Nigeria: Suffering And Smiling By Jude Feranmi
This is an excerpt of one of the chapters of my soon to be published book titled Power To The People. Please Read and Share.
If North Korea is the crying capital of the world, Nigeria holds the aces when it comes to smiling and laughing. – Tolu Ogunlesi
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“Nigerians are the most resilient people in the world”. This was a quote by the physiologist of the super falcons in the 2015 women’s world cup before they crashed out at the round of 16 to USA on a 1-0 loss. No matter how the result affected the quote, as it was a message to the USA team that they were not going to bow out easily, that quote is still a correct description of Nigerians. There are different adjectives that you could use to qualify the average Nigerian that would be debatable or controversial. However, the word ‘resilient’ is a word we all agree qualifies even the worst of us. The amazing part of this quality is the optimism that comes with the attitude. You tend to hear phrases like No Condition is Permanent, God will do it, One day, One day, my God will deliver me, the phrase ‘grass to grace’ is so popular that TuFace’s album titled grass to grace is one album that people never seem to forget the title. We smile in the midst of suffering and truth be told, this would have been a very good trait if that suffering was indeed not in the midst of plenty.
Our deception of the self is another trait that is attached to this resilience, howbeit in both religious ways and secular ways. I once made a claim that one thing that is certain about us Africans is that majority of our people are poor, only to face counter opinions of Nigerians who said we should stop saying our people are poor and should instead see ourselves as rich, at least we have a rich soil that can feed the whole world if they were cultivated. The religious circles that have continued to grow and expand has contributed immensely to comforting the poor and the weak, not only in the optimism of a better tomorrow but also a in the hope of an eternity where poverty is no more if peradventure they died in poverty on earth. That religion is truly the opium of the people is more than adage to the poorest of us, it is a reality.
For us to understand a problem, we cannot but visit the history of such a problem. How did we come to be this resilient and adaptive to anything that comes our ways? I like to think of this as a mentality problem. Our forefathers lived in the days of the monarchy where the king’s word is law. If the old king dies and his wicked son, the rightful heir to the throne becomes king, there is nothing no one can do about it. The next generation of people who will live under the jurisdiction of such kings will have to endure and adapt to the new king’s wishes and rules. There are old folk tales and much more applicable, nollywood movies that describe this mentality. More so, it was not customary of any one to go on exile because a wicked king has been enthroned and there was no way to curb such acts except through prayers to the gods. In fact, the king were like deities and second only to the gods themselves. Contrast this mentality to that of contemporary Nigerians who have descended from these forefathers directly in just less than 200 years ago and what you see is a direct replica, only that the prayer this time is to a different god than their forefathers prayed to.
One of the saddest conversations I have had was with a female friend of mine who logically explained to me how there was nothing anyone could do if whoever we elect as governor or president or senator decides not to function except pray. It has been the saddest moment of my entire political sojourn as I understood her premises of the experiences she had had and the examples she gave and could not convincingly tell her things could be different as a result of the political development we were now experiencing though gradually. Our smiling while suffering, unlike some people see it, is as a result of the experience that we have had and much more importantly as a result of what I would not like to call cowardice to rise up to the challenge and say we refuse to be defeated. Resignation is what fuels our Resilience and like a DNA sequence, it passes on from generation to generation in what I call the ‘Nigerian Dream’- that advice passed on from parent to children and from generation to generation that no matter what happens to my neighbour and no matter how worse the condition of my country is, I must make it. We forget that society shapes us all and when we are defeated we resign to the same prayers that our forefathers have been praying since before we were born. As a matter of fact, I doubt if this generation can pray like the previous one did.
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