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Us redefining us

By Morenike Taire
THERE is one characteristic trait that endears a Nigerian to his host wherever he goes. It is not entirely clear whether the particularly advanced propensity of the Nigerian to adapt is  the result of his being fundamentally African or just a survival tool he has adapted; a fallout of colonialism and its neo-colonial cousins.

The African, a gracious host and visitor in nature and culture, has nothing against letting his hosts win, even at the detriment of his own pride and good.

The inglorious decades of colonialism, on the other hand, have tailored the mind of the African to a state of being in which he holds anyone of a lighter skin tone to be superior to himself, and by extension, his culture. He is eager, therefore, to align himself to cultures and ways of life he considers superior as soon as he gets the opportunity to do so.

And so, while the Indian of certain generations are most likely to be found in his saris and turbans in the furthest corners of the globe, clutching his gods close to his heart as he crosses the world’s great oceans, a Nigerian has no trouble whatsoever talking like his host, eating like his host, eating with his host and even worshipping with the god of his host.

Our good nature where embracing other cultures is concerned has been of great value to us in the assimilation of other aspects of our national life, including politics and economics into the developing global culture. Our patterns of consumption as well as our accepted forms of governance and our ideas in general have been so aligned to global standards that we have all become_ both at home and in the diasporas_  true international citizens.

Nowhere is this truer than in the aspect of religion. While Christianity and Islam reigned supreme in the 1970s and 80s, even the most remote aspects of indigenous religions were at best completely relegated, and most usually actually criminalised. Older versions in both faiths borrowed from evangelists from the Arabias and Western Europe eventually morphed into the American/Australian Pentecostal versions.

Not even the part-infiltration of leftist/communist ideas into our politics and intelligentsia of the cold war era was able to carry Nigeria back to her gods. The leftist evangelists made some disciples and a few atheists, and lost out altogether in the globalisation era.

The Pentecostal version of both faiths, which waxes strong even now, left little room for any other faith to thrive. Life was relatively good, despite rumblings in the political sector and even successive military interventions, and there was no reason to grumble about the legacies of the colonialists.

Even in the last decade of our struggling economy, our orientation in every aspect, including religion was loyally Western.

The food crisis of 2008 that was to culminate in the so-called economic meltdown brought an end to the unconditional affiliation to all things foreign. Nigerian businesses struggled to dissociate themselves from troubled international affiliates, while looking inwards perhaps for the first time in the history of our corporate existence, for resources such as funding, training expertise and even raw materials.

But while Nigerian politics and popular culture as in music and other aspects of entertainment are less aligned towards the developing global culture than before, our politics and religion have acquired lives of their own.

Religion, in particular, has deviated more than ever from local trends of the last two decades and a half. On one level, we have become religiously more globalised, getting more diversified and open to change.

On another, while the globe continues to move away from religion in spite of financial insecurity and instability, Nigeria is becoming, even officially, more of a religious state, with a recently conducted poll by this newspaper in collaboration with Silverbird Television having “Nigeria’s greatest living legend” as General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian church, Dr Enoch Adeboye with at least a 20 percentile between the man of God and his closest competition.

Again, there are two sides to it. While the two main religions of times past become even more popular, there is a new class now deviating towards traditional religion.

The death earlier this year of Susan Wenger, well known also as “Adunni Olorisa” appeared to have caused a reawakening not only at home but in the international community as well.

These new adherents are of a different breed- mostly educated, well travelled, organised and ‘open’. It will be interesting to see how this new breed will affect other aspects of our culture, economy  and politics in another decade or two. Time, as they say, will tell.


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