On The Greatness of Nigeria

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Below are excerpts from a post on the social media pushing a counter proposition that Nigeria is a ‘great’ country. It is unique in the respect that it seeks to controvert the premise on which the international community and the overwhelming majority of Nigerians think so poorly of Nigeria. In a manner of speaking, it is intended as positive propaganda for Nigeria and will find companionship in the new tradition being set by public communication proxies of President Donald Trump of the United states, called ‘alternative facts’. There is however a qualitative superiority to the Trump tradition-all the citations made to support this propaganda effort are factual and verifiable.

“I cannot help but copy and share this. I’m proud to be a Nigerian. A Russian saw me in my office and said where are you from, I said am from the greatest country in the world. He looked at me with a very strange look and said let me guess you are from Nigeria, I said yes. Out of curiosity he said considering what’s happening in your country now why would you say she’s the best in the world and I asked him to sit down and let me tell him what he and most people don’t not know about Great Nigeria and I told him these”…….

“Are you aware that all over the world Nigerians are setting the pace and becoming the standard by which others measure themselves? Do you know that in the US, Nigerians are the most educated immigrant community. Type it into Google and you’ll see it. Not one of the most educated, the most educated. 60% of Nigerians in the US have college degrees. This is far above the American national average of 30%. Nigerians in US are one of the highest earners, typically earning 25% more than the median US income of $53k”.

“In Ivy League schools in Europe and America, Nigerians routinely outperform their peers from other nations. A Nigerian family, The Imafidon family, have officially been named the smartest family in the UK. The designer of the famous car, Chevrolet Volt, Jelani Aliyu, is a super talented Nigerian from Sokoto State. The World’s fastest supercomputer was designed by a world renowned inventor and scientist, Philip Emeagwali, a full-blown Nigerian whose patency was awarded in 2015.

“The wealthiest Black man and woman on earth are Nigerians, Aliko Dangote and Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija. Both have no trace of criminal records of any kind. South Africa couldn’t have ended apartheid & achieved Black rule if not for the leadership role Nigeria played. Of the 3 South African Presidents who ruled after apartheid, two of them once lived in Nigeria under asylum. Both Nelson Mandela (60s) and Thabo Mbeki (70s) lived in Nigeria before becoming President of South Africa. We gave financial support, human support, boycotted an Olympics and our politicians, musicians and activists campaigned relentlessly.

“Nigeria spent over $3 Billion and lost hundreds of soldiers to end the wars in both Liberia and Sierra Leone which the world ignored because they have no oil. When there was a coup in São Tomé and Príncipe in 2003, Nigeria restored the elected President back to power. Before there were street lights in European cities, ancient Benin kingdom had street lights fueled by palm oil. 500 years ago, Benin casted metal alloys to create magnificent art including the world famous Queen Ida Mask. Amina was a warrior queen who ruled Zaria Emirate in Kaduna state, Northwestern Nigeria 400 years ago in 1610. Google and see what she means to Africa”.

“We gave monetary gifts to Ireland during our oil boom and built a statue for France free of charge. We are not poor blacks. Nigeria is rich and don’t be lied to. The first television station in Africa was NTA Ibadan (1960) long before Ireland has their RTE station………Wherever you look in this great country, Nigeria, heroes/heroines abound both now and in our recent and ancient past. If all you do is listen to mainstream Western media, you’ll not get the full and true picture of your Nigerian heritage.

“We’re not a nation of scammers, drugs and corruption, but a people with a verifiable track record of greatness…….. On the 7th of May, 2016 at Howard University in Washington D.C history was made. Out of 96 graduating Doctor of Pharmacy candidates, 43 of them were Nigerians and out of 27 awards given, 16 went to Nigerians. The entire world still envies our uniqueness as a NATION, living together despite our ethnic diversity. One single country with over 400 languages. ..
“If you don’t blow your trumpet, no one will blow it for you. There are over 180,000,000 Nigerians world over and only about 250,000 of this figure have traceable criminal records. This is about 0.14% of our entire national population in the last 20 years: nothing close to 1%”.I am proud am created a Nigerian, thank you God. …. God bless Federal Republic Of Great Nigeria”. Courtesy… Adako-Lemese Mayowa

MY RESPONSE:
The singular trend that runs through this political evangelism and exhortation to pride and patriotism is the externalisation of Nigeria’s greatness-extrapolated from the mostly individual and communal accomplishments of Nigerians in the diaspora. The question then arises as-to what extent is it valid to attribute and appropriate this phenomenon as the achievement of Nigeria and what is the utility of this observation for a honest and critical accounting of contemporary Nigerian development history?

Our first contention is that the greatness being cited here is not produced by Nigeria. It is a product of the modernisation effect of the societies to which individual Nigerians have relocated and repatriated. It is a product of assimilation, adaptation and positive response to the development stimulus abounding in those foreign societies. There is also the contributory factor of what Jide Osuntokun elsewhere conceptualised as the ‘immigrant drive hostility syndrome’. It is illustrated as the extra motivation and achievement consciousness that generally drive and compel immigrants to put in the extra efforts in their desperate quest for success; to perceive success and failure in zero sum terms- in all or nothing, no margin for error starkness.

The most critical factor at the root of development is the prevalent value and social ethos on which citizen behaviour is predicated as (for instance) originally propounded by Max Webber in ‘the spirit of capitalism and the protestant ethic’. The corollary here is that unlike those foreign societies whose values and positive incentive system predispose Nigerians in diaspora to succeed, it is difficult to imagine how Nigeria can progress heedless of the inhibitory values prevalent therein- notably the displacement of the work and productivity ethic by the consumption culture and national indifference to the norm of finding illumination in the guiding light of the scientific imagination.
The unique success profile of Nigerians in the diaspora is amenable to generational classification and interpretation- comprising the Baby boomers, Generation X and the Millennials. The baby boomers and Generation X are the cohorts (generation groups) consisting of those who were born from 1946 to 1964 and from the early 1960s to early 1980s whilst the Millenials reference the cohort born between 1982 and 2004.

The majority of Nigerians in the diaspora belonging in the first two generation groups were mentally acculturated to a Nigeria tradition that was still relatively work ethic/modernisation oriented before their emigration. This was the enabling background to the seamless adaption to their new environment. Their Millenials counterparts, especially the successful ones, are mostly Nigerians who were born in their adopted foreign societies by Nigerian immigrant parents. It follows that their socialisation and acculturation are prescribed and dictated by the cultural values and social ethos of their countries of their birth.

Until probably 1980, Nigerian standards were largely comparable to the average universal standard owing to the fact that there was still a relatively operative positive correlation between productivity and reward; between hard work and progress. And it is not a coincidence that the erosion of this development oriented culture corresponds to the destruction of federalism in Nigeria. The success of federalism in Nigeria was implied in the National development success undergirded by the spirit of the competitive modernisation of the first republic-among the four regions. This positive rivalry and peer pressure was mostly discernible in the relationship between the Eastern and Western regions.

Yes the Northern region was lagging behind but the regional leaders sought to grapple with this challenge rather than shy away from it. And it was in palpable subscription to the development ethic, that the region sought to create a space and pace for the attainment of comparable modernisation. Notwithstanding the educational disparity, the wish of the Northern region to remain part of Nigeria was predicated on two premises. The first was the shared willingness and disposition to continue and thrive in the tradition of the legacy of the western modernisation development model bequeathed by the British colonialists. The second premise was the preservation of a regional comfort zone and autonomous space to chart the pace of regional development undisturbed by extra regional interventions.

The other regions might have arrived at a similar memorandum of understanding through a different route but this was the formulation of Nigerian federalism that was given force and effect in the independence constitution. The success of these three regions was the success of Nigeria and events thereafter would prove the verity that within the context of Nigeria, development can neither be imposed nor decreed from the top. Correspondingly, the poster boy failure of the thirty six liability states equals the failure of Nigeria.

The first casualty of the destruction of federalism in Nigeria was the spirit of competitive modernisation rivalry among Nigerians. The post-civil war unitary ideology of equalisation/unity and stability unwittingly generated the restructuring of Nigeria into a structural abnormality in which socio economic development was no longer a priority focus in the creation of states; a restructuring that has fostered the transformation of Nigeria from a functional society founded on the work and productivity ethic into a dysfunctional polity undermined by the permeation and suffusion of the consumption culture syndrome-economic free fall and political instability fuelled by corruption and impunity.