Glad to be Nigerian

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

The proponents of gratitude as a way of life are sometimes asked the question, “what is there to be grateful about?”

This question reminds me of a tale I heard about the customer in an exclusive designer shop who asked the shop assistant “how much is it?” when faced with a beautifully crafted bracelet.

The rude answer he got back was, “if you need to ask Sir, you just cannot afford it”.

Perhaps some questions prove to the hearers that the one asking is beyond hope. Yet we live in hope.

In the abundance of blessings to be glad about some insist on not seeing anything to smile about and it is all down to focus. Concentrating the mind of the negatives kills off our ability to so much as see a glimpse of anything praiseworthy. Like the serpent of Moses gulped up all the serpents of the Egyptian sorcerers, so can a negative thought swallow up every positive thought in our minds.

A few years ago I bought a CD by Nigerian gospel singer Lara George which contained a song, ‘I Am Glad’. This was a song I couldn’t understand till recently. The chorus went like this:

I am glad

Glad to walk the earth

I am glad

That I was born in Nigeria

I am glad

Glad to be alive

Glad that I was born (oooo yeah)

I am glad

Oooo I am happy

I am glad

To be a part of destiny

I am glad

Glad to have the earth

Glad that I was born.

The glad to be born in Nigeria bit was a struggle because my countrymen and the local and international media had done a ‘good job’ and given me a subconscious belief system that being born Nigerian was a handicap. Some might say that this sort of thinking is harmless and not worth writing or thinking about. However gratitude is good and the first step in being thankful is being happy to be alive.

To be alive, one need to be born and to be born one needs parents and always they come with a nationality for you to inherit. When one considers self, one’s race and nationality come in. The joy in being alive would be strangled out of anyone who is not happy in their own skin or DNA. One not at home in a geographical location of birth and hoping for a life elsewhere brings conflict. Once one cannot be grateful for the life we have, which is the most important thing a human being has, then it becomes impossible to be grateful for other things.

This song by Lara George challenged my beliefs about Nigeria. I wondered how one could be glad to come from a country with problems which are well documented. Many have made a career from documenting these problems and it sometimes gets to the point where the country’s reputation precedes it.

Once the nation is mentioned people expect a negative piece of news to follow. Emails and telephone calls from the country are viewed with deep suspicion. No one wants to be associated with a negative image but what do you do? Change your DNA? Change your parents or change your motherland? Whatever the new passport looks like, your DNA stays the same and it is more important to love your DNA first before anything else. If an organ fails in a foreign land you would always seek a donor from ‘home’.

Gratitude is important. Listing the blessings we have and being grateful for them increases their value in our eyes. Breathing clear air during the morning run, drinking water, sweating normally, eating, working, joking, selfie obsessions, reading my bible and understanding what I read, these are a few of my favourite things (Na Julie Andrews dey teach me).

It has been a long time coming but I can now say I am glad to be a Nigerian. The negative news headlines cannot dampen my faith or hope. I was born to hardworking parents who provided for me. I received a state sponsored medical education and I graduated with no debts. The government had its problems but I gained something and I am grateful for that.

I write comedy from a Nigerian perspective and I am proud about that. I wrote the first online Nigerian Pidgin English dictionary – Babawilly Pidgin English Dictionary of Nigerian Words and Phrases which has helped many in their research of Nigerian lingo and a few linguists have referred the work. Now I have not made money from this but this is still a huge blessing for me. I possess the gift of self -expression. My pidgin version of the Psalm 23 has proved popular with my countrymen and this is a blessing. A Nigerian blessing.

The things we have the ability to do need to be listed and appreciated. That aids our focus and appreciation always leads to magnification. We spend long hours on these valuable talents, sometimes without remuneration but over time it all works out.

I was chatting with my son recently and making a point about the power of gratitude and using what you have to get what you want with Wizkid, a Nigerian pop artiste as an example. This performer has quite a few hits but it wasn’t until the song ‘Ojuelegba’ that he came to the attention of Drake. A pure Naija song of nostalgia and gratitude that contains the lines

I am feeling good tonight

This thing gat me thanking God for life

I can’t explain it

Now who would have thought that international fame could come from singing about Ojuelegba? The road I travelled on for five years as I went from my family abode in Surulere to St Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos.

Wizkid embraced his Nigerianess and memories and expressed it in music. The same can happen to anyone else in whatever field of work they find themselves. There is always something of value in our past experiences and we need to harness these nuggets to help us contend with present day battles.

Like they say no knowledge or experience is ever lost.