The Benefits In Self-Definition And Self-Assertion
By: Paul I. Adujie
New York, USA
April 29, 2003
On a recent Sunday I was invited to lunch in the home of a Nigerian friend, while I awaited for the pounded yam to be made, we engaged in small talk or banter as friends do, and I had asked her if she was rooting for any candidate in particular for the general elections currently going on in Nigeria, she offered a nimble and muddled answer which was limited to whomever God and Allah selected, was good enough! She is always the ultimate diplomat!
As I discovered quickly that she was not ready to state specifics, I gladly changed the subject, especially as I did not want to be a bad guest; She was being nice inviting me to free lunch on this Palm Sunday, after she had returned from her several hours at Church; She had in her kitchen, a pot of soup replete with all kinds of meat and poultry, fish and snail, it was bound to be good, it is not my first free lunch with her and she is good at this thing, she is depriving the world of her true skills, which is cooking! If she ran a restaurant anywhere, I would be an avowed customer, particularly here in New York, where finding good quality authentic Nigerian/African dishes are not a common occurrence; But she currently spend her days working as a very competent Accountant, for the City of New York, no commercial cooking, thank you very much!
In the kitchen, while I was giving her some moral support,(which was limited to talking about Nigeria) I noticed some hair braiding threads, the type that was common in Nigeria in days past, the ones for string braiding, and as I often do, I decided to find out the country of manufacture, and it turned out to be China, China makes a majority of products that we use here in America, and I announced to her that her thread was imported from China, she countered that her mother sent the threads and that it could have as well have been made in Nigeria, except that for some reasons, that amounts to no reasons at all, many good and qualitative products that are actually made in Nigeria, are deliberately and intentionally mislabelled as made in Italy or some other European Country! I reminded her how �Made in China� or �Made in Taiwan� or �Igbo Made� products used to be a euphemism for counterfeit or inferior products in Nigeria! Now everything in America is Made in China!
The illogic of stamping Made in Nigeria products with foreign labels, she explained, is just so that Nigerians would have a better appreciation for the product in question, if it is perceived as imported from Europe or made by some foreigners, especially white foreigners! This, she explained further, made practical business sense, as the only interest the Nigeria manufacturer or creator of any such product has, is to make profits and not concerned with the philosophy and nationalism of mislabelling and giving credit for creation and manufacture of such products to somebody else�s company outside of Nigeria!
In America, products made with Union Labour or locally manufactured are always accordingly stamped, e.g. �Made in USA with pride�, or �Union Made� and they print union and proud on products! But here I am! learning that the reverse is the case in Nigeria! How can we not be proud of our productive ability? It takes a great thinking capacity and creativity or talent from the conception of any product to its actual manufacture and use! What is there for some Nigerians not to be proud of their efforts! What is there that makes the consumer prefer foreign products over Nigeria Made or put more accurately, what makes a consumer prefer a mislabelled product actually made in Nigeria? Why is the same product more satisfactory because it bears a dubious foreign label? Made in Nigeria, but with a fake label proclaiming that it is imported! What is this? Our psyche is, foreign is better?
Is this also why some Nigerians prefer imported pasteurised oranges juice from abroad to fresh squeezed tropical Nigerian oranges, which usually comes without any artificial sweeteners and preservatives that are found in foreign juices for longer shelf life?
I have been told that this practice is pervasive! Tailors put New York, London Paris instead of Aba, Abeokuta Zaria! On the fine and qualitative clothes that they labor to tailor and produce; And local manufacturers of guinea brocade actually stamp their made in Nigeria textiles as if it was made in Holland, India, even Cotonou or some other foreign country! We as Nigerians must change this attitude! Why must we hide or deny our critical intellectual resource? Our creativity should be a thing of joy and pride!
I remember that as a young person, only the poor actually sew their clothes by visiting a clothier and a tailor, the upwardly mobile in the society went to the stores for imported already tailored clothes also known as �ready-made� But since living in the United States, I have found that a premium is actually attached to or placed on the taste of those individuals who can afford custom tailoring! Which is the exact opposite of what we did in Nigeria! The poor in Nigeria are usually the ones who use the services of custom tailors. As everyone knows, clothes tailored to your measurements fits best, the contours of the individual, whereas the factory mass produced �ready-made� is made for an indistinct person, any person, and it does not therefore account for the individual specific nature of how our body parts were assembled by the creator in heaven.
I make bold to say that this poor psychology should not be allowed to permeate our psyche as Nigerians! Not only in manufacturing, but also in general outlook on life as a whole! Nigerians Economists should try to re-define economic concepts to fit local circumstances, they should not just swallow the Adam Smith, Keynesian and Malthusian theories and ape these concepts! We as Nigerians should re-define and refine modern medical technology and medicine to cure and or prevent Malaria and other diseases that are spread by the ubiquitous mosquitoes! We should not just help the multinational pharmaceutical companies to make millions of dollars by simply prescribing the now mostly ineffective medicines the multinationals make for malaria! We have enough doctors, pharmacists and other sundry health professionals!
In the diplomatic and international relations arena, are we aggressive and awake when issues affecting Nigeria and African arise or are contemplated by non-Nigerians/non-Africans? Are we aggressively pursuing and protecting our national and continental interests? Are we constantly allowing things be what they are by omission and default on our part?
Another Nigerian friend of mine is College Professor, she shuns Nigerian students, she says that she is embarrassed to be identified with Nigerians! I did not know this, until I visited her at her work place! A Nigerian student noticed my Nigerian flag label pin and greeted me cordially and made friendly enquiries, at the end, the professor �confidently� told me, I know there are many Nigerian students here, but I never let them know that I am a Nigerian! I gently rebuked my friend expressed my disappointment and surprise.
Her rationale? Being associated with Nigeria depresses her! And she gave her examples, pointing to news items from different newspapers of Nigerian origin on the Internet; One reporter discussed Nigeria�s fabled bid to host the World Cup Soccer Events and the reporter or sports journalist adamantly give a million reasons why Nigeria hosting was a bad idea forever! No road, no five star hotels, no transportation networks, no airports etc etc. The American Embassy will never give sport persons of Nigeria visas, because of this and that and the Americans do not take such nonsense from anyone Nigerian! And on and on and on, he went! (Nigerian journalist as spokesperson for the US embassy?) He said the Americans were so upright and the Americans denied the Falcons visas, because of some Nigerian officials, he then condemned the Falcons and Soccer in Nigeria to eternal damnation! Whew!
Another reporter was a travel and tourism journalist, he writes that tourism is major earner in-all-the-world, but it will never succeed in Nigeria! And as is customary, he too recounted a different version of litanies of woes why rain never falls in Nigeria, the sun will never shine in Nigeria and why clean air would soon be a thing of the past in Nigeria! And why Nigeria must forget any efforts in trying to make tourism work!
The education correspondent discussed the education sector, instead of recognizing the challenges that are present, like poor economy and competing projects and limited resources, criticize efforts as perhaps inadequate and proffer solutions? No! He too wrote that the education sector will never amount to anything in Nigeria, what with ASUU strike? There are empty and decayed facilities and buildings? And this and that and that etc.
Then, comes the political reporter? The mother of all journalistic undertakings in Nigeria! He writes, about the elections and has the last word on why democracy will never this and never that in the Nigerian environment and why anyone who thinks or expect otherwise, should enlist the help of multiple specialists in mental health and a combination of psychiatry and African fortune tellers and psychics etc.
In the Arts and Culture section, the Nigerian journalist wrote that the World Poetry Day was not well planned or funded or celebrated and narrated why it will remain so forever and ever and ever!
The professor ended by asking me to explain the doom and gloom that pervades and dominate conversations and journalistic efforts emanating from Nigeria? Where is the good news? Can someone find some good news? There are certainly things that are going well in Nigeria? There are surely plans that are working out as originally intended? Why is it no longer sufficient for journalist, critics and commentators to make observations and sprinkle the observations with workable ideas? Why are so many Nigerians insisting that Nigeria is in a state of anomie? What is the benefit of this doom and gloom pictures that are being painted and doled out every minute? Why are some Nigerians engaged in this self-fulfilling prophecy? As a man thinketh, so he becomes? Why are so many Nigerians of the belief that present situations are insurmountable and irredeemable? Why do some Nigerians appear to hold the opinion that Nigerian circumstances are so peculiar, so unique and novel, unlike any other, hence defies any human solution that is possible anywhere else? Nigerian challenges are not different or impossible compared with the rest of the world! Our short term and long term interests are not served by bad attitudes!
I have in the past stated my wonder as to why some Nigerians seem to accept all kinds of unsavoury labels accusing us of fraudulence and every crime in the book, as if we are markedly different from the rest of the world, the truth is, we are like everyone else, we produce architect, lawyers, doctors, librarians and computer technology experts like everybody in other countries and occasionally we have negative product and that becomes the focus of our detractors and even some of us; Why?
Nigerians must engage in a soul searching and engage in self-definition anew! We should no longer respond with docility, we should be strident and vehement in our rejection of the negative labels, that others scheme to pin on us because we are the next competition, We should cease saying that we brought it all upon ourselves! We did not! If a few out of one hundred and twenty million are wont to act as aberrant as some humans everywhere in the world with the same or similar circumstances do, it should be seen as such, an aberration.
Nigerians should become more assertive and confident, it is said that, begging is not a position of strength, kneeling is not a position of dignity, it is not the case that our accusers do so out of benevolence and altruism or because these are just the facts! We owe it to ourselves and offspring and our Nigeria, to ensure that our country has good reputation and we should learn to insist that we as individual and our country as a collective, be accorded respect and dignity, to do otherwise is short-sighted, even those Nigerians who now are happy to have several citizenships, other than Nigerian citizenship, should remember a constant, people will always look at you, or hear you speak and know that you are a Nigerian or an African or when you are successful, they will ask you where you were born or where you were originally from, this vexing question also arises when you commit a crime or when you are wretched and poor, where are you from or where are you originally from or what is your place of birth are questions, that all immigrant are frequently asked, all over the world! So why do some Nigerians waste valuable time denying their Nigerian-ness? Instead, of investing time being the best Nigerian that they can be?
We might as well plan ahead by building a good reputation for ourselves, our families and Nigeria as a whole, If we have something about our lives worth the attention of any person, we would probably be glad to introduce ourselves and our origins as natural course of events in human lives; Even if we have renounced our Nigerian citizenship, we should acknowledge our origins and our source; This is in our best interests as individuals and as a collective, no matter our location on earth or our circumstances! Nigerians have permanent stake and permanent interests in Nigeria and all the good things that Nigeria stands for and represents and that is forever!
God and Allah have always blessed Nigeria and will continue to do so.
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian Lawyer and an Information Technology Professional