*Originally published 16/09/2018*
As the plane begins to steadily descend towards Lagos, the red warning light flags up and all passengers on board are advised by the flight attendants to remain seated and not to move for the final part of the journey.
I excitedly glance out of the small oval window.
The brown landscape appears seemingly unkept. From my bird’s eye view, I can make out some figures dispersedly jotted across like ants.. most likely people hustling across the busy streets of Lagos. The Nigerian scenery combines an array of earthy colours, as opposed to the seeding green outlook of the UK.
“Once you land, make sure that you remember that you are a Nigerian first and foremost” the man sat next to me interjects with a thick Igbo accent.
I jerk out of my daydream.
He must have noticed my dazed facial expression.
As the plane dips towards the emerging runway, I become intrigued by the familiar-yet-unfamiliar landscape beneath us which was fast becoming reality
“Yes, of course, thank you sir” I respond politely with a smile. Not forgetting the certified and mannered Yoruba girl that I was brought up to be.
Through the 6 hour flight from the UK, he had been chatting away about his family whom he is visiting, also informing me of the tense political climate of the country.
He spoke about his excitement at finally being able to see his wife again and eat some decent food; but not before filling me in on the embarrassingly low unemployment rates of the youths across the country – many of whom are highly educated with university degrees.
Many wealthy Nigerians send their children abroad for their degrees, paying excessively high international fees in the hopes that they either secure a job overseas or that it will make them stand out significantly amongst those educated in Nigeria.
It was at that moment, as the wheels of the plane noticeably fell upon the runway of Murtala Muhammed Airport, that I became overwhelmingly grateful for the sacrifice made by my parents to move abroad, 20 something years ago.
I love Nigeria.
I love what I know of Nigeria.
Although born in Nigeria – as a first generation Nigerian brought up in the West, I’ve had some say that I’m not ‘really’ Nigerian, and I’ve had others say that I’m ‘more Nigerian‘ than they imagined me to be.
Whatever it means to be Nigerian, I love being Nigerian.
I love the resilience of Nigerians
I love the creativity of Nigerians
I love the ability of Nigerians to thrive and adapt regardless of the environment we find ourselves in
I love the sense of humour of Nigerians
I love Nigerian food
I love the diverse culture of Nigerians
I love the vivid fashion in Nigeria
I love the music in Nigeria
I love the different languages and accents within Nigeria
I love that we don’t give up easily.
I love the unity of Nigerians
I also hate Nigeria.
I hate what I know of Nigeria.
I hate that after the end of the British rule in Nigeria, there has hardly been any substantial progress within the country, despite the fact that we boast some of the most intelligent people in the world.
I hate that working-class Nigerians like my parents had to abandon their home country as well as their culture, to go abroad and seek a better quality of life for their children.
I hate how religion clouds rationality and research in Nigeria.
I hate that cunning businessmen are exploiting the vulnerability of the poor by using ‘Christianity’ as a means to enrich their own pockets without giving back to the communities.
I hate the economy of Nigeria. I hate how despite bursting in natural resources, we still allow ourselves to be exploited.
I hate the unequal infrastructure of Nigeria. A plethora of evidence suggests that better quantity and quality of infrastructure can directly raise the productivity of human and physical capital – hence growth.
I hate the health care in Nigeria and how only the rich can afford to travel abroad for ‘advanced‘ treatments.
I hate the education system in Nigeria and how it isn’t based on meritocracy, but your social capital/connections.
I hate politics in Nigeria and how it only serves the interests of the elites.
I hate the paramount social inequality within Nigeria.
I hate the judgemental attitude of Nigerians.
I hate the extortionate gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria.
I hate that ‘authority figures’ can easily be bribed in Nigeria.
I hate that in 2018 there is still no stable electricity in Nigeria.
I hate that Nigeria is synonymous with ‘fraud‘.
Welcome to my real home.
Nigeria as a country is an irony in itself.
I have an immense amount of love for my country. In many many decades to come, I can foresee us emerging at the top.
Nigeria is considered to be the giant of Africa. It has the potential to be the leading hub of the continent; but for now, self-serving leaders have not allowed the country to progress to its full potential since Independence from the British rule on the 1st October 1960.
Nigeria reminds me of that classmate we all knew back in secondary school; the one who was simply naturally enviably clever. They could very easily achieve whatever they set their heart to – Downside being, they never put in the effort required, because all they cared about was the instant gratification!
This is ‘modern day’ Nigeria at age 58.
Rumour has it that history may be repeating itself in the form of neo-colonialism.
What about you?
Where is ‘home’ for you?
Are you Nigerian or know any Nigerians?
What are your thoughts?