Between The American Dream and The Nigerian Nightmare

{ A thought provoking write-up by a Great mind, RASHEED ADEGOKE culled from his WordPress blog}


I returned recently from a trip to the United States of America. One experience – an encounter with a Cuban American who has lived in the US for over 50years – reminded me of the American dream.

Hear the “Cuban American” – I am really blessed. I came to the US over 50years ago. I came in because of my sporting skills and have remained here since then. I have been able to get all that I need in life from the United States. I have a descent home, a great wife who we’ve been together for over 35years and we both drive good cars. I have travelled to many destinations across the world like Turkey, Russia, France, Australia and I can safely sayAmerica is the best country in the world . Anybody can make it here in America. It’s unfortunate that original Americans don’t even know or appreciate what they have because we that are immigrants really appreciate this country. I don’t care about all the cries about economic problems, what I see every day on the streets are new SUVs and luxury cars and I see people moving into new houses. My only regret though is that before now we Cuban were not allowed to go back to Cuba and I didn’t have the opportunity to see my family for 50 years. I couldn’t see my father before he died and couldn’t go for his burial. That is a big regret for me because in the end it is “Family first, dollar second” . Now that we are allowed to go home, I plan to visit Cuba this year for the first time in over 50 years.

You probably will pick up many lessons from what the man said but two things struck me in all this:

1. His spirit of appreciation of both his new (USA) and old country (Cuba)

2. His sense of value – how many still value family/heritage above material gains (dollar)?

Immediately, I started imagining what an encounter with a Nigerian American or even a Nigerian resident of the United States of America will produce and I recalled that last year when I indeed met a Nigerian at a training facility in Boston – the guy simply introduced himself as: “Hi, you guys must be from Nigeria. My name is blablabla and I live in the United States” . I guess living in the USA is a major achievement for a Nigerian who cannot even acknowledge (and be proud of) his root. Well that being a response to a proper introduction of “Hello, my name is xxxx and I work for First Bank of Nigeria as…” meant we really didn’t have further non-formal interaction in the one week we were together.
Now what really is the American Dream? I will copy directly what is recorded on Wikipedia…” The
American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. Another author summed up the American dream as the ability to “achieve a higher standard of living for our families than we experienced growing up ”. Now that’s what you will call a sweet dream – a dream worth living for or at least one you won’t want to wake up from.

Contrast that with the Nigerian situation where subsequent generations are almost guaranteed to have a lower standard of living than their parents and you will understand why it wouldn’t be out of place to label the Nigerian citizen experience as “the Nigerian Nightmare” since by definition a nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong negative emotional response from the mind, typically fear or horror , but also despair, anxiety andgreat sadness . Perhaps apart from the looters in the seat of power, I am not sure there is one Nigerian who does not fear for the future of this country today. Most Nigerians I know are in great sadness about the state of our nation and certainly suffer acute anxiety about where the next major national show of shame will come from.

The Nigerian Nightmare can therefore be defined as an unwritten “national ethos” of our dear country which is characterised by the unscrupulous pursuit of riches, power and infamy by the fastest and easiest means possible

I must clarify that it is not an ethos shared by all (may be not even most) Nigerians but the Nigerian Nightmare as defined above is very much the ideal by which today’s political class lives and if the what people post on facebook is a true reflection of what’s on their mind, then we can also say the number of Nigerians that share in the ethos defined as the Nigerian Nightmare is certainly large and somewhat growing. By way of example,

I actually saw a good number of people sharing this posting on facebook:

“How long does it take to make $300K?


BBA(Big Brother Africa): 3months=$300,000; Footballer:1Week=$300,000; Graduate:10Years = $300,000 Politician:24hours = $300, 000; Armed Robbers:10minutes = $300,000. Choose your career wisely…”.

Now I know some posted/shared this as some kind of joke but it would also be correct to say many actually take this seriously and are probably re-skilling/re-tooling appropriately. I will not like to dwell more on defining and explaining the concept of the Nigerian Nightmare since in one way or the other we are living in it. Rather I will devote some effort below to try and recommend some ways out of the current situation.

So how do we get out of the Nigerian Nightmare?

Since a Nightmare is a form of dream and dreams are mostly experienced in our sleeping state, I will say the obvious first step towards getting out of the Nigerian Nightmare is WAKE UP!!! We all must wake up from our stupor and face the reality that we are living in a failing state. We must wake up, pray fervently but more importantly take practical actions to prevent the nightmare scenario from being fully manifested in our reality. The practical actions are further discussed below…

At the heart of the Nigerian problem is the crisis of values – we have lost our true heritage and inherited values that are alien to our culture. Sure it is easy to point at the political class and accuse them of being the sole problem of Nigeria but if we are honest with ourselves we would admit that the average man on the street is (nearly) as bad as the politicians they criticise. Key values that we must re-instate in our lives include HONESTY, HARDWORK AND BEING CARING (TO OTHERS). I’ll duel more on honesty or the lack of it. We need to be honest in small matters as we are on big issues. For example, I am yet to meet anyone that voted for President Jonathan who says they did so with the honest expectation that he would transform this country – at best they voted to ensure a Muslim, a Northerner, or a former military man did not become the president. Do we honestly care about this country and do we honestly want to see it move forward?

Our country is comprised of states, which is made up of local governments that contain villages/towns/cities which themselves are composed of clans and families. YOU are a member of one of these families. It is unlikely that a country that has majority of its constituent families in disarray will turn out to be great. We need to revisit the family units starting with ours and that will certainly be after we have fixed our personal values as stated above.

Without meaning to offend anyone, I think a lot of Nigerians are intellectually lazy. First we shy away from analysing issues and when we do we simply fail to dig deep and merely scratch the surface. That’s why many issues end with it’s the work of the devil, it’s spiritual warfare, it’s how God wants it, it’s a Muslim/Christian problem, it’s Hausa/Yoruba/Igbo problem, and so on. Many will like to jump to this quick end to avoid the intellectual exercise of analysis issues and proffering solutions. I always make the joke offline that if I wanted to generate a large number of likes and comments on my facebook wall; all I need to do is post a silly topless photo of myself and bingo it would happen but post any serious issue and you are likely to have a debate with only a handful of people. Great nations are built on the back of strong intellectual discuss and focus think tanks.

Orderliness is a rare virtue within the realm of the Nigerian Nightmare. We are so negatively competitive that we measure our success by the number of people we are able to exploit or annoy through our disorderly conducts such as jumping the queue, driving against traffic, urinating in public spaces, trashing the highway, running across highways right under a pedestrian bridge, being needlessly noisy just to get attention and so on. Being orderly will not only improve our productivity but it will great reduce avoidable disruptions that lead to systemic waste such as we experience in man-made traffic when disorderly people drive on the wrong side and block oncoming traffic.

I have already talked about being realistic about the transformation impact of GEJ in the next four years but moderating our expectations go far beyond this. Many in this generation expect to climb a tree from the top and not from it’s root. That’s an unrealistic expectation and only drives out the virtue in us. You can’t come out of school and expect to become a deputy manager in a bank after just two years of working in an insurance company just because you are designated as executive assistant to the MD in your current job. By the way, that was the expectation of someone I interviewed last year.

Siddon look has not worked for any one since 1999 and it will not work today or tomorrow. We would have another election in 2015 and it really would be sad if any Nigerian of voting age will willingly allow himself/herself to be disenfranchised. Infact it would be a sin for any Nigerian of voting age to allow his/her vote to go uncounted or be miscounted in 2015. Enthroning true (representative) democracy is the duty of every citizen and we cannot allow ourselves to be enslaved in our own country…forever!!!

Good citizens don’t go about robbing other citizens. Good citizens don’t go about murdering other citizens. Good citizens don’t go about bombing other citizens. Good citizens don’t go about raping other citizens. Good citizens help other citizens in distress.

I hope this 8-point recipe is helpful and will be put to use by all or Am I just dreaming.


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