Africa: A Journey Away from Dependency

Key Reference: US-Africa Summit Maybe it was the political thing to do, but I will never understand the need for some lines included in the speech presented by President Goodluck Jonathan at the just concluded Africa Leaders Summit, heralding the efforts of the United States and the International community in general. I am not against an occasional plea for foreign aid but when it gets to a point where such funds are all my country depends on, then I am forced to question not only the people behind this shameful move, but the mentality behind it all. You see, in Nigeria, foreign is better. Even the farmer who has a poultry range can choose to pay an exorbitant price for eggs if they are one day brought to his doorstep branded with “Made in USA”. Although I know that Nigerians are not the only culprits of this demeaning mentality, I choose to speak of what I know and avoid any derogatory generalizations.

I know nothing about politics and I never want to, because too many lives are lost in the pursuit of power and too few lives are saved while these leaders are in power.  What I certainly know is that we have been brainwashed to think less of what we produce and accord high esteem to imported goods and services. The benefit of this mentality, I am yet to see. In my recent style posts, I have worn a lot of African prints and shown you how to wear them. The sad truth is that our fashion industry for example seems to be making waves in recent times, getting invited to fashion shows, hosting fashion week in Lagos, etc. but the real truth is that these indigenous brands are not succeeding as much as their foreign counterparts, particularly US-based designers doing the same thing (Compare Stella Jean  and Taibo Bacar).

And I’m not talking about your personal family tailor who always has business; I’m talking about the young breed of designers who are recognized internationally but looked down on because of their choice of production location. My friend and I recently talked about this and our conversation birthed an article where she solicited for input from experts in the Nigerian Fashion and Food Industries.

Stay put; it will all add up.

My fellow Nigerians on the other hand are steadily importing all brand names, fake or real. You name it, we have it. Honestly, it tickles me when I see how people stare down at African students in colleges for example, when most of us pay for our tuition in full while driving the latest cars and wearing all the most expensive designers. Of course there are the peasants like myself but in all honesty, if Nigerians can afford Balenciaga, we can definitely afford Ituen Basi, Christie Brown Ghana, April by Kunbi, Orange Culture, Clan Label, Slippers by Kene Rapu.

It is this same mentality of foreign things being better that our leaders rule with. We accuse them for being corrupt, for embezzling funds, for doing this and that but we fail to recognize that this mentality has poisoned us all. You who would rather spend money on Miu Miu shoes rather than SBK flats are synonymous to our leaders who export their children to study in foreign countries, thereby ridding themselves of the duty to recognize and fix the damage going on in Nigerian Universities. I shouldn’t be here paying taxes on milk and $40,000 tuition, an amount enough to finance my entire university education in Nigeria. I can go on and on, but I hope you get the point.

This same mentality of our people, that robs us of our indigenous ideals in exchange for anything foreign is the reason why your president, my president stood before world leaders to proclaim that the US has done so much to help. How? By transporting its citizens with Ebola out to give them a “secret treatment” for the virus? By sending one or two people to find our missing girls? By constantly destroying the name of our country in the media, starting every negative news article with “Nigerian born …” and the positive ones with “…raised by Nigerian parents?”

I’m screaming at the top of my lungs when I say that it is time for Nigeria to stop soliciting for aid from other countries. We have so much money in circulation. Where do the oil proceeds go? On private jets I suppose. And in terms of supportive roles, I assume my president was talking about the humiliation that anyone with the green passport faces and the airport scrutiny that we undergo on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure he was also talking about the time I almost lost a huge offer because when airport security saw my nationality marked as Nigerian, they pulled me aside into another room and I emerged an hour later rendering me 45 minutes late for an online interview I had scheduled for my transit. Had I known...

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Certainly, partnerships strengthen people, businesses and countries and I’m not denying that in any way. But we must realize that when my country’s politicians talk about partnerships, they mean it by way of dependency, like an old man who relies on his crutches. Our dependency is crippling on many levels. Hence, the stigmatization we receive in the international sphere. The U.S has power, no doubt, but why can’t we believe in our own efforts, strengthening them in the process? Why must African nations depend on U.S leadership on “ALL” issues? Don’t our leaders think that the United States has its own myriad of problems to deal with? But like an older sibling, the US numbs its face to all its injuries and puts up a supportive front for its “younger” ones. Still, it is unfair for 54 nations look up to 1 nation to save them all.

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I really want to see my country, Nigeria moving forward. I need Nigeria to come out of this dependency, by ridding the above stated mentality, starting with the youngest Nigerian on the grassroots level. Our people need to be educated that foreign is not always better and that even in those instances where it is, that the power to make a change lies solely within us. Because the international community will somehow listen to our pleas, they will help us when they can but in the end, we will always have to deal with the stigma. No foreigner will save our African countries. If and when they do, they will do it at a cost.

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Like every Nigerian, I hope the above words were not merely an echo.