Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons
One of the weird and sad things that has happened to America is that her nightly news has degenerated into political party bashing and not much else. There used to be something called world news where people learned about what was happening from other parts of the world. Geography is another lost gem in our nation. Geography is no longer a required subject in most states and, “Nearly three-quarters of eighth-graders tested below proficient in geography on the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress.” (Oct. 16, 2015, Lauren Camera, usnews.com) The main issue cited is the State and Federal testing requirements for reading, math, and science—causing schools to skimp on just about everything else. However, there have been some problems with churning out a decades-worth of kids that cannot find Saudi Arabia on a map and that is, oddly, jobs. It seems that location-based technology requires an understanding of geography and, “According to the Department of Labor, the employment of geography specialists is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012-2022—much faster than the average 11 percent growth for all occupations.” (Oct. 16, 2015, Lauren Camera, usnews.com) Clearly, our government’s crystal ball was not functioning properly when it okayed dumping a well-balanced education and reducing it to a few easily tested, quantifiable subjects.
Most of the images and news we in America receive about Africa is either starving children, pirates (pirates!), or terrorism. However, in other places like Europe, people get all sorts of news and images of Africa that include things like music and art, new laws being passed, economic investment, and what China is doing in Africa now (because China is rapidly becoming a very snug bedfellow to this resource-rich continent). Africa is a beautiful, awesome place filled with problems and potential, and nowhere is there a better place to start when wanting to learn about Africa than with Nigeria.
A Quick Rundown
Nigeria, or Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a West African nation bordering Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. A little over a fifth of its border is coastal land sitting on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. Its Capital is Abuja, and it is officially a Secular Democracy. It is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous in the world. English is the official language, though outside the major cities, most people speak in their local tongue. The country is roughly fifty-fifty Christian and Muslim with a small animist and other minority faiths population. The north is mainly Muslim, and the south is mainly Christian. The three major ethnic groups are the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. It became a British colony in 1901. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom. 1966-1970 was a civil war period. It was very bad; millions died during this period. 1970-1999 was the military juntas period. During the oil boom of the 1970’s, Nigeria joined OPEC, making tons of money but investing none of it back into the country. 1999-present is the Democracy period. Nigeria uses a blend of common law (British), customary law (indigenous traditional), and Sharia law (used in the northern Muslim states). There is a Supreme Court of Nigeria. They have an army, navy and air force and routinely go on peacekeeping missions around Africa. Nigeria has a mix of terrains: river valleys, swampland, savannah, hardwood forests, and an expanding desert (Sahara). Nigeria has a mixed economy and is considered an emerging market with a lower-middle income status. Its economy and stock market are the largest in Africa. Its Nollywood is the second largest producer of movies in the world.
Its Big Problems
Nigeria has a lot of problems. However, there are three that I think are worth highlighting, as I believe if they could be improved, then a lot of the other problems could, at the very least, be better managed. Tribalism, terrorism, and lack of dependable electricity I believe are the major stumbling blocks of Nigeria. Prebendalism is when a government shares the government’s revenues with members of their ethnic, religious, political, or familial group. Nigeria is comprised of three distinct tribes, and to this day, the nation and her government are plagued with conflict and corruption due to one tribe trying to be in power over the other. These conflicts have turned violent. If they could see themselves as Nigerians first, then what ever tribe they are from second, then a lot of Nigeria’s governing problems would evaporate. Terrorism and, more specifically, Boko Haram in the northern Muslim states must be eradicated. All one has to do is check out the latest update on GOV.UK's Nigeria page and learn just how harrowing it is to travel there. All of the north (including the capital city Abuja) is classified as a red danger zone. A little less deadly, though still bad, is anywhere around the northern area by Niger and on the coast (classified as a yellow zone). A little less than half of the country is in the green zone for travel (though note, no place is really safe if you are a westerner, as terrorist kidnapping is everywhere). This is a super big problem if you want foreign investors (which they do). Lastly, dependable energy is a huge problem for Nigeria—namely gasoline, oil, and electricity. Nigeria is working very hard to become a modern, industrialized country, and yet, nobody seems to know how to keep the lights on (literally). A recent headline from thestreetjournal.org (July 25, 2017) was: “Nigeria’s Power Generation Slumps Below 3,000MW, Seven Plants Idle.” The article went on to explain: “The power grid, which has suffered 13 total collapses this year, experience a partial collapse last Wednesday, the third of such this year.”
The Awesomeness of Nigeria (the Potentials)
Believe it or not, after all of my research, I came away very optimistic for Nigeria—and very in love with her people. Yes, there are BIG problems. Boko Haram is a BIG problem. However, Nigeria is huge and educated and very young. In a premiumtimesng.com article (August 2, 2017), it was reported that Nigeria’s postal service had invested in a new technology that would change their service rate from 5% to 90% (!). This change was deemed especially important as “Nigeria’s population of young people (62%), which reflects the significant increase in cross-border e-commerce in the country.” The young people are buying stuff online just like us! And Nigeria’s postal service is getting it done! In another article from premiumtimesng.com (August 2, 2017), they reported Nigeria has just announced a tax holiday that would last three to five years for 27 new industries and products that were deemed pioneer (not mature) in order to boost growth and expand investments. This a great sign indicating that Nigeria is working on creating a rich, varied economy and not an oil (or single natural resource) based one that ruins countries. As for her people…there is this great two-part documentary (I only watched part one) on Youtube that is long (sorry—but I promise you’ll keep watching once you start). It is a very real movie made by a young, beautiful, endearing, and intelligent Nigerian woman who takes us through Lagos and Abuja. I loved it; I loved her, and I came away really rooting for Nigeria. She and her friends listen to loud pop music when they drive around! Her young friends argue over politics at the kitchen table! She filmed inside a western style shopping mall in Abuja (where not long ago, 20 people died in a terrorist bombing of a shopping mall). She filmed a sequence in a mall with ever-dimming electric lights, security forces everywhere, in the GOV.UK no-go area, and yet, she went anyway. Nigeria!
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.