19 May 2009

Good People, Great Nation – Yes we are!

A lot has been written and said about the Nigerian re-branding project. I must begin by admitting that I share in the frustration and anger of those who are against the exercise because of its perceived cart-before-the-horse approach. 
I also understand those who are against the exercise because they see it as another example of a money-wasting project that may eventually go nowhere. 

I equally feel the vibes of those who are wary of the inability of successive governments to continue with projects initiated by their predecessors. Those who take this line of argument believe that once the Yar’Adua government completes its term, the next government would probably jettison this campaign and start afresh. 

Like all rational Nigerians, I share all of the views above. However, having carefully and seriously given it a thought, I decided to embrace this current campaign after its slogan was unveiled. I must make it clear that I am not feeble-minded or gullible to be swayed by an ordinary slogan. I should also state that I do not belong to any political party - ruling or non-ruling. I have also not been paid by anyone to take this position. I chose to support this particular exercise only because of the following reasons:

1. Nigerians are good people
Though we may have bad leaders, Nigerians, from Port Harcourt toKatsina and from Kisi through Enugu to Yola are good people. We demonstrate this goodness particularly in the area of hospitality. Nigerians are extremely hospitable people. We are always ready to welcome people into our midst offering them our fatted calf – the best meal in the house, sometimes even to our hurt. 

The goodness in Nigerians is also exhibited in the way the extended family system has been nurtured as a supportive system for generations. For example, I spent most of my holidays as a young person with cousins and sometimes distant relatives. My eldest sister paid my secondary school fees though she was only 22 years old when she took up this responsibility. 

I am sure that some people will accuse me of suffering from selective amnesia by glossing over the bad side of Nigerians. I do appreciate that we, as a people, have very serious weaknesses that require urgent and continuous behavioural modification, however I have come to the conclusion that, on balance, our ‘good’ far outweighs the bad side of us and this must be celebrated. 

Re-branding or no re-branding, Are Nigerians good people? I bet we are.

2. Nigeria is a Great Nation
Again, irrespective of its ups and downs, there is no doubt that Nigeria is a great nation.

  • Nigeria is great because it happens to be the most populous black nation on earth. It is believed that 1 out of every 5 black people on earth is a Nigerian.
  • Nigeria is great because it is the largest country in the continent. We have 50 million more people than the next most populous country in Africa.
  • Nigeria is great because from Vancouver to Vladivostok, Nigerians are powering the economy of many countries around the world. I will be surprised to find a nation where Nigerians are not present.
  • Nigeria is great because we are a great foot-balling nation. Although we have allowed indiscipline to take the better of us in World Cup finals, we have however won an Olympic gold and the FIFA under 17 world cup three times. 
  • Nigeria is great because it is blessed with a variety of natural resources, chief of which is its people who in my opinion are more natural than the oil deposit in our land.
  • Nigeria is great because it is a melting pot of several peoples, cultures, and languages, and somehow, we have been able to keep this marriage of different peoples, cultures and languages going.
  • Nigeria is great because of our mostly favourable weather that means almost anything can grow on our soil from the arid North to the equatorial South.
  • Nigeria is great because it has miles of access to the sea for exports and imports.
  • Nigeria is great because it has the potential to compete with any country on many platforms be it agriculture, economy or socio-political matters.
  • Nigeria is great because it is the 8th largest exporter of oil in the world.
  • Nigeria is great because its people are resilient and hopeful.
3. The slogan could become an aspiration
I feel that even for those who doubt the goodness of our people and the greatness of the nation, the new slogan can become the aspiration of every Nigerian.  By this, I mean EVERY NIGERIAN. Not just those in government or in private or public leadership, but every individual Nigerian. In other words, if every reader makes the effort to do good in their personal, social and professional lives from now, we will achieve both the ‘good people’ and the ‘great nation’ we desire. 

Finally, I must make the point that all Nigerians, including those for and those against the exercise are patriotic citizens of this country. The intensity with which those against the re-branding project attack it is a confirmation of their passion and love for Nigeria. My hope is that we can all channel this same passion to make a difference in our individual spheres of influence.

Let us take the spirit of goodness to our homes, to our places of worship. Let us take it to our schools, and places of work. Let the teachers teach with integrity and the bosses make the welfare of their staff a top priority. 

Let goodness flow through you to the people in the city of Lagos and to those in the remote corners of Ute in Ondo State. Wherever you may go in Nigeria, from the lowest point of the Atlantic Ocean to Chappal Waddi, the highest point in Nigeria, let everyone you meet be able to tag you with goodness.  

We can truly achieve more greatness and be seen as a great nation if we allow goodness, rather than filth to litter our 853 kilometers of coastland. We can achieve greatness if you and I become conscious of our environment and stop throwing refuse in the drains. 

Let us throw away the shackles of greed and the chains of oppression that hold everyone of us – the oppressed and the oppressors - captive. I have learnt that the smile we offer people and the little help we give makes a world of a difference. Let us therefore do good not only to strangers, foreigners and the strong, but to the disabled, the weak and the poor who live right in our midst; who attend the same Church with us every Sunday, who go to the same school with us, who work in the local eatery. 

We will be great when we stop, and ponder about the future we want for Nigeria and for our children. We must not just talk about it, write about it, or shout about it. We must make it happen by the choices we make today. In doing so, we must be singly focused and not unduly bothered about what the government or the next person is doing or not doing. 

A better day is coming for Nigeria. Let us make it happen.