking to succeed too at the project of national development. Big country, big problems and now big results! That is what we need to invalidate the excuses offered by apologists trying to explain why so many years after independence, we are yet to see Africa taking care of Africans.

Net-net, if Gide can do it, then so can we and so shall we.

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Randy Asante October 27, 2008 - 11:55 am

Good article, Nana. Yes, we all need Nigeria to succeed. As a Ghanaian who has also lived and schooled in Nigeria, we have somewhat of a unique insight to the trials and tribulations of Nigeria.

“Niger”as we affectionately like to call our sister country is by no means a basket case. Most of the problems facing Nigeria today, of which unity is way up on the list, can be traced to the adoption of federalism by their and our colonial masters i.e. Britain. This system essentially divided the country into “countries” and we still see the remnants of that today. If a person in Ibadan or Lagos can refer to a person from Aba as a “foreigner”, then we have a problem. It also does’nt help that the country fought a civil war in the 60’s which in a historical context, is just yesterday. This further fractured the society. This has led to a lot of mistrust and as a result, every leader is seen as an extension of his tribe and as such, a chance to “right” the wrongs of another tribe’s leader. I have recently had very passionate arguments with Nigerian friends who are honestly convinced that the only way for Niger to succeed is to divide the country into three. Divide the country ? Which one you dey, oga ?? Are we going foward or backward.

– Yep, this is an old argument heard over and over again and it’s tired.

As in the rest of Africa, Niger’s problem is political, not economic. With successive rulers like Babaginda, Abacha, Obasanjo – all military men, and all from the same generation of army leaders it is not difficult to see the root of the problem.

What Niger needs is a transformational figure. A leader in the mold of a Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, a Kufuor in Ghana, a Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe – a Barack in America ? These are all leaders who are transformational figures. Nigeria needs a complete break from the past both in style and generation. Yar’adua is an extension of the past and of Obasanjo. We have more than enough capable, smart and worldly Nigerians to take over this role. Of course, it’s got to be done through the ballot box. There is no other avenue for changing leaders democratically, but this is when corruption rears it’s ugly head. The old guard pumps in money and the elections are influenced. We are then back to square one.

Nigeria is a great country and it’s people are the best, but they have become so distrustful of their leaders that nobody seems to be looking out for the COUNTRY.

I am reminded of a an experience I had one summer afternoon in 2006. The world cup was in full throttle and Ghana was due to play Brazil. As I walked along Park Avenue, looking for a place to get a little lunch, i run into this big guy wearing jeans and a T-shirt with BRAZIL written across it. Trying some braggadocio, i said to him – a total stranger – “Brazil is going to go down”. To which he replied – Yes Now !! (Nigerian accent noted) I thought to myself – Is this guy some Yoruba remnant who hails from Brazil ala slave trade or some mercenary ?? I asked him, “Where are you from ? ” He said Niger !! He asked me the same and I said Ghana. He gave me a bear hug and shouted “etesen” which in Twi, a Ghanaian language means “how are things ?” He continued ” Oga, the cop (cup – as in world cup) is cormmin’ to Africa this year !! I replied “naso” – yes, in fact. Of course it never happened.

Now this is a Ghanaian meeting a Nigerian, wearing a Brazilian shirt and speaking Twi in New York – go figure ! We should root for Nigeria with the same passion we Africans root for another African country in the World Cup.

A country with not one, but two GREENS in it’s flag can only GO !!

michael kwamena-poh October 26, 2008 - 9:59 am

Nana, excellent argument! Having lived in Niegeria for seven years and a fellow Ghanaian to boot I could not agree with you more.

I have always been intrigued by the question of Nigeria’s inability or incapability to advance its agenda and by extension that of Africa. If Nigeria uplifts, surrounding countries in the neighborhood and in Africa as a whole, will also be uplifted.

I remember back in the day when there was a ‘gold’ (oil boom) rush to Nigeria. I also remember when Nigerian athletes like Chidi Imoh and the late Dele Udoh and countless others made Africans proud.

Nigeria’s role in the economic and political well-being of Africa has been pronounced and effective. I remember countless times when Nigeria has raised her voice in Pan-African issues on the continent and its strong and resolute stand against Apartheid in South Africa.

Sadly today Nigeria’s voice has diminished largelÝ due to reduced economic and political clout brought on by a host of challenges, mostly inbred and internal.

I could go on and on; Nigeria has made us proud in the past and can do it again, for the sake of Africa and the world.

The ripple effect of a rebounding, economically resurgent and politically stable Nigeria would be tremendous, economically, politically and psychologically. Example is always one of the greatest motivators.

‘Up Nigya’


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