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On the 24th day of August, 2013; 15-year-old Daniel Ohikhena fled his home in Benin. He did not commit any offence at home; he did not go to see a friend or roam the streets of Edo, neither was it the case that he had suddenly gone bananas. Young Daniel was simply running towards the airport, intending to hide in a plane and therefrom sneak to the USA. Unfortunately however, his plan was thwarted as the plane ended up landing in Lagos airport[1].

Daniel is just one of millions of Nigerians who are, in one way or the other, vexed with the dire state of the economy. There is no sane Nigerian, who falls among the 99% that have to struggle intensely in order to survive, who will not for once query why God made him a Nigerian. He wonders why he was not given birth to in America, Canada, London or any of those developed nations where things are seemingly very easy and paradisiac. He will ask, what has he gained being a Nigerian, what pride does he derive being associated with Nigeria, of what use is the Nigerian citizenship to him? I am one of those Nigerians.

Sometimes, I think that, would it make any difference if I was born somewhere else? Would I be more brilliant, pious and successful if I was created as an American, Briton or South African? Has being a Nigerian contributed positively to who I am today? What does Nigeria mean to me? Just a landmass of 356,667 square miles[2] containing about 170 million individuals[3]? Or is it more than that?

In all honesty, being a Nigerian is one of the few things I cherish about myself. It is an identity I will forever hold on to. Nigeria has many things to be proud of, numerous features enough to give us elation, ample blessings to bring us satisfaction. For instance, our land is exceedingly fertile, with limitless depositions of mineral resources scattered all over the country. Name it; crude oil, gold, iron ore, limestone, salt, bitumen, coal, clay, tin, cotton? We have them all, not to mention hundreds of producible cash and food crops. This is unlike the situation obtainable in many other nations of the world.

In addition, Nigeria has a very rich culture. Various cultural festivals such as the Calabar carnival, Argungu fishing festival, Eyo, Osun, Sharo and New-yam festivals are celebrated up-to-date. In fact, scores of whites troop in just to witness them. Whereas, some others do not have their culture as preserved. A good example are the Celtic inhabitants of England, who were, for centuries, colonised, by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans[4]. Also are various African nations that had to succumb to the imperialist policy of assimilation.

Apart from these, Nigeria equally harbours various tourist sites including the Obudu mountain resort, Idanre hills, Sukur kingdom, Kano wall, Osun groove, Benin moats, which is the largest earth-work in the world and second largest man-made structure[5] and the Mambilla Plateau[6]. Many of which are enlisted among the UNESCO heritage sites[7].

Moreover, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa, and 7th most populated in the world. For every 10 black men, 1 is a Nigerian[8]. Also, Nigeria has a very diverse ethnicity with over 250 ethnic groups[9]. Her youth population is likewise very impressive, as 92.2% of the population are between ages of 0 and 54[10]. This goes to show the level of our potentiality.

Sadly, the state of things today is that despite the fact that Nigeria is big enough for us all, many Nigerians still go abroad to seek for inexistent greener pastures. Those who do not, desperately look for the slightest opportunity to. It is even observed that many Nigerians die horribly in the Sahara desert all because of a ‘go-abroad-or-die-trying’ mentality.

On this show of infidelity, I posit that if a Chelsea fan, though not born with blue blood, can be faithful to his club whether it wins a soccer match or not, why then can’t a Nigerian; born in Nigeria, with a Nigerian parentage, speaking a Nigerian language, bearing a Nigerian name; be faithful to Nigeria both in time of bliss and hardship? Why can’t he stay and contribute his quota towards Nigeria’s development? Verily, a green snake that leaves the green grassland because of an empty stomach will end up satisfying another’s hunger.

An American, who obviously should be proud of his nation, would definitely not like to be associated with the huge external debt or high criminality rate the US is known for. Neither would a South-African say he is from a country where 1 in 10 people is infected with HIV/AIDS[11]. Hence, all countries have their strengths and weaknesses. Every country has a history and, indeed, a reality of corruption. Nigeria is no exception. True, we have made very silly mistakes regarding our choice of leaders and attitude, especially those that involve leniency to corruption and hostility to education. However, those mistakes are not enough reasons for us to wallow in humiliation and anti-patriotism.

Being a Nigerian does not mean I am inferior. It does not mean I cannot speak across borders due to shame. It does not mean I cannot attain great heights through honesty, hardwork and determination. It only means I have a bigger responsibility than folks from other countries. A responsibility to salvage my fatherland from the shackles of corruption, illiteracy and insecurity. A responsibility to facilitate the adequate use of our human and natural wealth. A responsibility to remain hopeful and patriotic despite all odds.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said, ‘no matter how tall a tree is, it cannot forget its roots.’ This is similar to the Yoruba saying ‘odo kii gun ko gbagbe orisun’ (a river cannot be so long, that it forgets
its source). Consequently, asking what Nigeria means to me is akin to asking what the sun means to the day, what water means to the fish or what the roots mean to a tree.


[1] Daniel Ohikhena’s ‘Mission to America’. Published on September 9, 2013.
[2]Webster’s Reference Library, Students’ Companion, New edition, Page 344.
[3] Nigeria Demographics Profile (July 2012 estimate)
[4] Article titled ‘History of England’.
[5] Article, ‘Behold Nigeria’s seven wonder sites, published on 14th September, 2013.
[6]Blue-print: Beyond Rhetoric: Mambilla Plateau and tourism in Nigeria.
[7] UNESCO World Heritage Centre – Nigeria.
[8] What percentage of people in the world are black?
[9] CIA World Factbook, Nigeria.
[10] Nigeria Demographics Profile (2012 estimate)
[11] Country comparison>People living with HIV/AIDS>Top 100 and Article name, ‘South Africa: Over 25% of schoolgirls HIV positive@ published on 14 March, 2013.