Home » General » From Nigeria to Naijiria

To travel, so they say, is to see. My recent trip to Abuja peeled my eyes. It was a taxing two- day trip. From Harare I had to make a brief layover in Addis Ababa to connect a flight to Abuja.

From Addis, it took us 4 hours to reach Abuja. I was tired when I reached Abuja. A fleeting five-star hotel treatment at least drowned my exhaustion.

Nigeria is a populous nation with so much happening. One thing that mesmerised me is the pomp and fanfare at functions.

At a tea break, during a biotechnology conference I was covering, I decided to visit a venue which was next to ours. A book launch on marketing in Nigeria was launched in style nowhere near what I have seen here in Zimbabwe. On the guest list on a big banner was: “Chief Book Launcher, Father of the Day, Mother of the Day, Chief Guest”.

It was a flashy occasion with Nigerian models ushering people into the venue. When you are escorted to the high table, you are the “Oga Chief” or “Chairman” or “The Big Boss”.

The powerful and the rich at such occasions feel puffed up and in their traditional Nigerian garbs, they look majestic and proud. Most Nigerians are very flashy people, like here at home, money equals respect irrespective of how you get the money.

In Abuja, you will see the latest 4X4s, Mercs, Lexus SUVs, Hummers and a range of the “big man’s toys” on the road.

There is always competition for the latest cars, the biggest house or who can throw the biggest, flashiest party among business and oil moguls. A trip to Maitama, one of the affluent major districts of Abuja, was telling.

Maitama is home to most embassies and high commissions and it is an exclusive and expensive area where the cregraveme de le cregraveme and top politicians live.

I was told that some of the richest Nigerians even own 20 or 30 houses in the area where houses are sold for prices ranging from US$200 000 to more than US$1 million.

Lavish lifestyles are quite evident in this leafy suburb. And whenever parties are held, people really show-off their latest fashion and trendy cars.

A driver who accompanied us to Maitama said at parties all the conversations centre around money and material possessions, their mansions and their material goods. That pride and showy lifestyles is salted away by many Nigerians that are living according to their means. Whenever you meet an elderly person and others who are moderate, you see the strength of humility and wisdom over the greedy and lavish.

“I personally believe in moderation, I can never understand people who live the whole show-off lifestyle,” says Abu Mustapha, an elderly man from Abuja, at a thriving market.

“But I understand it a little bit though. They crave attention, it seems. But that’s just an assumption, they are a greedy lot who want everyone to see them. Nigeria needs a complete overhaul in our mindsets about things grand.”

He says there is a lot of abuse of resources as the rich and powerful pursue lavish lifestyles. Schools and clinics, he says, take the back seat.

Issues of the re-based Nigerian economy are on everyone’s lips. Cheery news that Nigeria reportedly overtook South Africa as Africa’s leading economy has elicited ardent debate. Re-based GDP figures catapulted Nigeria from US$262 billion to US$510 billion, representing a rise of 94,6 percent. This has put Nigeria ahead of South Africa with a GDP of US$370,3 billion.

Talk over this has brushed and oiled Nigeria’s ego despite the knee-jerk and overly jaundiced criticism. Big country, big economy, big cynics and a humiliating poverty that overshadows the cheery news.

Elsewhere, Dr Agwu Okali of the Okali Seminal Ideas Foundation for Africa, is proposing a change in the way the country’s name is spelled (that is written) from “NIGERIA” to “NAIJIRIA.”

He says there are a least three ways in which his country will benefit from this simple change, which he says does not alter the existing pronunciation of the name but serves to Africanise the name, “giving us a national identity free from its colonial antecendent.”

“Naijiria” is how our name would be written if it were an African word (that is, written in an African language): African words are written phonetically the way they are pronounced and vice versa,” he argues.

“Nigeria” on the other hand, reflecting the idiosyncrasies of the English language, requires one to pronounce it as if it was not an African word.

“The change would, therefore, represent an important affirmation of political and psychological independence and self-confidence by a nation that is proudly African and is at the forefront of continental leadership!”

Dr Okali further argues that the change will dissociate the country’s name from the racial derogatory term “Nigger.”

“The third aantage of the change, not to be underestimated, is to avoid the all too common confusion all over the world between “Nigerian” and “Nigerien” (that is, belonging to the country Niger),” he says. “Currently, Nigerians, being better known, take all the blame for transgressions committed in third countries by members of both populations.”

Marinate your mind. I can’t say more. Wonders never end in Nigeria. A booming homosexual centre in the Delta State was busted recently after a tip off. This is a country with a government and religious bodies that are vehemently opposed to same sex relationships.

The Boko Haram sect is another sore point for Nigeria. The country is on a high security alert and you just don’t know when the next strike will occur.

Road blocks, searches, security scans at hotels, airports, government buildings, military institutions and other places, are now the norm. At least, both Christians and Moslems are united against the Boko Haram insurgents.

The campaign for the 2015 election is hotting up. And for Nigerian President Jonathan Ebele Goodluck, it’s campaign made easy. His campaign message beef is: “Goodluck Nigeria.”

It remains to be seen how his beefs will be matched by others in the murky politics of this West African country.

Nigeria is a country of many contrasts. It swings from one pendulum of success and back to another of failure and misery. But one thing is certain: Nigeria is ticking and has set its eyes on being Africa’s top economy.

Cheery news of a major breakthrough in the local refining of heavy crude using locally sourced materials coming from Ahmadu Bello University is a major fillip for Nigeria’s grand ambitions.

Discovery of a Zeolite catalyst, an essential additive in the conversion and refining process of crude oil into usable gasoline and petroleum products, is a major plus for this country.

However, corruption, political grandstanding and abuse of resources, may dent this new found hope and send many on the Diasporan trek.

Journalist and author Adam Nossiter aptly describes Nigeria: “Nigeria is the Texas of Africa: it’s big and loud and brash, a place of huge potential, untapped talent, murderous conflict and petroleum riches.

“Nigeria today is a seething caldron, maddening in its contradictions and capacity for self-destruction but full of promise too in its immense energy and human resources.”

Source : The Herald