Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 'American' Concept

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a little dinner party with a few African-Americans and Nigerian-Americans here in Lagos.

The introductions were made, food and drink choices were given to the Waiters, and then we got into the tedious part of socializing: making conversation.

Fortunately, I was the newcomer on the table, so I became the silent (and amused) observer. This group of people was remarkable in the sense that they are doing really great work with a group of young boys in Lagos.

They train these boys in the game of Basketball and provide a standard facility for them to develop the acquired sport. They have really good plans for the kids and were very excited as they traded stories about their escapades in ‘giving back’.

One of them spoke about how excited and in awe the boys are of the fact that an American or group of Americans actually take out the time and come all the way into their part of town to mentor them. Others spoke about how the program allows the boys dream that they too can go and play for the major leagues in America.


Commendable as the efforts being made by this group is, I couldn’t help but wonder about a certain aspect of it. It was clear to me that like many Nigerians, these young boys hold the idea of ‘America’ (which to most represent the possibility of attaining the dream being communicated to them on TV) and the West in the highest esteem.

The fact that they are so in awe of their ‘American’ trainer even though for the most part, they don’t understand what he says, reminds me of the way a lot of Nigerians I have come across also view the ‘American concept’.

To a lot of Nigerians, anything foreign (not Nigerian) is synonymous with quality. Western fashion, Western music; Western accents, products, names and even cultures, are exalted above and beyond the indigenous Nigerian ones.

It’s actually only recently that a youth sub-culture spurn out of Entertainment has begun to birth a collective sense of identity in young Nigerians.

‘America’ and the West in a lot of Nigerian minds, holds the key to a better existence; the hordes of people you find laboring under the torturous sun (and rain) daily in search of visas, by any means possible, is a testament to the perception most Nigerians have of the West.

Who can blame these young, aspiring pro-Basketball players, for feeling ‘lucky’ that unlike their brothers, relatives and friends who daily go in search of their big Western break, most times to no avail, the West instead came in search of them.

I’m always the first to celebrate good deeds when I see them; I’m excited about the fact that these kids have found an opportunity to express their dreams and skills. However, I wonder; I wonder about the long-tem effect on the psyche of these boys.

I wonder about the possible outcome of their lives in the event that they have come to associate ‘America’ alone with the terms ‘progress’ and ‘opportunity’. What about the sense of racial inferiority they could possibly develop (if not already)?

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’

How do you prevent a noble gesture such as this from further depleting the eroded sense of national identity and pride that is like a cancer in many young Nigerians?

Where is the balance?


  1. well said Darling

  2. I think the answer to your question is simple, lucid, and obvious: better governance.

    Let us not forget, before JFK told Americans to "ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country," America was the leading super power of the world in every measurable category, from education, military power, inventions, science, health care, economy, etc. In other words, the country had done its part of providing for its citizens and consequently instilling national pride and identity.

    Remember, you can only take pride in accomplishment. People like to identify with success and prosperity. So if Nigerians are to be proud of our green, white, green and our heritage, then Nigeria needs to provide the platform for us to identify with it. We need standard free education, health care, infrastructure, food, etc.

    Trust me, when all of that is done, you wouldn't need to ask questions such as these.

  3. I concur wth anonymous.....It further buttresses the saying " Not all that glitters is Gold"... you are sooo on point

  4. and tari this goes hand in hand with the reason behind your petition. Essentially slogans like that perpetuate the (in this case) 'Western concept'...which is everything western is good and glitters, everything else does not.

  5. thanks prism. you are right. It is impossible to be proud of failure and achievement unless you're some sort of sadistic idiot. Most nigerians don't seem to understand the meaning of the word patriotism. There has to be a reason for it, not merely chest thumping buffonery.

  6. very thoughtful post. got me thinking. i wish we had more national pride. ironically when people live in the US and realize that it's not the world they envision, they tend to then develop a naija pride and awareness.
    unfortunately, there is really nothing that can be done to fix this.
    those young boys will live it and they will learn from it.