Posted July 25th, 2007

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In The Lighter Mood: "Yabis" Unlimited

By Franklin Otorofani

Who is a Nigerian? There is no more authoritative definition of a Nigerian than that contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Chapter III sections 25 thru 27, which respectively provide for the acquisition of Nigerian citizenship by birth, registration and naturalization. These are the only means of acquiring Nigerian citizenship legally and constitutionally, that is.

Thus, whoever acquires Nigerian citizenship through any of the above methods is legally and constitutionally a Nigerian by birth, registration or naturalization as the case may be. I’m sure though that given the high level of official corruption in Nigeria, anyone could literarilywalk across the Nigerian borders and become Nigerian citizens instantaneously, whereas it takes Nigerians in the Diaspora a lifetime to acquire citizenships of other nations.

Sometimes I wonder who is really a Nigerian and who is not, especially when I hear people who claim to be "Nigerians" calling Nigeria all kinds of names and gleefully, it would appear, vilely destroy her image abroad ostensibly over her alleged failures as a nation. It seems to me, therefore, that those who indulge in the wilful destruction of Nigeria's image or that of its government abroad for whatever reasons, are not true Nigerians though they may profess so. They are likely to be foreigners who came through the highly porous borders and, being political, indulge in politics of destruction in our dear land when they should be minding the business that brought them to our generous, neigborly country in the first place.

Given this reality therefore I propose that the definition of a Nigerian in the constitution should be amended to read: “Any foreigner who has successfully walked across the Nigerian/Benin, Nigerian/Cameron or the Nigerian/Niger border, to Nigeria, is a Nigerian citizen by 'Border Crossing.'” This proposed amendment should be inserted into the Nigerian constitution forthwith as section 28 of Chapter III, thereof.

Constitutional amendment is hereby moved and seconded. Ladies and Gentlemen the amended is carried. Hurrah! Now come in all ye wretched foreigners seeking the Nigerian dream, or is it Nigerian nightmare(?) Come ye the Beninoise, Chanaians, Togolese, Nigeriens and, indeed, all other suffering Africans from all over Africa and partake of the beautiful and bountiful Nigerian Dream. And sure enough, they would come pouring into Nigeria from the North, South, East and West of our borders. How do I know? Hear this: Each time I come across an African in New York, and introduce myself as a Nigerian to the person, the first thing I hear is: "Oh, Lagos! I used to live in Lagos. It's like New York," goes their exclamations. To them New York is not any different from Lagos, Nigeria, generally. And they would recall their experiences in Lagos in particular and, in Nigeria in general. They would tell you that many of them passed through Nigeria to Europe and the Americas. They would tell you Lagos is their staging ground a kind of transit point to spring off to the Americas, Europe and Asia. They would tell you if one could live and survive in Lagos, he could live and survive anywhere in the world. Isn't that something revealing? Lagos, nay Nigeria, has prepared them for the harsh life abroad. It's entirely probable therefore that they hold Nigerian passports and therefore Nigerian citizenship on the side.

However, my concern here is not about the legal/cum constitutional definition of a Nigerian but the attitudinal orientation of Nigerians in broad strokes. This means I have granted myself the license to indulge in broad generalizations and I apologize in advance for this self-indulgence. In addition, I have also granted myself the license to indulge in “Yabis” (a thousand apologies to the Afrobeat King of blessed memory, Fela Anikulapo Ransome Kuti), and I also apologize in advance for this rather self-destructive self-indulgence. Yet I am not about to self-destruct anytime soon. Rather, I am acting like Casca in Julius Caesar who offered himself, unsolicited, to act as as a mirror to reflect the nobility of Brutus to Brutus.

In this case, however, I would not be content to reflect the nobility of Nigerians to Nigerians but the opposite as well. That is to say, to reflect their ignoble attributes back to them as well. It’s only fair to balance the reflections in order to do justice to the Nigerian persona. But please, I beg you: Do not call me a comedian because I have been reliably informed that the word “Comedian” has been copyrighted in Nigeria by some smart Nigerians and I don’t want to be sued for copyright violation o! Please, spare me that legal ordeal because I cannot even afford a “Charge and Bail” lawyer in Nigeria with the devaluation of the Naira. You know what I mean, don’t you? Even charge and bail lawyers too have become unaffordable like everything else in Nigeria making justice just as expensive as injustice if not more expensive. But that is another matter altogether. It's up to the victims of injustice to choose between expensive justice and inexpensive injustice. They have to do that mathematical cost analysis themselves. And if they can't do it themselves they may hire a Cost Accountant or an Eonomist to do it for them. And, I guarantee them by the time they are done with the bills they would much prefer to live with whatever injustice they might have suffered because it's a whole lot cheaper than justice if they don't want to sell their father's houses and family lands to pursue the highly elusive justice that may or may not materialize in the end.

Now, I am not a profiler and it would be mighty hard for me to do adequate justice to the subject of profiling Nigerians. However, as a true, full blooded Nigerian, myself, now removed from theater of action in Nigeria, and having been sufficiently exposed to other cultures, it is fair to say that I am now in a position to identify and isolate certain distinguishing features and attributes that separate the average Nigerian from the rest of humanity, not necessarily in terms of physical characteristics, but in terms of attitudes in life generally especially to their own country and to their fellow Nigerians alike.

Sometime ago there was a survey carried out by some international agency about the happiness levels of Nigerians and the report came out positive. “Nigerians are happier than even the Americans!” the report exclaimed rather gleefully. Nigerians were supposed to have scored high in the Happiness Index, beating many developed and developing countries to it. Whoa! That was the 8th wonder of the world, wasn't it?

Do we take it then that Nigerians are a happy people based on that report? The answer is yes and no, depending on when the survey was or is conducted. If the survey was conducted during an international football match featuring a Nigerian side and another in which the Nigerian side was winning on the goal margins the report would reflect Nigerians as the happiest and most exciting people on earth! However, if the Nigerian side was losing on the goal margins or if the survey was conducted during General Elections with former President Obasanjo in charge, the same Nigerians would become the most melancholic and most depressed people on earth urgently requiring the administration of very high doses of anti-depressants to get them out of their mental doldrums! They would lapse into severe depression, even comma in some cases, and the nation would be transformed into a huge cemetary with people mourning and wearing long faces in the streets, some of them as long as the River Niger running from the North to the South!

Therefore, the results of the so-called happiness survey mean nothing in the end. The only things that excite Nigerians are politics, religion and sports, and to some extent music, especially if the artiste is a Snoop Dogg, Usher, Beyonce, P-Diddy or some other trash rapper from the US. And, if you were to bring a Nigerian artiste on stage with the foreign rappers, they would boo you to shame and go to sleep on him! And that’s why Nigerians know the names of Americans artistes more than Americans themselves! Mention the name of a Nigerian music artiste to them and they would look at you as if you just mentioned the name of a Talaban or Al-Queida terrorist operative! They have no idea who you’re talking about. But wake them up from sleep in the middle of the night and ask them about American music artistes, they would reel off their names as if they had been dreaming about them all night long boogieing down, shaking their booties and jamming!

The Yabis continues…

Do you know why the theater died a natural death in Nigeria when it is thriving in other parts of the world? It’s because Nigerian theater audience would refuse to cheer the actors and actresses on stage the same way American or European theater audiences would hysterically cheer the actors and actresses on stage until they get themselves into a state of delirium! The theater artistes in Nigeria could send their audience cracking up like mad while acting in other countries but when they come back to Nigeria the theater would be turned to a graveyard in Nigeria by their audience no matter how hilarious the acts they put up on stage. Mum, is the word: Dead, grave-yard silence and absolutely no applause as if applause is banned in Nigerian theaters. The last time I checked I didn’t see applause on the list of banned items. That is not to say that the ban on cheering theater artistes on stage could not have been smuggled in by some government officials who might have been ditched by some female theater artistes. I wouldn’t put anything beyond the average Nigerian public official who would use his powers to purse personal vendetta.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the theater died in Nigeria for lack of audience appreciation and I am here to announce its funeral arrangement for all to come and pay their last respects. We all miss the Nigerian theater, don't we? At least many of us do but I don't know about you. And you can say that about the BIG SCREEN too, allegedly killed by armed robbers who waylaid theater goers at night. But I wonder why Nigerians can't be made to attend the movie theaters in daytime if the armed robbers have caused a ban to be placed on night movie shows. A vital economic and social activity has been summarily yanked off our cultural and economic menu. Could you imagine how many jobs the theaters could have created in Nigeria were applause not banned in Nigeria by the government or self-imposed or were armed robbers not allowed to rule the nights? If we go by theater patronage in Europe and America, and in other lands, we would be speaking in terms of millions of jobs in that sector alone. But Nigerians killed that sector just as they have killed literature and reading amongst our youths who prefer to read about Obj and Anenih fighting dirty on the pages of newspapers, to reading Wole Soyinka or Odia Ofeimu, Isidore, Achebe, Chinweinzu, or JP Clark, for instance.

And by the way I would like to seize this opportunity to serve the Swedish Academy an ultimatum to award the African grandmaster of the prose fiction, the venerable distinguished Chinua Achebe of Nigeria, the Nobel Prize on Literature. The have one full calendar year to do it, including today's date. What nonsense! I don't want to hear about Pulitzer Prize or some other local prizes for "Iroko" of African literature. I want to hear the Nobel Prize. If Chinua Achebe were an European or American he would have received the Nobel Prize several times over! This discrimination must stop otherwise we shall start a campaign for an African boycott of the Nobel or start our own Nobel Prize in Africa. The deliberate rationing of the Nobel Prizes for Africa smacks of a grand conspiracy to deny Africa due recognition for her intellectual contributions to human knowledge. Year in year out Nobel Prizes seem to be the exclusive preserves of the Americans and Europeans as every little contributions in science and literature and economics made by the citizens of these countries are instantly awarded Nobel Prizes and blown out of proportions while contributions by African scientists and literary giants are unheralded and ignored. They gave the Nobel Prizes to Wole Soyinka and Bishop Desmond Tutu just to create a semblance of fair distribution of the prizes geographically and hemispherically. But the Swedish Academy must understand that Africa is not deceived by that hollow gesture. We are therefore waiting for the next edition of the awards.

The Yabis continues...

Nigerians are a great people living in a great country but they hate everything Nigerian. The average Nigerian hates his country, its government, its institutions, its people and even him/or herself! Of all the citizens in the world only Nigerians can be heard telling the whole world that they are “ashamed to be called Nigerians.” Why? Because a certain trunk “A” road is not repaired, although that road could have been deliberately dug up by his cousin overnight to slow down vehicular movements just so he could collect his own “Toll” from motorists for "helping" them out of the ditch he had dug for them which they had fallen into. Why? It’s because there was power outage for two or three consecutive days, or elections were allegedly rigged! That’s why Nigerians say they hate their country. Pretty absurd, right? You bet it is but that is the "Nigerian" for you. It doesn't matter if his own brother deliberately brought down NEPA sorry PHCN cables and cut them to sell in the black market to illegal cable dealers thereby causing total blackout for days on end. It doesn't matter either if he was part and parcel of the rigging or if his brother in his village was the Commandant in the Rigging Operations Department of his party to install his kinsman as the next Governor or Senator in power.

Listen to Nigerians when they describe their country. You would pick up the following lines: “The most corrupt country on earth,” which is not case; “The worst elections ever conducted in world history,” which is not the case; “The most corrupt government Nigeria ever had,” and you wonder where they got their ratings from? From the rumor mills and beer parlors, of course; over a bottle of Odeku (big stout beer) and Isiewu (goat meat delicacy), or at “Mama Put” (local shanty food outlet) over shaki, showboy, and ponmo pepper soup, flushed down in gulps with Heineken beer!

While Americans always describe their country in superlatives terms including even poor Americans begging in the streets by calling their country, “The greatest country in the world,” Nigerians on their part, even the rich, describe their country as “The worst country on earth as if they have visited and lived in every country on earth.” They might want to check out Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea, or Pakistan, even Niger or Chad, up there in the North, if the others are too far. They might also want to check out Somalia and Zimbabwe, just to broaden the choices for them. I humbly suggest they take up citizenship of any of those great countries if Nigeria is the worst country on earth. At least by their own assessment those other countries listed above should be a whole lot better than Nigeria. Shouldn't they? And, where did they get their negative ratings on Nigeria from? From the same beer parlors, of course. They would swear they heard it on their own beer parlor CNN, not the American CNN. And, if you ask for more proof they would begin to speak through their noses like hungry frogs imitating Lou Dobbs of the real CNN to further convince you.

Nigerians do not talk about the Nigerian Dream, but rather talk about the American Dream as if Nigerians don’t dream. Maybe they forget their dreams so they look for dreams dreamt by Americans since they never dream or have forgotten their own dreams. Thus, while every American talk about the “American dream” Nigerians talk about the “Nigerian Nightmare” and they would pack their entire families to go pass some nights at the gates of American Embassy hoping to experience the American Dream at the gates. They don’t want to hear that those before them who went before them to “God’s own country” are having American Nightmare instead of the American Dream they thought they had bargained for. They don't want to hear that the supposed American Dream had turned into the American Nigthmare for their fellow citizens who, "Andrew" in the popular Nigerian ads of old, left the country in protest.

And by the time they wake up from their American Nightmare they are too old to remember the details and too demented by suffering to remember their home country having stayed in the frigid, cold winter weather throughout the winter as “Me-guards” sharing a room with their likes in some rundown building infested with rats and roaches living the American Dream(?)

The other day President Obasanjo officially conferred Nigerian citizenship on hundreds of foreign nationals who wanted be become Nigerians through the legitimate, legal means. I wonder what Nigerians say about those foreigners eager to become Nigerians. As for me I love Nigeria with every fiber in my body. In fact every cell in my body is a Nigerian and it’s proud to be a Nigerian. I don't know about you the reader. Are your own body cells itching to reject the name Nigeria from their constitution? Do your cells see the Nigerian elements in them as some foreign bodies to be rejected? If so better leave now and go look for your real country and any of the countries listed above or any other one, for that matter, would be just as good as any, and keep away from Nigeria and her affairs. We have enough true Nigerians who are proud of their country.

Are you a manufacturer in Nigeria or looking to establish a manufacturing plant in Nigeria? I pity you and your investment, brother. You could die of heart attack sooner that you ever thought possible. Nigerians would kill you and your business because they would not patronize your manufactured products no matter their quality. Forget about spending money on advertisements. Ads don’t cut it in Nigeria, labels do. Just make sure they’re not Nigerian labels, though. If you want to save your neck, here is some free advice: Go to China or Italy and print “Made in China” or “Made in Italy” labels. You could do the printing right there in Ojuelegba or Alaba, or in some other place in Lagos. Then go back to the factory and drastically reduce the quality of your products.

For example if you are into pharmaceutical manufacturing, replace those expensive raw materials with clay or chalks and or even condensed powder, packaged them and place your labels on them and watch Nigerians swoop over your products as the best in the world because they are supposed to have come from Italy and China! Your factory would have a heck of a time meeting their orders flying in from Aba, Onitsha, Sokoto, Benin, Maiduguri, PortHarcourt, Oshogbo, Warri, Calabar, Ekiti, Enugu, Lagos, Jos, and from all over Nigeria!

You could literarily sell dark charcoal to a Nigerian as gold if you took the time to label the package bearing the charcoal “Made in Italy” or “Made in China,” or someplace else but Nigeria. But the Nigerian would not buy even your gold if the package containing the gold carries the word, “Made in Nigeria.” So, if you are a manufacturer looking to set up shop in Nigeria your first business lesson in Nigeria should be “Labeling 101.” Once you understand that lesson everything will fall into place and you will be smiling your way to the banks. That's what keeps the Onitsha fake drug manufacturers the NAFDAC is fighting now in business and they have been smiling their ways to the banks while genuine Nigerian drug manufacturers who are patriotic but naive enough to stick "Made in Nigeria" to their product packages are singing the blues as Nigerians have refused to patronize their genuine products! The same thing is happening in textiles with fake "Made in China" textiles flooding the Nigerian markets killing local textile industries and creating unemployment. Nigerias are their worst enemies but they would turn around to blame government for doing nothing when they are the very ones killing the Nigerian economy and would be first to attack the government for banning importations of locally produced goods.

The yabis continues…

Nigerians want everything free from the government. They would have none of the admonitions of JFK the 34nd President of the United States who told his country men and women to “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Tell that to the average Nigerian and he would be ready to fight you for “misquoting” President Kennedy. You could be forgiven in Nigeria for misquoting a Nigerian President but not an American President. Misquote an American President before a Nigerian? You’re crazy? That’s the day you would meet your long forgotten ancestors in the hands of Nigerians! He would promptly “correct” you by telling you what Kennedy said: “Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you!” Ask him where he read that, and he would tell you he read it at Oshodi Second Hand Book Market! That is what he wants to hear and that’s what he read at Oshodi or Ochanja Market at Onitsha not some other version you're quoting before him.

Nigerians would have none of that Kennedian admonition in its authentic version. It does not apply to them and it would not apply to them and they are ready to dispute that it was ever said at all except of course you agree with their warped version. And if you brought out the real quote and showed it to them they would tell you Kennedy did not mean that after all but meant the opposite!

They want free education, free health services, free gas, and even free cocaine and free sex, and if they still can't get it right with the free sex, you know what I mean, they would demand free Viagra as well, and they want it from the government, period! And, no Kennedy can change that. And in case the government is so stone deaf not to understand that language the NLC, the Enforcer, is there to enforce their wish against the government. Don't ask me, how? Didn't you see it during the last strike by labor? That was a strike for free gas, and Yar'Adua was smart to cave in before the NLC added Viagra, Edekoinkon and Isiewu to their laundry list of demands!

They call it National Cake, (which should really be called National Cancer), that must be shared amongst them. But they don’t want to know who baked the cake or where it was baked. Tell them it was baked in Niger Delta on the burnt back of the people there and they would ask you to show them the label and the trademark. And if you showed them the label and trademark, they would tell you they’re fake. They are only interested in eating it whether hot or cold and that’s why some of them had constipation after eating the national cake. Ask the governors who ate the National cake and they will tell you they are suffering from constipation. One of them Governor Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu state was even admitted to the National Hospital Abuja after allegedly eating his state’s share of the national cake. I wonder how a whole US trained medical doctor wouldn’t not know not to eat of a poisoned National Cake. I can understand if cake-hungry Governors like Kalu, Nyame, Turaki, and the others did, but Dr. Nnamani? I am disappointed in him. Could it be that part of his training was how to eat our national cake? Maybe that was his area of specialization in which case he has justified his doctoral training in (?) well, National Cake Consumption!

But Nnamani is probably only a first degree holder in that field. There are PhD holders and grandmasters of the art who could be his professors in "Lootology" the science of looting. In case you don't know them, some of them are already reviewing their methodologies at their Abuja University where they are on sabbatical right now under generous EFCC sponsorship and the agency is signing up more. I hope they get to Edo and Delta States to pick up some candidates down there as well.

The average Nigerian relishes in rubbishing anything government. Any government’s program is dismissed off hand as failure even before it’s conceived and implemented. It’s like calling an unborn child a failure in life even before it’s delivered. Whether is the National ID, Census, or General Elections, it is written off by Nigerians before the exercise is carried out. These are people who deliberately program their minds for failure not success and expect Nigeria to fail as a nation. In fact some of them have written off Nigeria in their sick minds as a failed nation. Ask them what are they still doing being citizens of a supposedly failed nation and they would tell you they’re waiting for their own share of the National Cake before they bail out. They would surely get constipation, even "jedi jedi" if they ever eat of our national cake after abusing Nigeria and calling her names.

The Yabis continues…

Ask the average Nigerian to produce his tax papers, he would rush home to bring a stack of football pool coupons! That’s where he pays his taxes in the pool houses not at Inland Revenue Department! Yet he wants everything free, including his palm wine powerless, (apologies to Chief Zebrudaya), his “Burukutu” and Odeku!

Nigerians would blame all their woes on the government but take all the credits for their successes that come their way. When they dupe the government of millions or even billions of naira they call themselves “smart” and the government “mugu.” But if they are caught in the act they call the government “wicked” and “insensitive” and indulging in “selective justice” and “political victimization.” When Nigerian men perform well in bed they beat their chests but when their man fails to get up in bed they quickly blame it on President Olusegun Obasanjo for banning everything, including Viagra!

The Yabis continues…

Readers, stay tuned for another edition of: “In The Lighter Mood: "Yabis" Unlimited” coming your way soon!

Bye, great Nigerians!!!

Franklin Otorofani signing off...

Franklin Otorofani is a Nigerian Attorney based in US

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