This is an article I wrote for the Cross News Magazine, a monthly publication of the Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria, Holy Cross Catholic Parish, Aladinma Owerri, Go through it and give me your thoughts using the comment form below,
When the then Minister of Information Prof. Mrs. Dora Akunyili started the re-branding project in 2009, many saw it as one of those white elephant projects which will end up having no significance on the life of the average Nigerian. This is not surprising as most Nigerians are nothing but a bunch of naysayers, people who do not believe that anything good can come out from Nigeria. For this set of people, the future of the country looks bleak and is now at the mercy of divine intervention. This set of Nigerians will prefer to dwell on the negatives while pretending to be oblivious of the many things worth celebrating, about Nigeria.
Little wonder she (Prof. Dora Akunyili) said in a colloquium in Lagos that“poor perception of Nigeria and its people by both Nigerians and foreigners is one of the greatest challenges facing the country at the moment.” Nigeria is a great country, take it or leave it.We are the giant of Africa and the envy of many countries. So as our dear country celebrates her 53rd independence anniversary there is need to take a breakand forget the worldwide negative attitude toward anything called Nigeria; that our businessmen are seen as crooks internationally; that we are permanently stereotyped as drug mules or that our leaders are corrupt. There are lots to celebrate about this country so before you sentence me for taking this stance, please read my argument.
Nigeria is a country with 774 local government areas, multi-religious and ethnic affiliations, 36 States, and a population of over 160 million. Nigeria as a country has the largest population in Africa. Approximately, 1 out of every 2 West Africans, 1 out of every 4 Africans, and 1 out of every 5 persons of African origin is a Nigerian. Yet, despite our diversity we are a united people who always strive to help one another. We still stand undeterred to move forward together. Our strength indeed lies in our numbers and diversity and it is worth celebrating.
Our dear country has gone through military juntas of 1966-1979 and 1983-1998 and yet survived as a nation. The fact that the nation has also survived a 30-month civil war that led to the colossal loss of over three million people to the cold hands of death and still remained one big family also calls for celebration.This is not despite the daily assault of Niger-Delta militants and terrorist attacks of Boko Haram on hapless innocent citizens of Nigeria. Only few nations would have suffered similar fate and still remain united, ask Sudan.
The greatest resource any nation can boast of is that of Human resource. Nigeria is a nation blessed with very hard working people, who if given a little opportunity will excel in any endeavour. Nigeria is blessed with intelligent and brilliant minds that have proven their mettle in various fields. Wole Soyinka was the first African to win the much coveted Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. Chinua Achebe’s (of blessed memory) classic novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ has been translated into over 60 languages and was ranked as number 14 in a list of top 100 books in the world by News desk in 2009. Others include Cyprian Ekwensi, Mabel Segun, ChimamandaAdichie and Helon Habila whose literary works have won both international and local awards at various times.
Nigerians have excelled not only in the field of literature but in business, sports, finance and ICT. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the current Minister of Finance, was until recently a Managing Director at The World Bank and was a strong contender for the position of World Bank president in 2012. ObiageliEzekwesili is currently the Vice President for Africa at The World Bank and co-founder of Transparency International. Mr. Adebayo Ogunlesi is a first class graduate of Oxford, and Managing Partner of Global Infrastructure Partner (GIP), a concessionaire of London’s Gatwick International Airport.
Nigeria is home to Nollywood one of the largest film industries in the world and according to Wikipedia the second largest film industry in the world in terms of number of annual film productions, placing it ahead of Hollywood(United States) and only behind Bollywood(India). We have actors and actresses who are making it big in the global scene. I need not talk about the music industry in Nigeria; they have taken to the global stage and have helped improve Nigerian’s image on the world stage.
Once we were a nation with just two Universities but now Nigeria can boast of over 122 universities. Fifty-three years ago, you will need to join a queue at NITEL to make a phone call but now you can call with your mobile phone anywhere and at anytime. Effective road network coupled with sound technology application has portrayed the nation in good light.
Nigeria is a nation blessed with rich natural resources. As the 7th largest exporter of Oil in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with the 10th largest proven reserves, our blessings cannot be overemphasized. While many understand people’s argument that the discovery of oil introduced into the system widespread and unprecedented corruption, we must be quick to remind Nigerians that corruption is a global issue of which Nigeria is part off.The so many benefits accruable to Nigeria would not have been possible if we were oil deficient. Take it or leave, the oil in Nigeria has made it a better place, albeit it could have done better.
Do we need to celebrate the fact that Nigeria has been blessed with one of the best weathers in the world devoid of natural disasters? There are no earthquakes, no tsunamis, and no droughts. The rest of the world should live here.
However, Nigeria when compared to so many other countries is still a child, while others will contend that a man of 53 years is old enough, I need not to remind you that it took America close to a hundred and fifty (150) years to reach where they are now. Juxtaposing the age of Nigeria with that of the United States of America would be 239 years to 53 years. The difference is inundating!
It is needless to remind you that a lot of supposedly big countries we use in drawing analogies with Nigeria are not without their own fair share of these problems bedeviling Nigeria. Do I need to tell you that dozens of high-level United States federal officials have been convicted of public corruption offenses for conduct while in office? Do I need to tell you also that according to Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer 2013, One in five Britons said they had resorted to bribing people in the judicial system, while almost one in ten said they had paid a bribe while in contact with the police. In China,nepotism corruption and bribery is also a big issue. What is the fact however, is the fact that these countries unlike Nigeria have refused to create a negative stereotype for themselves, rather they have chosen to project theirs in positive light? They do not focus their development around overcoming their weaknesses; rather they use their strengths as a catalyst for national development.
Suffice it to note however at this juncture that I am not in any way trying to paint an image of Nigeria that is trouble free, an image of Nigeria that better exists in our imaginations. What I did in this piece is to tell Nigerians that in the face of the inundating challenges this country is been faced with, there are still a lot of things to celebrate about Nigeria, there are lots of reason for you to be proud of being a member of this geographical entity called Nigeria. Nigeria will soon become great. That’s the spirit of Martin Luther King Jnr and that is the spirit I want us to inculcate.
Happy Independence Anniversary Nigeria!
Long Live Nigeria!
Uwakwe Martin Mundus is a student of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), a writer and a blogger. He blogs at www.martinuwakwe.blogspot.com.