I set targets on what I needed to achieve and accomplish in my host country before getting back with my love.
America would never be the same to me again. I was now focused on getting back to Nigeria. In 2004, I finally felt I had hit all my targets. With my head fully turned to Nigeria, it did not matter what I was doing in America, only getting back to Nigeria mattered. She needed me and I needed her.
As we boarded our flight, I reminisced on my life before we moved out of Nigeria.
I grew up in the ancestral town, Benin city, in the 1980s. It was a sleepy town, nestled in middle of the country, which made it easy to travel to other beautiful towns in Nigeria. I remember road trips to Enugu, Port Harcourt also known as the Garden city, Warri, Lagos to name a few. It was always so exciting to hit the road with a flask of hot jollof rice and Capri-Sun juices, to be served midway to our relatively short trips. I don’t remember an instance where the delicious meal made it beyond the gates of Benin.
My childhood was filled with the gospel, tradition, color, art and music. There was lovely rhythm to life. We had fences and gates as a decorative feature, not so much for security purposes as we certainly were not locked in the said compounds. I remember as a kid running through the famous moats in Benin. They were venturous and we were discoverers. Please do not tell my parents that I did this as I was an only child in the 1980s. I can hear my parents both having a retro heart attack over the risks I took as a kid. I am ok Daddy; I am ok Mummy.
These memories embraced me as I reproached my Nigeria. I got off the plane at the Muritala Muhammed International Airport and got hit with the familiar heat, to which I responded with - yes, I am back. In the air I feel this tempo, it is actual music, it is trying to get me in step, it is trying to get me to dance with Nigeria. I feel that I have come to some place special and I cannot wait to get on the right beat.
It has now been 20 years since that day, and I have done possibly 200 landings into Lagos. The tempo beat and the heat embrace are still the same. The only thing that has changed is me. I have grown physically. Yes, I am much rounder. I have grown professionally, spiritually and lost a lot of hair too. So, I am no longer the fresh lover, as I have come to understand my love and who I am in love with….
It seems like I am focused on discussing the privileged 2%. Their arrival in the early 2000s and their recent departure. The irony is that this same epidemic also plagues the 98% that make up the “real Nigerians”. Also referred to as the masses, these are the people that really make up the 200 million people in Nigeria. People that have no real options; than to either live in the pain, or attempt daring escapes from their own love - Nigeria. We need to stop and think, about the pain and injury inflicted on the soul when we ‘escape’ from our homes, knowing that we may never see our family again. This pain is masked with a smile, as the person is just excited by the opportunity to ‘escape’, yet, they are scared!
How do we build a nation when the indigenes at all classes do not feel they can be successful in their home country? This is the key driver for migrations over generations. People leave when the ground fails them. The solutions are obvious. I suspect we are all too busy feeling like we are breaking up to do what should be done dispassionately.
These days, the relationship with Nigeria can be best described as an abusive one. It meets all the definitions for an emotional, psychological and potentially physically abusive relationship. It really shouldn’t be.
Recently, my friend and I boarded a cab at Victoria Island, Lagos. As we navigated a small lake, my friend relates how it seems like we got hit by a hurricane, referencing Bahamas. Without a cue, the cab driver chimes in, “These are the best parts of Lagos”. I look around and it feels we are in a civil war whilst in the middle of a hurricane. Yet, it is not caused by mother nature, it is completely man made. A man made (non-natural) disaster!
So, man is the issue. Do we sit and point at our leaders, or should we sit and point at ourselves? I have heard people say, “who did this to us?” and “who we vex?”. Referencing the effects of some mystical causes, when the question we should ask is: How did we allow this to happen to us?
I am now asking; how did we allow this to happen to us? Our issues are not caused by mystical beings, they are caused by men and women amongst us. They are our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, cousins; you get the drift. How do we continue to allow this to happen to us? We allow people with incomplete stories dominate us because we leave them unchallenged.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, we all simply need to become the change we desire in our lover Nigeria.
This statement should be taken as a mantra for daily living.