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Thursday, 24 October 2013

The “Goodluck” Called Nigeria, By Femi Aribisala

Nigeria is the only elephant in black Africa.
However, the onus is on us to ensure that
this elephant does not die of elephantiasis.
As Nigerians, we are all acutely aware of
what is wrong with Nigeria, especially since
we are all part and parcel of the Nigerian
affliction. It is quite amazing that when you
visit that uncle who stole government funds
to build his mansion at Banana Island, he
sits you down to talk about the problem of
corruption in Nigeria. When this happens,
you find it difficult to resist saying: “But,
uncle, you are also a thief! I know you stole
the money to build this house when you
were the Commissioner for Youths, Sports
and Culture.”
Where two or three Nigerians are gathered,
you can be sure we are busy running down
our country. What we don’t do enough is
talk about some of the things that are right
with Nigeria. Let’s face it; there are quite a
few of these as well, even if they are often
quite enigmatic.
The genius of Nigeria
One of the things right with Nigeria is
Nigeria. It does not matter how the country
came about. It does not matter if Nigeria is
an accident of history. It does not matter
that Nigeria is several countries
haphazardly lumped together into one.
Irrespective of the ifs and the buts, the fact
remains that Nigeria is a pure genius of a
country. The very existence of a country
called Nigeria is a masterstroke of
As a graduating doctoral student at Oxford
University, England, I was interviewed for
jobs I did not apply for. Multinational
organizations, including the World Bank
and Bank of America, came on campus to
interview us for jobs. In the case of the
World Bank, I was even flown to Paris.
There was always a sticking-point in the
interviews I agreed to attend: my insistence
on returning to Nigeria after having spent
thirteen years abroad.
What precisely is the attraction of Nigeria?
Why is Nigeria is such a difficult country to
live in and yet, once we are out of the
country, we cannot wait to get back? One of
these days, I may be able to answer that.
One thing I can say right now is that,
without Nigeria, the world would be a
much poorer place.
Black man’s Prometheus
The first casualty of a world without Nigeria
would be the black race. Never mind the
fact that Nigeria remains one big mess, and
has been for the longest time. This is
perhaps inevitable, as we work out the
curious alchemy of this peculiar nation of
over 250 nationalities. The fact remains that
the black man would be absolutely
insignificant in the world without Nigeria
and Nigerians. With a population of over
160 million and growing, Nigeria is difficult
to miss on the map.
As the most populous black nation, soon to
be the third most populous in the world,
Nigeria and Nigerians cannot be ignored.
Nobody wonders why Barack Obama, the
President of the United States, did not visit
Burkina Faso on two different trips to
Africa. But every student of international
relations wonders why he did not visit
Nigeria. If Obama visits Nigeria, he makes a
statement. If he does not visit Nigeria, he
makes a statement. The reason is simple:
Nigeria, by its very essence, is a major actor
on the world stage.
The country, and its people, command
attention and demand attention. If a
Nigerian is somewhere, you will know. You
will hear his voice because he will be loud
and outspoken. It is not easy to pretend
not to see the elephant in the room, and
Nigeria is the only elephant in black Africa.
However, the onus is on us to ensure that
this elephant does not die of elephantiasis.
Nigerian politicians
Don’t let me get carried away. Nigeria is
important because it exists. Nigeria is a
brilliant masterstroke, even if created by
colonial happenstance. But one other thing
that is fantastic about Nigeria, but that
Nigerians themselves fail to realize, is that
coupled with the enormous resource
endowments and potentials of the country,
Nigeria has some of the best politicians in
the world. Yes, yes, yes; Nigerian politicians
are thieves. They are crooks. They have
stolen the country blind. They are leading
the country into the ditch. Yes indeed!
Nevertheless, they are excellent at what
they do best. Nigerian politicians are
devilishly excellent politicians. This country
cannot do without them.
Precisely because Nigerian politicians are
crooks, they have a vested interest in
Nigeria. That vested interest is in the
continued existence of Nigeria. If Nigeria
ceases to exist, the politician crooks of
Nigeria will not have Nigeria to steal from.
Since there is oil in Nigeria, nobody will
secede from Nigeria. To secede from
Nigeria is to secede from Nigeria’s oil.
Neither can anyone be allowed to secede
from Nigeria with Nigeria’s oil. When that
happened, even thieves and robbers fought
that Nigeria must be one. Make no mistake
about it: we were not fighting because we
believed in Nigeria. We were fighting
because we believe in Nigeria’s resources.
We believe in Nigeria’s wealth. I have yet to
meet a Nigerian who does not truly believe
that Nigeria is a country with huge
Accordingly, our politicians form and join
different political parties, but it is all one
big lie. All Nigerian politicians belong to
one single party: Politicians Party of Nigeria
Northern nationalism
The Nigerian military, on the other hand, is
reckless. It was under the military that the
East seceded as Biafra. It would not have
happened under civilian politicians. The
patchwork quilt that is Nigeria would have
been mended and amended. There would
have been a lot of debating and horse-
trading. Odumegwu Ojukwu might have
been elected President of Nigeria by a
landslide. He might even have been the
sole presidential candidate. The Igbo would
have been mollified for the wrongs done to
them; and Nigeria would have remained
If you don’t believe me, think back to what
happened when the troublesome military
annulled the free and fair election of 1993.
The matter was resolved by a political
masterstroke of the Nigerian political class.
The decision was taken that a Yoruba man
should become the president of Nigeria. In
that process, the much-vilified North
emerged as Nigeria’s greatest nationalists.
It was Northerners, after all, who voted
overwhelmingly for a Southerner, M.K.O.
Abiola, in 1993; instead of their own
Northern favourite-son, Bashir Tofa. It was
also Northerners who fished out a
Southerner, Olusegun Obasanjo, from
prison and then secured his election as
president in 1999.
So what am I saying here? There is more to
Nigeria than meets the eye. There is an
invisible hand guiding the affairs of this
nation, and our politicians are its
instrument. Yes, we are going through fits
and starts. We are seemingly floundering
from one problem to the next.
Nevertheless, there is a method to the
madness that is Nigeria. When you stand
back and take a deep hard look, you cannot
escape the fact that, in spite of all our
palaver, we are nevertheless on the
trajectory of becoming a nation.
Nigerian “goodluck”
We have been fighting against a
determinate providence out to create a
united states of black excellence out of
Nigeria. That invisible hand put Hausas,
Ibos, Yorubas, and a host of other unlikely
ethnic bedfellows, in the same Nigerian
melting-pot. So doing, it gave us Maitama
Sule, one of the greatest orators of his
generation. It gave us Aliko Dangote, the
most enterprising businessman in Africa. It
gave us Chike Obi, one of the greatest
mathematicians the world has ever seen. It
gave us Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel
laureate in Literature. It gave us a country
with by far the most enterprising people on
the entire continent of Africa.
That invisible hand also gave is Goodluck
Jonathan. The message is written in his
name. I am convinced Goodluck Jonathan
never imagined, growing up, that he would
one day be the president of Nigeria. I
doubt if he ever thought he would even be
the governor of Bayelsa State. As a doctoral
student, he probably aspired to become a
university professor or even a university
vice-chancellor. However, “Goodluck”
propelled Goodluck Jonathan to be
Nigeria’s president literally overnight.
What are we to make of this? A decision
was taken somewhere and somehow that a
South-South man needed to become
President of Nigeria at a precise moment of
our history. For some absolutely ridiculous
reasons, a terminally-sick man was
“installed” as president. He promptly died
in office. That unfortunate comeuppance
was Nigeria’s “goodluck.” There is
something incongruous about having the
whole country benefit from South-South
oil, without thinking it imperative to have a
South-South president at some juncture.
Therefore, the time for Nigerian
inclusiveness of the South-South was
decreed. Out of the blue, a South-South
man, by the name of Goodluck Jonathan,
became president of Nigeria. We must not
lose the message of this inclusiveness. If
pioneering Barack Obama was re-elected as
president of the United States in 2012,
pioneering Goodluck Jonathan should be
re-elected as president of Nigeria in 2015.
Misguided militancy
This has nothing to do with the nonsense
of some South-South militants who declare
that if Jonathan does not remain president
until 2019, Nigeria will cease to exist. That
kind of bombast and blackmail should be
ignored. Nigeria is not going anywhere. But
in the interest of Nigeria, the South-South
should retain the presidency until 2019.
Even the APC should also consider fielding
a South-South man as their presidential
candidate in 2015. Nigeria belongs to all
Nigerians. Therefore, our acceptance of a
South-South president should not be
grudging. As a matter of fact, Jonathan’s
South-South presidency is well-positioned
to advance the Nigeria project significantly.
Jonathan’s biggest legacies are already
unfolding. He is the first South-South
president. Under him, giant strides are
being taken in Nigerian agriculture yet
again. The perennial problems of power
shortage are beginning to be addressed
with appreciable results. Under Goodluck
Jonathan, Nigerians will finally get the
opportunity to determine their future,
under the aegis of a Sovereign National


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