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19 Aug Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

Twists of Nigerian Realities

Many Nigerians are angry about their country and its socio-economic malaise. The anger often comes from the fact that Nigerians believe their country, given the many opportunities and potentials, should be doing better on all fronts. The only set of people, more angry about the state of Nigeria than Nigerians who have never been out of the country, are Nigerians who have been. It is a baptismal reality; the reality of the world you are coming from and the new world you’ve found yourself. This was what informed the first-time Nigerian traveller at the Addis Ababa airport who mumbled “Ha! Naija don suffer. See Ethiopia airport!”

That wasn’t much of a shocking statement for one used to hearing Nigerians cuss, hiss and express disgust at what they have back home compared to what they see abroad. An embarrassing moment came moments after I boarded the Ethiopian Airline flight to Nairobi, Kenya. The young Kenyan passenger beside me asked me why I had chosen to fly to Ethiopia before flying to Kenya after I had told him I was going from Abuja to Nairobi. Before I answered, he asked why Nigeria had no globally renowned airline like Kenya Airways and the other popular African carriers. I told him Nigeria ran a deregulated aviation industry with government preferring not to play in the business of airlines. I silently prayed he’d not remind me about Nigeria Airways. He didn’t.

Hours before my Ethiopian experience, the Abuja airport was the subject of discussion. A middle-aged Nigerian man was going to charge his phones while we waited to board. There was no electric socket in sight. He grew frustrated. Somehow, no one thought that passengers would love to work on their phones and computers while waiting to board. The need for one is even more apparent when the wait to board takes longer than initially planned due to “operational reasons.”

In the end it settled well within one’s mind: the failure of the Nigerian system is not as much about the lack of resources but about the general lack of the spirit of excellence. There were enough resources for instance to renovate the Lagos airport, but the absence of that spirit that requires that whatever gets done gets done excellently well, means that the airport that was renovated only months ago now has to deal with leaking roofs. In this case, it was not a question of how much it’d take to renovate the airport, it was a question of how well we chose to do it and through whom.

It wasn’t all gloomy. It was great to hear the hit songs of the Nigerian music duo Paul and Peter Okoye (P Square) all over clubs in Kenya from Nakuru to Nairobi. It was also cool to see that virtually every Kenyan and other nationals from across Africa who attended the session for which we were all in Kenya in the first place, had seen at least a Nollywood movie. There is a downside to this: they believe the part in the movies that depicted Nigerians as often using witchcraft and voodoo to get things done or settle scores. One could not help wondering what would have happened had Nollywood portrayed a more respectable reality.

Nigerian music and movies have advanced the Nigerianisation of Africa. Many Africans are very much into even other Nigerian ways of life. A friend from Uganda insisted on sending money to Nigeria, to help him get Nigerian made outfits. Curious to note that the Nigerianisation of Africa has come through no carefully laid out agenda of any Nigerian government but simply an expression of the ability of the average Nigerian. This has to be the reason many ask; how did a country with so many intelligent people end up being run, more often than not, by its worst?



**Japheth J Omojuwa lectures on Africa and its democratic struggles at the Free University in Berlin and writes this column every Monday. He is @omojuwa on twitter

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