Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Balkanization Of Nigeria, What We Say And What We Do

Often you hear Nigerians saying that Nigeria as a country is nothing but a contraption created by the British and so it cannot work. Such statements come from people from every section of Nigeria who think that the "other guy" or the other ethnic group or region is responsible for their woes. Personally I think that is nothing but playing the ostrich. Before we blame that region or that ethnic group for our problems we need to first check to see if our local leaders from our own regions are doing a good job. But that is not the meat of this post. What I want to put forward here is a theory I learned regarding software development and marketing. The theory tells the software entrepreneur that what customers say they want isn't necessarily what they really want. The job of the entrepreneur is to find out what his target customers really want and surprise them with it.

So when some Nigerians say "Break up this country !", is that what they really want? I think not. There are many reasons for this conclusion but let's consider a few of them

First, the same Nigerians regularly insulting the country and calling it an artificial creation (is there a country that is a natural creation?) are the first Nigerians that flare up when a foreigner makes a rude statement about the country. Sometimes even if it is an honest and constructive criticism. Remember the outrage when late Muammar Ghaddafi called for the balkanization of Nigeria? Or the reaction to the current position of some international organizations that the Nigerian military are not fit to lead operations in Northern Mali? There is also a recent statement by Zimbabwe telling it's citizens not to come to Nigeria.

And then there is Football. Yes football. I noticed that when the Nigerian national team scores, all Nigerian celebrate whether it is Nwanko Kanu from Arochuckwu or Celestine Babayaro from Kaduna that scores. In fact we refer to the team as "we".

Quite a number of Igbos are still agitating for the breaking off of the South-Eastern part of the country to form the Republic of Biafra. I will not argue for or against that idea here but I will consider the actions of our Igbo brothers and not their words. I think judging by their actions, the Igbos believe in Nigeria more than any other ethnic group. Well, the Igbos are the quickest to buy land and properties in any area they settle. I recently learned that about 70% of all the land in Abuja is owned by Igbos. They are also found in every nook and cranny of this country doing business. That doesn't look like the action of people trying to secede.

And despite the efforts by some sections of both the local and the international media to paint the Boko Haram crisis in the North as a case of Northerners versus Southerners or Muslims versus Christians, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Igbo leader in Maiduguri urging for the amendment of the constitution to address the issue of indigenes and settlers. He argued that, many of his people have spent more than 30 years in Maiduguri and consider Maiduguri home and thus they shouldn't be regarded as settlers. I quite agree with him.

There are also Northerners that you hear saying that we should get rid of the South and bring back the groundnut pyramids. I still don't understand the logic behind that statement. Is any Southerner stopping Northerners from going back to the farm? Anyway I think the actions of those people speak louder and contrary to their words. Just like the Igbos, the Hausas who are the largest ethnic group in the North are found in every corner of the country usually engaged in petty trade. Do these pro-Balkanization Northerners think their ethnic brothers in South want to come back to the North? I believe anywhere in Nigeria should be home to any Nigerian. What these ignorant Northerners don't know is history. Before the consolidation of the Sokoto caliphate, the Hausa city states in that area often engage in wars between themselves. Hausas versus Hausas. Though they see it as something like Kano versus Zaria or Katsina versus Kano and so on. This alone tears the argument of finding Nirvana when we get rid of the other ethnic groups. As for the North-East, I believe that region whether it's the parts of the ancient Kanem-Bornu empire or the ancient Fombina has more ethnic groups than any other section of Nigeria. There is a local government in Borno state that has more than 40 different ethnic groups alone. Do we break that local government down to 40 countries?

When one considers points like the ones above you then wonder, why are some people still calling for the break up of Nigeria? Easy. Intellectual laziness. Instead of us spending time to discover and analyse our real problems, we take the lazy man's way out. We take to blaming the person that looks different from us or speaks a different language from ours for all the problems of the country.

I think by their actions, majority of Nigerians love Nigeria.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

No Apologies For Being Nigerian

I always say that most of the problems of Nigeria is manifested in our so-called educated people. They are the ones that worry so much about how the world think of us and less about how we really improve at home.The so-called illiterate rural dwellers who make the bulk of our population worry about real problems like getting fertilizer for their farms or getting a clinic close to their village. I've had this feeling for some time but didn't have the right words to articulate it in writing. So I am now reading Tope Fasua's book titled CRUSHED and just came across a chapter where he expressed just that feeling better than I can ever imagine to. He complained about the lack of deep analysis of the corruption problem in Nigeria by our intelligentsia and how we are unable to trace the root causes of the problem. We often prefer to ignore the powerful countries' roles in promoting corruption in Nigeria and Africa. We ignore things like Swiss coded accounts that facilitate the looting of Africa's money to Europe by corrupt leaders. He hit the nail on the head when he sited how a common foreign news anchor was bombarding Nigeria's then vice president Dr Goodluck Jonathan for all the corruption going on in Nigeria. And worse of all, the position of most people was like "Oh we are sorry we are corrupt". My point? I am tired of that attitude and have stopped accepting that holier than thou stance from any foreigner just because I am Nigerian.
So some days ago I tried to buy a hosting service from a U.S.A based company, all the process went smoothly until I tried to make the final payment. Their system suddenly blocked me out because my address is in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Instead of walking away from the transaction, I submitted a support ticket to them specifically telling them that I am Nigerian and that I understand that I cannot pay for their services because of that. Instead of apologizing for my being Nigerian, I requested that they delete my account since they will not do business with me. That I will go and find a hosting company that is ready to do business with me. Less than ten minutes I received a reply from them with an apology and an explanation that they have manually generated an invoice for me to make the payment.
My friend and co-owner of our startup software company is an ardent follower of a certain blog that revolves around a version control system. When the blog author gave out free copies of his book, people need to fill out a form on the blog site to show their interest. The form however has no provision for Nigerian addresses and doesn't allow alternate means of supplying such addresses. So my friend emailed the author and told him that he shouldn't ignore Nigeria because he has readers there. I do not know how the conversation continued but the author went out of his way to send him a copy of the book all the way to Maiduguri.
So I imagined if every Nigerian will try that method instead of getting a fake U.S address, may be with a few transactions we can change that attitude towards us. I think the world is like a playground. People will bully you when they think you are weak and have no options. I am not saying that we should be proud of Yahoo boys but I think I should not be held responsible for what Yahoo boys do. Afterall, no country ever decided not to buy Nigerian crude oil because of corruption. The psychological bullying will only stop when the victim stand up to the bully by proving his worth.