Friday, June 14, 2013

We're All Nigerians Now

I've always theorized that all Black Africans have a dormant Nigerian gene that is made active or inactive depending on the particular circumstance that one finds oneself in. When Chinua Achebe passed away in March, all educated Africans fell over themselves to heap literary praise on the undisputed master of African writing. In fact Achebe's own writings were recycled in that praise and Ogidi, Umuofia and Okonkwo were resurrected by admirers who had never set foot in Nigeria. For once, all of Black Africa were pseudo-Nigerians, or wannabe Nigerians.

That admiration for all things Nigerian came to an abrupt end in May when two Two British Muslims (of Nigerian descent) hacked to death a British soldier on the streets of London. All Africans quickly pointed an accusing finger at the two attackers, who were themselves quickly disowned by the wider Nigerian community.

Now we are in June and the Confederations Cup of Football is upon us. Once again the pendulum has swung the other way and that dormant Nigerian gene has been made active once again. For the next two weeks expect to see Nigeria's population miraculously grow from 150 million to 750 million as all of Black Africa gets behind Nigeria's football team, the Super Eagles. Football fans from Dodoma in Tanzania to Dakar in Senegal will be cursing at their TV-screens and choking on their food as the Super eagles take to the field. Every cross from the wings will be scrutinised; every near miss by the strikers will be lamented.

Have mercy on Nigeria's fantastically misnamed President, Goodluck Jonathan. For the next two weeks he will have to deal with 750 million critics as opposed to his usual 150 million. In Africa, where football and politics often morph into a singular pursuit, football fans will use the opportunity to blast every decision he makes. They will criticize his choice of cabinet-ministers and even his wardrobe, while following the exploits of the Super Eagles.

That, my dear Africans, is what it means to be a modern African: following the footballing exploits (and travails) of a nation you most likely have never set foot in. That's what I meant by the header, We're All Nigerians Now.  You gotta love being an African!

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