It is doubtful if there are any other nationals that are as cocky as Americans and Nigerians. The only thing that seems to blunt Nigerians’ cockiness, especially abroad, is the not-too-exciting perception of Nigeria in international circles.
This cockiness stems from issues such as the sizes of the two countries in relation to their neighbours; the population of these nations; and the wealth of the nationals. The United States’ case is worsened by the fact that it leads the world in military might. An average American almost believes that the sun rises and sets in the US. The average Nigerian is almost like that. The only reason he is not fully so is because of the political and economic state of the nation.
To fuel this ego, the American loves to live life the big and glamorous way. He loves big cars and big houses, state-of-the-art electronic gadgets and phones, trendy shoes and clothes. The American could comfortably live the good life with materials obtained through loans and credit cards. The Nigerian loves to live big too. In spite of the statistics that about 70 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line, many Europeans would be filled with envy if they see the quality of cars that ply the streets of Lagos and other cities as well as the type of edifices that dot every available space in most Nigerian cities. You should not be surprised if your relative who is an unemployed graduate or an undergraduate, who looks up to you for financial support, owns more expensive phones, clothes and shoes than you.
That arrogance also shows in the attitude of the two countries towards language. Both countries were colonised by the United Kingdom. Therefore, they both have English as their national language. But interestingly, both countries live among countries that don’t speak English, except for Canada which is on the northern side of the US. Nigeria is surrounded on all sides by French countries, except on the southern side where there is the Atlantic Ocean. The US has mainly Spanish neighbours. Yet, the average Nigerian or American does not bother to learn any other foreign language. His mindset is that if any of his neighbours wants to communicate with him, the neighbour should learn English. Unlike in Europe where people try to learn one or two other languages to make communication with neighbours easier, Nigerians and Americans don’t bother much with such things.
Again, in terms of size, the US is the most populous country in the Americas – the North America and South America. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa as well as in the Black world. This makes the two countries natural giants.
Moreover, the US has the largest economy in the Americas (as well as in the world). Nigeria would have had the largest economy in Africa but for missed opportunities caused by decades of poor governance. Currently, it is the number two in Africa, behind South Africa. Delightfully, Nigeria is projected to beat South Africa by 2025, according to a Morgan Stanley survey. Unfortunately for the US, it is projected to lose its number one spot to China in the next couple of years.
Furthermore, both countries practise the presidential system of government. Nigeria actually copied its system from the US, after it felt that the parliamentary system handed over to it by the UK was not effective. Nigeria also drives on the right side of the road like the Unites States.
In addition, both countries like to play the Big Brother to other countries. They like to solve the problems of other countries even when they have not finished solving their internal problems. They like to fight for peace and freedom in other countries. Sometimes it brings praise, but sometimes it brings condemnation. Curiously, in spite of their claim to championing democracy, freedom and equality in other countries, both countries have never been led by a woman. Some of their neighbours or countries close to them have had female heads of state, while the US and Nigeria are still hoping that such will be a possibility in future.
Also, both nations are currently being led by individuals from the minorities, for the first time. In 2008, the US made history by electing a Black man as its president; in 2010, by happenstance, Nigeria saw a minority becoming the president as a result of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. In 2011 – for the first time – Nigeria elected a minority as president. Coincidentally, Americans who hate Mr. Barack Obama’s policies or status as the American President call him “clueless”, while Nigerians who don’t like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s policies and his position as President also call him “clueless”.
Another point is that both Nigeria and the US have each fought a civil war. Each of them was on the verge of disintegration during the war, but retained their unity after the war.
Furthermore, a person from the US is called an American, which has eight letters, while a person from Nigeria is called a Nigerian, which also has eight letters. Maybe, that is why both countries have a four-year tenure for their elected officers, with a maximum of two terms, which makes them rule for a maximum of eight years, except in a special case like that of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Another interesting similarity is that Americans have the largest film and music industries in the Americas and the world. They have spread the American culture across the world through these two channels. Nigeria also has the largest film industry and music industry in Africa. They have spread their culture across Africa and even Europe and the Americas through these two as well. Other African countries are copying them in music and movies.
However, it is not all about similarities. Nigerians are not as passionate about Nigeria as Americans are about the US. Americans are very proud of their citizenship. And they do everything within their power to uphold the integrity of the US wherever they are. Americans can quarrel among themselves but once there is an attack on the US, they unite as Americans to fight the aggressor. Maybe, Nigerians are not as passionate as the Americans because success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. It is a fact that Nigeria has not lived up to expectations. It has terribly under-performed in spite of its potential. Citizens are therefore not as keen about the nation as they should. But any time there is something of success like a football success, that innate passion comes to the fore.
The US is showing leadership both at home and abroad. Its democracy is always quoted and imitated globally. Not so for Nigeria, which seems to do better at spreading democracy abroad than promoting it at home. There is ethnic tension in Nigeria, which has made many fear that disintegration is a possibility in the future. There is the crisis fomented by the extremist Boko Haram sect, which the government has not yet found an answer to.
The US has ensured that it is competitive in science and technology. Even though Japan, China and India are challenging America’s grip on technology, it has continued to do well in that area. It has invested heavily in thought leadership, ensuring that it is always ahead in new ideas. On the contrary, Nigeria has depended hugely on its oil resource, which has made it close its eyes to technological advancement and manufacturing.
But most importantly, the US has built a super-organised society, with infrastructure that works almost perfectly. Nigeria’s system is not organised, with infrastructure working poorly. Nigeria depends a lot on luck and hope for basic things that other nations take for granted. But fortunately, there seems to be some attention to the revamping of infrastructure. If it succeeds, it will be a fillip to Nigeria’s development.
The US and Nigeria are like identical twins raised in two different environments, whose fortunes have been shaped by the conditions around them. If Nigeria turns its economy and governance around, it will be difficult to find areas of disparity between her and the US. That should be our vision.