The danger in a single story By Peju Solarin

Honorable Compatriots,

I sit here quietly reflecting on two towering personages and their social interventions with respect to the external image sculpturing of Nigeria. I am talking of Mike Wallace and Lious Farrakan.

The debonair and respected Mike Wallace died recently. Many of us caame to know him as the pioneering effort behind American news show 60Minutes who probably helped carve out the context of the entertainment news. He proved that news could be informative yet fascinatinating in very personal ways.  However, Nigerians in particular will come to appreciate yet another thing that Wallace helped to prove: the fact of how corrupt Nigeria was and probably still is. As a matter of factly, in his view, Nigeria is, arguably, the most corrupt nation in the world or falling short in that, certainly the most corrupt in Africa.

Now lets think about that for a minute.

Pause.

How does that make one feel?

This implies that one’s heritage is of deep and entrenched corruption. You know that feeling one gets when we—especially those of the Diasporan extraction in our larger community—read the news and it says “fraud ring arrested”…[insert Nigerian-sounding name]…and you experience a visceral reaction to these names, because you know! It is a feeling of shame, embarrassment, and the transitional moment of ah-ah, kilode?!  When you begin to wonder, why are we always using our many and wonderful talents for evil?

Now I do not intend to go off on some sanctinmonious rant. Do I really need to? Enter the indomitable Louis Farakhan. His response to Wallace’s representation of Nigeria is so vehement, so engaging, that Wallace, does indeed become quiet. Is Wallace convinced? I cannot say, but viewers of the Wallace-Farakhan exchange wee and most certainly still are convinced of one of several things: Nigeria’s narrative is not a one-dimensional act; and that one should not tar a country, with over 140 million inhabitants, in one fell swoop, with so dark a brush. No. The viewer considers that there may be more to Nigeria and more to other countries than is known from that one statement of “the most corrupt nation in the world.” Farrakhan is not my most favorite person. No, he is not. There are several things this man has said that make me cringe, but there is wisdom in what he shared in response to Wallace.

As Chimamanda Adichie eloquently shared on a TED stage, there is utmost danger in a single story.  Mr. Wallace is not lying, Nigeria may well be the most corrupt country in Africa, but how do we know this for certain. We, my dear compatriots, can not just take his word—even if credible—for it.  An empirical study of all 54 countries would need to be conducted along with significant quantitative and qualitative analysis to determine what nation is indeed the most corrupt in Africa.

Then what?

After we get this information, what do we do with it? Do we condemn the winner—in this case the most corrupt nation? Or do we as Farrkhan shares, try to help the nation? I will let you decide.

Nigeria will turn 52, this coming October. Many will share that it has an abysmal record of failure in its path. From coup d’etats, to sham elections, to non-existence of basic infrastructure and of course our well-publicized corruption activities. A country so great, yet, so not great. Lesser countries have and continue to surpass us. It is indeed a shame. But, let us not lose heart, we are, after only 52. Farrakhan notes that the great United States of America just allowed blacks (of America) to vote less than 50years ago. Nigeria had become an independent country before blacks in the US could even vote. And we all know how we felt when Barack Hussein Obama became president less than 4 years ago. So, we should recognize that we are impatient. It is not uncommon to be so, what would be wrong and common to do is to give up striving to be better than we are.

Nigeria will be great one day. It will. And, my dear compatriots, we shall tell the story to our children of how we were at one time the most corrupt nation in the world. And they, to our own pride, will look in disbelief. For now, let us work towards that goal. Let us be humbled my the words of the same Wallace (RIP), but be inspired my the chidings of Farrakhan (more grease to his elbow).

Peace.



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