It is the first of October and if you let the people…my people tell it; today is the day Nigeria received her independence from the British Colonialists. I rememberIndependence Day as a child and I can swear, almost swear, that I recall a strong sense of patriotism. If I close my eyes I can hear the air buzzing with the electricity of it. There was a love for Nigeria that was infectious, an optimism that managed to trickle to down to even us children, manifesting itself as NTA parties and Independence Day performances that we’d have spent months before preparing for in giddy excitement. I think about these days of old and I must imagine that what I had felt then was not a love for Nigeria, but the youthful exuberance that is the hallmark of those unspoiled by the realities of life. We were children and we were Nigerian children and it wasIndependence Day and that was all we needed to know. When we sang those words about obeying Nigeria’s calls and serving our father’s land, there was no question in our little minds as to the certainty of the thing that was‘Nigeria’. Nigeria for us were marches held at big stadiums as our parents cheered on under the scorching sun. Nigeria for us were packs of steaming hot party Jollof rice with tiny tablets of fried beef and musical chairs and the race to see who could drink a soft drink fastest that was more about the extraFanta than anything else and of course the camaraderie.
It is the first of October and Nigeria today through the eyes of a twenty something year old female Nigerian holds no such whimsies; the scales having fallen off along time ago. I fail to recall now at what exact moment I truly began to see my dear country, ‘flaws and all’, but I do know that it has been for a longtime; of that I am certain. I still love Nigeria of course, but it is a different kind of love now. It is a heavy type of love, burdened by maturity I suppose. It is the kind of love that kept a certain biblical father up all night as his prodigal son traversed the world dining with pigs. It is the kind of love that prides itself on its blatant one-sidedness. It is the kind of love that the romance novels call ‘unrequited’. I love Nigeria, but she does not love me back. She never has and I’m starting to fear that she never will. I’ve sat in my car with guns inches from my face as men who are sworn to serve and protect extort their daily bread from me, and I have loved her. I have been sent to a land far from all I know, in pursuit of an education, because her fountains of knowledge have been overgrown with grass and gross incompetence, and from here I have loved her still. I have been ridiculed with sound logic about my stoic refusal to change my nationality to further better my chances at a good life because the green one of my birth is tainted red by the blood of her hatred for me, and still I have loved my country.
It is the first of October and Nigeria is still as Chimamanda once put it “a collection of fragments held in a fragile clasp”. A nation perpetually on ‘the brink’, it seems we have resigned ourselves to going through life with bated breath. I think that at some point a meeting was held and the consensus was that we asNigerians would dedicate all of our lives to ‘remaining as we are’. The government has for decades shown their blatant disregard for the averageNigerian as a human being and still we remain as we are. Thousands of people are dying in a war that the Government is choosing to call a tete-a-tete and still my people remain as they are. Our universities continue to churn out an incompetent workforce because the educational system is a farce and if you would believe it, my people still remain as they are. The hospitals have all been turned to covens for sob stories about ‘avoidable deaths’ because somebody’s father decided to pocket the health budget and yes you guessed it right, we theNigerian people have remained as we are, as we were, as we have always been.
It is the first of October and I love my country Nigeria. I love Nigeria because there is nowhere else where I am not a stamp on a passport, a cause for immigration reforms, an immigrant, an ‘other’, an expat, a refugee. I love Nigeria becauseI have to love her for those to come after me, for my children. I love Nigeria because she is home in a way that nowhere else on earth will ever be. I loveNigeria because when I eat Egusi soup and pounded yam, I feel the love of the thousands of women of years past that cooked their love for their country into meals that feel like… well home. I love Nigeria because she is family, and you always love family.