“You people believe you own the country”, a Nigerian woman I met at an event in Brasilia said to me. “You are parasites that feed on our oil money without contributing anything”, she added. Although I tried to assure her that I, like many people I know where I come from, had no hand in the events that led to assumption of power by Abacha, IBB or Abdussalami, she wouldn’t have none of that.
On another occasion;
“Ah, you are from Kano? Boko Haram!” a young man interjected, after I responded to his mother’s enquiry to where I came from.
And yet another;
“You can’t be Hausa. Your English is good,” said another.
There are several.
In the face of arrogant, ignorant and prejudiced encounters of this nature with countrymen in a foreign land, unprovoked and unsolicited comments like “You can’t be PhD. You are black” or “I like black people because we are all children of god” from total strangers, simply fade into background.
To what extent prejudice of this nature may have inspired (and still inspire) genocidal civil wars in Nigeria and Rwanda and the current security situation in our country, is perhaps debatable. However, education, science, critical thinking and honest analysis of facts, as against intellectual laziness, watching television, primitive stupidity and irrationality, will continue to expose our self-serving bias and illusionary optimism leading us to true knowledge and understanding of the human condition.
Rather than informing the woman how I educate thousands of her “brothers” and “sisters” get degrees, even when I am grossly underpaid, I will read. Rather than explaining how I am as tired as any Nigerian by the profligate, divisive, corrupt and gluttonous leadership of the country and its foolish, ultra-religious, non-reading, prejudiced and amnesiac followership, I read. Perhaps when we are spent, hating imaginary foes, we’ll eventually hit the street after the real enemies of our country. For now, I will read.