About a month ago, a man I respected so much and admired from a distance insulted me. Perhaps he didn’t mean to, but he did. And he certainly didn’t know I felt insulted since I didn’t give him the slightest hint; I maintained my calm, kept my eyes glued to the floor, and endeavored not to take the insult personal. What was it all about, you may already be wondering. Simple: he needed to go through my work before endorsing some papers for me, and this was what he fired at me after reading the very first paragraph, “Sometimes you people write like you’re not graduates, not to talk of being graduates of the University of Nigeria. How can you be writing ‘My Nigeria’?” That I referred to Nigeria as ‘my Nigeria’ was my crime, for which I wasn’t a good writer, and for which my finishing from the University of Nigeria is questionable. However, I both laughed last and best when I observed he was nodding at subsequent paragraphs; he’d judged me too soon.
Leaving his office that day, it dawned on me that the one crime I’d love to keep committing, if it is indeed a crime, is say and write ‘my Nigeria.’ It is my Nigeria because it is the only country I can proudly call home, and the late Chinua Achebe would insist that ‘home is home’ – no matter what and where! Saying and writing ‘My Nigeria’ also confers on me a burden of responsibility, the responsibility of giving to Nigeria rather than only asking this or that of her. Yes, ‘my Nigeria’ confers a sense of ownership!
Today, the 56th independence anniversary of ‘my Nigeria,’ it behooves on me to think differently – and positively. It is a duty. I’ve to keep this in mind because the temptation to think otherwise abound. 99.9% of the things that would be said and written about Nigeria today will chronicle her tales of woes; the US in congratulating Nigeria already said she has a long way to go. Today, some will talk about her failure to get leadership right, some will lament her dilapidated infrastructure, some will decry her perennial romance with corruption, and some will report inefficiency of her various institutions of governance. And they will all be correct, since a whole lot is going terribly wrong in this clime. In fact, ‘my Nigeria’ seems to be cruising on the speed lane but doing so in reverse gear, a good example being the daily free fall of Naira to Dollar – it’s been falling as fast as it takes a drop of rain to hit the ground from the clouds.
Today, I must think differently – and I’m on it already. I must ask myself of what use I am to the ‘Nigerian project.’ I must tell myself the truth about what contribution I’m making towards the way forward. I must think about how ready I’m getting to feature among the next generation of Nigerian leaders. I must resolve to criticize those at the hem of affairs only constructively, and never insanely. Today, I must personally think differently. And I hope I’m not going to be doing that alone. I hope a number of other Nigerians will do same, especially you.
God bless Nigeria. Always.