A few years ago an international polling agency adjudged Nigerians to be “the happiest people on earth”. There is something very Nigerian about the happiness gene, if there is ever such a thing. The Nigerian people are by nature vivacious and vibrant, with a life-affirming zest for fun and the good life. Nigerians love to celebrate, whether it is a wedding or a birthday or even a death. Nigerians have a wonderful sense of humour. They know how to have a good time, even if this is at their own expense.
I have travelled throughout our incredibly beautiful continent. I have beheld the ancient obelisks of Axum and the sacred monasteries of Lalibela in Ethiopia. I have breathed the fresh air of Table Mountain in the Cape. I once beheld the most breath-taking sunset in Walvis Bay in Namibia. The beaches Grand Bassam and Assini in Côte d’Ivoire are such a delight. I adore Nôtre Dame de la Paix Cathedral in Yamoussoukro. I love the tourist delights of Sousse and Djerba in Tunisia and the beautiful ambience of Casablanca in Morocco. I love the Dakar of Leopold Senghor and Cheikh Anta and Mariam Ba as I do the Mali of Oumou Sangare.
Europe and America have their attractions too. Harvard Square and Boston and New York are incomparable as Meccas of knowledge and culture. England is a green and pleasant land that is the closest to my heart after my own beloved Motherland. I still sometimes hear the echoes of the bells of the Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin at Oxford and dream of Christ Church Meadow and the venerable cloisters of All Souls College. France, will remain a part of me forever, from the ancient cloisters of the Sorbonne to the treasures of the Louvre and the venerable walls of Notre Dame de Paris. This land of the greatest mathematicians and philosophers — this France that is guardian of the Universal — will forever be a part of me.
I once lived in Uppsala, Sweden; haunted the great University library, Carolina Redeviva; walked through the Gardens of the great scientist Linnaeus and the homes once occupied by Swedenborg and Dag Hammarskjold. I have seen nearly all of Europe from the Dardanelles to the Urals, from the cosmopolitan cities of Warsaw and Helsinki to Berlin and Budapest and Vienna. I have seen the Arabs at their best and their worst, from Manama to Beirut and Cairo; and the Asians from Rawalpindi to Delhi and Singapore.
I have seen nearly the whole world, but I make bold to say that no country has quite the air, the warm sunshine and the sheer pleasantness of Nigeria. Nigeria is an extraordinarily blessed country. Our fruits and vegetables taste better than any I know in the world. The warm springs of Ikogosi remind me of the elixir of life that has been the dream of the great alchemists from the Baalshem Tov to Isaac Newton. I love the ancient, sedate buildings of Old Calabar and the amazing air of Obudu and its Holy Mountain. I love Enugu and its sleepy hills as I do Port Harcourt and its joie de vivre. I love Zazzau and its ancient savannah as I do Katsina and the elegant rusticity of its people. I love Adamawa and Mambila Plateau, with its extraordinary colours and lucid valleys. Borno has always been close to my heart, as has been the adorable hills of Abeokuta. I do not need to mention my ancient ancestral village of Randa, with its ancient rocks and pure springs and the incomparable Jos Plateau of my youth.
Nigeria, is the most beautiful country on earth. God did not only bless us with oil and gas; he made our soil especially fertile. We have among the richest underground water reservoirs on earth. Nigerians are very bright people — with absolutely no jingoism intended.
If we are so smart and if we have such an embarrassment of natural riches, why are we, today, such an unhappy people?
The reason is simple: Our politicians have conspired to kill our hopes and drag us all to the lowest common denominator of collective idiocy. From succeeding brutal military tyrants to venal and corrupt politicians, our people have been robbed of their dignity and self-confidence. The majority of our people today live lives of quiet desperation. There is fear everywhere. If it is not armed robbery, it is carnage in the roads and cultic-engineered air plane disasters. There is also the permanent spectre of ethnic and religious killings inspired by evil and diabolical people who call themselves politicians.
As we enter yet another electoral cycle, young teenage girls returning from school will disappear; kidnapping will increase. Someone has just bombed a court in Port Harcourt, presumably to get rid of evidence in a trial that seems to be going the other way. The omens are bad. Politicians are re-grouping, not on the basis of ideals, but on the basis of the conspiracy of the ignoble. In the days of Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe and Aminu Kano, we would have been flooded with books articulating clear visions of where we should be heading as a country. Today, the ignoramuses who call themselves politicians have nothing to offer in terms of ideas or political thought. They are busy amassing mammon and guns, getting ready for the dystopia of war, in the event that they lose the elections. Politics in our nation has never been such a primitive and brutal sport as it is today. None of the people who are being touted as future leaders have anything to offer to the youths of this country.
And yet, I do not despair. I believe a New Nigeria will emerge after the confusion of the moment. Our New Nigeria will emerge through hard political and intellectual effort and through wise management of the economy — through compassion and love of the people. There shall be life more abundant.
By: OBADIAH MAILAFIA