As an African American, Nigeria and Africa in general are important places because they represent an historic part of my identity. And as a “global citizen” who is concerned about the future of the planet, Nigeria is a significant player in the “new globalism” that is becoming more and more influential as we move deeper into the 21st century.
Indeed, over the last half decade, Nigeria has been at the center of an “Africa Rising” narrative which is gaining momentum within political and economic power centers. President Obama, whose own most personal tie with Africa is to Kenya, recently stated that if Nigeria fails, no real progress will be made in Africa. One only has to do a little Internet research to understand why.
Here are a few reasons why he may have said this:
- Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. One out of every four Africans is a Nigerian. The population of Nigeria is projected to overtake that of the US in the middle of the current century.
- If you combined Minnesota and Texas, the land area would equal that of Nigeria, or approximately twice the size of California.
- In 2012, Nigeria displaced South Africa as the largest and most dynamic economy in Africa and is projected be among the 10 fastest-growing world economies over the next decade.
- Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has been a major peacekeeper, fighting with the United Nations and regional peacekeepers in Africa, India-Pakistan, and elsewhere around the world.
- The US is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria and Nigeria is the US’s seventh largest trading partner.
- Of African immigrants to United States, approximately 60% to 70% are Nigerians.
- Nigerians have the highest educational attainment of all immigrant groups. They have on average significantly more education than native-born White Americans. In the 2006 census:
- English is the official language of Nigeria. Virtually all educated Nigerians speak English fluently–although they do not speak it as they do in Peoria or Liverpool. About 20 to 30 percent of Nigerians, residing mainly in rural villages, are unable to communicate in English.
- In sheer numbers, Nigeria has the fourth largest population of English speakers in the world, following the US, India, and Pakistan (Great Britain is in fifth place!).
- Nigerian poetry, fiction, and drama in English compete favorably for Commonwealth and global prizes. Africa’s first Nobel Prize for Literature went to Wole Soyinka of Nigeria.
- Fiction by Nigerian and Nigerian-American writers now appear on the NYT Best Sellers List with some regularity.
- “Nollywood” in Nigeria produces films and television programming, which are often the preferred entertainment choice throughout Africa.
- Increasingly, African-Americans have family, business, and cultural ties to Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans throughout the Atlantic World, especially here in the States, but also in Nigeria and Great Britain.
Over the course of this three part series, I will explore the significance of Nigeria from three perspectives. Firstly, I will explore my own personal connections to Nigeria and how they have shaped me as an African-American writer. Second, I will talk about the more symbolic significance of Nigeria by exploring the “Afro-Centric worldview” and how important it is to look at the world from a non-Euro-centric point of view. And finally, I will explore the political significance of Nigeria as an important application of the phenomenon of “Pan-Africanism.”