What it means to be Nigerian
If you come across a Chinese person, you’d probably never think to ask what ethnic group in China s/he belongs to, because as far as you are concerned, “A Chinese is a Chinese”, no use making distinctions.
But in truth there are 56 ethnic tribes in China and while the Han Chinese are the dominant group, other ethnic tribes total about 100 million people with their own peculiar culture and beliefs, but you don’t really care about that, do you?
Same way your average European/American sees a Nigerian too, “A Nigerian is a Nigerian” to them, and do you think they care whether you are Hausa, Ibo or Yoruba?
Let me answer that for you, “Nahh, they don’t!”
The rest of the world does not make any distinction as to what kind of Nigerian you are, they judge us based on their existing notion of what it means to be a Nigerian and the global image that Nigeria has perpetuated abroad over time which is anything but good.
And if anything, the recent wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa have driven this point home.
Their thinking was something along these lines: “Our economy is experiencing a downturn, people are losing jobs, but wait, you know what, Nigerians are known to be thieves, fraudsters and criminals, I bet they are somehow responsible for this, c’mon let’s go deal with them”
You might feel this is me exaggerating, but you only need to check out a couple of recent SA twitter threads to see how popular this line of thinking is among them.
It never occurred to them that in a developing country of around 180 – 200 million people, you’d inevitably have criminal elements and that these criminal elements are bound to be more disruptive because of the simple matter of population size.
That for every cyber-criminal, we have thousands of young people learning software development and lines of code, for every fraudster, we have thousands of everyday people trying to make a living for themselves and address their daily needs the right and honest way, that if there is any crime we are all generally guilty of, it is tolerating our farce of a government and that in their misplaced and mindless killing spree, they probably killed a couple of honest and innocent Nigerians.
I ask myself, “Why didn’t they dare lay their hand on the Boer/Dutchman, or on the visiting national from America”, that’s because they had a convenient victim in the Nigerian.
Outside of Nigeria, it is not easy to escape what it means to be Nigerian, as human beings we are wired to live in tribes and groupthink affects us all, so when push comes to shove, people won’t judge you as an individual, they will judge you as a Nigerian.
If you are super-rich, you might get a pass and that’s just maybe.
So it still honestly baffles me as to why we are constantly prejudiced tribally, and stay intolerant of each other when to the rest of the world it doesn’t make any difference.
“A Nigerian is a Nigerian” and they hold all of us responsible to what it means to be Nigerian.
If there is any point I am trying to make here, it’s that we need to start holding ourselves responsible for what it means to be Nigerian, seeing as the rest of the world is going to judge us for it anyways.
From our choice of leaders to how we treat each other irrespective of tribal, cultural and religious differences, to the kind of image we perpetuate to the world on our media.
In the end, “We are all responsible for what it means to be Nigerian”