By Lekan Fatodu
Its flaws and foibles notwithstanding, Nigeria is a country of great promise and enterprising citizens. As such, many illustrious and hardworking Nigerians wouldn’t miss any opportunity to showcase their worth and the glory of their country; and to also correct many stereotypes and prejudices about Nigeria and her citizens living in different parts of the world. Not a few rather ignorant foreigners have had wrong perceptions of Nigeria and Nigerians for quite a while. In fact, the distasteful acts of some Nigerians have been the fuel that keeps the fire of such gross misconceptions burning. That said, for some Nigerians, it is obligatory to stand for the integrity of their homeland wherever and whenever. Inspiringly, that’s exactly the duty a reputed London-trained lawyer, businesswoman and founder of Terra Kulture, Ms. Bolanle AustenPeters, placed on all of us a couple of weeks ago.
This happened around the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Nigeria, which prompted Austen-Peters’ invitation to a BBC radio programme hosted by John Humphrys, veteran British broadcast journalist and BBC presenter, to discuss the significance of the trip to a former colony. Together with another guest, Ben Okri, also a Nigerian, Austen-Peters established that there has been a disconnect between Britain and Nigeria. According to her, there has been no relationship at all between the two countries, despite colonial history and the Commonwealth, which she said doesn’t bring privileges in terms of trade with or in terms of immigration to Nigeria.
Humphrys, known for his strong political views, would not agree with Austen-Peters’ perspective, which he assumed wasn’t really kind to the British. He then suggested that the Nigerian businesswoman return to Nigeria, assuming that Austen-Peters was resident in the UK. But to Humphrys’ astonishment, the reputable Nigerian female filmmaker responded in a way a superior would enlighten and offer knowledge to someone going about with an illusion of intelligence. “I’m on vacation, yes. I’m on vacation and I certainly don’t want to live here. Absolutely, I’m here on vacation. And I do a lot here, I bring my plays to London. We have a culture that is very vibrant and very rich and we are people who are very proud. “For some reason, we have a legacy that we cannot erase, a relationship with the British Empire or as it were. The truth is if you have a relationship with somebody, you would expect that you would have mutual respect and you would have mutual understanding for the needs of those people. But I think that along the line something broke. “If Britain wants to come back, we are willing to welcome them, but it has to be in a meaningful way, and it has to be in a way that encourages growth on both sides”. Unsurprisingly, not even the apology of the loose-tongued host could prevent Austen-Peters from standing up for her country and her people and delivering that profound message. To many Nigerians, home and abroad, AustenPeters’ remarkable presentation on such a global information platform marked another moment to feel proudly Nigerian, and get inspired to be better.