Growing up as a child in Nigeria is wonderful. You never really have to worry about anything except maybe if there’s no light and you need to watch a cartoon.

Though, I’m pretty sure we had other games invented for the times when NEPA failed us. Asides all these, the one thing that bothers me about having grew up in Nigeria were the lies our parents told us. Oh, how they lied. I remember being a tea addict when I was much younger.

It was so bad that within a week, a whole pack of Bournvita would be gone. And no, don’t blame me for that, blame my  grandmother who said anytime I had my breakfast, with a jug of Bournvita, I would be out cold for the next four hours.

One unfortunate Saturday, while watching AM Express, perched on the couch with my favorite jug for tea, my mother entered the living room and sat beside me with a quite serious expression on her face. A white man was being interviewed and I remember straining to understand what he was saying.

“Oreofe, can you hear what the oyinbo is saying?” With a mouth full of bread and tea, I shook my head with the hope that she would translate. She heaved and sighed like a typical Nigerian woman. I stared at her, wondering what the oyinbo was saying that made her heave and sigh so.

“What he is saying is very simple o. He said that any child who drinks tea more than once a day ehn, he would come and take the child to America with him, that child will not see her mommy again.”

The bread fell out of my mouth and I stared at my mother in horror. Why would such a terrible law exist? I wondered as my body shook in fear and I knew I was guilty, more than guilty. Tearfully, I looked at my mother.

“Is he coming to take me? I don’t want to go to America.” Tears pooled in my eyes. With a serious expression, she touched my shoulder.

“I’ll speak to him for you. Do you promise not to take it three times a day again?” Abandoning the bread and tea, I shook my head in a solemn vow never to touch tea again. Now, Bournvita is an abomination. Looking back now, I shouldn’t have stopped because I want to be in America right now.

The question now is why do Nigerian parents tell us lies? In my case, I guess it was necessary as my parents would have probably run into debt but I know of other people who were told very terrible lies by their parents. The most popular one told to girls by their mothers is “If a boy touches you, you’ll get pregnant”.

Unfortunately, they don’t explain this “touch”. Is it touch as in hand-on-your-shoulder kind of touch or the his-body-parts-touch-your-own-body-parts kind of touch? My friend cried an ocean when a boy “touched” her back in primary school.

The advantage of these lies, in a way, is that children tend not to do otherwise. My case, for instance, I can never look at a cup of Bournvita twice. Yes, I’m older and I should know better but because, somehow, my mother changed my mentality about it, I can’t seem to bring myself to drink it.

I can try but I wouldn’t enjoy it the same way I used to. A child who is told that those who play games end up as gamblers, like I was told, would later find it hard as an adult to enjoy playing games because of the lie put in his head. Children are like flash drives. You paste something in their memory and it stays there till they die.

I believe that one of the major forces behind the ethnocentric and tribalistic attitude of Nigerians are the lies told by parents to their children. A typical Yoruba parent will tell her child not to bring home an Igbo boy because Igbo boys are stingy and their relatives take all the properties when the boy dies.

So, when her sister brings home an Igbo boy, her father refuses to give his blessings. How then are we supposed to encourage inter-tribal marriage if parents feed their children with lies? How are we to relate with other people if we live in constant fear of some supposed behavior? How do we curb this or it shouldn’t be curbed?

Written by Oyeleye Oreofeoluwa