It’s been a struggle for quite some time trying to get a hold of my thoughts about the country that built me. No one is expecting my opinion on things, but you see, I need every bit of sanity left in a country that will run you mad if you allow it. Writing helps with that and so I persist, still.
These days, anyone coming into the country should be issued a disclaimer. A reminder that lurks benevolently in the subconscious of all citizens, due to the normalcy of the nation’s craziness over time.
“All that you experience in Nigeria – no matter how absurd – is real.”
No, you aren’t hallucinating, everything is real. A lot of being Nigerian feels like trying to understand exactly that: learning to navigate unbelievably shitty roads and an even shittier economy, dealing with absurd opinions out of touch with reality, adjusting to poor customer service everywhere you go, and learning that a restaurant can have “Chicken” in its name, but serve the worst chicken ever known to mankind. A lot of surviving Nigeria actually involves understanding this as it saves your mental state from being swept along in this whirlwind of a disorder. Because Nigeria takes. It takes and takes and takes, never giving back.
And that’s just me. And you. And there are others.
Others who have to adjust to the visceral effects of corruption. To adjust to the reality of going days without food. Or not having a bed, or a cradle or even a manger to call theirs. Adjusting to the pain of losing an entire family in minutes. Of losing limbs in a bomb blast while crossing the road. Of learning to always reserve for religion from nothing (from nothing!) because not doing so will make them wretched. Of adjusting to the emptiness of a bleak future. Others, also human after all.
“Everything in Nigeria is going to destroy you.”
Yup, because when Nigeria happens to you, it leaves waste. An emptiness. It’s why most of the people around me are not voting. Maybe those around you aren’t as well. It’s not so much as feeling frustrated, as feeling…nothing. Empathy is dead. And maybe this is the worst of it: people have been bastardized with so much bad, we actually can’t come to an agreement on what’s the common good. The consequence of this is people going off on entirely different tangents and multiple versions of reality. People are somehow angry and scared at the same time. Humans are almost permanently set to survival mode, but in Nigeria, it’s something more primal, more primitive. No wonder the current election cycle has scaled charts of bitterness and vitriol on both sides.
“What do you mean, the road can’t be that bad…”
“What?!!! He couldn’t possibly steal that much.”
“Someone wake me up! I can’t believe this dude is defending rape.”
“They really didn’t take this light on the night of the Champions League.”
It’s real, you aren’t hallucinating. Understanding Nigeria is understanding that things can be – and are most usually – that bad. You should know better than trusting NEPA on CL night even if they don’t seize power in ages. Nigerian men still believe a lady coming over automatically means she wants to have sex. Politicians keep stealing, and the roads continue to hold death’s grip. Yes, you aren’t dreaming, the destruction is real.
“With Nigeria, it’s the hope that kills.”
No one should have to learn this the hard way. Most of how Nigerians view their country is through the crooked blinkers attached to hope. Religion, tribalism, greed. You know, the usual suspects. We are literally still hoping the country gets better. When you remove hope, what remains is practicality – which in my opinion, the country needs much more than Atiku, Buhari, or Sowore. There is viewing things differently and not even viewing things at all. What are fake theories? What are the facts? What’s fake news? Are things good, bad, better, worse? Practicality isn’t perfect, but it works for most of what running a country entails.
I have heard people completely confident of an Atiku victory. I disagree because while hoping – that word again – he wins the election is something, feeling enraged if he loses is completely on you. Not the dumb supporters that will vote a “lifeless” president and other candidates “who have no chance of winning.” Do you even realise that with this logic, those on other side also think you are dumb and we are all just but you. Are you in touch with what it actually takes to unseat an incumbent? Has he played opposition politics in the most result-oriented way possible? Practicality. It lets you get a touch a version of reality that feels solid, emotions aside.
Down up. That’s how we build. It’s been really difficult coming to terms that our society’s problems is microcosm of who we are. Not the leaders, us. All of us. We’ve all been building wrong. There will be much less vitriol in between the sides we pick if there’s a version of reality we can all agree to view the nation from, practically. Maybe the Ministry of Interior & Education start by rolling out some solid social reorientation programs to enlighten the public on good governance, civic duty and social responsibility. Yeah sssssssh. I know its impossible, but let me hope…