This Saturday morning my wife is braiding the hair of a Catholic nun from Nigeria. The two women are about the same age (mid-30s) and both live in the Bay Area, where liberal ideas dominate and tolerance is taken for granted. The activity is taking place in my living room, so I can eavesdrop easily. I once again am amazed by the enthusiasm Nigerians have for the own country.
â€œI love my country, Nigeria,â€ the nun starts off.
â€œI donâ€™t care what Nigerians do,â€ my wife says. â€œThey are the most
wonderful people in the world.â€
â€œWeâ€™re all not cheats,â€ the nun says, referring to the negative image
of Nigerians as crooks.
â€œNigerian are happy,â€: my wife says. â€œThey find a way to celebrate life.â€
â€œI love life,â€ the nun says.
â€œIf you donâ€™t have money, youâ€™ll still groove,â€ my wife says.
â€œYes, youâ€™ll always groove in Nigeria.â€
â€œYouâ€™ll find friends, and enjoy life,â€ my wife says.
The nun smiles and declares: â€œI want to be reincarnated as a Nigerian.â€
I have been listening quietly but now my mind is, as they say in
Berkeley, blown. Wow! She loves Nigeria so much she wants to be born again â€¦as a Nigerian.
â€œYou like Nigeria that much,â€ I say?
She laughs. â€œIn this country, people are suspicious of Nigerians, but
most of them are fine,â€ she says. â€œPeople are only running from Nigeria because of poverty. Thereâ€™s plenty of money in the country, from oil. The money is there, but it is in the hands of a greedy few.â€
Greed and the violence men, she says, are undermining prosperity inNigeria. â€œMen get with anything,â€ she says. â€œThey beat their wives. They take other women. They even bring them home.â€ She then tells the story of her late father who brought home many girlfriends to join his own wife and children for dinner.
A more pressing problem is male violence. â€œThey kill people like chickens in Nigeria,â€ she says. â€œYou kill a human being and no one questions you.â€
Since the nun is married to Jesus, she need not worry about the antics of Nigerian men. â€œIâ€™m happy to be myself,â€ she says. My wife adds that she waited so long to marry because â€œI didnâ€™t want to marry and suffer.â€ In Nigeria, she says, â€œWomen suffer too much.
For a less feminine but still sobering perspective on Nigeriaâ€™s problems as a national approaches, see the report on the country in the new Economist.