The years have been tough for Nigeria. The years after the independence were full of stormy battles amongst politicians who never settled before the young majors worked out a coup that killed some of the leaders of the post-independence era.
Riddles of the past
Nigeria continues to be asked tough questions from the period that the political system has never really answered. The post-independence turbulence reached a crescendo when the South-eastern part of Nigeria, led by Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, decided for a separate country. The Biafran war arising from that quest was fought from 1967 to 1970. A country that had won independence without a single bullet was fighting to keep itself together under a decade after that.
The years have been tough, being a Nigerian, even tougher but after all these years, we are still here, and with the events of 2015, we really and truly have another shot at greatness.
No matter what…
What makes Nigeria stand out for me is the fact that through all its tough times, this country is the king of brinkmanship; Nigeria never goes off the cliff, it always bounces back. The first military coup of 1966, the civil war the following year, the truncation of democratic rule in 1983, the June 12, 1993 crisis, the divine interventions of 1998, the return of democracy in 1999, the eventual loss of power by the ruling PDP after 16 straight years of underwhelming leadership, the successful transition from one political party to another, the defeat of an incumbent Nigerian president for the first time ever, and the bloodless transition between two presidents of opposing political interests in 2015, amongst other tough situations this country has found itself, shows that when Nigeria goes through fire, it knows how to keep going, it knows the fire will not burn it to ashes.
This country knows it will always rise through and survive the toughest of times. It is not the ideal reality one craves but it is better to know that when the life-or-death question gets asked by situations, Nigeria may look like it picked death, it always comes out alive! That is special. And that is a sign this country needs to put its act together, design a practical development plan and institute a system that’d lift its people out of poverty towards the reality of prosperity.
Talking about the people of Nigeria, we may look like other people from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa but we really are the pick of the bunch. The Nigerian is likely the one leading the group when you find Africans gathered. When the Nigerian is not leading, the Nigerian is leading the leader. Nigerians are confident and never afraid to question anyone who assumes that all Africans are docile and willing to be pushed around. You cannot push the Nigerian around. The Nigerian will always find a way out of the toughest situations.
We love our other African brothers and, despite some form of xenophobia from other parts of Africa towards our people, we know to always remember to be the big brother. To never resort to casting dirt on our common African escutcheon.
For a long time, we were deemed as the drug pushers and the 419ners but that has since changed, even though some of those misconceptions still hold sway. Of course, like nationals from other countries, we have our vices, but how the whole world ended up deciding that all Nigerians were drug pushers and 419ners was beyond rational.
Today, we have helped to change the way to party on the continent not to mention our battles for independence across the continent. Nigerians for once have stood their ground on one issue for over 500 days, the #BringBackOurGirls movement. Young Nigerians are doing extraordinarily well at universities around the world, and Nigerian sportsmen are dominating events for other countries when not doing it for Nigeria. Our people continue to show that we are a people that can make things happen, given the opportunity, irrespective of what our country was going through.
On the defensive
You are constantly defending the Nigerian passport wherever you go because, even when not explicitly stated, you are always guilty of wanting to commit a crime you are yet to commit and you are a permanent suspect. As a Nigerian, you know to show the right examples because you just know your nationality is especially under the radar. Embassies and consulates treat your passport with disdain and despite my own extraordinary travel record, I got a bit of that treatment recently. I have since written a letter to the ambassador of the country involved and I am sure at the end of the whole episode, something will give. If you need a Nigerian who will never be a victim without a fight, you have found one here. That much I stated in my letter to the ambassador.
Nigerians fight when they need to even when it may look like they aren’t interested. The June 12, 1993 protests, the #OccupyNigeria 2012 historic protests, the mass movement that voted out the incumbent government in 2015 showed that when push comes to shove, Nigerians will never fail to take a stand for their country. Those who assume the silence of a Nigerian is an act of cowardice often get to receive the hardest punches from that once deemed as a quiet coward.
Nigerians love life and anything that threatens their way of life has often come up the loser before us. My doubts about whether Nigerians can truly stand for what is right and defend themselves died a natural death with the realities that surrounded the 2015 elections.
I am a believer in the possibility of one man or woman to change a country’s narratives. Despite being relatively young, I have done my bit to raise the political consciousness of my people, to defy the norm and stand for my rights in the face of big bullies and to show fellow Nigerians that when we get beaten and we stay down, it is because we choose to stay down, not because we cannot stand up and defend our rights and dignity.
On my part, I have shown that you may be one person, you really can be that difference. Some other Nigerians, young and old, have shown me that this country has got more and this country can be more. I have been inspired by these Nigerians. The future looks beautiful because the stories and narratives are changing. With the change of government as led by the incorruptible Muhammadu Buhari, our country has another shot at greatness. Time will tell how far we go this time. But we know we can!
Omojuwa is a renowned Nigerian social media expert, columnist and Naij.com contributor.