Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not. – Obafemi Awolowo
In 2009, the game, Angry Birds, by Rovio Entertainment eventually owned by SEGA came out. It became an instant hit because it was based on a simple goal – the colourful angry birds who try to save their eggs from green-coloured pigs! The simple goal reminded me of what yours truly and others do to protect being Nigerians – we are the true angry birds in all our colours, fighting every day to protect the little or much we have from the system – which is us! While we might be ‘angry birds’ in our expressions, the question remains: is there another place we can call home? Recounting what makes me most angry about Nigeria would be like banging my head in exasperation and expecting Nigeria to feel it; what good would it do me? Then again, exploring aspects of the annoyance might make me see the wisdom in the words of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “there is no place like home.”
1. Our sense of humour: Oh, it is annoying to say the least but it is off-the-chain! No one can convince me that there is a country more endowed with the humour bug than Nigeria. The Scandinavian countries hold the indices for being the best (and happiest) places to live on earth, but can they truly laugh in the face of all the dangers and mishaps that being a Nigerian brings with it? I will answer ‘NO’! Every single event, disaster, etc., is turned into a comedy fest for us. We spread the tales and events, make memes for them, and while we might even express our rage and disgust, we just move on. And the tragedy of this is that if we didn’t laugh, we would most likely be mental wrecks walking up and down naked and tearing our hair out! So, it is a Catch-22 situation – we either laugh our sorrows away while the issues fester so we cope as closet mad people, or we don’t laugh and become legit stark, raving lunatics.
2. Short attention span: When an issue besets us, we are up in arms. We talk, we analyze, we open chat rooms to discuss, we remember similar incidents, we curse, we call for the head of all those causing us this trouble, and just when it seems we are on the brink of what could be a revolution to stamp out corruption, the bad eggs, ride the wave of justice, seek what is fair and entrench right, we run out of steam: the change is like night and day. Abrupt, swift and buried! The rage and disgust lasts for the night and once we have had our feel, we boost the image of the evil and not get a grasp of the issue. After all, we say, problem no dey finish!
3. Japa Loss: Being in an abusive relationship demands that the victim leave the relationship. It should be that simple. That is what the Nigerians who troop out of this country must have said to themselves as they leave the shores of their motherland to unknown frontiers. However, unlike a human abusive relationship, our country needs us to stay, but as we leave, who will fix the mess our country is in? The more annoying part is the connection the Japarists (I am assuming this is the scientific classification) have to their motherland; they still milk the cow to support the life of Japa!! Yes, let’s not confuse this with those diaspora who generate revenue and send back home in some form, but we have the reverse situation where they leave but have inroads to resources to support them over there. The human capital, talent, knowledge, culture lost – while this is tragic, it is the confusion in the identity of Nigerians when they have sojourned abroad. A conundrum.
4. Defying the odds: There is not a single day that goes by that we are not plagued by the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy or inflation and how it has “chopped” our money. We groan, we regale each other with how we are being pinched by the current state of affairs, we even buttress our situation by gossiping about our neighbour’s grim situation, but you see, come Friday night, something changes. You are now fighting for a thoroughfare or parking space because the lounges, clubs, restaurants are full; filled by the same people that have just groaned. And note, it is not beans that is being used to settle the bills, but currency. How can we solve our problems when Monday to Thursday we complain, bitch, grind and groan; then Friday, it’s TGIF, Saturday, we recuperate from ‘chopping’ life; on Sunday, we offer supplications and off to the next week! But in the true spirit of being a Nigerian, the excuse is, “I cannot kill myself. Problem no dey finish,” so a little is kept aside for stepping down the horrors of being a Nigerian. OK!
5. Our food: I am a foodie, I confess. I will try anything. This is the beauty of the earth as given to us by God: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” He gives us the power to make wealth and eat of our success. I digress. The normal trajectory of food is the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, rectum and anus. It is very important to have this short biology lesson because our food bypasses some of these steps and sticks to our hips and stomachs. Our food is so good and so bad at the same time. Amala and ewedu with gbegiri and orishirishi with stock fish and goat meat, pounded yam with waterleaf soup, white soup, banga and starch, fresh fish, peppered snails, jollof rice, party jollof rice, Nigeria fried rice, fried yam and guinea fowl, tuwon shinkafa and miyan kuka with tantakwashi, bindi; just the mere writing and I am salivating. But what will it profit a woman to eat all this and have it go straight to her hips? As much as it angers me, we shall soldier on. We shall eat and not be weary, but we shall go to the gym and shake body.
6. Our music: My first recollection of Nigerian music that appealed to me was by PSquare. Yes, Nigerian-style music pre-existed before them, but I was not of that generation. It was their debut studio album, Last Night, which started the journey for me. I even had the debut cassette at the time and the year was 2003. Fast forward to the present day Nigeria music scene, despite the lame duck lyrics, questionable messaging and dodgy lessons, our music is original, catchy, danceable and the music is sought the world over. I mean who would have thought that telling a girl to calm down because she was sweet like a fanta in a yellow dress and mellow mixed with Nigerian slang and pidgin would literally break all music records. And then Selena Gomez was thrown in for good measure. I mean, how annoying is that? Don’t get me started on ‘Buga’. This was a call-to-action, wake-up-collect-your money song, and then the lyrics just taper off from there with absolutely questionable meaning and correlation, but guess what? We finished it off with the dance at the shoulders and we made sure everybody saw as we raised those shoulders! The song just worked and made the trip around the world. Buga oooo! Nigeria to the world in the most interesting way.
7. Our tailors: C’mon, have you seen the extravaganza called an outfit for an event in Nigeria?? We kill it every single time. Whether it makes sense to the wearer or beholder, we will dress to kill. It is annoying that 90 percent of these tailors are just pure talent and a disaster all waiting to happen. If you have not almost killed your tailor, taken them to a police station, had thugs rescue your clothes or gone to an event in a rescue outfit sitting out of place, then you have not experienced the Nigeria tailor, nor its fashion. If you have not had to shout the cost of the fabric and the fact that you brought it in by private jet from China or Austria and that it can pay the salaries of all the tailors, then you have not been broken yet. If the tailor has not decided that the style you chose is nonsense and has gone ahead to sew what he wants for you, don’t dare join this conversation. If your tailor has not become colour-blind from the time you chose the accessories and emphasised the colours but he has decided that lemon green is off-white, then forgerabourrit.
The one thing I am not angry about is being a Nigerian, not anymore. I am frustrated, no doubt, because we can be so much more and more. When I leave the shores of my country, I am looked at with annoyance, irritation, and suspicion, but not as much as with admiration, envy, awe and excitement, as they wonder how does such a person from one of the most vilified countries in the world stand with her head high and immerse herself in all that there is around her to enjoy herself? That’s down to the indomitable spirit in me that could have only come with us as part of our birth pack as a Nigerian. I am fiercely Nigerian and will die here (green passport and all).