Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thought Picnic: My Nigerian Philosophy

Where I am from

Certain events over the last few days but in process over decades have presaged my writing this blog about my Nigerian philosophy, my tweets have sat in Nigeria as if I was resident, feeling the heat of the sun and hearing the sound of the drums, my blogs even more so.

I was born an Englishman; I had an amazing Nigerian childhood that developed into a turbulent Nigerian adolescence and a rather disillusioned young Nigerian adulthood.

I left Nigeria, the country of my formative years to become an Englishman again and met with the baggage of besmirched Nigerian reputations that had me working harder, speaking louder and showing more clearly that Englishmen of Nigerian heritage and by extension a majority of Nigerians are honest, trustworthy, able, capable achievers.

Ambassadors of Nigeria

The Nigerian-ness followed me by name though there are times people reading my profile have though I was a well-travelled Japanese man, it had its benefits for me and disappointments for those who learnt differently.

I believe that there are many like me, who in past couple of decades have worked to change the impression of Nigerians amongst our local communities, we are unwittingly ambassadors of Nigeria; we are inadvertently helping people decide if we and by extension again Nigeria can be treated with respect, allowed the benefit of doubt and given access to opportunities that were once closed to us.

Nigerians at home may not necessarily see personal ambassadorial pressures as those in the Diaspora do but the truth is we live in a global world, first as our government and their policies; then we as the people inter-connected no more as disconnected from the world because of the Internet and through many other works of endeavour. Our image is simultaneously shaped at home and abroad.

The old narratives of Nigeria need to be discarded and retold to find the truths from the half-truths to debunk the conjectures that make for fact and destroy the stereotypes that dog us each day.

We build and some seek to pull down for their own selfish and hedonistic ends but that is hardly the Nigerian narrative as I concur with Chiamanda Adichie about the danger of the single story [1].

We are not a single story

Nigeria is not a single story of divided, corrupt, ungovernable and failed – those are the easy epithets that make the Nigerian story understandable to the unschooled and the outsider, we risk making it our own story if we hear it long enough.

When we search within ourselves as individuals, we know what we are capable of and there must be a whole range of like-minded and driven Nigerians in Nigeria and around the globe that have the ways and the means to make that change happen for our country.

The recent presidential vote shows that we are not as divided [2] as it once was the single story of North-South or Muslim-Christian fault-lines, we all have aspirations as Nigerians and are working to wrest power from the hands of those who have not served us well for the last 50 years of our independence.

A ship without a rig

We have passed a particular threshold, a president has been elected as some cling to that old single story of the elections being rigged again – they probably were but would the absence of rigging have changed the lay of the land that gave the ruling party the presidency again after 12 failed years? Unlikely.

The reason being, another single story of an opposition, weak, unprepared, selfish and egotistical, unready to put country before self and without the essential national footprint to match the ruling party in all regions of the country to wrestle power from them.

One is found having to make the argument that it is not the job of the ruling party to build its opposition, it is for those who want change that the ruling party does not offer to want it bad enough to start from the grassroots from every corner of Nigeria and build a movement for change that fights for the change we want.

They need to tell a compelling and convincing story that would move the thumbs to the right party spot on the ballot paper.

2011 was definitely not the year for the opposition at the presidency, but they have seized some ground and prominent ones too in the national legislature and they can do more in the gubernatorial and state assembly elections.

The need for government

Government is about being connected to the people, even from my libertarian perspective of individual rights of self-expression Nigeria still needs strong government to facilitate infrastructure issues as power and transport, socio-political issues as education and health, reputational issues as separation of powers, rule of law, corruption and strong institutions and a civil society that believes in the good of their country.

A lot of this is aspirational and there is no clear path to some promised land, there are many who do not believe Goodluck Jonathan is the harbinger of the change Nigeria seeks, that may be the case but if he is going to President for the next 4 years we had better start thinking up how to make him do the work even if he cannot seem to talk the talk.

Only those who have the reins of power can make things happen in government, it is bane of our democracy where the winner takes all and the loser is left standing almost bereft of purpose or fight.

Where we must place ourselves

Nigeria cannot afford to stagnate for the next 4 years whilst we wait for the opposition to get their act together and form a credible united front that can challenge for the greater prize, like a poker game, we have been dealt a bad hand already, we can either fold or bluff.

The bluff should not be taken literally but this is the case to make; this is the first president to be elected with a somewhat credible election, that is new story; it probably means he can face down the usual political jobbers, that is a possible story; an elected president might be better than an accidental president, that is an interesting story.

There are many stories to write about Nigeria as we open this new chapter and in the words of the President – a new dawn – it is however left to us Nigerians if our story will remain the single story that has been told so many times we know the words by heart or it would be a new exciting, interesting, adventurous story that takes Nigerians all to a new place of planning, purpose, progress and peace.

Sources

[1] Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on TED.com

[2] Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IX - Analysing the Presidential Results

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