By Femi Aribsala
Two weeks ago, I paid a visit to Dubai for the very first time. Dubai is everything Lagos is not. Dubai works: Lagos does not. Dubai is spotlessly clean: Lagos is filthy. Dubai is bathed in gleaming electricity. Lagos is shrouded in darkness. Dubai is organized. Lagos is disorganized. After a few days in Dubai, I longed to be back in Lagos.
What is the attraction of Lagos relative to a city like Dubai? The answer is actually very simple. Lagos is the very best city in Nigeria; the very best country in the world. I have traveled all over the world. I have been to the Far East, to the Middle East, to North and Latin America and to Europe. I have been to over 30 African countries. This qualifies me to make this assessment. Nigeria is the very best country in the whole wide world.
There are too many things that make Nigeria exceptional and without equal. If Nigeria were not so wonderful, there would not have been 170 million Nigerians. Because Nigeria is such a great country, we are determined to give birth to as many children as possible so that even more people can partake of the pleasures of living here. We manufacture babies by the thousands and the millions because we are in love with the country. Nigerians don’t commit suicide. Neither do Nigerians ever desert Nigeria. The very worst thing that can happen to a Nigerian is to be exiled from the country.
Remember this: Nigeria is nobody’s colony. We refuse to be subject to nobody. We are not under the thumb of the British, the Americans or anyone else. Nigeria is the one African country that can be said to be truly independent. We have nationalized all the nationalize-ables. We own the land. There is no foreign settler-community in Nigeria that holds us captive. We are the kings of our castles. Our very best products are made in Nigeria. We make our own mistakes; make our own choices and make our own beds.
We rig our own elections. We forge our own passports. We buy our own lies. We deceive our own people. We choose to live in the middle ages and not in the 21st century. We choose to eat in “bukas” and not in restaurants. We choose to eat with our hands and not with forks and knives. We choose to walk rather than fly.
Nigerians are natural-born revolutionaries. We like to struggle. We are always fighting something or someone. We don’t like the easy life. That is way too boring. We thrive when there is chaos. We make a profit, where there is confusion. We rise up to the challenge, where everything is upside down. If something is well-organised, our first assignment is to scatter it. That gives us room to maneuver. We can handle chaos, but order is another problem entirely.
Nigerians hate progress. It does not agree with us. Some smart Alec decided to introduce traffic-lights on our roads. But when there are too many cars on the road, the last things you need are traffic-lights preventing people from going where they want. Traffic-lights make drivers wait, when they should be going. That is such a waste of time. The same goes for traffic-wardens. When you have them obstructing the roads, there are going to be tailbacks. But if you want the traffic to flow, let it be a free for all. Then you will see the ingenuity of Nigerians. We will climb up any and every possible place, and convert it to super-highways.
Moreover, our roads are theaters where drama is always enacted. That means passers-by don’t have to spend money buying tickets in order to watch our plays. You can watch a very interesting TV series just by sitting on your balcony and watching Nigerians negotiate their way every day. In one afternoon, you will see David killing Goliath. You will see Mohammed Ali fighting Joe Frazier. You will see Arnold Schwarzenegger terminating his opponents. You have to admit this kind of free theater is not readily available abroad.
Can you imagine a country where there is 24 hour electricity? That is Nigeria’s worst nightmare. For years, many nincompoops have tried to convince us to improve the electricity situation in the country, but we have wisely refused to be taken in by such deception. Why would we want good electricity when most of what we do is done under the cloak of darkness? Why should NEPA work when there are things that need to be hidden, including the rubbish that have taken over our roads. Any right-thinking person knows there are serious criminal issues in Nigeria that should not be brought to light for the sake of national security.
Just think about it: 24 hour NEPA. How boring that would be? Nigerians would have nothing to talk about. We would have nothing to complain about. We would not be able to have tales by the moonlight. We would spend too much time watching television. The economy would suffer because generator sales would plummet. Those of us making ends meet by selling diesel would be in trouble. Generator repairmen, major contributors to the economy, would go out of business. Spare-parts sellers would not be able to sell even good spare-parts, how much more fake ones. Let’s face it; should Goodluck Jonathan succeed in improving the problem of electricity in Nigeria, it will lose him the next election for sure. He will not even be able to secure the nomination of PDP, which we all know is a party of diesel-sellers and generator repairmen.
There is so much talk about corruption. But if there were no corruption in Nigeria, there would be social upheaval. Can you imagine a corruption-free Nigeria? Don’t even bother. It would be disastrous. Millions would die of starvation. How can a man sustain his family if he cannot lie, cheat and steal? As Nigerians, it is high time we come to terms with who we are, instead of pretending to be what we are not.
We are a corrupt people. It is not just our leaders: we are all corrupt. We are thieves. We love to steal. We celebrate thieves and give them national awards. We recognize that stealing is an art. To be a successful thief, you have to be skillful; you have to be ambitious; you have to be imaginative; and you have to be courageous. We are criminals because we are smart. We bring innovation to everything.
Nigerians know that successful thieves are men of destiny: renowned statesmen; famous politicians; erudite managing-directors. Therefore we eulogise thieves. We sing their praises. We give them chieftaincy awards. We give them our daughters as third wives and concubines. We prefer them as our presidents, governors and legislators. Who wants an honest man as his representative in Abuja? That is a sure way to ensure you will not get your share of the national cake.
Had it not been for corruption, Nigeria would not have survived. Corruption is the glue that holds the fabric of the country together. It ensures that, one way or another, we get paid. It provides a social security system. Corruption helps us to redistribute wealth between the rich and the poor. The rich steal from the government; the poor steal from the rich; and everyone is happy. If there were no corruption, there would have been a violent revolution a long time ago.
You can pocket a few monies from work illegally because nobody in his right mind expects you to be able to afford even your transportation costs from your meager salary. If you are caught and prosecuted, all you need to do is ask your mother to come to work to plea-bargain for you. Thanks to corruption, we can put food on our tables. We can send our children to school. We can pay for the aso-ebi. We can keep up with the fashion trends.
There is one fundamental reason behind the traffic situation in Nigeria. Nigerians are a wanted people. Therefore, we are always on the run. Somebody somewhere is after us and we need to make quick getaways. We are on the run from our wives. We are on the run from our children. We need to get away from our extended families. But even more urgently, we are on the run from the law. We are on the run from the state government. We don’t want to be caught by the friend we borrowed some money from last year.
Thank God for traffic jams. Isn’t it wonderful that you can do all your shopping while driving on the road? How many countries do you know where you have that kind of facility? You can even get your car washed while on your way to work; without having to stop or park. And if there is any problem with your car while you are on the road, you will be grateful that you are in Nigeria. One out of every two Nigerian pedestrian is a London-trained mechanic. In case you are wondering, there is London; and then there is Osapa-London. You also don’t need any GPRS in Nigeria. Every pedestrian knows exactly the way to where you are going. So if you are lost, simply ask for directions and then you will really get lost.
All this explains why, in spite of everything, Nigerians are the happiest people in the world. We are deliriously happy. Don’t believe the lie. Nigerians complain a lot about Nigeria. But that does not mean we would have Nigeria any other way. We complain because we love to complain. If everything was alright about Nigeria, we would be miserable. Let’s face it, Nigerians love Nigeria. Nigeria is the way it is because Nigerians love it so. If it were not so, we would have made amends in over 50 years of independence.
One last thing of the utmost importance: Nigeria is the very best country in the world because in Nigeria you will find Nigerians.