Selling Nigeria Short, By Ose Oyamendan-Eimakhu

Ose Oyamendan

It’s tough to be Nigeria. If the country could speak, I bet the first words would be “guys, easy! Damn!”

We’ve seemed to mastered life going in reverse. If the western scientist were fair, they would have made a study of Nigeria and let the world know how it works. Then, it may be they are the smart folks everyone makes them out to be. Maybe tackling Nigeria would send them to the metal ward.

You know it’s bad when a country doesn’t even know its age. And, we’re not talking about civil servants or football player miscalculating their ages. We’re talking a country with records. A country with huge age discrepancy in decades!

Was she born in 1914 or was she born in 1960? What date should be more celebrated? The military imposed democracy day that must rank as one of the biggest ironies of all time? Or the independence day of October 1st that was negotiated by the heroes of our history?

If she was really born on October 1st 1960, why spend mega-billions celebrating the 100th anniversary? There must be a sense to the centennial thing though, as my secondary school teacher once taught us – “go to the Aro mental hospital and find the patient in the worst mental health. Even he would talk to you, it may just not make sense. But, he will talk and it will make sense to him.”

I think I know what’s going on here. Two of Nigeria’s biggest passions are making money and celebrations. I figure someone came up with the brilliant idea of combining the two and the anniversary of the amalgamation makes a perfect sense. Or, why would you celebrate the centenary of your nightmare because let’s face it – colonialism was a nightmare. It was the rape of the worst order.

I was thinking Nigeria when I drove around the ancient city of Kano many weeks ago. I’d not been there in at least two decades. But, I always love coming here. I love going through Nigeria because if you don’t believe in God, all you have to do is meet Nigerians. The history is laid out there in front of you. You see what 53 years had made possible and you feel the impact of gross mismanagement. Yet, the people march on with huge smiles on their labored faces.

I love Kano because I knew it before it knew me. It was there in our history books, back in those days when the schools actually taught you about Nigerian history, back in those days when you learn about Nigerian heroes and you feel pride dancing from your brains to veins. These days, the kids learn more about foreign cultures and history than Nigeria’s.

A big shame, if you ask me because I’ve been around the world and there are few cultures that can beat ours collectively. And, there are few economies that can beat ours if we have not been cursed with decades of ineffectual, selfish leadership.

In Kano, I saw how the dual hydra-headed monsters called tribalism and politics have combined to keep Nigeria in the stone age. Or, how do you describe the falling fortunes of a city that was the pride of Africa long before the colonialists knew there was something across the Atlantic.

I’m driving through Kano and I don’t see the skyscrapers that say business is booming in this city that should be the hub of dessert trade. I don’t see the infrastructures that show a city in the 21st century. I don’t see the bustling commerce that we were told as kids once made Kano one of the centers of trade in the world.

I start asking why Kano is not what Kano should be. Why it’s not the paradise of the north and the oasis in the dessert? If we’d been a nation that plans properly, Kano would have the second largest airport in the country after Lagos. It would be center of trade for the entire north, Chad, Niger, northern Cameroon and all those countries within a thousand mile radius of the northern tip of Nigeria.

Kano should be the city that doesn’t sleep because business should flow through it like a water flows under a bridge. The three biggest airports in Nigeria should be Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano. Those three cities are the economic lifeline of Nigeria and, if God had blessed us with the kind of visionary leaders we deserve, those cities will be on the tip of the global business tongue.

I heard a curious thing from a few “big men” and some aviation folks while I was in Kano. That Kano is being given the short shift because the Nigerian lady of aviation wants to develop the new airport in her region, that she’d ordered airlines to make it their first choice of destination outside Abuja and Lagos.

I had a good laugh about that because there is no way anyone can rise to the top in Nigeria with such narrow-minded views and disastrously selling Nigeria short. Then, I had a bigger laugh because when you compare the two airports and their potential, both in terms of economy and traffic, it’s not even apples and oranges – more like nuts and pine apples. And, you know the lady had a boss who has economists from all over the world around him who knows what is best for the economy. I couldn’t stop laughing at Nigerians and innuendoes.

Then, everyone laughed at me. You don’t Nigeria they say. When it’s a country with two birthday and is currently celebrating the anniversary for an event most countries confine to the dark pages of the history books, just one word comes to mind “Yikes!”

Mr. Oyamendan-Eimakhu is a film maker, soccer buff, and writer. He lives in Los Angeles in the United States


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