There is a great temptation for me to challenge the widely held notion that the United States of America is the greatest country on earth. I actually think that title should be for Nigeria. Somewhere I hear laughter and looks of incredulity at my statement, but I have no apologies for saying so. I am not going to go into drawing comparisons to prove my statement, but I know that what makes a people great is not its leaders, but it is actually its people. There is a commonly held belief in Nigeria that if you go anywhere in Nigeria, no matter how remote the place, and you do not find anyone of Igbo extraction in the area, it is not a place you should stay. I daresay therefore, that if you go to any country in the world, no matter the continent, and you do not find any Nigerian there, then it is not going to be worth your while being in that country. With about 300 ethnic tribes and over 520 languages spoken, Nigeria is the most diverse nation in modern Africa and its people have learnt to live together albeit with great effort.
The Nigerian spirit is seen in the doggedness of the average Nigerian to succeed in whatever task he undertakes to eke out a living. Innovation is our name. Our music shows it, our food elucidates it, our fashion flaunts it, our lifestyle tells it. We are a proud people, proud in that heritage. As the most populous black nation on earth, you cannot dismiss us. We have sat at every table in the world, no matter how lofty, in science, in literature, in sports, in industry, in entertainment, in politics, and though regrettably most noted, in crime.
Nigeria and Nigerians always seek to be respected whenever they appear, and it is a genuine demand because of what we often bring to the table. However, Nigeria’s greatest undoing has been leadership. Recently, someone made a very funny comment to me and said, “see, since Nigeria has been so blessed by God not to suffer devastating natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, etc., like some great countries we know, He gave us our own natural disasters in the form of our leaders.” It left me reeling in laughter. “Dem no dey know finish” like the average Nigerian will say, was my reply to him. So in spite of Boko Haram, banditry, kidnappings, corruption, police brutality, great stories abound of Nigeria and Nigerians every day and everywhere that are never told. I come back to my earlier position; Nigeria is the greatest nation on earth, snigger all you want. What nation exists with so much contradiction but yet is still standing? What people have been so often traumatised, yet so proud? What nation has been so plundered, yet still brimming with potential? It can be considered a paradox, difficult to comprehend. Still it blooms. I choose to celebrate Nigeria.
The labours of our heroes’ past shall never be in vain. So, no matter what the Americans say or what the world believes, I believe that Nigeria is the greatest nation on the planet. The ayes have it! Hahaha!!
Dodeye Arikpo, Abuja