Let’s talk about the power of words and thought. Since I’ve been here, I can probably give you an extensive and ever-growing list of the issues that Nigeria faces. From societal to political to infrastructural and everything in between, there are a ton of issues, I don’t dispute that for a second. I couldn’t even if I wanted to… third world problems, I live this. Anyway, not having grown up here, I see a lot of things on a macro-level. I believe that many of Nigeria’s issues, and those of many other African countries, are due to after-effects of colonialism. There’s a lack of pride, a yearning to be “other”, and a willingness to cut ourselves down in order to make others bigger.
Well-off Nigerians leave the country for school, usually going to Europe or the states, and we’re introduced to a whole new standard of living. Meanwhile, if we’re being very honest, our (those of us who go to other countries for school) standards in Nigeria are very high and incomparable to that of maybe 95% of the rest of the country. Nonetheless, things make sense abroad. There’s an efficient public transportation system. Water from the tap you can drink and cook with (truthfully, New Jersey water is filth but whatever), there’s constant electricity and police who are actually there to protect and serve (this too is debatable but I’m trying to make a point). The point is, there’s order. So when we come back and see lack and inefficiency, the frustration and disappointment is understandable. That being said, when we, we who were born with the means to do things that many people fight their whole lives for, we who are educated about the world and its policies, believe and speak that Nigeria is trash, Nigeria will never prosper, nothing good happens in Nigeria, Nigerian’s are incompetent and so on and so forth, then Nigeria will forever be all of those things.
Don’t get me wrong, anyone, anywhere has every right to speak up about what is wrong and what needs improvement. However, there is an ocean of difference between deconstructing issues and declaring negativity into your country, your land, your home. I will never understand sitting around and speaking with indignation about how worthless your country is. Especially, when you have done nothing to help improve it. So yes, ever since I’ve been home, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of words and thought.
Consequently, since I’ve been back, there have been so many times that a complaint I have is met with “well, that’s how Nigeria is”. Yes, that’s how Nigeria is because that’s the trash standard that you have come to embrace as acceptable. Look at Nelson Mandela and how unabashedly sure he was that his people could rise above their differences for their greater good. What he accomplished, and what he was able to influence people to do in his lifetime, is incomparable. How insane would the world deem him to be had he proclaimed things like “South Africa will never prosper” while simultaneously expecting his country to rise? It’s simply not the way to go about things.
Moreover, places like America and England do face their fair share of issues, but a key difference is they have great PR, while Africa does not. The world over, when people think of Africa, they think of destitute starving people in need of aid. Much like a company’s best ambassadors are its employees, a country’s best ambassadors are its citizens. If we don’t see or speak about the beauty in our own country how can we ever expect the world to see it? I hope that with time, Nigerians come to reprogram the way we think and speak about our home so we can effectively rewrite the course of our country.
Words are the tools by which we communicate our thoughts, fears and aspirations. We are motivated to action, or inaction, through them. Words are of extreme importance, of course in public relations, but also in life. We write the stories of our lives through them, choose wisely.
Reni Somoye is a publicist who has done projects with Norma Kamali, Nike and EA Sports among many others. She recently relocated to Nigeria and is currently enjoying exploring the country, traveling and starting the next chapter of her career. Follow Reni @Lov3reni on twitter and check out her blog theprdiary.com