BusinessDay

Nigeria our Naija

Last year, a mild discussion on the popular radio station, Wazobia, caught my attention. Someone offhandedly mentioned that all adverts with the Naija tag would be removed from media publications.

I mused within me and wondered why the only pleasing “cling” the Nigerian youth and indeed Nigerians of less pessimistic hue had, should be taken away from them.

Without conducting any research, I believe the Naija usage found expression in exasperation about Nigeria and the baggage it comes with even though it is not always negative.

Sometimes, it may be the interesting and pleasant musing about the positive force inherent in the Naija spirit or even a proud acknowledgement that something is “distinctly Naija” and couldn’t have emanated from any other place on planet earth.

I give the credit for the Naija coinage to our own Generation Y.

Generation Y has been globally described as people born between 1981 to 1996. They are the first digitally-natives generation.

They live in a new world very much different from the world their parents knew.

They are more self-assured and better informed about what they want out of life, less willing to compromise, ever ready to experiment or pursue their dreams.

They have been labelled selfish, self-centred and engrossed in their make-belief world of mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry, iPads et al.

In the less advanced world, Generation Y is also seen as that generation that may not take care of both their parents and their children as previous generations did.

Generation Y has found some amusement and fondness in Naija that is lacking in Nigeria. Nigeria, a coinage of the colonialists, found no root in any of the Nigerian languages whether in the spoken word or in the way it is written but Naija is distinctly ours to keep.

Naija is a melting point outstretched and far-flung to accommodate over 250 ethnic nationalities within its borders.

Naija is about something that has an acknowledged potential like Achebe’s Okonkwo in his celebrated novel “Things fall apart” who had all but achieved it.

The Naija spirit is agile, energetic, almost restless and bursting at the seams.

It is the free and generous spirit that knows no boundaries. It is welcoming, embracing, warm and hospitable.

It is hilarious, one that is its own first critic and laughs at its own follies and inadequacies.

Naija is our own, our homestead; the only country we can call our own.

It is the place where excesses are tolerated in the name of “family business.”

It is generously gifted in collective amnesia and forge-ahead syndrome. Its citizens’ restlessness means there is hardly any time for essential introspection and reflection.

Naija is uniquely blessed with the aptitude and capacity for ‘suffering and smiling’ and its inhabitants have been noted as the “world’s happiest people”.

Nowhere in the world is like Naija, where you are greeted with legions of small generators which, as if in eternal competition, make the most noise and bring about unabated fumes, with no one complaining.

It is a place where you must pay your monthly light bill even when you have been in total darkness the whole month or you risk being disconnected from the source and still pay a reconnection fee for no fault of yours.

It has now become a place where someone right in front of you, says “you have not seen me yet” and everyone understands what he/she means.

Naija has since become a place where today’s youth virtually does not know what is right or wrong or where to draw the line in acceptable behaviour as the preceding generations have progressively destroyed the value system that even pre-dated colonialism.

To them, anything goes.

Anything is the so-called “business” and everything is business.

Naija is where you beg for what is your right as nothing is guaranteed, not even an application form that you have rightly paid for.

You cannot be sure that one plus one will give you two so you are in a perpetual state of anxiety and uncertainty. I dare say this state of affairs has pre-maturely raised the blood pressure of young and old alike.

But Nigerians in diaspora know that there is no place like Naija. Our “tuwo” is unbeatable and I am yet to see any other folks outside of West Africa that do the “swallow”.

All others with different “tuwo varieties” do chew them.

What of our Aso-ebi? This uniquely southwestern Nigerian culture has since infected us all.

Or the spraying of naira in tune with the dance steps?

Have you watched the energetic Atilogwu dance which is true to the name as something so fascinating and incredible you would truly believe it is beyond human powers.?

What of the Efik fattening houses with their unmatched cuisine or the Hausa man whose word is his bond?

Naija, the proudly African country that parades the fashion landscape with the agbada, the iro and buba, the Akwete, the Aso-oke and even the newfound “power shift” and “resource control” caps is a country like no other in this wide world.

There is much fun in Naija amongst the people who should know.

If you listen to Wazobia FM, you will understand what I mean. It is where words grow wings and fly and language becomes a matter of drama. It is fun and the type that can be found in no other place but Naija.

The so-called common man has found a voice in Naija because he is the main keeper and its true representative.

It is in the masses that you readily find the truth that takes ages to be untwined in the elite. It is in the “business day dollar per day” woman that the truth about Naija is displayed in its stark nakedness and reality.

It is the melting pot of hundreds of ethnic nationalities. It is where the Hausa maiguard and the Igbo trader, the Ijaw fisherman and the Ijebu pepper seller, the Edo snail seller and the Birom yam farmer meet in absolute congruence and unanimity; when they worry about the next meal of the day, about Mama Iyabo refusing to sell any more on credit, about the man at the chemist refusing to mix drugs for him or her to take care of the unrelenting aches and pains.

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What of the sweat or is it the drenching at night that comes from the heat and the obstructive fences?

They know the pain of losing twenty naira or what it means to fight with the bus conductor for change of ten naira.

There is a unanimity of purpose and need as the shoes are all similar in the way they pinch.

The masses are all united until the elite appears with its agenda.

This is the subsisting Naija spirit-that common denominator that hedges in over seventy per cent of the populace.

The untiring labourer perpetually waiting on God and ever hopeful that tomorrow will be better personifies the “E go better” spirit of Naija.

The same person whose total investment or wares consist of a tray of oranges that has been seized for street trading by law enforcement agents, whose child is sick with malaria and mother is down with a stroke keeps persevering with the hope that tomorrow will be better.

God dey!

This is the fiery and irrepressible Naija spirit. This spirit powers unwavering optimism. The Naija spirit is not Nigerian as it has shed its colonial toga. It is Naija all by itself.

It is a conglomerate of ethnic nationalities, a melting pot of their highs and lows through which they have found a common expression. The Naija spirit is not of yesterday. It is of today -the here and now spirit. Let us take it a bit further to tomorrow, a tomorrow that only we can make happen, a tomorrow that we alone can define, a tomorrow not defined by others or bystanders. We shall proudly hold on to Naija and with great determination mould it into what all of us will be truly proud of.

Our Naija, is our God-given homeland on planet earth!

The writer, Ije Jidenma, is an accomplished management consultant. She penned this piece in 2012. The prevailing national mood of despair and despondency inspired her to share it.

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