By Femi Aribisala
Don’t speak English like an Ibadan man. Speak with the kind of phonetics that even your mother will wonder where you were born.
There are an estimated 190 million Nigerians. The overwhelming proportion of these will live and die unknown and unsung. Airports will not be named after them. Neither will universities be established in their honour. A hundred years from now, people will not even remember they ever existed, except that they might have some children and grandchildren hanging around.
Surely, you don’t want that to happen to you. You want to be known. You want to be rich. You want to be a man or woman of timber and caliber. There are peculiarly Nigerian ways to achieve this. The formulas have been firmly established by our good-for-nothing politicians and businessmen. But don’t worry; they don’t own the copyright to them, so you are free to follow their vainglorious footsteps.
If you would like to be another one of our ugly Nigerians, all you have to do is follow the ignoble blueprints firmly established by our rogue politicians, our 419 pastors and our “yahoo yahoo” entrepreneurs.
Don’t waste your time going to school. Don’t waste time trying to develop a cure for cancer. Nigerians are not known for such endeavours, and we don’t appreciate those who waste their lives ensuring we have a better future. We are only interested in those who are committed to today.
If you want to be a big man or woman; if you want to be well-known and highly-regarded in Nigeria, there are a few easy steps you need to take. Here are some suggestions that are bound to ensure that you will soon become the talk of the town. They may also ensure that you are not remembered after you die, but I don’t think you are going to be too bothered about that.
Steal public funds
Nigerians love thieves. We have a lot of respect for them. Thieves are the men and women of the people. Thieves are deemed to be people of courage and strategic thinking. In a nation of the poor, people are concerned that their kith and kin should be represented in the tabernacles of the looters. Otherwise, we feel short-changed. Therefore, the man who wants to be highly-regarded knows his thievery will elicit wide support and appreciation among his people.
If you ever get access to public funds, don’t make the mistake of stealing millions of naira. Steal billions. Remember, you might not get a second chance. It is turn-by-turn Nigeria Limited. Commit a tithe of your stolen loot to public largesse and you are in for the good. Use a fraction of it to build a monument for yourself in your village and bring the press to the unveiling.
Steal billions then spend a few thousand sending three children in your community to school. In no time at all, you will become a superstar. Friends will donate their daughters for you to marry. Streets will be named after you long before you die. You will be invited to seat on the high table at public functions.
Display your wealth. Nigerians have a simple demand: “Show us the money.” Therefore, show off the money. Don’t buy a Mercedes Benz. Every Tom, Dick and Harry now drives that. Drive cars that are outrageously expensive and unusual. Make sure they are bullet-proof; not because anybody will shoot at you, but because bullet-proof cars are more highly-regarded. Buy a Ferrari, a Lamborghini or an Aston Martin. Let it be in a flashy colour. Then cruise every now and then in the Lagos traffic jam.
Get a good PR firm. Give them a simple agenda: to make you famous. Make sure you are at any and every happening event in Nigeria. Hang out with celebrities. With brown-envelopes given to strategically-placed journalists, you can ensure you are always in the news. Make sure you are a regular feature in the Ovation and style pictorial magazines.
If you are caught by EFCC and brought to trial, buy “aso-ebi” for your supporters’ club. Bring them to court with you so they can sing your praise-songs. Write a cheque and give it to the judge. The case will be promptly thrown out on the grounds of a technicality. But if you are convicted and sent to jail, all bets are off.
Run for president
If you want to be highly esteemed in Nigeria, you need to run for high office. Don’t waste time focusing on being a local government chairman. Don’t even consider being a congressman or a senator. Run for president. The fact that you don’t stand a chance does not matter. You will get all the plaudits you need by the mere fact of running for the office.
Declare your candidacy long before the election, so you will have a long time to be interviewed on the radio and television and to have specials done about you in the newspapers. Enjoy the limelight. Tell people that God appeared to you in a dream and declared that you are the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Don’t worry when this prophecy fails. People are more interested in the declaration of a prophecy than in its failure.
If it fails, you can keep running for election as president every four years. That way, people will realise that your prophecy is still on the way. When the election results are announced, go on television and declare that it was the worst election in the history of Nigeria. Tell the people the election was heavily rigged. Indeed, you have never seen such a massively fraudulent election in your entire life. Tell Nigerians you are the people’s choice but not INEC’s choice.
Rent a small crowd and get them to riot. Let them burn a few tyres. Appoint an unemployed graduate to be their spokesman. When the television cameras arrive, he should tell the world you are the best president Nigeria has yet to have. It does not matter if, at the end of the day, you only obtained 17 votes in the entire country. It does not matter if the only people who voted for you are the members of your immediate family. The fact is you ran for president of Nigeria. That will become a permanent part of your C.V. From then on, you will always be referred to as “ex-presidential candidate.”
As “ex-presidential candidate” you become eligible to be the Minister of Agriculture. You also become an expert on everything. You will be invited regularly to “oraculate” on television about vital national issues. Any time you want to say something, preface it by saying: “In my experience as a former presidential candidate of this great country…” Then you can sponsor some eggheads to write books in your name in which you talk about “My Vision for Nigeria.”
Become a motivational preacher
Start your own church. Give it a dynamic name like “God That Answers Yesterday,” or “God of the Millionaire and Billionaires.” Don’t take too long being a pastor. Within a year or two, promote yourself to Bishop or Archbishop. Don’t allow anybody to disrespect you by calling you “Mister.” Tell them: “Call me Reverend.” When you are introduced, you will be referred to as “Your Grace” or, better still, “Venerable.”
Every day, cram two or three big-sounding words from the dictionary. Find ways to use them as you preach. For example, words beginning with “octo” are highfalutin. You can say: “the whole thing is octogenarian.” Or you can say: “Everything is octodilapidatory.” Don’t worry if they cannot find your words in the dictionary. It only means you have become more learned than the dictionary.
People will listen to your messages and will not understand anything you have said. Therefore, they will become convinced you are making a lot of sense. The discussion will be all about your English. Very soon, a university in your village will give you an honorary doctorate in the French language.
Your accent is also important. Don’t speak English like an Ibadan man. Speak with the kind of phonetics that even your mother will wonder where you were born. Remember this: the American accent is more difficult to understand than the English accent. Therefore, it is more impressive. You don’t have to go to the United States in order to talk like an American. Just study a few Hollywood films and start talking like Frank Sinatra,
Keep your eye on the ball. Remember: the agenda is to be highly esteemed. So, don’t bother preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. Preach instead the prosperity gospel.
Tell your church-members that the poor will become rich, the unmarried will get married, the barren will have children, and the jobless will get jobs. Write books with titles like: “Your Best Life Now.” Give people seven strategies and five keys to instant wealth. Tell them to get ready, there is going to be a divine transfer of wealth to them. Tell them to give Jesus a wiper.
Get a local rap artist to come up with suitable sound-bites that you can use to dazzle the people. For example, you can tell them your God is “Jehovah Sharp Sharp:” “Inch by inch it’s a cinch.” “Turn your scars into stars.” That is it: you become the flavour of the month. Very soon, you will be flying your own airplane in order to go and preach in Ilesha.
Be a success
It does not matter what you succeed at. Just make sure you are successful and Nigerians will like you. You can be an armed robber; as long as you are successful, you will be esteemed. You can be a drug-pusher. Just make sure you are successful at it. Nobody cares how you make your money. All they want to know is that you have the money.
Go to that wedding and spray the bride in dollars and euros. Go to your village and build a villa there. Also sink a bore-hole, so people can come to your house to fetch water. Everybody will love you and sing your praises.
Nothing succeeds in Nigeria like success. Failure is not an option. If you fail, your parents will disown you. Your mother-in-law will abuse you. Your wife will divorce you. Your fiancé will give you back your engagement ring. Your children will change their surname. Your friends will delete your cell-phone number. Your pastor will not remember your name. So, you better not fail otherwise you will be dead, buried and forgotten.
If you try any of these methods and Nigerians still don’t like you, then you are a lost cause. There is only one option left for you. Pack your load, buy a ticket and go to Ghana. You will not be missed.
Dr Femi Aribisala is a preacher, prolific writer, social commentator, celebrated columnist and educator.