Nigeria is no stranger to negative publicity; from the corruption in Government, a reputation for fraud (419), the on-going oil crisis in the Delta Region, Boko Haram’s merciless slaying of Christians to the unresolved abduction of the 200+ Muslim girls, the list is endless. However I want to celebrate some of the fantastic things about the nation affectionately dubbed the ‘Sleeping Giant of West Africa’; so to celebrate 54 years of ‘independence’ I want to share with you five reasons why I am proud to be an Afropolitan of Nigerian descent. (Disclaimer: Nigeria is a culturally diverse nation with a rich heritage and numerous languages and ethnic groups so excuse the generalisation as I know not all Nigerians are the same! However this is based on my observation as a Nigerian from two tribal groups with Sierra Leonean heritage.)
- The Hustle- Entrepreneurialism is in our DNA. My younger brother who has never stepped foot on Nigerian soil, was selling the latest gadgets to his peers in school from day dot- it’s as if he possessed an innate ability to sniff out where the money was and find a way to go get it! From London to Lagos, we are passionate about business whether it is our main area of work or our side hustle. When I visited Nigeria almost every street corner was occupied by someone selling something and likewise in the UK every other Nigerian I know is setting up a new venture, often alongside their full time employment. Industrious, ambitious and driven – Nigerians entrepreneurial spirit is a cut above the rest.
- Our bold, fearless nature– Nigeria is known as the ‘Sleeping Giant of West Africa’ but that couldn’t be more far from the truth- I think it is well and truly awake! My dad always use to say ‘fear no man but your maker’ and this to me sums up Nigerians- we are not afraid to express ourselves and make our presence known wherever we are. I mean Nigerians are the only Black people I know that will go to places like Russia and Poland to live because they see potential to make money- often in the face of racism and hostility.
- Our vibrant faith– Nigeria is known for its vibrant Christian faith and according to research has the highest population of Christians in Africa. Similarly,irrespective of whether we believe in Jesus or Allah or in the Yoruba deities – our faith is deep rooted and is an integral part of our lives. I will never forget when I visited Nigeria being awoken by the early morning prayers of an Imam at 5am or being impacted by the commitment and passion of Christians attending an epic church service which seemed to go on for the best part of the day!
- Our love of education and personal advancement– ‘Education, education, education’ is something that is of upmost importance to Nigerians. I will never forget when I told my dad that I was planning to take a ‘Gap Year’- (which was almost unheard of from a person of African descent 10 years ago); I just remember my dad- who is one of the most liberal, loving, open-minded people on the planet -repeatedly saying ‘so you are not going to University?’ He couldn’t take it in and I think it took him at least a month for him to speak to me without complete disdain. For Nigerians, as for many, education is seen as the key way to advancing yourself and your family.
- Our hospitality– If you have never been to a Nigerian party I urge you to take yourself to one! Whether its a wedding, a funeral, christening or an anniversary we know how to throw a good party. We love to be extravagant often leading to excessive amounts of food (Jollof rice, coleslaw fried fish, moi moi etc) and drinks (Supermalt and Nigerian Guinness are standard) being on offer. Not only that, depending on the party, you might even find yourself taking away some goodies like Tupperware, a commemorative calendar or salt (that’s another blog post altogether), We know how to have a good time and make almost anyone feel welcome and this isn’t just limited to big occasions!