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Opinion

The Price of Being a Nigerian Creative

Nigeria is a hubbub of multifarious struggles spanning across several sections and subsections of life. This leaves more than two-thirds of the entire population susceptible to inclusion in this pool. Those who are lucky to float beyond this rating are the politicians, expatriates, businessmen, people who enjoy generational wealth, or people privileged through other means. Either way, they are a very tiny percentage whose life most Nigerian aspires to attain.

This struggle, as a matter of compulsion, has conditioned Nigerians to attune overt excellence and success toward the direction of certain occupations. Therefore the average parent will look out for their kids to take interest in professions such as medicine, law, and engineering. Sometimes, they bait or deliberately shovel their ‘well crafted’ choice down the throat of their children.

Not until recently, most parents do not consider, favourably, talks of becoming a sportsman or journalist or an artist. The latter suffers the most terrible derision. Artists and writers are never-do-wells, they say. It is commonplace to hear most leaders of various sectors of the creative industry talk about the stern opposition they receive from their family in their beginning years. I have heard it so much that I now consider it to be a rite of success.

A few enjoy parental support and those who do not are readily labelled as outcasts. In the case of failure in this chosen path, they quickly become objects of ridicule and poster boy employed to dissuade younger people from following in their path.

With glocalization and the infinite opportunity the internet brings, many creative people have been able to forge a profitable venture by pitching and selling their skills online to a mostly foreign audience who tend to appreciate and patronize their craft.

These writers or computer software experts are earnestly labelled yahoo boys – a term used to describe internet fraudsters in people speak. Since they, like yahoo boys, appear good-looking and are always squared with their computers on all occasions. This attitude, I suspect, is influenced by the (deliberate) misunderstanding of their sort of engagement.

As if the stigma is not enough, law enforcement agents add extra fibre to the already piling problem. A sizable number of Nigerian creatives have unfortunately encountered this experience. Some have taken to  Twitter and other social media platforms to let out their experiences and daily frustration, especially with the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, who treat them like cheap criminals and recurrently exploit young people who fall into this category.

SARS is popular for their dispensation of crude brutality. They have been called out on several occasions via online mediums, and at one point, the police authorities put a ban on their operation but in no time, they were back on the street, prancing on every young person sporting dreads, ripped Jean, tattoos, a computer or a perceived ‘fine-looking’ pocket.

Some people have unjustly lost their lives as a result of noncompliance to the extortionist’s request. News of this crime usually elicits wide outrage and when time does its thing, people move on along with it. Most times, the perpetrators are not brought to justice with some even remaining in police service.

This generational shift in the struggle of creatives—from impoverishment to misrepresentation and brutality––presents the Nigerian creative as a generational animal of struggle. It only points at one thing and it is that the country is becoming, more than ever, increasingly intolerant to creative individuals. And this, I suspect, is the primary motive behind the present exodus of brains suffered by the country.

Most people now harbour the dream of ‘escaping’ the bound of this country in search for a safer environment and opportunities under the aegis of greener pastures. Since it is impossible for all to leave, what will become of those left in the country? What will be the price of remaining in this country as a young creative? Will it be our lives?

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