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Yes, Nigeria can be Kenya’s role model

The write-up in last week’s Sunday Standard by XN Iraki on whether Nigeria can be Kenya’s role model raised several issues that need to be put in right perspective. The writer, though quite eloquent, mixed up some issues and missed certain fundamental points germane to the topic of discussion.

Dr Iraki was, however, right on one structural fundamental fact about the two countries: That Kenya and Nigeria have great similarities.

This point seems to have guided framers of the Kenyan Constitution 2010 to borrow from Nigeria which was wise considering the cultural and colonial history as well as a host of other salient similarities.

In fact, Kenya and Nigeria are, by several means, two sides of the same coin.

SEE ALSO :Total to approve oil project in Nigeria

Nigeria is, without doubt, the world’s largest black nation. The reason some people, like the writer, conclude that nobody seems sure of Nigeria’s total population is that during the country’s last census in 2006, its nationals in diaspora were not counted and that head count put the population at 180 million.

The UN Population Fund today estimates Nigerians, put together with those in diaspora, at over 200 million people. Some statisticians and development economists have, in fact, put Nigeria’s population presently at 220 million. Lagos alone, whose economy is larger than that of Kenya, has around 30 million people.

Many non-indigenous black people you find anywhere in the world are Nigerians, even in remotest part of the planet. Nigerian author and PhD student Tunde Oyateru, after living in Kenya for five years, asked: What does one call Africans living in Kenya and what do Nigerians call themselves after having lived in Kenya for five years? He concluded that one can simply call them, Africans. There is such a thing as African identity. That’s the spirit of Africanness.

It is indisputable that Nigeria is Africa’s best-known country in the world today. Nigerians are known for their contributions in the socio-economic, scientific, educational and political developments of these countries. For instance, in all the American top five universities, Nigerian professors are making waves, some of the brightest students are Nigerians and several top awards have been won by Nigerians.

Nigerians served in all former American Presidents’ economic, scientific, medical and educational councils – from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama and now President Trump.

SEE ALSO :MTN pays Sh5.39b to settle Nigeria dispute

A Nigerian medical doctor delivered a child twice, a first in medical history! The doctor removed the sick baby from the mother’s womb, treated it of a major disease, and returned it to the mother’s womb where it stayed until normal delivery. For this feat, the doctor was invited to the White House by President Obama and His wife.

In the United Kingdom, the list of Nigerian achievers is endless. One of the most brilliant members of the House of Commons, Chuka Harrison Umunna, aka UK’s Obama, is the man presently giving Prime Minister Theresa May a run for her money on Brexit. The parliamentarian with Nigerian roots recently led six other labour MPs to resign from the party.

Today, Nigerian academics are well respected in all spheres of academic endeavours and are almost indispensable in South African universities because they have matched up to their white counterparts.

It is debasing and insulting, to say the least, to claim that oil and corruption made Nigeria the best-known country in Africa. Iraki forgets that Nigeria was the first African country to win the Olympic Gold medal in soccer by defeating both Brazil and Argentina.

We also won the maiden edition of the FIFA Junior World Cup in China by defeating Germany in the final. Our women footballers have represented Africa a record seven times in that edition of FIFA World Cup. This is just but a sampler.

SEE ALSO :Nigeria’s central bank to finance Dangote’s oil with Sh21b

That Nigerians have a bad name, seen as dishonest, is a matter of wrong perception and wrong profiling. Former American President Bill Clinton once said if you visit Africa and you don’t visit Nigeria, you have not visited Africa. I am not sure Iraki has visited Nigeria and interacted with the people. If he hasn’t, a short trip will convince him.

Nigerians are, as Kenyans who have associated with them can attest, arguably the best set of people to deal with. In their typical freedom of association, they marry locals when necessary, wherever faith and providence carry them. Yes, they marry Kenyan girls, but not just famous girls. They marry the good, the bad and the ugly as long as love finds space and expression.

As for why Kenyan girls find Nigerian men irresistible, the reasons are many. And personal. One thing is for sure though, culturally, the average Nigerian man takes issues of marriage seriously. More often than not, separation, or divorce is not an option. In fact, it is out of the question.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigerian men are most sought after because they know how to take care of women, generally. In South Africa, it has been said that Nigerian men are addictive in the sense that when they enter your life, you say bye to local South Africa men. And this is one of the major causes of xenophobia in South Africa.

There are four Nigerian commercial banks operating in Kenya as well as three insurance companies. Some of the big multinational companies in Kenya are headed and operated by Nigerians either as chief executives or general managers. Heineken, Coca-Cola, Cisco ICT Systems, Lever Brothers are a few examples. Nigerians would have been here doing more were it not for the country’s immigration regulations, presently one of the most difficult in Africa.

Indeed, Nigeria should be a role model for Kenya because it has a head start in several areas. We can start by sharing ideas, through cross-fertilisation and networking in our respective comparative advantages instead of always rushing to Europe and Americas whose ideas are alien to our respective environments.

Culturally, Kenya has a lot to learn from Nigeria. The Nigerian society is religiously and traditionally conservative. Many Christians and Muslims are skeptical of single parenting, separation and divorce. Their sons and daughters, most of the time, don’t even dare bring it up. Matters like gay and lesbianism are a total abomination.

Youth problems, such as teenage pregnancy in places like Kilifi County, would be solved by half in one year by the process of Nigerian system of value orientation which is very conservative. It combines parental, societal and religious dynamics to approach every issue or problem to produce an acceptable solution.

But Kenya has an innovation for Africa to its name! The March 9, 2018 “handshake” between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga is one of the best things to happen to Kenyan politics that was to break the political ice. This is political innovation that should be emulated by all African political gladiators. The handshake brought peace and progress to Kenya. Just look around and feel the political temperature now, what it was before, during and immediately after the 2017 elections.

The handshake did what the Constitution 2010 could not do in the immediate. It doused ethnic, political and regional tensions. It gave the needed push and impetus to President Kenyatta’s anti-graft war. It harmonised all the divergent, centripetal and centrifugal forces militating against peace and socio-economic development in Kenya. At least, it gave the President the needed leeway to pursue his legacy project, the 4-point agenda of his administration.

Nigeria is steadily, slowly and surely moving in the right direction under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. Today, Nigeria and Kenya can boast having the two best African presidents, serious and determined to fight graft in their respective countries.

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