The Love Of A Nigerian! By Abdullateef Olasubomi Abdul
Generally, Nigerians are kind, cooperative, tolerant and well-meaning towards one another and to the rest of humanity. Maybe not all of us but many of us are. This fact may however be blurred and continues to be undermined by recurring problems confronting us as a nation. For instance, now in our 58th year post-independence, we still continue to grapple with problems such as gross insecurity, poverty, mass unemployment, corruption and ethnic strife. Even the newspapers often read gory headlines: “120 people slaughtered in Benue”, “Youth, 22, nabbed for armed robbery”, “Naira slumps further to the Dollar in the parallel market”, “Boko Haram bombs church in Maiduguri” and so forth.
This depiction coupled with the challenges associated with daily living in Nigeria may make it difficult for a Nigerian to feel a genuine sense of national identity because no one wants to be associated or identified with a real or perceived failed or poorly-functioning state. It may likewise make it easy for one to assume that Nigeria is the Hobbesian state of nature where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” and that Nigerians are gloomy, frustrated and primitive beings existing in this state of nature.
But here exactly is the interesting paradox of our nation and our people: despite the myriads of our social problems, despite the gloom projected in the national dailies, despite the various statistics that reminds us of our underdevelopment and seem to want to impose on us a sense of dissatisfaction, inferiority and inadequacy – despite all these, we remain a happy, energetic and vibrant people. We remain optimists, hopeful and committed to the dreams of a better and brighter tomorrow. We show persistence in the face of adversity. The mass of us are kind, cooperative, well-meaning and optimistic. These are not just mere words of aspiration or fantasy but acute description of a boisterous people.
Let me illustrate with a Pew Center Research survey conducted between March 25 2015 and May 27 2015. The data was based on 45,435 in-person and telephone interviews in 40 countries with adults 18 and older. In the survey, respondents were asked if over the next 12 months, they expect the economic situation in their country to improve, to remain the same or to worsen. Nigeria topped the charts on optimism, with 92 per cent of Nigerian respondents expecting our economy to improve. In the same survey, respondents were also asked if they think when children today grow up, they will be better or worse off financially than their parents. Nigeria ranked third this time with about 85 per cent of Nigerian respondents hopeful that children today will be better off financially than their parents. Whilst these statistics may not be conclusive, they are however telling on what may be described as the ‘Nigerian-ness’ of Nigerians.
Statistics aside, Nigeria and Nigerians have also defied repeated projections of our violent break up. Since our independence, it has been projected several times that with the developmental gap in our nation and the ethno-religious and political tensions often generated, Nigeria would have broken up by 2015. But years on, the country continues to hold up.
The question is then forthcoming – what is the key to this ‘Nigerian-ness’ of suffering and yet still smiling, of joy in the midst of almost nothing, of hope in the face of adversity, of the endurance and perseverance of Nigerians? Put differently, what genuinely makes Nigerians happy, kind, cooperative, tolerant and well-meaning to one another and to humanity? What makes our people, as the Pew Research Center survey shows, so hopeful and confident of a better tomorrow when the picture today seems gloomy and when so much still needs to be righted? Is there something in a Nigerian gene or the Nigerian social clime that accounts for this? In my view, there are so many factors in our clime that make us Nigerians, ‘Nigerian-like’. But they may be subsumed under two reasons thus: our deep belief in God and our culture.
One major factor that makes Nigerians kind, cooperative and well-meaning to one another and to humanity is our deep belief in God or as some jestingly puts it, our ‘religiosity’. We, Nigerians are a deeply religious people. Most of our people are adherents of Islam, Christianity or traditional African religion. Even our fundamental law, our Constitution entrenches our belief in God by providing in its preamble that: “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” have “firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God”. This faith in God is a redeeming factor and a refuge for many from the turbulence and rigours of daily living. It is a balm for many sores and wounds. In Mosques and Churches, under the hold of an Imam or Pastor, broken hearts are mended. The Pastor teaches his fellowship that they are God’s children, that God loves them and would help them through any challenge or difficulty. The Imam reminds his congregation that this world is a transient passage to an afterlife of bliss and that God would help them through all adversities. Gingered by these messages, the Nigerian becomes hopeful and confident that there is darkness at the end of the tunnel and God would save the country.
This is part of the social functions of religions in our society and why criticisms of religion which neglect these points miss the mark. Of course, there are also atrocities committed through the prism of religion. And Nigerians do sometimes take religion to the extreme such as in the thinking that God would help a people who merely pray and worship whilst doing little or no work – a thinking which itself has no solid foundation in any of our religions. But despite these, it needs be acknowledged that our deep belief in God is a significant part of what makes us happy, well-meaning and kind as a people.
Another factor is our cultures. This has two subsets: the broad Nigerian culture and our various Nigerian cultures. The broad Nigerian culture is the culture of natural optimism in our social space. Tell a Nigerian about a problem and the reply is ‘it is well’, ‘God is in control’, ‘things would get better’ and the likes. This culture itself is really hard to crack or explain but we, Nigerians have a culture of optimism. Regarding the subset of our various Nigerian cultures, Nigeria is diverse with well over 200 ethnic communities each with its distinct cultures. But most of these cultures have norms geared towards integrating the individual towards good virtues and as a responsible member of the community. In the Yoruba ethnic group for instance, these norms are embodied in the concept of the ‘Omoluabi’ which loosely translates as ‘a well-bred child’. Most Nigerian cultures promote family values, citizenship, good neighbourliness, respect, courage, discipline, hard work, well-roundedness etc. In our various Nigerian communities, it is not unusual to hear or see an individual who has erred being chided for not being a well-trained child or for lacking ‘home training’. The integral training of individuals in our cultures is to make the individual a kind, tolerant and well-meaning member of the society.
Beyond being happy, kind and well-meaning, we Nigerians must however be more progressive as a nation. We must right the social wrongs and drive our country from its current state as an underdeveloped, underachieving nation to the status of a global powerhouse. I believe we can still steer our nation back on the track of “unity and faith, peace and progress” which is our national motto. This requires concerted effort and each of us has a role to play. Patriotic citizenry becomes crucial. Nigerians must be happy to be Nigerians and must put Nigeria first, before any parochial interest. Nigerians must also ‘rebrand’ the Nigerian image which has come to be associated with corruption, fraud and like vices. Each Nigerian must take it upon herself to be a good ambassador of her nation. And each Nigerian must after contributing her quota love her country – despite its imperfections. This would be the genuine climax of the love of a Nigerian!
 Michelle Jamrisko, “The World’s Most Optimistic People Live in Africa”, (Bloomberg, 23 July 2015) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-23/the-world-s-most-optimistic-people-live-in-africa <accessed on 31 July 2018>
 Preamble, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
I am an Associate at Ikeyi & Arifayan, a full service Nigerian law firm. I am also an Associate Fellow of the Society of Advanced Legal Studies (SALS), London, and a member of the Young International Arbitration Group (YIAG) of the London Court of International Arbitration. As a legal practitioner, I provide legal services to indigenous and multinational clients on a broad range of legal advisory, tax advisory, regulatory, transaction support and dispute resolution matters.
I am passionate about nation-building, writing, and soccer.