There’s something about this country that tends to piss other people off. My parents like to call it jealousy, but you see, I believe in calling a spade a spade. If there’s one thing I truly dislike, it’s when people just try to make themselves feel better for no reasonable reason.
I had never been more aware of my status as a Nigerian than when I moved out of it. Trust me, I had a lot of ugly experiences. I would be having a normal, casual, pleasant conversation with someone and the moment they realize I’m Nigerian they suddenly grow cold, right before my eyes. Some of them even stop talking all together. When I spoke in class, people, including the teacher would laugh. One girl once told me “No offense but, Nigeria’s horrible”. People would spite me for something so out of my control. More times than not, I was the butt of the joke. I could go on and on about my experience with bullying, but for what? For pity? Sympathy? Empathy? It’s over, and there was no one to save me then. When you’re nine and getting this kind of reaction, you don’t know how to deal with it. I would go home and tell my parents about my frustration with Nigeria, and they would give me a long speech about reasons to be proud of my country. I could say that speech word for word, but trust me when I say, it doesn’t work. Not when BBC is blaring loud in my ears every morning saying a different story. So my young mind withdrew into itself. I hesitated before mentioning my country. I tried (in futility) to change my accent. I couldn’t and so I talked much less. I still have problems speaking in public by the way. When you remember your words being responded to by laughter, it’s…difficult.
I understand clearly, the ugly Nigeria. The Nigeria of Boko Haram, the Nigeria of corrupt leaders and selfish politicians. I mean, I practically grew up using these terms. In case you don’t know, it’s kind of hard to speak up for your country when you know that every word of what your opponent is saying is right. Yes, if you come to Nigeria there’s a high chance of getting robbed, or kidnapped; yes we have the crappiest team in the history of crappy soccer teams; yes we are with our own hands killing our own people. Facing the truth is never easy, and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.
The Nigerian government makes it hard to argue for Nigeria. And just for the record, my lips are tired of speaking the same old meaningless words. Nigeria is a vibrant country willed with potential, yes. I hear this from my parents more than I like. But when is that potential going to materialize into something? That nine year old girl had hopes. If someone told her that in 2012, Nigeria would be struggling with terrorism and would be way worse than before, it would have close to killed her. You’re probably thinking this is some terribly unpatriotic girl right? But I tell you, no one loves our country more than me. I used to believe in Nigeria, I really did. Love doesn’t fade away, but it does get weaker and weaker, especially when it’s based on little reason.
So listen, this is the voice of shattered hopes. This is the voice of a disillusioned fraction of Nigeria’s future.
You can say I let them win. I let all the people who laughed at my accent and tried to bring me down succeed. But in truth, I didn’t. I fought against them with all my strength and with all my heart. You should have seen me, this tiny short girl in the midst of bigger, older, hateful people. Holding back tears, and anger, and sadness. The only voice of Nigeria. Fighting, word for word, saying words I began to believe less and less. But you know what, when you fight with your heart, it gets weak. I don’t know when instead of them, it was myself I was trying to convince.
So I met this girl a few months ago, and she said something I would never forget. I looked at her fair skin, and curly hair and asked “what country are you from?” and she looked me in the eye and responded “I’m half French” “And half what?” I asked again, curious. And then without meaning to, she said the words that irrevocably changed a part of me. “Half Nigerian, unfortunately”.