When the new Nigerian emerges: the outburst of Bello Galadanchi

Brasilia, 22 July, 2012 

Following last week´s piece on “what shall become of the young Nigerian”, I received several comments and reactions from various readers. Except for a few diatribes from some of the tribal warlords that often comment on Sahara Reporters, all of them are encouraging. Luckily, attacks and criticisms are as essential as the commendations. Everyone is entitled to an opinion on anything, including on a piece of commentary by an obscure blogger. I am highly encouraged.

Notably, two commentators drew my attention to important points the write-up may have been silent on, namely the need to create employment and the role of the judiciary in nation building. I promise to address these issues in subsequente write-ups.

 Of the numerous readers that contacted me directly,   a certain Bello Galadanchi, a Nigerian-US citizen, had the most profound effect. Mr. Galadanchi was born in the U S by Hausa parents, raised in Jos, and Kano, – two cities currently at the center of the ongoing insecurity problems in Nigeria, attended secondary school in Katsina, and graduated last year from Penn State University in the US after completing an engineering degree.  For a living, he is primarily a filmmaker, among other things.

As the idea of a Hausa American movie director was settling in my mind, I came to realize that the young man represents one of the now many exceptions of young Nigerians. He is part of the emerging new Nigerians who have thrown the toga of irredentism and of being beneficiaries of quota system, to struggle against all odds and be one of the best.

The gentleman is apparently on his way to even greater heights, but he is angry. He is angry at his country (Nigeria), its leaders, the followers and the mentality of human idolization, ethnic chauvinism and religious intolerance of his fellow countrymen. He generously wrote, about my article, that “I was beginning to lose hope, or think that it would be difficult for anyone to see this big problem from an outsider’s perspective, you stopped that leaking hope. Thank you”.

A screenshot from the director´s website: http://www.bellogaladanchi.com

More than a movie director and entrepreneur, he is also a writer and has shared with me, an outburst he once wrote following a successful essay competition in which he won. With his permission, I share with you this outburst based on his personal experience as an African-American with root in northern Nigeria. The theme of his outburst draws inspiration from a quotation, which is often attributed to the 20th century physicist, Albert Einstein, but was actually written by Rita Mae Brown, an American author in her book, Sudden Death; that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Below are his words. Be warned. He is a ruthless writer.

Keep doing the same thing 

This might be the funniest note you’ve read in a long time, or just plainly in your face and painful. It’s your call. I prefer the latter. I can’t hold this in anymore, and letting more and more of this accumulate inside me, will make me swell up like a pregnant woman’s belly and deflate from any slight touch like a melting balloon in fire. If you are just interested on what I have to say, then you will find this very enlightening and eye-opening. If you are an African-American interested in knowing a little more about Africans and why the beautiful continent is smelly, broke and destroyed like a homeless guy’s wallet, then you clicked on the right note. If you are a first generation African in the United States, a lot of this note applies to you, and I want reading this note to press some hot buttons in your brains and hopefully piss you off because you too have a significant part in this. If you are an African in the U.S who just moved, or is in the U.S specifically for school, then read on because you inspired or irritated me to write this note, and I am not sure if this note will help you learn something about yourself and ask yourself some serious questions, because you have closed that mind of yours like a welded door, and getting into it needs some serious time, cutting, chiseling and probably dynamite.  My goal is not to inspire you, advise you, warn you, or lecture you. My goal is to have you come after me upset and furious. If this happens, then I have achieved my first step in figuring out what kind of metal, the door of your mind is made from before I start planning to attack it. Yes offense.

Some of you might recall me winning an essay competition recently discussing 3 things to change in Africa to make things better. If you are curious to see the gibberish I scribbled, let me know and I will send you the essay. I was disappointed to find out that I won. Two nights before the deadline, I read an email about the competition, and thought to myself ‘‘wow, $500 will cover the Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 that I wanted to get.”  I took 2 hours to write the essay. As a Hausa who grew up in the deep north of Nigeria, with a very bad English background (my English teachers couldn’t speak good English) and mostly engineering discipline in college, it shocked me to find out that no one amongst the African community on this campus was able to write something better.

I later came to the conclusion of a couple of things; either the African students cannot pinpoint the African problems and talk about them, which I consider very disturbing (Maybe they don’t really care about writing about African problems, which comes from lack of passion, lots of privilege and belief that nothing can be changed), or the African community is just wealthy enough (mostly from the money their parents gave them) to not want $500 just from writing an essay. I don’t believe that I am better than all of them in thinking about African problems and writing about them. You are there saying, “I just didn’t feel like writing a paper, or I just wanted to let others get the chance.” That “I don’t care” or “I always have an excuse” is even worse than me winning that essay competition. The African students that grew up in the U.S or born in the U.S can be excused compared to the pampered ones here specifically for school, with a return ticket home in their closet. Last summer, I was in Kenya for Humanitarian Engineering work with a lot of Penn State students who came from variety of majors ranging from Biology, Pre-Med, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Bioengineering all the way to English. If you don’t know where Kenya is (I am not going to be surprised), it is in East Africa. We helped a village and an orphanage with health diagnosis. Why am I telling you this story? Because I was the ONLY African in the WHOLE team. Are you kidding me? Where are all the Africans I meet here at meetings and clubs who want to be “Doctors”, and surgeons? Where are all those engineering guys that I see in the library studying? Are you doing all these majors because you want to bring change to the world with it, or just because of yourselves and the title behind the professional career? I have an idea, maybe it’s what your parents want you to do, and like a dog on a leash, you are just auto-piloting your life away or the money behind it sounds good. Here is clearly an opportunity to expand your experiences, and help the people of your continent, but like a stone dropped in dark quiet pond, you are quiet and nowhere to be found. While writing my paper, I knew what the biggest problem is and I didn’t even mention it once. Maybe it’s time to talk about it, and I am not writing this to spill my heart out, inspire people or just rant. I’m writing this to piss people off so that they can feel an obligation to find the problems in themselves and start changing if their minds are in the right stage to know what “change” is. After coming across a lot of Africans mostly here at Penn State main campus, I’ve filled my brain´s jotter with so many attributes, characteristics, insanity, ways of thinking, and stupidity from Africans, and what is even more terrifying is that they are the hope of the continent. This is because coming out to the western world gives one a chance to see things from the outside, and be able to think in a different way (outside the box), compared to the people and aspiring leaders stuck in the continent brewed on the bitter leafs of life and struggle. You are the biggest problem africa has.

From some of the things I jotted down, I will share with you a couple of terrifying things I’ve learned from you, which made me lose for the continent.

  1. You don’t really care about giving someone a chance to be happy.
  1. You (both the guys and girls/women) gossip about other people. You might be frowning your face saying, “Well I am not a gossiper”. I have some news for you mister/misses stupid face, surrounding yourself with gossips makes you one.
  1. Because some of you don’t have to pay any tuition (its covered by your rich parents who might have deep roots in the government that stole so much from the African people), you can only see the struggle of others from the outside, and because you refuse to associate yourself with struggling and underprivileged people, you don’t have any idea what it is like to not have the privilege you have.
  1. You only consider your own way, and never considered compromising anything just to be open to others, consider their views, their feelings, their ways of life, but you anchored yourself to being self-centered, thinking that the world revolves around you.
  1. You still look at ones tribe to judge or prejudge them, ignoring the fact your actions do not associate with your tribe.
  1. All the things that you do, e.g. the way you dress, your screen names, or profiles are always influenced by opposite sex.
  1. You automatically assume others will know and feel how you feel without openly talking about it.
  1. You don’t really care much about finding a job after school because your parents have connections in Africa, which will set you up and get you on track of achieving your dreams.
  1. Your dream in 10 years is to have a nice house, fancy cars, good job or business and thinking of ways to help the 90 percent poor African people is not clearly in your mind.
  1. You are rooting for a politician because of personal benefits you might get from them, knowing clearly that they aren’t the best candidates to help the poor struggling people.
  1. You can’t independently think for yourself, and make your life decisions and plans.
  1. You just don’t believe that one of your actions can make a difference to the lives of millions Africans.
  1. You are running for offices just as a popularity contest, without having any compassion about the organization, or its mission, while inhibiting others who have the passion, and love for the continent to go in, and successfully and positively improve the image and goals of the organization.
  1. You only associate yourself with the same group of people who you have familiarized yourself with for a long time, without stepping out to know other people, their ways of lives, opinions; however, you think that you will be open-minded.
  1. You cannot draw a line between personal and professional issues, either at work, clubs, organizations, or school.
  1. You still can’t pass and oversee religious, cultural or ethnic differences, and either throw your views at people, or you avoid associating with certain people. I once had a friend who needed help with a project, but due to either my cultural, ethnic or religious background; he chose not to work with me. What if that is a chance for me to see how beautiful and great your ethnicity, culture or religion is? What if that is a chance for me to get answers to some questions I always have? What if that is a chance to see similarities that will wipe out so many stereotypes and preconceived notions? But just like most Africans that failed to move the continent forward, you just avoided me, and closed that chance for propagation of knowledge, expanding horizons and breaching differences. If in any way you think that is a good decision then you are still violently infected with the virus that infected many Africans that wish they could see change, but will never see it, because they have closed their minds, and kept doing the same thing that has been failing Africa for decades and will continue for generations.
  1. You never considered the fact it’s only natural to make mistakes, be wrong and apologize.

 If you feel attacked here, that’s exactly how I want you to feel. This shouldn’t cease to upset you until you breakout out of your selfish, ignorant, close-minded, privileged shell, that not only kept you delusional and in the dark, but kept a whole continent that is hungry for acceptance, selflessness, understanding and compassion. All of us have mouths of complaining about African problems and the leaders. While other countries are suffering from natural disasters from time to time, Africa as a whole continent and most specifically some of the countries are suffering from the worst natural disaster in the history of the world for decades that has left millions of people homeless, powerless, hungry, sick, voiceless, hopeless and dead. We are the natural disaster. We produced the leaders that we claim to do everything wrong, forgetting that they were born by African parents, went to African schools and were elected by African people. These people are our products folks, and maybe you aren’t tired, but I am not waiting for the good leaders because they don’t exist. I know you are right there saying ”No, when I get elected to office, I will help the people and change the way things are done to make progress”. Well, if the leaders in Africa right now did not prove you wrong, then take a look at any student group around you controlled by Africans. As long as we all think the same way, judge the same way, act the same way, we will continue to see the same thing over and over and over. Bullshit in, bullshit out. The only answer is you. Only crazy people keep doing the same things that have been failing them over and over, thinking that one day, it will produce a positive result. Unless you change yourself, accept others, understand and feel what the unprivileged feel, have compassion for changing things in the continent, be open-minded and be willing to step out of your comfort zone to learn about others, Africa will still be what it is for the next decade without any big difference.

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What shall become of the young Nigerian?

Brasilia, 17th June, 2012

 

The Picture

 By the time this piece was written, Nigeria Security Tracker, a crowd map managed by Council on Foreign Relations, has catalogued 591 violent incidents in Nigeria between May 2011 and mid June 2012 (and still counting). Several hundreds of people have been killed and many more displaced, as a result of attacks motivated by political, economic, or social grievances. These figures are alarming, and considering the difficulty of verifying incidents of this nature, we may assume that they are the most conservative you can get. Far more alarming however, are those associated with suicide attacks allegedly perpetrated by a radical Islamic movement, known as Boko Haram, which is believed to be based in Northeastern Nigeria.

With every attack, our hearts and that of our country are ripped apart as the mayhem continues.  To understand the Boko Haram crisis better, readers may find useful, a Special Report published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in which Andrew Walker, a British journalist with experience in Nigeria presented one of the most comprehensive analyses on the issue.

However, as the country grapples with the escalating violence on one hand, and struggles to understand it on the other, commentators have argued that the turbulent times characterized by these attacks and killings are a result of decades of misrule, injustice and corruption that date back to colonial era. Theories abound in which some powerful and invisible hands, within and outside the country, are rumored to be behind the attacks for political ends. As the drums of war beat across the giant of Africa, secessionists, mercenaries, armed robbers and dare-devil criminal groups are having a field day. With different opinion leaders directing tirades at each other, some have even called for the complete annihilation of any community perceived to shelter attackers and others brag about how ready they are to go to war.  Conflicting and polarizing reports which keep flowing forth from largely emasculated media outfits as well as accusations and counter accusations traded amongst religious leaders, government and security agents, regarding the attacks and those behind them, serve to further polarize an already divided country. While reports of human right abuses and extortion by security forces remind the public of the extra judicial murder that took place back 2009, unexplained disappearance of arraigned suspects and reports of alleged involvement of some police and customs officers in illegal arms dealings, suggest laxity and/or complicity of elements in government.

The Disarray

In the wake of this great confusion and what many, including those in high places,  now consider a looming anarchy that may eventually consume the entire country, helpless Nigerians groan in pain, bewilderment and trepidation. While successive Sundays saw the bombing of churches, brutally ending the lives of innocent worshippers and passersby and visiting destructions on properties,  rampaging youth maimed and killed travelers on highways in “retaliation”. With the horrible bloodshed involving ethnic Berom and Fulani pastoralists in villages around Jos, central Nigeria last week, and the deaths of high level politicians,  there are only confusing reports on the circumstances surrounding their deaths and the crisis itself even as the military gave eviction notice to Fulani residing in the affected areas.  These incessant attacks, the most recent being reported in a mosque in Maiduguri northeastern Nigeria, and Okene in central Nigeria,  and that nauseating video of young Nigerians cannibalizing on fellow countrymen they roasted, are enough to traumatize anyone. The country may indeed survive beyond 2012, but it appears we might have reached a critical threshold in the great Nigerian dance “on the brink” on the proscenium stage, first set in October 1960 and managed by a succession of looters and criminals.

For condemning or being silent on the crisis, depending on where a specific attack is carried out or who is allegedly responsible, Nigerians are trapped in a dangerous predicament sustained by a combination of fear, prejudice, hypocrisy, bigotry and plain hatred.

The Money

Meanwhile, revelations on the theft of US$7.6 billion of fuel subsidy  in a scam that seems to have been going on for several years now, and the intrigues associated therewith, further left Nigerians bitter, dejected and hopeless. No less worrying is the inevitable reality that seems to stare at the country in the eyes that tougher days may still be ahead when the financial dividends of corruption will rear their ugly horns with harsher vengeance. In the words of an anonymous writer, the major crisis may not have started yet, but it is imminent, when the country´s “much-abused public purse will run out of money” soon.

The Young

In these trying times and the catastrophic consequences they portend for the nation, perhaps the most “endangered species” is the young Nigerian. With only a few credible leaders, mostly completely powerless and frustrated, the young Nigerian is left with no befitting legacy and stripped of all hope of a better future. The so-called younger generations in power have also completely betrayed him by soiling their hands at the offer of a few dollar bills.

Born in the darkness of NEPA, (now PHCN) with a poisoned mind, that those who do not practice his brand of religion or do not belong to his part of the country are enemies, the young Nigerian cuts a pathetic figure. Having learnt that the enterprising Igbo trader in his village should be addressed as arne (a Hausa word for pagan) or the despicable Hausa speaking cobbler is nama and aboki (two other Hausa words signifying meat and friend, but which, in Southeastern Nigeria denote cow and some moron from northern Nigeria respectively), he is as close-minded as they come. With no dream or ambition other than that of driving expensive cars and “making it early in life”, our young Nigerian has become internet fraudster, drug mule, rapist, intolerant and uncultured.

Often, the young Nigerian secures his first degree right from secondary school (yes, they do award degrees in corruption there- BSc Corruption) where teachers, principals, parents and police connive with examiners from WAEC, NECO and JAMB to perpetrate all kinds of examination malpractice. The pursuit of a university degree, if admission is eventually secured, is usually not propelled by any genuine desire to pursue a career in which he is interested enough to excel and do great things, but merely serves as a means of looting after securing a job, just like his parents. For a fee, the NYSC corps members gleefully thumb print stolen ballot papers to rig election or engage in prostitution.

Umar (in white), and his friend in Butalawa, a hamlet in Kura, Northern Nigeria. If given the opportunity, the two can attain any height imaginable.

 The Hope

This piece addresses the bewildered, confused and oppressed young Nigerian who has been left with no purpose and lost in the ocean of hatred fueled by religious and regional prejudices and sustained by media not known for objectivity. Yes, the abusive, terrible English-speaking, European football fanatic that explodes at the slightest provocation; the judgmental young Nigerian rendered nervous by raging hormones, poverty and frustration; the young Nigerian who is terrifyingly and overly religious that, whenever he is about to travel or is ill, writes on the social network “i need ur prayers pls”. That he can read this, is a measure of the conquest he has made and hopefully, may share the following words with others. It is time to wake up.

It is humbly hoped that the words may serve to touch the minds of as many young Nigerians as possible, and prepare them for whatever tougher days may indeed lay ahead for our ailing nation. If this piece merely serves to give direction, no matter how little, to the lost young Nigerian, with which he may, hopefully, one day promote a genuine people’s’ movement that can position his country on the path to true democracy, then its purpose would have been achieved.

And so, what shall become of the young Nigerian? Where does he start and who will give him hope? Should he give up the dream of living in a country where at least the basics of life such as water, shelter and electricity are provided? Should he give up pursuing lawful business in Aba, Kano, Nnewi, Onitsha, Lagos etc? Should he give up rearing cattle across the River Niger and pursuing a career in science or accounting? If, as is being insinuated, the country is eventually Balkanized, how does he pick up the pieces and move on in building a new country, whatever its name may be? Where is his hope?; that emotional state of mind, which brings about belief in positive and favorable outcome of events, about which Martin Luther King Jnr once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.

The truth is, the young Nigerian is lost in the great drift towards decadence, sycophancy, provincialism and human idolization. In doing this, he ends up destroying himself in the process of awarding needless “governor of the year” prize. He is deluded by miracle makers, easy money and Ponzi scheme. He forges certificates and prefers the easy way. He is completely lost. But he is lost and hopeless because he has never been given any hope. Governments and their agents have successively failed him, corrupted the simplicity of his life and intoxicated him with drugs, banditry, nepotism and religious hypocrisy.  With amputated spirits, the young have become idolaters of politicians and crooks by imitating their style of dressing and recognizing no wrong in whatever they do, including theft, deception and terrorism. This must stop now.

The survival

But the young Nigerians are the great survivors of this century. They are surviving the evolutionary pressures mounted by the raw materials of change even in the eye of the Nigerian storm. They are now crying out to be propelled and inspired. They cry out:  we need great leaders and teachers. We need great examples and teachers, who can stand before us and say, “I am a Nigerian and I will do the right thing no matter what” and actually do so and teach so. We need teachers who can show us that even though the other person professes a different religion, he is our brother in humanity and should be embraced without any kind of prejudice or hypocrisy. We need teachers who will show us the way to freedom and respect for everyone, no matter how different their opinions may be. We need those who will tell us not to despair but to believe in ourselves; teach us to have self-esteem and understand that having money or degrees doesn’t make anyone a god we must worship; those who will tell us to lift our heads high because we are human beings like anyone and can be as great as anyone else.

Even as terror attacks are unleashed on Nigerian Christians and Muslims alike, we have reasons to hope. Even as we cope with incompetent governments from top to the bottom, we must not give up.  Even as we are governed by a political establishment which has failed to reform itself, let alone its people, we must summon the courage to act individually and collectively to inspire each other for a better future.

We must strive and resolve to pursue great things and do good things as carpenters, drivers, farmers, laborers, teachers, tailors and traders etc. We shall sell our shoes and mobile phones and clothes and garments, to go to school because there, we shall be free and learn to create wealth without necessarily relying on pretentious governments in slumber.  We shall “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery”, shun violence, laziness, half measures, sycophancy, and mediocrity.

We shall feed our hopes by drawing inspiration from the shining examples of honest and brilliant young Nigerians like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jelani Aliyu, Segun Olugbile, Chidera Ota and Saleeha Ibraheem, to mention just a few; Nigerians who proved that there is no limit to the greatness anyone of us can attain (Google their names and get inspired).

We shall feed our hopes by emphasizing on the flexible and conciliatory ideals and teachings of our faiths, knowing that neither angry argument, nor belligerent bigotry of what we believe to be right will change a different belief held by another.

We are not intimidated by the thieving Nigerian elite and his ill-gotten wealth; nor seduced by his gluttonous and flamboyant life which leads to heart disease and sudden death. Let them build the houses in Abuja; buy the latest expensive cars, sponsor children to Pilgrimage and universities abroad; we shall do the right thing. We shall endure and be the best. Let them blow their silly siren to oppress and cause panic and accidents on traffic; we shall be patient because those days will soon be gone.

The great Nigerian evolutionary process has reached a critical point and something has got to give.  The reaction has started. We may not live long enough to overcome the enthalpy required to attain the point of spontaneity of this great reaction, but we can overcome the barrier by educating ourselves and those willing to learn. In words and actions, we shall be part of the great movement that will build a free and prosperous Nigerian society where everyone, no matter from what religion or region, will have access to free education and opportunities, and end proliferation of religious hypocrites, fake miracle makers, self-hating, corrupt, lazy,   and indulging citizenry, whose role models are crooks engaged in stealing public funds, with some preachers defending and justifying the theft and the society recognizing them as heroes and next to God.

We shall open our minds and read everything from Astronomy to Zoology; Chemistry and Economics. We shall read everything and know everything, and in your quest for knowledge, we shall question everything, including the existence of God.  We shall improve our understanding of foreign languages and mastery of Mathematics, without forgetting our African languages. We shall not idolize anybody because they have been a Minister or Chairman. We shall expect nothing from anyone. We shall engage in dialogue with each other, rid ourselves of personal prejudices and address issues that really matter, not trivialities or foolishness. We shall learn to pursue and believe in hard work and self-determination and every day, teach same to our younger ones.

This is a difficult time and may even get worse, but it is no time to give up on our country; united or not, unitary or federal; regional or central. The great change is imminent even as we face crisis. It may take some time but then that’s no reason enough to give up. From an evolutionary point of view where one of the rules is “do the right thing or get extinct”; one after another, every agent of government in Nigeria and ideed every citizen, will come to realize that the only way you govern people and have lasting peace is through honesty, transparency, accountability and rule of law; no half measures, no short-cuts, no kidding! We have serious problems and we need serious people to address them. We shall demand good governance and explanations and our laws will evolve to catch up with crooks. It may take another century, but it’s already happening.

There is hope.