I came across this picture a few months back. I laughed over it. It was a joke to me — the kind you took in with mixed feelings, leaving you with an unpleasant taste after the euphoria was gone. But it’s true and that’s why it’s sad. And it’s not just the politicians.
I watched a short video poll today and the question was, What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Nigeria. My answer came before theirs: Corruption. Most of them said the same thing. Early this year, I watched an episode of Black-ish which was really funny — I laughed then too but not wholeheartedly. It seemed to me that those who wrote that episode have issues with Nigerians — a few negative encounters. It was a marriage of stereotypes. I was hurt to an extent, not because the people they depicted didn’t exist, but because it gives someone watching it the impression that we all are frauds — anything in that negative spectrum. I wanted to scream WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE THAT. What difference would it make?
Some stereotypes are easier to correct than others. The thing about trying to fix these stereotypes is that there will always be people to strengthen them, you can’t stop the misrepresentation out there. The next day after a well-packaged convincing piece is aired, someone will still get scammed by a Nigerian, someone will still give you reasons to resent Nigerians. What does that do for the image of other Nigerians? Two years ago, I accepted a request on Facebook and we seemed to be hitting it until she asked my country. I said Nigeria and was gifted with the You are no longer receiving messages from this person report from fb. Did she think I wanted to scam her? Maybe she just has Nigeriaphobia.
We can’t simply erase stereotypes and the factors that bring about them. We can try to raise our image but it’ll never be enough. There’s a plethora of people there to mess it up. I believe it’s right to give people a chance, to not always be stereotypical when dealing with people. Don’t trust quickly because you don’t want to be or seem stereotypical, don’t write people off because of stereotypes either.
PS. That picture still makes me laugh. I don’t think it’s stereotypical. It’s a sad truth. It’s boxing everyone together and judging them that isn’t right.