The past few weeks have been a roller coaster for Nigeria, wave after wave of unflattering news and scathing reports of certain Nigerians being indicted for fraudulent activities. Of course, anyone who does the crime should do the time. However, certain handshakes have gone beyond the elbow. The undertones of some of these stories in the international media seem to paint all Nigerians with the same dirty brush.
What is our conscious messaging as a country? America believes they are the greatest country on the face of the earth, China believes they are the economic capital of the world, the UAE rakes in billions of dollars from being the world’s number top tourism destination, Japan is known for their ground-breaking innovations, etc. We can no longer talk about crude oil being our superpower because first, it’s a primary product. Second, the demand and prices (which we don’t even determine) are always in six and sevens. The world is also going green, which means that in a few years, oil will not be part of the global conversation.
The Single Story
Some of these countries have their own challenges but they don’t allow themselves get defined by what Chimamanda Adichie refers to as the ‘single story’ – a situation where a particular (dis-empowering) version of a story becomes the truth, owing to repetition. You will find out that in some countries where racial injustice is rife, they choose to tell more inspiring stories about themselves through their mega movie industry. Some of the countries that tout their economic prowess are also known to gag the free press. Even on the African continent, we know a country that is celebrated for its innovative governance but the leader is constantly accused of ruling with an iron fist and stifling the opposition.
My point is that we need to sell the bigger stories about Nigeria. Yes, there are a lot of things that are not right but that’s not all there is to us. This doesn’t mean a rationalization of dysfunction or overlooking them altogether, it just implies that we put our best foot forward. In football, it’s known as the ‘Starting Eleven’ – the best players in a team get to go on the field to represent the collective, even though there are mediocre players in the team too. When the ‘Eleven’ succeed, the headlines will be about Team XYZ succeeding. You will hardly see a headline about the players that are below par!
Outchea Doing The Lord’s Work…
We should normalize louding Nigerians are doing exceptionally well in their chosen fields. Some of these people are doing what I call a ‘thankless job’ – they give their all and put everything on the line but are never appreciated, recognized, or rewarded enough. What they do isn’t just for themselves but are sterling examples of our greatness as a country.
For someone like me who lives and works from Lagos State, I mention Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Commissioner for Health whenever I say my graces for doing a fantastic job in a cosmopolitan state that is the epicenter of Coronavirus in Nigeria. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of Nigeria’s finest exports has held top positions in high-profile organizations and multinationals in and outside Nigeria and now is in the running for the role of Director-General in the World Trade Organization.
Lotanna ‘Sugarbelly’ Igwe-Odunze recently revealed The Ńdébé Script which fuses ancient Ìgbò designs with modern practicality, thus creating a more functional writing system for contemporary Igbos. Dr. Dipo Awojide, a Career and Human Development Expert steadily educates young people on career development and through his organization, has positioned many for opportunities. Ikorodu Bois, a group that recreates multimillion-dollar videos have been featured on top international media, recognized by Will Smith, Alvaro Morte, Roddy Ricch, Chris Hemsworth, Ava DuVernay, Lebron James and even got a Hollywood invite by the Russo Brothers!
Tobechukwu ‘Tobi’ Philips broke a 125-year record as the first black valedictorian of Texas Alvin High School, earning a 6.9 cumulative GPA while scoring As in all subjects. Wendy Okolo, at 26, has become the first black woman to bag a Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas and is currently an employee of NASA. Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, Kamaru ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman and Israel ‘Stylebender’ Adesanya all have world championship belts on their shoulders in professional boxing and the UFC respectively.
The list is endless!
Lions Should Learn How To Write
If there is one single thing we should learn from the father of modern African literature, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, it is that you shouldn’t allow anyone shave your hair in your absence. The literary god from Ogidi once said that “if you don’t like someone else’s story, write your own!” It’s understandable if you take that admonition literally, it wouldn’t be out of place. However, beyond putting pen to paper or fingers to your keyboard, this is a metaphor for narrative management.
Nobody can write your story better than you! This is a very profound point for us as individuals and as a collective. We can’t just outsource the image management of Nigeria to others with their own agenda. If you think the current bad press about Nigeria as a hotbed for certain negative cultures doesn’t affect you, then you’re wrong! This is why some of us can’t receive foreign exchange on certain platforms, this is why some of us are negatively profiled at international airports and this is why we struggle and sometimes are blacklisted from gaining admission into certain institutions, employment, and fellowships.
Think About It…
It’s very unfortunate when some of us try to identify or define those caught in criminal enterprise by their tribes or state of origin (a concept which, if I had my way, would be totally scrapped). Those pedestrian thoughts don’t count out there because other countries don’t see them as belonging to one ethnicity or the other, they are seen as Nigerians.
The closest I can remember to us having a proper national campaign to ‘rebrand’ Nigeria’s image was the ‘Good People; Great Nation’ campaign some years ago. This concept of scapegoating is hurting our national brand in more ways than we know – some countries will give a dog a bad name just to hang it.
Ultimately, it comes down to what we all decide to do in our little corners as ambassadors of this great country. Every time you do the right thing, for every legit business that thrives, for every remarkable feat you achieve – it is adding up to the critical mass. We have to take up that challenge of being shining examples of who Nigerians truly are, else, those who are wanton with their actions will be used as representatives for the remaining 200 million.
I know it’s a hard thing to say, especially with all that is going on in the country, but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am proud to be a Nigerian!