by Chude Jideonwo
IN MAY, I had the honour to be invited to speak – to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You will remember of course that the President was one of our double covers for this magazine’s last edition.
But, ah, the perils of journalism. At my April meeting, Chude, the one furious at the failures of our government and the perilous state of our nation tried to mount a pulpit, speak those words many Nigerians would want to tell their president, and be heard. But, I was a journalist, I had to be objective and dispassionate, I had to sit and be respectful; I couldn’t let my personal convictions out. It was frustrating.
In May, I was invited to speak to our President again. Who said lightning doesn’t strike twice?
For many months prior, along with many associates in the media, advocacy, and professional circles, I had been shaking symbolic fists at the man and what he represents by virtue of his office, through rallies, op-eds, and other organised action. With this invitation, Chude the Citizen had been called up to duty. I relished the opportunity to stand and say the same things that I had been saying most of my adult life straight to ‘The Man’. I seized it with all that I had.
It was almost cathartic. In spite of the hesitation that had tied itself into a knot in my stomach (this, after all, was the President), to tell Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to take responsibility for the corruption in his administration and the business-as-usual that many are fed up of … it felt good.
But something else, something almost poetic, happened as I stood there and faced the large hall. On the extreme left of the hall were a slew of Nigeria’s biggest celebrities including Genevieve Nnaji and Stephanie Okereke, and on the other were youth corps members. Two stark pictures of the Nigerian youth.
On one hand, grass-to-grace stories that paint a picture of a Nigeria where dreams are born (See: Nollywood) and on the other representations of a neglected bloc of young people – many left to die in post-election violence across the country.
If we hadn’t already captured that pathos and begun work on this issue with that Nigeria-as-paradox theme – that would have been the sign that it was a story that had to be told.
Just like Mr. President, Nigeria in turn impresses and frustrates me. How can a nation that gives so much also be one that takes so much? How can a nation whose people rise to such greatness also be one whose people fall to such depths?
This edition will capture those two realities. The stories about youth corps members who fled the north after watching their colleagues hacked to death will make your blood curl just as much as the twin stories of Nigeria’s youth-powered technology revolution will warm your heart.
And of course, cover girl Genevieve’s inspiring tale of her rise from one-scene actress to international star rumoured by British press to be considered as the next Bond girl will certainly lift your spirit. In my second cover conversation with her in four years, the iconic acting talent stands as a mirror to the Nigerian reality, and gives off one helluva reflection!
You see, Gene is a completely made-in-Nigeria brand. And that much gladdens the heart even as many yet flee the country and more young people get hardened in understandable cynicism: the country that made Ms. Nnaji – this country, yes Nigeria – still has many, many more stars in its womb. Can I get a witness?