Tuesday, June 13, 2006

1980s Nigeria

Today it feels like it must have felt in the 1980's in Nigeria. None of the phones work (no NITEL, no MTN etc). I'm one of the lucky ones who can eek out some bandwidth. Meanwhile, no one seems to know what is going on at the top apart from some probably vicious power struggles. I'm reduced to visiting people if I want to talk to them. Lagos must be traffic hell right now..


Irritatedbynarrowminds,  3:06 pm  

What a pity. O ma se o! When does your contract expire? Are you being serious at all? Were you not briefed before you went to Nigeria and exactly what is new about all this? The point is that you are a mercenary one of the many foreigners who come to Nigeria to take advantage of the political instability and then feign clean hands. You are probaly being paid at least twice as much as your counterparts in your own country. If you dislike it so much, stay in England and view your gardens for as long as you like. Why should you remain in such inhospitable conditions? Don't sit in Nigeria enrich your pocket and then sneer, however subtely, at its people and the way things are run. Everybody knows how things are run. Who gave you the right to demand our reasons for being proud of our country, give an analysis or even question the way we do things? If it is as dysfucntional as you make it out to be, please explain to me why exactly you have chosen to be there because Britian is not a country you should need for any extended period, if its rivers are flowing with milk and honey why should you long for another????

Jeremy 3:15 pm  

Dear Irritatedbynarrowminds: you must be irritated by yourself. Only the narrowist of skulls would assume that all foreigners come to Nigeria to take some kind of advantage. Many who move here give up materially more than they gain. Perhaps you've been meeting the wrong kind of ex-pat (assuming you live in Nigeria).

Oh and by the way, if you don't like what I say on my blog, bugger off and stop reading it.

Anonymous,  3:22 pm  

Irritatedbynarrowminds...passionate point but way too much anger .... I am certain you have good points to make, but to be open minded is to respect the right of others to have their own views....you could have made these points with greater effect if you removed the anger.

Anonymous,  3:23 pm  

Irritatedbynarrowminds...passionate point but way too much anger .... I am certain you have good points to make, but to be open minded is to respect the right of others to have their own views....you could have made these points with greater effect if you removed the anger.

kemi,  3:23 pm  

Actually the 1980s in Nigeria were not so bad.

Things had only just started disintegrating. Phones worked, but it took ages to get a dial tone and the analogue lines were fuzzy, but fairly reliable. power cuts were less frequent and very short-lived, an hour to 2 hours max.

It was in the 1990s that things got ugly.

esu odara,  7:19 pm  

Kemi, quit explaining... don't apologise, just as the English don't apologise when you go to their contri.

Fact is, the blogger can't compare a damn thing in Nigeria to the 1980s cos he'd probably never heard of Naija then. Talk finish.

He's proud of their gardens, ok, we too are proud of our forests, abi I lie?

Anonymous,  8:07 pm  

oops, you don't often get attacked, but I suppose it comes with the territory. It will be interesting to see how long you last there though. For all your good intentions and genuine love for the country, I have never known a European live their entire adult life out there, Nigeria eventually ate them up and spat them out. Nigeria will never change, it will always be exhilirating, exasperating and a bloody difficult place to live and love. Trust me, as much fun and adventure you are having now, you will be singing a very different song when or if you start a family. I guarantee between the crappy education, crappy healthcare, armed robbery, no light, no water, malaria, tumblefly and fifty billion other things going on, you and spouse will be on the first plane outta there, and no one will blame you either, at least you have the luxury of a European passport, imagine if you could NEVER get out?!

Ola,  8:17 pm  

Haba! Naija is a hell hole and we love it! Do you think we want it to work? You de craze!!
If it worked we would have to pay servants a living wage, then we couldn't have servants, we would have to pay taxes, then we would be broke, we couldn't bribe or be bribed, steal contracts and lord it up whilst our fellow brother and sisters are starving in the street. Which kind Naija you dey dream of? God forbid it go change... It will never happen, not as long as we Naijas are materialistic, greedy, selfish, image obsessed, sex obsessed, power hungry people as we all know we are, don't try to deny it..... Still keep tryin Oga, you neva know, ha ha!

Opium,  10:50 pm  

Gosh, I thought my friend was exaggerating when she talked about the bile that was being spread on the comment pages of Jeremy's blog.

I make no excuses for being preachy, let's not take freedom of speech and the safety of internet anonymity too far. It's downright rude and disrespectful to insult people in their personal spaces the way some people have chosen to insult Jeremy. Surely, it is possible to disagree without being disagreable.

Please keep all forms of closet racism and xenophobia to yourselves and if you can't, then share them on your own web blog but please do not pour bile on others because it makes you feel better.

obifromsouthlondon 11:08 pm  

shhh!! dont say the years. like Kemi said it wasn't so bad in the eighties. in enugu then a bottle of coke was 10 kobo, 20 rothmans about 1 naira. and the phones kinda worked. Then S.A.P came along ...

oyinda,  11:36 pm  

Obi, na true oh! S.A.P. oh! Babangida finished us oh! Anyway, Mr. Irritated, softly, sofly oh. The man is vexed. I agree with Anon. Remove small anger and you will hit home base better.

Jeremy, don't even go there:

"Only the narrowist of skulls would assume that all foreigners come to Nigeria to take some kind of advantage. Many who move here give up materially more than they gain. Perhaps you've been meeting the wrong kind of ex-pat (assuming you live in Nigeria)."

I live in Nigeria and save the missionaries and like-minded people, most ex-pats come here for some gain - material or otherwise (and I daresay, many for material reasons - perhaps, you inclusive!). And I apologise if that is being offensive to you on your blog.

Please, ex-pats are benefiting as much from the rot as those cruel "rulers" at the top.

kemi,  10:19 am  

esu odara (clearly an idiot) said...
Kemi, quit explaining... don't apologise,
I wasn't explaining or apologising, I was clarifying.

just as the English don't apologise when you go to their contri.
Actually the English are the most prolific apologisers on this planet. There is not a week that goes by without an English person saying sorry to me for something.

Fact is, the blogger can't compare a damn thing in Nigeria to the 1980s cos he'd probably never heard of Naija then.
He can't compare to the 1980s because he didn't live here then. His comment indicates that he's making an assumption.
Your comment is just petty and nonsensical.

Talk finish.
Talk rubbish more like.

He's proud of their gardens, ok, we too are proud of our forests,
Yes, but at least the Brits can be proud of their gardens because they actually put them there. We did not put our forests down, they were there before we ever existed and we have done nothing to preserve them. Instead we destroy them to make firewood and more land for rick kleptocrats to build stupidly large and inefficent homes on.

abi I lie?
Technically you have lied. You are ill-informed, not very bright and petty. This makes you prone to speaking falsehoods and declaring them as truth

Jeremy 2:07 pm  

anywhere in the world there are "materialistic, greedy, selfish, image obsessed, sex obsessed, power hungry people" - just as anywhere in the world there are unsung heroes. Nigeria has a monopoly on neither.

The point is the former drown out the voices of the latter at the moment here. This is a result of a skewed (ie bought) media that focuses on who pays and more broadly, a post-colonial system that did not transform itself legally and constitutionally forty odd years ago. As elsewhere in the world, the end of colonialism did not issue in full scale decolonisation. A tiny clique took over the role of the British (or the French, the Portugese etc), denying any fully fledged democratisation project.

But of course, you readers all know this only too well - you really don't need an oyimbo to regurgitate. The more direct point is, there are many types of expats just as there many types of Nigerians. I took a 75% pay cut to move to Nigeria. Its no big deal and I don't expect any back patting, but I certainly didnt come here to make big money. I know two doctors who could be earning over £100k each in London, but chose to spend the last few years earning N17k each in the middle of nowhere in Abia State. Not all expats are oil-working exploiters, just as only a small few Nigerians do 419. The fact all of the obvious points above have to made to 'irritated by narrow minds' original comment is itself somewhat irritating.

Oh and its Globacom's turn to fuck up today!

oyinda,  2:44 pm  

Jeremy, start counting how many expats are here on 75% pay cut! Start! And if you don't expect any back patting, then stop bitching! Or if you decide to bitch, expect some reprisal bitching! You make it seem like you're the only one going through the stress. We all are. As someone has commented, you have a chance to leave. Many don't. If it bothers you so much, take a hike from this frustrating country.

kemi,  3:46 pm  

Oyinda your comment is daft.

The blog belongs to Jeremy. If all he wants to do is bitch about Nigeria (and we all know that's not the case) then he has every right to.

You are the one who can stop reading if it displeases you so.

When you start paying a subscription fee to the blog you can dictate the tune. In the meantime, shut up and stop bitching yourself.

administrator,  4:54 am  

Kemi, antikemi, irritated, all anonymi are now officially banned!

Adaure 8:06 pm  

Jeremy as controversial as your Pride post was and as much as I and some others disagree with some of your views... I don't think you should have to censor yourself by deleting your posts. The debate is actually a healthy thing. Anyways love your blog dude.

Monef 10:13 pm  

Jeremy, I have to agree wit Adaure. Despit the ugliness of some of the comments and the fact that some took thingd slightly personally, the debate was healthy. It definitely got me thinking and you should not have to censor yourself via deletion. Kepp doing what you do....being the conduit!

funke,  4:11 am  

Here here!

uknaija 12:31 pm  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
uknaija 12:33 pm  

I agree with Adaure and Monef...but then it's your blog..

uknaija 1:22 pm  

Apologies for this long post,feel free to delete it, but I felt it was very relevant and The Guardian doesn't always leave articles on its website for very long...

How 'they' see us
By Reuben Abati
THE image of Nigeria and that of its citizens was the subject of much representation and examination in the international media in the last few days, specifically on CNN and BBC. The CNN on Sunday, June 11 had aired a special documentary titled "How To Rob A Bank" in which some Nigerians living in the Houston area in Texas, United States had been shown to be master fraudsters who are adept in the art of credit card forgery and identity theft. There were Nigerians on the programme who helped to confirm this stereotype, including those who confessed that corruption is a way of life in the Nigerian society. For sure, there are criminals in other nationalities, but in the international media and most especially CNN it is often so easy and convenient to present Nigeria as the global headquarters of crime. Frank Nweke, the Minister of Information has since protested, noting that the CNN portraiture of Nigeria was tendentious and unfair. Okay.

But the dust had hardly settled on the CNN story when on Wednesday, the BBC World Service aired a special live, interactive programme on Nigeria between 5 and 6 pm. It was an open programme: "Africa Have Your Say" in which selected participants from all over Africa and Europe were required to give their impressions about Nigeria; these participants included non-Nigerians from Cameroun, Malawi, South Africa..., Nigerians at home in Nigeria (Lagos, Enugu...); Nigerians in diaspora (South Africa, Sweden...) and Nigerians who have changed their nationality. The BBC programme had not been pre-determined; the responses were spontaneous, and in fact the presenters had tried to be kind to Nigeria by focusing on her positive aspects and future possibilities.

I had been invited to participate in the programme but I arrived late at the studio, due to traffic problems. The other participant had had to wait near the BBC office at least two hours earlier because he didn't want to be held up in the traffic! To arrive early for any appointment in Lagos, you have to set out at least two hours earlier because the traffic is unpredictable, and if you are unlucky, the event is on one of those rainy days, you could spend the whole day on the road. I eventually arrived and ended up simply listening. The neutrality of the presenters notwithstanding, it was the same story as in the CNN programme. I was angry, frustrated, amused and in many instances, I felt like defending Nigeria.

One Emmanuel from Cameroun who had lived and schooled in Nigeria had nice things to say about Nigeria. He observed that Nigerians are "aggressive" and that whenever he is in their midst, he feels "challenged". But such positive comments were few. One lady from Malawi said "Nigeria has lots of beautiful girls but scandalous". Another fellow observed that Nigerians are famous for their "crookedness; they are not straightforward. People don't like Nigerians". Both Malawians and Kenyans complained about too much witchcraft in Nigerian movies. Text messages were sent to the presenters, also full of complaints.

Some people said they know Nigeria for its oil and the arts. Fine, but the general impression is that this is a country of demons where nothing works, a country of contradictions and unfulfilled potentials. Nothing was ever more frustrating than the comments of Nigerians about their own country. So much pessimism and anger particularly from Nigerians in diaspora: One fellow called Sola, who confessed that he had changed his nationality, was very bitter. "Nigeria is like a bad marriage", he declaimed. "It will collapse", he added. He is obviously very happy with his new country. But I felt like asking him: does that change who he is? Does the mere change of colour in one's international passport change a man's true identity, background and heritage?

It is perhaps pointless to debate the various perceptions of Nigeria; there is a sense in which the BBC and CNN have offered useful service by letting Nigerians know what others think about them, and what Nigerians think about themselves. There are lessons to be learnt from the continuous negative representation of Nigeria in the international media. Patriotism overflowing with emotions may be an appropriate response from those of us who live in Nigeria and are actually putting up with so much and still managing to be happy in the midst of it all, what Jenny the BBC presenter called our "resilience", but a more useful response would be to deconstruct the content of local and international responses and seek to use that to re-examine Nigeria as a brand and a country. In the past few years, the Federal Government has been working on an image project through which it seeks to improve the country's international standing and turn it into an attractive destination for tourism, goodwill and investment. The import of the programmes on BBC and CNN is in part that this has not really worked. Nigeria as a brand is a failed brand. It is rejected by Nigerians themselves and treated with great suspicion by outsiders. If we have any strengths, we have not managed to market them as advantages.

The root of the problem is in part the crisis of citizenship. Nigeria works fantastically well as they say, at the individual level. Don't mind the Malawians, South Africans. Camerounians and Kenyans, this country has the greatest and the richest human resource in Africa. Nigerians have a natural gift for distinction. As private individuals, they want to excel; they want the best for themselves. They are expressive, eternally optimistic and fiercely independent. But unfortunately, we have not been able to pull all that energy together to create a country that works. We are in a real sense not yet a nation. We are all trapped in the private sphere, in individual and ethnic compartments. For us, Nigeria is an abstraction; it is a distant idea imposed through colonialism; and so we are faced with that original dilemma: can a nation be built without citizens, without that sense of commitment to the motherland?

The same Sola who dismissed Nigeria as a bad marriage would never have said the same thing about his Yoruba ethnic group. He may have changed his nationality, he may have given up on Nigeria, but he is not likely to ever give up on his identity as a Yoruba man. Similarly, the fellow who declared on CNN that he is corrupt because every other Nigerian is corrupt would never say the same thing, specifically about his ethnic origin. The task ahead remains how to turn Nigeria into a nation with citizens. The pessimism of the average Nigerian derives from frustrations with the leadership and governance process in the country, rather than the Nigerian character. International media often makes the mistake of assuming that it is the Nigerian character that is the problem. Professor Kole Omotoso contributing to the discussion from South Africa had tried to make this distinction when he noted that he may have given up on Nigeria as a brand, but that he will never give up on Nigerians as a people.

The truth of the matter is that the credit card fraudsters, the con artists, the drug couriers who seem to attract the attention of the international media constitute a minority. The majority of Nigerians is made up of honest, hardworking persons who are trying to earn a living. There may be problems in terms of the value system, in terms of an obsession with money for its own sake. But there is nothing in Nigeria that is so different from other countries. There are more criminals in America than there are in the whole of Nigeria. How about the ENRON scandal, the mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, the robberies and killings on the streets of America: do these necessarily make every American a gangster? Indians and Koreans come to this country to do business and they treat our people badly but I don't consider either Indians or Koreans superior to Nigerians. If the CNN were to investigate Italians and Hispanics, its investigators would find a lot to put on air, except they may not consider it politically correct to do so.

Malawians and Kenyans complain about too much witchcraft in Nigeria: they are responding to fiction not reality. Nigerian home videos are shown on MultiChoice, so they base their impressions on what they see on television. American films are full of violence but it hasn't stopped people from thinking that it is "God's own country". Nigeria is not as Hellish as they imagine. South Africans are flocking to Nigeria and setting up businesses through which they exploit the population to make huge profits! Average Americans come here and live in big mansions that they would never dream of owning in their own country. Indians, Lebanese and Koreans set up factories here and they never want to go back home. The Chinese are also flocking to Nigeria, and setting up Chinatown everywhere. Other Africans from Benin, Cameroun, Ghana, Togo, Niger and Chad struggle, illegally to obtain Nigerian passports and identity cards. Portfolio investors from Europe and the United States are all over our hotels, looking for business. It may well be that they are exploiting the country's limitations but if this was truly Hell, they wouldn't stay this long!

Nonetheless, there is a lot that Nigeria and Nigerians have to do. First, we must resolve the issue of nationhood. Without a nation, we do not have a country in the real sense of it. There are too many issues that divide Nigerians. We lost it all because we have mismanaged our country. It is not enough to blame the British colonialists. Creating a nation would include setting up a rewards and sanctions system. Having lived under military rule for so long, Nigerians wherever they are believe that there is no system that cannot be compromised, beaten or cheated. And that the individual can escape sanctions after doing so. This encourages the widespread disregard for the rule of law that is common among Nigerians.

When you ask a Nigerian: "where are you from?" He is most likely to look at the ground before offering an answer. Americans and the British don't look down, they look up because they have something to be proud of. Nigerian leaders now and in the future must create for the people something that they can hold up as symbols of their Nigerianness, and which will be recognised by the entire world. Oil used to be a strong symbol of our national strength, but now it is associated with poverty, violence and terrorism in the Niger Delta. Football used to be a veritable symbol as well, but it has been so mismanaged, we are not even at the current World Cup. In Liberia, our soldiers ended up as cannon fodders. The Americans came and rescued their soldiers before the blow out. Even during Holy pilgrimage to Mecca, it is only Nigerians that create problems for the Saudi Arabian authorities: they are usually the last to arrive and the last to leave.

Leadership is central but the difference that we seek will not come through mere propaganda, or by junketing all over the world. The best way to sell Nigeria to the world is to transform the conditions at home, humanise the country, address the crisis of social development, and engage Nigerians in diaspora and turn them into volunteer ambassadors for their motherland. If our roads are motorable, access to social infrastructure is regularly guaranteed, and there are jobs for school leavers, the people would become less angry because they can see the value in their citizenship. Then of course, this would become another country, in our eyes and in the eyes of the world.

Anonymous,  10:07 pm  

Mr Charity worker of the year, pray do tell, which charity is yours or better still, which charity yourself be (nigerian english by the way. Bill Gates we know (God bless him always, and his micorsoft, even Mr Buffett giving away $20 billion to charity)which one is your own. You left your Great Britian to go to the deepest of the deep, Nigeria, what happened to the homeless at Charing Cross, Centre Point, the Chavs, Single mother/ Teenage mother/ Vicky Pollards, Junkies, OAPs freezing to death in their flats in winter due to their inability to afford heating, thousands of children in the midlands suffering from rickets due to lack vit D. And all this in our Great Britain. Mr John bul as we would call you, please I am sure by now, you have heard of adage 'Physician heal thyself'.

As for Kemi:
Our oyinbo wife! As you are so totally removed from reality about yourself and location we hereby, nominate you and join you to your soulmate Mr John Bull AKA Jeremy the frustrated ex-pat. You shall henceforth be known as Mr John Bull's Nubian Queen. O kare! Ku se! Nitori McDonalds ati Smarties, iwo ta idile baba re! (Refer Yoruba to the few remaining people in your circle who still understand the language.

Anonymous,  10:21 pm  

'Kemi' now we understand your unflinching support for Mr. Frustrated ex-pat, Nigeria's Least Wanted. yOu are rumbled . Your are actually Mr Frustrated ex-pat.or you are his secretary in the slinky miniskirt. NEWSFLASH Jeremy no go get you PASSPORT. Quit the gung-ho support. After having a look at your 'gorgeous' chiselled features Mr Jeremy seems more like Ms Kemi. Come on Jeremy, we are all friends here, come out of the closet and step into the light. Theres nothing to be ashamed of, your embrace of your feminine side,I must admit, Kemi is a pretty good name for an alter ego. Whilst you are taking a walk around your beautiful English Garden , I would suggest coming out to Mother dearest.
From a kindred soul. *Kiss*kiss*

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