Nigeria and Singapore were both occupied not only by the British, but the Portuguese. Lagos is actually Portuguese for "lagoons" and Portuguese influence in cuisine and architecture is still found in Singapore’s homeland of ‘ole, Malaysia. While the past Portuguese influence in both countries is present but scant, the British influence permeates, most obviously in language. English is the lingua franca, with most using the local creole (Singlish and Nigerian pidgin) to communicate.
Nigeria and Singapore both claim a mixed cultural backdrop: Nigeria’s dominant tribes being Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba; Singapore’s ethnic mixes consisting of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Eurasian. Both are key port cities, boasting prime locations for stop-offs and drop-offs. And their equatorial climates encourage rampant growth of just about anything that is planted.
But most surprising is both Nigeria and Singapore parted from the British empire the same year (1963). In the almost 50 years since independence, Singapore has grown to cosmopolitan acclaim, provides high standards of living for a large percentage of its population, and boasts some of the toughest schools and brightest professionals worldwide. Nigeria, on the other hand, still struggles to provide for even its richest inhabitants and has been riddled with corruption, civil war, and poverty.
So why has Singapore thrived and Nigeria dived? After all, Nigeria has oil (and lots of it) and Singapore boasts no resources of its own. Many may claim greed the culprit…after all, how often in history have we seen countries swimming in the coveted resources of the day only to fall victim to thievery and social decay? Others may think it’s cultural work ethic or unresolved tribal conflicts.
For me, I believe it goes beyond this, yet all being symptoms of the bigger culprit at hand. While Singapore evolved, Nigeria was created. As a well-respected friend and brilliant theorist wrote, “our superconductor world is at odds with centuries of native tribal and religious conflict. Consequently, when the pressure is on to ‘make it happen’– get that infrastructure up and running, stop the tribal infighting, hold free elections, and join our United Nations – the emerging nations are like high school football teams playing against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. It is not that nations can’t make it happen; it is that their nation-building process has yet to evolve and may not evolve for 100 years.”
You see, Singapore was given the chance to evolve as it should, to face troubles in its own time and way, to create a country when the time was right. From the beginning, Nigeria’s nation-building process was forced. Three major tribal groups were shoved into one country for no other reason than convenience. Its borders were drawn by Europeans living far away from the reality at hand. And, as with many African nations, particular tribal groups were given favor by the colonialists and granted the power to rule over all tribes. For too long, Nigeria was denied the right to develop on its own time line, in its own way.
While Singapore had a hand in its own creation, Nigerians still struggle in a country that was created neither by the people nor for the people.
*The picutre of Lagos is courtesy of outhere.de