Authenticity.

It is becoming an eye sore, one that is slowly progressing to my heart and robbing every inch of my thoughts. What is with the superficiality in Nigeria? No, let’s pin the tail on the horse. What is with the superficiality in Lagos, Nigeria? A couple of years ago, I moved and now, every time I talk about going home, my friends tell me “Oh, you will be shocked at the things you’ll see when you return”. That makes me really uncomfortable seeing as I always wished that some American ideals never made it to Nigeria. But I was wrong because today, everything in Nigeria is imported, straight up to our ideals. What part of our culture, morals, belief system are we going to preserve now that we are copy-pasting America? I think the worst part about this is that many countries are modernized and classified as first-world countries, but Nigerians, irrespective of the fact that we are well-educated and most of us travel wide (you will meet a Nigerian in any country you go to) choose to copy things from America. It’s as if the picture of an ideal life, ideal belief system and ideal everything is from “Mother America”. I spoke on this subject earlier as it relates to fashion, but now I watch TV and radio shows supposedly made in Nigeria by Nigerians, and I constantly have to pause and question the heritage of the presenters. It’s almost as if once you have a British or American accent (or can fake it at best), you are licensed to work in any radio station. What happened to sounding authentic? No, what happened to authenticity as a whole?

From my college experience, if you talk to an Indian – he/she will sound Indian. If you talk to a Chinese student, he/she will have elements of the mother tongue influencing his/her diction. If you talk to a Kenyan, you will hear that melodious Kenyan accent lacing English. But if you talk to a Nigerian…oh my oh my. If you talk to a Nigerian, you might as well be talking to a British man who has never made it to Britain before, but just moved to America a week before and has suddenly adopted both British and American accents. Why? What is causing this inferiority complex amongst us?

Let’s take a trip to Lagos. I have heard and even seen pictures of people jogging on the newest bridge, 3rd Mainland Bridge…with their dogs. Ok pause. The last time I checked, Nigerians kept dogs partly as pets but mostly for protection. I’m not even sure how the state of veterinary medicine is in Nigeria, for people to all of a sudden walk around with dogs in their purses like they are in Legally Blonde. Nigeria is not America, and there are places to exercise other than 3rd Mainland bridge. Keeping fit can start right from running around your house or running down the street but transporting yourself all the way to 3rd Mainland bridge to feel among the new wave of fit Nigerians is just impalpable. Oh and did I forget to mention that besides obvious health reasons, I bet that Nigerians just started working out well, because Americans are now big on it. I’ve seen waist trainers slowly making their way to our women who are naturally voluptuous with small waists. But Kim Kardashian is doing it, so they must too.

Another wave of Lagosians that amaze me are the designer junkies, those that cannot hang out with people except you are decked in Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Chanel, Prada, Christian Louboutin, you name it, they have it (either at home or waiting to arrive). I am entirely sick of seeing young women who we both know that their finances cannot buy 50 of those bags, because in my dictionary if you cannot buy multiples of a designer item without dragging your account into the negatives, then you have absolutely no business buying it. If you have been saving since the beginning of the year to be able to afford “red bottoms”, and you end up getting a pair of the plain black or nude Louboutin pumps then you should really step back and access your entire life and what you live for.

These young generation of Lagosians want to feel cool, they want to be among and they will do so at all costs. Now if you want to counter this by saying “Oh some people just really love the quality of designer items”, I’ll ask you one question. “Why is it that this category of people only buy what is in vogue?” Because if you truly appreciate the brand name  quality, you will know more names than the famous mainstream designers. And even I cannot list those for you to satisfy your designer junkie syndrome. I wear $39.95 shoes according to the abundance of my budget.

Another subject matter I want to touch on is the Nigerian movie industry. My heart goes out to all our veteran actors and actresses, the ones who truly mastered their craft and understood what authenticity meant. The ones who despite the seemingly bad quality of the movies then, made the best out of the meager resources they had. I know our movies have come a long way in terms of being readily available online for people abroad like myself to watch via IrokoTV and also the blindingly clear quality of the images thanks to our age of High Definition. But you cannot refute the fact that in terms of story line, content and even the quality of actors and actresses, we have sunk. And it is a terrible sink. The saddest part of this is that these new participants in Nollywood are earning a significantly higher amount of money than the veteran actors. The first indication of this was when we started having movie premieres. Immediately, I told myself “Eh hen, they want to start copying America’s red carpet ways”. All well and good, these actors and the crew get to dress up nicely and treat themselves. But what I will never understand is why Nigerian movie premieres are now being held in America or London. WHY?????

I know the pain my heart feels will not solve a thing, but I really want us as a people and as a nation to sit back and re-evaluate our role in the world.

If I may dice this whole thing, I am strongly convinced that this young generation of Nigerians, if left to operate this way will be more corrupt than any generation of leaders Nigeria has ever had. When you cannot even hang out with people because you do not possess frivolous material items, then it means our society will soon be run by a bunch of air-headed, so called elite people, who are essentially “new money”. It is the responsibility of Nigerians who move back from other countries where they worked or obtained an education not to paint a false hope of a good life they lived in the said country. At the end of the day, dear American accent forming Nigerian TV/radio presenter, you were an International student, who no one in America gave a care about. You suffered, you hustled, you even resorted to speaking broken English while you were here, to draw you nearer to home. Why then do you move back and suddenly pull out your “accent” in full gear wherever you go? You lived in Nigeria for at least 17 years and moved abroad to study for 4 years and you come back with a brand new tongue? Of course the illiterate uneducated masses will follow suit, twisting their tongues and slurring words that shouldn’t be slurred. What message are we sending to children at home watching these TV shows/programs? What message are we sending to the child whose dream is to become a media personnel but his/her parents have no funds? Enough of the “fake it till you make it” mentality. Maybe others have succeeded to do this but my experience with Nigerians is that once we adopt something, we take it several notches higher so let’s stop faking it before we become a nation of airheads. To first world countries, we will always be seen as impoverished Africans, no matter how hard we may try so instead of duplicating their morals and lifestyle to the T, let’s preserve and refine ours at best.

Sincerely, A disgruntled Nigerian