Nigerians Must Go for the Best

By Ben Edokpayi

I remember the permutations that enveloped the room as some relatives and I sat down in Lagos last summer to watch Nigeria’s last group F game against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup.

After Lionel Messi scored early in the third minute, the feeling was that the game was going to be a rout by the Albicelestes, thereby ending the Super Eagles’ chances of making it to the second round in Brazil. And as we constantly switched from the game between Nigeria and Argentina, and the other group F game between Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, I kept asking why Nigerians couldn’t just think of going for the win outright with grit instead of always seeking some kind of celestial help and divination? Thanks to two exquisite goals from Ahmed Musa, Nigeria was able to advance to the second round even though they lost 2–3 to Argentina.

It is time for Nigeria to stop playing second fiddle if the nation wants to achieve its 20/20 vision of being among the world’s top economies. For instance, with the way health authorities successfully tackled and contained the Ebola scourge, we showed for once that Nigeria can also be a world leader. It is a feat that made the black race proud and exposed the underbelly of what Nigerian writer Teju Cole, writing in The Atlantic in 2012, described as the white saviour industrial complex.

According to Cole, “White saviours fundamentally believe they are indispensable to the very existence of those on the receiving end of their ‘interventions’. Like some potted plants, they tend to bloom in ‘exotic’ environments far removed from their natural habitats.”

The fact is, God created all of us equal, but there are some who continue to portray the African race as inferior, and the after-effects of slave trade have not helped with our mindset either. I believe the 12 months’ period I have been here places me in a unique position to make this assessment after having been gone from the country for approximately 25 years. Sometimes we need a fresh perspective otherwise we will keep going around in circles.

As an outsider of some sorts, the biggest problems I see stemming from this warped mindset, to name a few, are:

  • A sad decline in the level of patriotism that I have witnessed among Nigerians, which I guess some can justify because wealth is concentrated in so few hands.
  • The “not my papa get am” syndrome.
  • The inclination among Nigerians to backstab, smear and derail those with genuine intentions for no valid reasons.
  • The inclination to blame all our woes on foreign influence when in fact we are our own worst enemies.

The fact is, if these trends continue I foresee this nation being stuck in an abysmal state for many more years. I simply detest hate trends and thought patterns that continue to portray Africa as the “dark continent” and I have seen it manifested on both sides of the Atlantic. But the problem with this dark trend on this side of the Atlantic, I am sad to say, is sometimes absurd, ridiculous and perpetually makes us all look like fools in the eyes of some who do not believe anything good can ever emanate from Africa.

Peaceful co-existence is key, and like the Prelate Emeritus of the Methodist Church of Nigeria Dr. Sunday Mbang harped in a sermon I listened to recently, “Seek peace, live in peace and leave this tribal nonsense and gossiping alone.”

I don’t want to believe Nigeria’s problem is due to the people’s mindset, but after a few months here, it is beginning to be obvious that we need a generational change in our mindset to be competitive in a rapidly changing world. It seems to me that we believe everything fed to us from the West hook, line and sinker.

With a virtual world where information can be collectively damaging, we need to be rationalistic, perpetually have on our thinking caps and be bold enough to take good risks, to break out of the unending stranglehold we have been under as a race and gain the competitive edge needed to thrive in the 21st century, and in the words of the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

I don’t want to believe that Nigerians are wired differently, but from my observations lately, it is beginning to look so. It is time for us to start working on our mindset to become fully independent, 54 years after the British symbolically set us free.

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