Be(com)ing Nigerian: A Guide

On January 21, 2021, we senior high school students from Schloss Hagerhof had the opportunity to participate in an online lecture, organized by „stimmen afrikas“ focusing on Nigeria with the Nigerian author Elnathan John. He was born in the north of Nigeria and is now active as a writer and journalist, living in Berlin. The reading referred specifically to his book „Be(com)ing Nigerian: AGuide“ that was published in 2019.

Köln, 21.1.2021, stimmen afrikas und sonnenblumen Community, Länderfocus Nigeria, mit dem Autor Elnathan John und dem Deutsche Welle Moderator Abdulraheem Hassan, Foto: Herby Sachs, version-foto

Elnathan John read some passages from his book and addressed the domestic problems that started in colonial times where the British merged three different „nationalities“ into one country or to quote the author: „the British said “let there be Nigeria and then there was Nigeria“. One of his main messages is that you have to know Nigeria’s history to understand its problems. John also draws attention to the problem that people are not allowed to express their opinion freely once it goes against the government and thus increasingly do not dare to use their voice. He also emphasizes that it is important and necessary for the population to take to the streets, because the more people are involved, the more people will join them and raise their voices.

In addition, the author also addresses many other issues, such as the role of the police in Nigeria, or even the class system, which in his opinion does not reflect that no matter how rich you are, you are a health problem away from having to sell your car to help your family. He addresses deliberate grievances in the country, which often do not find their way to Europe. When asked what Elnathan John would like to change in the minds of people, especially in terms of stereotypes or prejudices, he answered that it is about creating a multidimensional image of Nigeria and he wished that more people were interested in the Nigerian languages or in the different cultures. He wants to give Nigeria and its people a voice and the possibility to be more than just residents of an African country in the minds of other people with the prejudices that this term entails. He wants to emphasize the diversity of the country and also convey it to other people, thus addressing an important issue that has also been taken up by many other African writers that of telling more than just one story. It is important for him, which he also repeats several times, that the real change in the country can only come from Nigerians who live there, they must raise their voice.

With the lecture and his interview Elnathan John showed the problems of his home country and brought us students and viewers closer to the country with its sunny and dark sides making us all better understand what it means to be a Nigerian.

Text: Carla Plassmeier and Marie-Sophie Beisel, Year 12

Fotos: Herby Sachs