May Culture Not Be Vulture That Devours Us

May Culture Not Be Vulture That Devours Us

THE ALTERNATIVE

By Reno Omokri

The love of money is really destroying Nigeria at an alarming rate, and nobody seems to be noticing it, or doing anything substantial to address the situation. The aggressiveness with which some Nigerians pursue money is frightening. To them, it is the only object in life, and the end justifies the means.

And as long as we do not address the culture that feeds this money obsession, we will continue along this route and the end result may not be pleasant.

In some parts of Nigeria, a child is born and money must flow, or the parents are considered less than nothing in society. As the child grows, he or she sees money as the center of their parents and society’s life. And even when the cycle of life hands the baton to them as their parents die, money plays a bigger role than grief during the burial. And so, such communities emotionally script their young to almost worship money.

And the result is that they have become a society under siege from fraudsters, drug cartels, counterfeiters, kidnappers, ritualistic persons, and cut-throat Shylocks. You go to such places and there is no trust in the community. Anything that is not bolted down will be stolen.

I visited a particular geopolitical region, and for the first time in my life, I alarmingly saw petrol pumps with burglary proofs! I even saw electric transformers with anti-burglary devices. I felt like I was in an Orwellian dystopia controlled by criminal elements, and anyone who did not have such ‘sense’ is the odd man out.

You walk about and everybody is worldly-wise and their eyes are red hot for money. Nobody looks relaxed. Even children looked like they were already more worldly wise than I was.

I had gone to visit a friend there who lost a parent, and he was not home. I called, and understandably, he was not taking calls. So, I wanted to leave a note before returning to the Lake hotel I was staying at. I had paper, but no pen. I saw a chap walking by and asked if he had a pen, and he answered in the affirmative, but said he could only let me use it if I bought it! True story.

I was in Asia not long ago. There are too many Nigerians in various Asian prisons. Too many! Either drugs or fraud related. 100% of those I saw are Southerners. Mostly from, I won’t say where. I tried to help them, and I must commend the Cambodian government for allowing me to intervene. We must evolve our culture. Money at ANY cost makes us animals, not human beings!

I am quite close to the Ethiopian government. I have been to Ethiopia at least 16 times. Maybe more. When their government showed me their data of criminality allegedly committed by Nigerians, I shivered. If the allegations are true, a few of our brothers are almost heartless.

Because of their unique and unspoiled pure orthodox Christianity, many Ethiopians are innocent minded and impressionable. The complaint is that some Nigerian males meet an Ethiopian girl, make her fall in love with them. Buy tickets to somewhere in Asia for both of them.

On the way to the airport, they will pretend they have an emergency, and ask the innocent girl to go ahead of them, saying they will join her the next day. That next day, you will hear that the girl has been caught with drugs in Singapore, Malaysia, or Indonesia.

On that same flight, they will have their real girlfriend accomplice, who will go behind that innocent girl, and pass through unscathed, because the security men are preoccupied with the big fish they just caught.

They felt they had no choice but to shut out Nigerians from their visa-on-arrival policy. This is a nation that is open to virtually the whole world. They just had to single out Nigeria. Why? Surely, it cannot be racism, as they are also a Black nation. And it is not xenophobia, due to the fact that they are very welcoming to other Black African peoples, including South Sudanese, who tend to be much darker in complexion than Nigerians.

Culture should not be static, it must improve, otherwise it will create a vulture that will eat our carcasses.

Some of us in the Nigerian Project have neither the religious or cultural habit of restraint and humility. And even the humility that comes naturally from God is often stripped out of us by our culture.

And when we see other Nigerians and foreigners having restraint and humility, we sadly mistake it for stupidity! We call them mumu or mugu!

Many ethnicities that we think are ‘dull’ are in actual fact some of the most intelligent and analytic people you can imagine. You only need to look at what they have achieved in both pre and post-colonial Nigeria.

Brashness is not braveness. Riches are not wealth. Mouthiness is not cleverness. Wayo is not intelligence. And most importantly, self-restraint is not weakness.

Scripture says “the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”-Numbers 12:3. But even though Moses was meek, it would have been a strategic error to confuse his meekness for weakness.

Kenya is a country I have been to multiple times, because my books sell well there, and the Kenyan press likes me, for some odd reason. They once wrote negatively about me in one of their biggest newspapers, and rather than get upset, I apologised (they were upset at the way I ate their national dish with a fork and knife, rather than with my fingers).

Kenyans who meet me always tell me that I do not act Nigerian. Some say my features and mannerisms are more Francophone than Anglophone. But by far the most regular ‘complaint’ against me by Kenyans I meet is that I am not ‘sharp’ like the Nigerians they know.

My executive assistant, Pastor F. D., once got annoyed and said to a Kenyan, ‘how can you say someone who wrote a bestselling book is not sharp’. To which the Kenyan responded that he misunderstood what he meant by sharpness. And that what he said about me is a compliment.

We did not really understand what he meant, until in 2021, that person (a Kenyan bishop) sent me a video of then Deputy President William Ruto at his daughter’s wedding.

I will not repeat what Mr. Ruto, now the President of Kenya, said. But I am not sure he was happy that his daughter was marrying a Nigerian. In fact, what he said about his in-law nation, Nigeria, almost looked as if he was grieving, rather than rejoicing at his daughter’s decision to marry a Nigerian.

Nigerians, especially Southerners, can and should apply our natural cunning towards good purposes and make money thereby.

We cannot keep destroying our country’s reputation and think that we can have personal honour. As Yoruba youths would say, ko le werk!

Nigerians are a minority of the population in South Africa. Not just a minority, but a microscopic minority. Yet, we have a disproportionately high percentage of individuals posted on the South African Police’s website as drug or fraud suspects. Do not take my word for it. Go there now. And if you go on their website, you will hardly even find one Northern Nigerian mentioned. It is mostly us Southerners. And specifically mostly…(fear will not let me even say it). Just go there and observe by yourself.

And if it is only South Africa, then at least we will have the relief of knowing that it is contained in Africa. Go on the Indian police’s website and you will weep!

Google the interview that Lee Kuan Yew had with the world-famous interviewer, Tim Sebastian. Mr. Yew did not mince words. He said they would continue sentencing Nigerians to death for drug smuggling in Singapore. He did not mince words. He specifically mentioned Nigerian men. That was the first thing out of his mouth on the question from Mr. Sebastian about executing drug suspects.

Are you not ashamed? I am if you are not! We need to urgently do something about this menace before it tars all of us. That is if it has not already devalued our green passport.

On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the Henley Passport Index revealed that Nigeria’s passport had fallen 38 places from its 2006 ranking, going from 62nd in 2006 to 100th place in 2022.

Gee! I wonder why!

But it is not just the citizens’ fault. As a country, we do not understand what it is to promote our own national interests. Some of our own governmental actions work against us and in our favour.

For example, every time Nigeria arrests product counterfeiters and throws them in jail, I get irritated. Any Nigerian who knows how to counterfeit Western technology or pharmaceuticals is an asset, not a criminal! We need such people to build our own military industrial complex.

Kano-made or Aba-made should be encouraged. It should not be a derogatory term. It should be a thing of pride that a Black African people can recreate technology from the West and China. Embrace them. Nurture them. If not, we will never be a prosumer nation (a nation that consumes what they produce).

There is a difference between criminality and ingenuity. An ingenious man is a talented man. And we as a nation must allow talent to manifest itself positively. And we must define what is positive by our own interests, not Western interests. If we do not allow such men to express their talent positively (as defined by us), then they WILL express it negatively.

Reverse engineering should not be a thing of shame to African peoples. When colonialists politically dominated and economically exploited Africa, were they ashamed? No. The men who destroyed the ancient Bini Kingdom were celebrated in Europe. So, why should we allow scruples stop us from developing by piggy backing on whatever technology we can imitate?

Remembering Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh

On this day in 1966, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, my great uncle, and a light God gave to the Itsekiri kingdom of Iwere, was murdered, along with his boss, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, by Majors Chris Anuforo and Emmanuel Ifeajuna.

As a people, we will never forget your indelible footprints in the sands of time, which include founding the Central Bank of Nigeria, ending the colonial currency, and giving Nigeria her own independent currency, the Nigerian Pound, which was at parity with the British pound, but not tied to the Bank of England, as the CFA West African Franc, which was tied to the French treasury.

Chief Okotie-Eboh was the driving force behind the formation of the African Development Bank, which was founded during his tenure as Nigeria’s finance minister, in 1964, with Nigeria being the highest African shareholder of the bank.

Under his skilful handling of our economy, Nigeria actually lent money to other nations, even before we had begun exporting oil in large commercial quantities. Today, we are a heavily indebted impoverished nation, owing N77 trillion, even with massive oil and gas exports. That says a lot about Chief Okotie-Eboh’s handling of our economy.

A firm believer in Nigeria. He always tried to wear made-in-Nigeria clothes in public.

May God bless his memory and the family he left behind. We will never, ever, ever, forget you, great son of Iwere.

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