Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy People

Forget the "Good People, Great Nation" campaign. Ditto the dubious "Heartbeat of Africa" proclamation made by a geriatric ex-president as a sharply-contrasting end to an advert showcasing the nation's beautiful natural resources. The true identity of Nigeria is not really far-fetched. CNN already acquired it for us with their rather popular survey a few years ago. Nigeria is a nation of Happy People. As a matter of fact, we might as well use R Kelly's song of the same name as our tourism anthem, a la the "Malaysia, Truly Asia" style.

Surprised? I must admit I was a bit miffed too when the survey came out to proclaim us "the happiest people on Earth". But the more and more I thought of it, the more sense it made. Why? Because Nigerians have an uncanny propensity to make themselves happy, regardless of whatever circumstances may exist. Facts and Rational Thought are divorced for being too ugly and Happiness is married for her attractiveness, even though she can't cook, clean or be taken for functions because she is a stark illiterate...she's sexy, and that's all that matters.

Take the recent Nigerian World Cup campaign for instance. When the draws were made originally, everybody basically agreed that a group containing Argentina, S.Korea and Greece was gonna be pretty difficult to surmount, and that, given the state of the team and the awful qualifying campaign, we were most certainly not going to be good enough to beat the Argies. Our hopes were really on beating Greece and Korea to progress. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, just before the tourney started. The mood has dramatically changed. Everybody had been going round bandying the phrases like "it's an 11 v 11 game" and "they ain't so special" and "wetin dem wan play sef?". John Fashanu, who I actually used to have some respect for, went on CNN to claim that he was confident of an upset because "a prophet had revealed to him" what the score of the match would be, even though he was not at liberty to disclose what that score was. The mood proved pretty infectious, so much so that even my very pragmatic boss, who before then had been telling all that Nigeria was gonna ship like 10 goals in the match, came to the office one day to proclaim that he just had the feeling that we would draw against Argentina. Not because Nigeria had just thrashed Brazil, or taught Spain a footballing lesson. No. There was no fact to support it. Just a belief. The same belief that we carry to every tourney that we are going to somehow perform well, even if we did not prepare at all; belief borne out of our irrepressible ability to make ourselves happy. The Nigerian trademark philosophy. As we all know it turned out, we lost by a deceptive 1-0 scoreline. Trust Nigerians' ever-optimistic disposition - everybody was "proud" of the team because they "tried", and people went on radio to insist that the result means that Argentina would "probably not qualify from the group" if they could only score one goal. In actual fact, it was like a battered, bruised & bloodied boxer exhibiting pride that only he lost on points in a match where he was actually saved by the bell from knockout at least five times. But such inconsequential facts don't matter to us - we are happy people, like Adewale Ayuba crooned.

It's not completely our fault - we have simply been taught to think that way. In Church, we are urged not to "speak negatively"; Motivational Speakers (or MSPs, as they like to refer to themselves), who really make the big bucks by getting us to pay them through our noses to tell us how they supposedly made the big bucks, tell us that "positive thought" is the key to success; and after watching the government's ultimate propaganda (brainwashing?) machine, NTA, for a couple of hours, you're bound to come away with the illusion that everything in the country was all about justice, reform, development, progress, and a remarkably sensitive & interactive relationship between the government and the people. Moreover, after all, a healthy dose of Africa Magic and Nollywood teaches us that there is an inevitable solution and turnaround somewhere down the don't worry, be happy. And so we have learnt to say a person is "strong" when he is ill, to say "it is well" when it really isn't; to say we have "a lot of money" when we are desperately seeking money; to always believe that big breakthrough is coming somehow, regardless of the little effort we are putting towards it; to borrow with little concrete plans about how to pay back; to have confidence enough to invest in schemes promising ethereal interests because the proponents supposedly "deal in FOREX and oil business"; to leave the shores of the country for another without any plans whatsoever what to do up there; to hope, pray and believe that all the mentally unbalanced people wielding influence and power in this country will one day have a massive heart-attack and die (even though we really wouldn't mind benefitting from their influence if we get the chance to), leaving the positions free to be taken over by supposed God-fearing like us who would do a much finer job, and we would not have to do a damn thing about it ourselves (Abacha, anyone?); to have as many children as possible (they are God's blessings!) with little thought for how they will be catered for (afterall, the popular Yoruba adage makes us understand that it is God - not parents, apparently - that takes care of children); to throw ridiculously lavish and extravagant parties for every event under the sun to the detriment of our finances to give people a good time; to forever believe and hope that one day we will all get married/have children/be millionaires/live happily ever after somehow, regardless of whatever circumstances presently exist or whatever habits we may be cultivating. I tell you, it's great to be a Nigerian!

So, if you are a morose Nigerian out there, what's wrong with you? That is against our identity. Perhaps you have been staying away from home too long. Come join us to smoke what we smoke down here. We'll make you happy. That's a promise.

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