Op ed

ENVIRONMENT FOCUS: Searching for Africa in Nigeria

searching-africain-nigeriaI magine a British citizen arriving in Nigeria on Friday night for the first time. He is perhaps welcomed by an immigration officer whose name is Charles, then has his baggage inspected by a customs official, William and later checked into Newcastle Hotel, but has been told there are other good hotels in the country – Liverpool, Chelsea, Bolton, Bristol and Hawthorne. Coming from Manchester, he feels somewhat left out.After a beer by the poolside next morning, our visitor is alarmed by loud noises from cursing and fighting nearby. Frightened, he quickly requests the hotel management to check him out.

The manager calms him down, “Oh it’s these hooligans, these football fans, Manchester United supporters fighting with Arsenal fans! We see that every Saturday.” The visitor is shocked beyond belief, cannot comprehend what he has just heard – Arsenal and United fans fighting in a place called Nigeria! And maybe none of these guys had ever been to England before, never visited Old Trafford or the Emirates! What kind of people are these Nigerians! Later, Henry, the steward brings in his tea, but cheekily hangs around for a minute, watching the football match on the TV in his room, then leaps in the air, overjoyed, as Sunderland score against Chelsea.”So, who are you supporting?” the Englishman inquires. “Sir, I’m a Man U fan!” The visitor is totally lost for words, but still makes a call to his family back in the UK to tell them what is going on.

Reading about Nigeria before falling asleep, he makes a stunning discovery that keeps him awake – the country has been a sovereign state, independent from British colonial rule for 50 years! When foreigners come here, they are actually disappointed and disgusted at the painful attempts by Nigerians to measure themselves blindly by the culture and norms of the former colonial master without any sense of decency and self-respect.Festivals of art and culture in Nigeria were started by the British during colonial times, in appreciation of the people’s rich heritage which dates back over 2000 years. The partial result is that some of Africa’s most famous writers, sculptors and painters come from Nigeria. Ignorant post-colonial administrations have turned the country into a caricature of Europe or anything else but Africa.

We are yet to see the dividends of the 1977 FESTAC.In the early 1990s, Wole Soyinka commented that Abuja was disappointing in not reflecting Nigerian culture. The Nobel Laureate may be interested to know that Bala Mohammed, Minister for the Federal Capital Territory is presently preparing the award of a contract for the construction of the Abuja Town Centre to a US firm in Dallas.

Is this minister telling us there are no artists and architects in Nigeria to design and execute anything purposeful and culturally unique?

Know thyself

Bala Mohammed and our other leaders must also understand that for security reasons, it is not prudent to have the detailed architectural designs of built-up environments in a country – airports, air force bases, naval yards, highways, power stations, factories, central banks, mints and security printing, radio and telecommunications stations, ministries, presidential lodges, and prisons in the safe-keeping of foreigners.Most of such documents on Nigeria are already in the vaults of Julius Berger at their head office in Wiesbaden, Germany.

If the objective of development in this country is to emulate the industrialized world, Nigerians would prefer our governments to provide healthcare, water, electricity, food, jobs and schools, just like in Europe and America, instead of constructing massive concrete and glass houses in anci

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