How to be a Nigerian

Let me attempt here what the musician will call a remix or should I rather say a summarized update or a sequel of Peter Enahoro’s book published under the same title. My objective?

Since every one, ourselves inclusive seem to be in agreement with the fact that we-Nigerians- are a unique (not necessarily in the positive sense) group of people, it has become imperative especially in our globalized world for us to begin to share with our selves and more importantly, the rest of the world-especially those who are still amazed about our uniqueness- just what it takes to be a Nigerian.

Interestingly, it’s so simple.
First and foremost, you must be very religious.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the ease with which you tell lies or your willingness to short change the very next person at the slightest opportunity. What is important here is that a bible/prayer bead is always part of your personal effects at every instance and that you are willing and indeed very quick to declare your faith both orally or in writing especially in your Curriculum vitae even without being prompted. You must also either join in closing up streets and causing hold ups on Friday afternoons or be found well dressed on Sundays heading in a particular direction.
As an extension of your religiousness, you must believe strongly that every thing that happens, from the late arrival of the rains in a rainy season to the collapse of a poorly constructed building has a spiritual explanation and thus can only be handled spiritually. An infant who dies shortly after birth is nothing but an ogbanje or an ibiku whether or not the child had received all the necessary medical attention before and after birth. You must also learn to place the responsibility for your woes on some body. It’s either a neigbhour who doesn’t like your face, an envious relation who doesn’t want your progress or simply put, some kind of demon which no body ever sees. That way they don’t get to weigh you down and you get to save your self the depressing feeling of being a failure.
As a Nigerian, you must hold fanatically to the e go beta theory which in effect is an empty belief- a psychological opium- that things which are awfully wrong now will miraculously turn around in due course.  However you must be prepared to be patient and wait endlessly for that time to come. To help keep you resilient in your wait, you must always remind your self that your country was “the most populous black nation in the world” and the “sixth largest oil producer in the world”. If nothing else, it provided a mental satisfaction that, since your country was Great, you too were great. Potentially.
To save your self from the prospects of an early death from high BP or brief illness, don’t ever go worrying yourself about the actions or inactions of Government. In Nigeria, siren blaring, tinted glass, dangerously driving, fast moving vehicles were the symbol of Government. You should be happy and contented each time you encountered them. It was a reminder that even though it doesn’t seem apparent, a Government existed. What they do (or don’t do) should be none of your business.
If however you feel some Marxist push-the type undergraduates call aluta- to ask questions, why not?, go ahead and ask but be rest assured that you will get no reply. If you cant live with that, then I advice you either join the queue in front of the United States embassy for a visa or buy your self an Ak47 and go join the militants in the Niger Delta. If you don’t feel up to both then just keep quiet or be prepared to be liquidated by the system. Your opinion was not worth the value of used tissue paper.
If by luck, fate, criminality or a combination of these you find your self in public office in Nigeria, rejoice and be glad for you are already in your own heaven. Aside consciously mistaking the public vault for your trouser pocket, you must make continuous and determined effort to estrange yourself from the people you are leading. Reaching you must be impossible or else you will be belittling the status of your exulted office.
Besides, why go to bed with the many problems of a traumatized people on your mind? Did you cause the problem? Why should any one expect you to solve them?. Moreover, did they-the people- even elect you?. It was wiser and way more sensible to busy your self with how to recoup election expenses and to ensure that the unborn members of your fifth generation had wealth starched out for them.
One word you must be very familiar with is NEPA. Like it or not, it will be an important part of your vocabulary. It’s not even actually a word but an acronym for the now defunct National Electrical Power Authority. Its overwhelming importance lies in the fact that it is a synonym for two other important words: Light and darkness. Once your bulb goes out, you shout “NEPA”. Whenever it came back on, you again shout “NEPA”. You won’t need a reminder. Soon it would become part of you.
And talking about darkness, as a Nigerian, you must see and appreciate its beauty. After all,. Didn’t God create it? Being in darkness was a natural state. Anything other wise amounted to tampering with nature. Now you will understand why billion of US Dollars couldn’t give us light. However if you insist on tampering with nature, you must go buy yourself a generator. If the heavy duty sound proof ones are too expensive, why not go for the noisy toys from Asia. They served just the same purpose.
As a Nigerian, you must perfect the art of not lying and not telling the truth all the same. Just talk your way through every situation. The more ambiguous you sound the better. Flaunting your ability to speak the queen’s language is a rule and your children must not learn to speak their native tongue. What?, not in this civilized age.
It is important to you survival that you changed or rather updated your understanding of the word ‘brother’. In Nigeria it doesn’t just mean your male sibling from the same parent. No, it meant much more. Every one who spoke your dialect or who hailed from your part of our large country was your brother and only to such a person did you owe any form of allegiance and vice versa. So before you treat any file in the office, you look up the name of the owner. If it was for a ‘brother’ it got speedy attention. If it wasn’t, you were free to throw it into the nearest waste bin.
Being elaborate was to say the least a civic duty as a Nigerian. If you have to throw a party, it must be a very big one or else you’ve not made a point. And of course, we party just about every thing- Child naming, House warming, Birthdays, weddings, Anniversaries, Promotions and even death. Funerals must be such that a fortune is spent to execute it. It didn’t matter if you ended up in debts. The important thing was that the people who came went home drunk and happy.
Take note however when inviting people for any function that Nigerians arrived at occasions two hours after the scheduled time. We call it African time. Why should one be the first to arrive? It would seem like he was the hungriest of the lot. No, the place should be full before he arrived. So learn to push back the time on your invitation so that after two hours – just when you really want them-, they will begin to arrive and for your own good too, take two whole hours before leaving for any occasion.
Just in case there is a robbery around your neighbourhood, don’t bother calling 911. It was either the sleepy officer who answers the call (if it ever gets through) is not very familiar with your part of town and so can not trace the place or there would be no fuel in the police van. If however they are so touched to respond, they will turn up thirty minutes after the robbers had left, jumping about and asking wia dem, wia dem?. If time is not taken, you could end up being picked as a suspect just because, you made the call.
You must be smart enough to get away with little offences. Put on your seat belt only when you sight the Road safety men ahead and unhook as soon as you pass them. Even when the traffic light has shown RED, drive on, the car approaching from the other direction will stop for you. If it doesn’t, you are on your own. Form the 3rd, 4th even 5th lane on a two lane road just so that you can be ahead. Come to work at 11.00am and fill in 8.01am in the time book, no body checks. Smuggle in just one extra zero to the figure of any contract you were awarding, if it goes unnoticed, you become a big man.
Very importantly, as a big man in Nigeria, you must go to great lengths to maintain a larger than life image. You have to carry around three big handsets, one each for the three major networks. Your car should be American spec so that it intimidated others in a parking lot. You must tell every one who cares to listen that you bought it tear leather of chassis. Your out fit must be over starched so that it took up more than your fair share of a sitting space. Your plate number should bear your name and a number which signified the position that particular car occupied in your fleet of cars and when you are introduced at an occasion, the MC must take time to include all your many titles and designations (both bought and earned) or else you wouldn’t acknowledge. Was it easy to be Chief, Engr, Dr somebody somebody, the Ochili ozua one of somewhere and the Chairman Chief executive of an endless list of companies both limited and unlimited?
Now, don’t attempt becoming a Nigerian if you are new to embarrassments. Anything happens around here and you should be prepared for it. You must get use to things like the National Television going off in the middle of the network news making an annoying noisy sound and returning five minutes later with a visibly perplexed newscaster offering an obviously well rehearsed line of apology. At the parks, you must elbow your way to a seat on a taxi. You must be prepared to wait long hours – most likely in the Sun- to pay for public utilities like your electricity bill. It was better you looked the other way, a hanky over your nose when walking past a refuse dump right in the middle of the highway and God, you must be ready to freely and willingly give and receive abuses at the slightest provocation. You might wish to begin to learn some of the easier ones like “your Father”.
Less I forget, you must be very patriotic. You must be an unflinching supporter of the national foot ball team when they were victorious. If however they are out of luck and were not performing well in a match, you were free not only to begin cheering their opponents, but to also – still as a mark of patriotism-, call for their heads and that of their coach after the match.
Finally, more of a caveat emptor, if you are a frequent traveler-abroad I mean-, you must get use to being treated like a lesser being by the air line officials. You might wish to fly British Airways for a first hand taste of this. Your green passport must be wrapped in a brown jacket just so that you don’t give away your identity cheaply. When eventually your identity is known, be ready to have gloved fingers straying even into the private recesses of your anus because you are most often than not expected to be travelling with banned substances. Don’t feel bad about this; it was only one of the many dividends of being Nigerian.
You see, like I told you earlier, it’s so simple to be a Nigerian. In case you wish to learn more, just buy your self some CD tapes of our Nollywood films. I am sure that before you are through with watching five (I mean both the part ones and two’s), you might just have become more Nigerian than I am. I can also swear however that the CDs you will buy will be pirated. You will be lucky if they all play to the end.
Now, I expect to get a few knocks for this piece. Not too many people fancy being reminded what they looked like. They –we- generally prefer to feel we were something else. Something good, excellent and desirable. It was a Nigerian attribute which deludes some of us into declaring that we were a great nation or that we were proud of our country. Honestly, there is nothing to be proud of except perhaps the thoughts of what we could be as a nation, like a poet once wrote,
 I admire a girl with make up
 For what she is
 And the one without
 For what she could be…
CSN: 64729-2008-12-31

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