A Lebanese who has lived in Nigeria for 30 years, Bilal Nassel, was recently seen in a viral video, complaining about lack of infrastructure in the country. He speaks with CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA of Punch.ng on how Nigeria politicians behave among other issues.
What do you do in Nigeria?
I am popularly known as Mr B. I am from Lebanon but have been living in Nigeria for the past 30 years. I first arrived in Lagos and I have lived and worked in every part of this country. I have lived in the South-West; North; South and the eastern parts of this country.
My father is from Lebanon while my mother is from Turkey. So, I am half Lebanese, half Turkish. I am a hotelier and a hotelier consultant but right now I am into comedy. I am the first Oyibo to start doing comedy in Nigeria and by the grace of God people are appreciating my work and sense of creativity and humour.
What has been your experience since living in Nigeria?
In my 30 years of living in Nigeria, I have had the good, the bad and ugly experiences. Mysterious and surprising things have happened. For example, when I came to the country, one American dollar was equivalent of N12 but today one dollar is as high as N360. This is strange and highly unacceptable. There is no change in Nigeria. What we have is continuous corruption. It is strange that a great country like Nigeria is still crawling in all aspects of life. We are number seven in OPEC yet there is no stable supply of electricity, no good roads, no infrastructure, our schools are shanties. Just look at it. Rwanda, which is smaller in size, has overtaken the almighty Nigeria. Is it not strange? The truth is that our politicians see honour in stealing. Our politicians do not have faith in our doctors and medical institutions. They fly abroad for medical treatments for common headache and cold.
You speak Pidgin English very well. How many states have you lived in Nigeria?
I have lived in almost every state in Nigeria. I have been here for 30 years so, that has enabled me to travel and live in all the parts of this country. When I arrived Nigeria, I first lived Lagos, from there I moved to Abuja, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia and other states. Presently, I am living in Owerri, Imo state. I have travelled wide and that has given me the deeper understanding of what is happening in this country. I feel for the ordinary man in this country. Things are hard and it gives me concern.
Did you marry a Lebanese or a Turkish?
My wife is from Bayelsa State. I have two lovely children- a son and a daughter. My son is eight years old and that is to show you that I am part and parcel of this country. Apart from being here for 30 years now, I am married to a Nigerian woman from Bayelsa State. My father-in-law is a retired soldier. I feel for people of this country. What the politicians are doing to the people is unimaginable. It is unacceptable and that is why we cry that prices of things keep going up astronomically.
You were seen in a viral video footage complaining about the state of things in Bayelsa state. Why did you do this?
I am pained by the state of things in Bayelsa State. It is a state blessed with abundant human and natural resources, yet its citizens are suffering. My brother, go to Bayelsa State and you will weep. What has Governor Seriake Dickson done in eight years to better the lives of the people of the state? Our politicians are wicked and they do not have conscience. They have refused to live the life of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ was on the surface of the earth, He was wearing ordinary sandals and simple dresses. That means that He took himself to be equal with the ordinary man. Go to the hometown of former President Goodluck Jonathan, there is no road. The roads in Goodluck Jonathan’s village are impassable. What kind of politicians do we have in this country? They do not care about the welfare of the people. Bayelsa is one of the biggest producers of crude oil in Nigeria yet, the level of infrastructural decay in the state is alarming.
Do you think what you saw in Bayelsa State is different from other states?
It is the same thing my brother. Our politicians are wicked. Go to Abia State, you will cry for the people. The roads in Aba which is one of the very important towns in Abia State are very bad. Everywhere you go to, you will weep for our country (Nigeria). Go to the Federal Medical Centre in Umuahia, you will realise better that Nigerian politicians have no conscience at all. The FMC Umuahia is like a desert and it’s not likely that anybody that needs emergency attention will make it there. The truth is that our politicians talk a lot; they showcase their achievements on the billboards while nothing is happening in the real sense. In Imo State, it is the same thing. The present government has a lot of work to do. The immediate past Governor, Rochas Okorocha, opened many roads but the implementation process is complete zero. I was in Imo State last eight years when he was campaigning, he was riding in a Keke (tricycle). I thought that a Messiah had come to turn Imo State to another Dubai but what do we have now? A complete failure in governance! It is the same thing everywhere in this country, filths litters everywhere. This is bad.
Why are you so concerned about Nigeria?
I am so concerned because the conditions of the ordinary Nigerian give me concern. It gives me sleepless night. I am with the people and I feel I can always speak so that the governance, misrule and corruption in this country will be addressed. Nigeria has all it takes to be one of the best countries in the world. There is no public water supply in Nigeria. Nobody cares about the people. Once one builds a house they sink a borehole to get water. Nobody remembers the ordinary people. I want to show good example. I am with the people and I see the kind of suffering which the ordinary Nigerians experience on a daily basis, and it gives me concern. I believe Nigerian politicians should stop corrupt practices to enable them leave good legacies.
You have visited many countries. What are the differences you noticed that are different from the situation in Nigeria?
The differences are very clear. The population of Ghana is the same thing with the population of Lagos State but it pains my heart that Nigerians run to Ghana for good life. Why can’t our politicians make Lagos to be better than Ghana? The difference is clear. In other countries, the leaders, the politicians are patriotic, they care about the welfare of their people but here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Our politicians care for themselves alone. In Nigeria, the people provide everything for themselves, but in other countries, their governments provide things for the citizens. Our politicians don’t even believe in our doctors. When Okorocha had an accident, he quickly travelled aboard for treatment. That is how all of them do. They don’t believe in our doctors, hospitals and schools. They don’t have the heart of Jesus Christ. For example, why must a bag of rice produced in Nigeria be sold as high as N17,000? How will the ordinary people afford it? It is funny that things are more expensive now than when former President Goodluck Jonathan was the president. So, where is the change?
You seem to have so much interest in Nigerian politics. Will you consider going into politics later?
Not at all. I won’t become a politician but if God gives me long life I would like to see my eight-year-old son grow to become a politician. I would lead him into it and encourage him to do things differently. I would encourage him to live a life of Jesus Christ and leave a legacy in public governance.
Would you consider relocating from Nigeria?
Not at all. Nigeria is a great country. We have what it takes to be the best. We have wonderful people in Nigeria but we have wicked politicians who do not have consciences. We have politicians who are not committed to growth, progress of Nigeria. I am part and parcel of this country. I will not leave this country. I will stay here . I believe things will get better someday.