Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview Thursday: "Nigeria is an endlessly fascinating country - perhaps the most diverse country on the planet in terms of languages alone" Jeremy

Jeremy Weate is a blogger and a consultant. His blog is dedicated to Nigerian issues, though not a Nigerian which he would have become by marriage if there is no discrimination against Nigerian women giving citizenship to their husbands, he is passionate about Nigeria and its development. Welcome on Interview Thursday Jeremy.

Can you give “Interview Thursday" a glimpse into your background?
I am from a small village near Birmingham. I studied philosophy and have a PhD from the University of Warwick. I have been consulting for the past twelve years and spent the last six living in Nigeria with my partner.

What inspires you to write about Nigeria as your blog name is "Naija blog"?
When I started my blog, there were not many Nigerian blogs around so the first name that came to my head was naijablog. I thought it might be interesting to write a diary of my time living in Nigeria. I never thought that anyone would bother reading it.

What do you think of Nigeria as a Nation?
Nigeria is an endlessly fascinating country - perhaps the most diverse country on the planet in terms of languages alone. It has the potential to lead Africa and redefine the continent's role globally. It has yet to live up to that potential.

Niger Delta crisis has being a recurrent decima, do you think the new step by the federal government in granting amnesty to the militants will help solve the problem?
No. But its a good first step.

What do you see as the lasting solution to the Niger Delta crisis?
The Niger Delta will remain a troubled area until there is infrastructure and jobs and oil bunkering is no longer possible. Without all of those three elements in place, the area will remain restive.

Do you think Nigeria changing and having selfless leaders in all quarters in the next political dispensation?
I don't see good leadership emerging. However, as with the last two to three years of Obj's second term, there is a competent group of technocrats emerging now - specifically the Finance Minister, the new CBN governor and the DG of the Budget Office. There is hope that the financial management of the nation's economy is in good hands. However, too many people in leadership positions in Nigeria are driven by greed, by ego and by a lack of ethics, sadly.

Has Jeremy come to stay permanently in Nigeria?
Nigerian women marrying foreigners cannot grant citizenship (unlike Nigerian men marrying foreign women), so it’s not easy for a foreigner to settle permanently. However, Nigeria is in my blood. I have a Nigerian family - my wife, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law and many good Nigerian friends. In at least a metaphorical sense, I will never leave Nigeria.

Can you mention 5 things to admire about Nigeria [ns] and the other 5 you wish will change?
5 things to admire:
1. Nigeria's historical cultures - the power and depth of the culture I am most familiar with - the Yoruba - never ceases to hold my awe and respect, and the mystery of the Nok civilisation and what exactly Sungbo Eredo was all about..
2. The landscapes of Nigeria - from tropical forest to savannah and sahel - Nigeria has a fantastic range of environments and many undiscovered places, such as the tallest mountain - Gangirwal (the mountain of death) - which we climbed a year or so ago.
3. The can-do spirit of the people. Many Nigerians hustle a living without power or water and still manage to make something of their lives.
4. Fela. Fela is a major draw for foreigners interested in Nigeria. Despite his flaws, he will always be admired for his revolutionary spirit, inspiring music and sexy dancers.
5. The Nigerian Diaspora around the world is showing what Nigerians can do in the proverbial 'enabling environment'. Some of the most interesting cultural output (literature, music, art) is being generated by Nigerians away from home.
5 things to change:
1. The obvious stuff must come first. Think what Nigeria could do if only there were more electricity! Ditto for water, roads etc. Nigeria should look to one of its greatest assets - the sunshine - for smart-grid power solutions. A key immediate issue is to sort out the refineries and then end the fuel subsidy (in that order). Sorting out the refineries means letting the private sector in for full ownership and management
2. Agricultural and industrial development. Before the oil came, Nigeria's economy was based on a regional balance of groundnuts, palm oil, rubber and cocoa. Key here is to ensure that value-added product refinement takes place in country, rather than raw materials being exported overseas as basic commodities with low value. Beyond agriculture, Nigeria needs to redevelop key industry sectors, such as financial services, textiles, IT. There needs to be a clear policy to roll out affordable broadband internet across the country once WACS and Main1 submarine cables get hooked up to Nigeria next year.
3. Investment in education. The education system in Nigeria has collapsed, and the government continues to place a low-budgetary priority on funding it (less than 2% of govt expenditure in this years budget). Compare and contrast with other African countries, such as Ghana, which spends between 15 and 20% of its annual budget on education. The situation in the North is dire if you look at the statistics.
4. Outside of all this development stuff, the issue is leadership. There is way too much oga-syndrome on every level - leaders who do not delegate authority, take courageous decisions and indulge in nepotism rather than resist patronage pressures. Nigerian organisations are often a triumph of ego over process. This has to change if organisational dysfunction is to be avoided.
5. A re-assessment of the pre-colonial past of Nigeria. So much has been de-valued and confused in the rush to adopt Western belief systems and values.

Thanks for your time ad these wonderful insights!
Thanks - I enjoyed answering these questions!


13 comments:

Tairebabs said...

I never knew that Nigerian women who marry foreign men cannot grant them citizenship but the vice versa can! Talk about inequality. Standtall, you may just have given me an idea for a research paper.

I haven't been to Naija blog before. will check it out.

chayoma said...

Naijablog was one of my earliest discovered blogs. i am a faithful follower!
The world sees the potential in our nation and its people, the point is, we getting our act together.
was a very insightful interview!
@Tairebabs, hopefully we get to see your future research paper. Goodluck on that one...

Kafo said...

it's nice reading a blog about naija not written by a born nigerian

it is inspiring and also challenges us to be more aware and appreciative of our country

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

so good to learn more about Jeremy. As usual, a great interview. So, I cannot grant my husband Nigerian citizenship? Ha, Naija...

katztales said...

Great blog interview. Interesting how the sex discrim works. there's similar hysteria here in malaysia about foreign men stealing local women blah blah blah...

Isn't it interesting how we all try and keep people out of "our" country - even if they are as passionate about it as we are? To people like me who have parents from 2 countries, 2 religions, and 2 very diff cultures this is always interesting.

Love your US blog entry too. good to see you're back

aloted said...

loved reading about naija from an "outsider's" POV...shows i need to appreciate Naija more..

@SSD- are u sure ur hubby will take the nigerian citizenship if he could get it..lol.. just kidding ooo

Tigeress said...

ST- this interview is very insightful! Another good job. And its really nice to see this coming from a non-Nigerian.

Now I'm intimidated about my interview. I don't see why u shld interview me o. Will call u VERY soon. :)

StandTall-The Activist said...

Naijablog is an amazing blog and I am happy he agreed to this interview

Jabez said...

Nice insight on Naija from a non-Nigerian who is so much a Nigerian now. lol!!!

:)

Nice interview. Love it!

Grahamn Kracker said...

Well, this is another one of those posts that makes me want to visit you in Nigeria and to see what I am convinced is an amazing country with my own eyes.

The comment on the diversity of languages is also interesting and I know there are a few other countries that make the same claim. When I was in India, I frequently heard that more languages were spoken within India than in any other nation. I suspect that I would hear the same thing in China and probably Russia as well.

As for me, living in Alaska, USA, I think that there is no country in the world where more languages are spoken then my own. First, there are all the many hundreds of indigenous languages (most of which have truly taken a beating, yet most still exist) and then there is virtually every other living language in the world as we are made up of all the people of the world.

I think Nigeria should welcome this passionate and concerned individual, married into your nation, as a citizen of your nation.

pink-satin said...

i love reading his blog!
really foreign men who marry nigerian women cannot be granted citizenship but Nigerian men can do so to their foreign wives. are u kidding me?

Nollywood Forever said...

I'm wondering what the resoning is behind men being able to grant citizenship through marriage and not women... It's absured!

TheJunkie said...

I love this jeremy guy already...off to his blog!

My Passion, my focus, the change that I want to see in the world - is my propellent factor.

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