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Basi’s Daydream

November 19, 2016

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On my trips to Nigeria I became acquainted with Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer who was subsequently hanged under the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. He had given up writing for political activism on behalf of the Ogoni people, whose lands had been ruined by oil extraction and who had benefited not at all from the revenues generated. I thought it a pity that he should give up writing for politics, and told him so (Nigeria at the time had more politicians than writers), but he said that the situation in his homeland was so catastrophic that he felt bound to act, though he knew that the government”€”whom he called “€œthe rascals”€”€”would kill him in the end, for he was touching on the most vital of all political subjects in Nigeria: the distribution (and misappropriation) of the country’s oil revenues. 

Besides a wonderful antiwar novel titled Sozaboy“€”he had been a witness to the Nigerian Civil War”€”Saro-Wiwa wrote a very successful television series called Basi and Company, about a typical young Nigerian ne”€™er-do-well called Basi who dreams of quick wealth by means of harebrained and dishonest schemes while living in lodgings in Lagos whose rent he never pays.

Basi, a lazy daydreamer, has a T-shirt printed with the words “€œMr B. says to be a millionaire…”€ on its front, and the words “€œThink like a millionaire”€ on its back. To be a millionaire, think like a millionaire: Such is the extent of Basi’s plan to extract himself from his poverty. The series was popular because millions of Nigerians shared Basi’s daydream.

The wealth-training course goes one better than Basi: To be a millionaire, live like a millionaire. If we spend enough, we shall become rich. We are all Nigerians now.

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