Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Have you ever watched 'The Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria'? Well, I caught a few minutes of it late last night and all I could think was 'It's amazing what you can learn from TV."

Zakaria was interviewing Edward Luce and they discussed how the Indian economy grew outside the realms of the government because the Indian government was ineffective at creating the necessary growth and development. I couldn't help but think of Nigeria, as this is my suggestion for future development for that country. See my earlier post, Response to Nilla, for more on that topic. I will spend some more time developing the idea in a future post.

Anyway, Zakaria and his Mr. Luce moved on to talk about America's popularity in India. Mr. Luce noted that apart from India, there was one other country in the world where America's popularity was not only high, but grew despite the negative image America has in most of the world. Guess what country that was? Yes, you figured it out, didn't you? The answer was Nigeria. I couldn't believe it. America's popularity grew in Nigeria? Interesting. As I am eternally curious, I decided to go downstairs to the computer and get on Google. You can always find what you need via Google.

According to the latest Pew Global Attitudes report, there are only two other countries that have America-favorability ratings higher than Nigeria - The U.S. and Japan, respectively (of the countries where people were polled). Considering how much Nigerians like America, you would think it wouldn't be so hard for Nigerians to get a visa. Although, come to think of it, Nigerians seem to be doing very well at the Green Card lottery. Seen the figures lately?

What really caught my attention was the fact that despite the high numbers for America, there is a clear disconnect between Nigerian Christians and Muslims. The report noted that, "[r]oughly nine-in-ten (89%) Nigerian Christians have a favorable view of the U.S., compared with only 32% of Nigerian Muslims." It went on to state that the margin between Christians and Muslims grew since 2003 when 85% of Nigerian Christians favored America while 38% of Nigerian Muslims viewed America favorably.

This stark difference between Nigerians is normal. After all, there are a lot of us (140 million) and thus, there will be various opinions on everything. However, the fact that the difference in opinion falls along religious lines makes me apprehensive. This pronounced divide further illustrates the tension between Nigerians that is religious, ethnic and economic. A tension that I continue to hope will not be the trigger for a seriously dangerous situation. There is enough instability in the country, and I worry that anything could light a fire that we will not be able to extinguish in time. The consequence of which will be lost lives. I worry that those who do not care about our future will take advantage of this deep division to their benefit and of course, our detriment.

Despite the pessimistic tone, I know that there are many ways to move Nigeria towards a place of healing and trust. It will take all people doing all things, big and small, to close the divide. It starts with raising your children and impressing upon those who look to you with respect the importance of treating our brothers and sisters well. We can not continue to treat our tribal mates preferentially at the disadvantage of others. We are all Nigerians and must always remember that fact. Yes, we were thrown together by Europeans who had no idea or didn't care of the consequences that would arise from their random country-creating. Nevertheless, we are Nigerians and must work through the problems of haphazard nation construction (at the hands of the British) and turn Nigeria into a place where many are one. That has a nice ring to it, don't you think? I can see it right now 'NIGERIA. WHERE MANY ARE ONE.' Don't you see the t-shirts and bumper stickers? If any of you steal my idea, well, I'll simply take you to court. I am not kidding. I didn't become a lawyer for nothing.

Anyway, why don't you keep that in mind the next time you have to interact with a Nigerian from a different ethnic group or religion. No, not my threat of litigation, but the promise of hope. NIGERIA. WHERE MANY ARE ONE.

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