In the Beginning, God Created Nigeria

Lagos Nigeria 1

The threat of malaria, the gravity of the AIDS crisis, the restiveness of youths in the Niger Delta, religious and ethnic violence, corruption and the political class, and the collapse of basic infrastructure; these are some of the challenges that hamper Nigeria’s bold strides to rub shoulders with the league of developed nations. Headlines lament this deplorable state and street talk is awash with such stories.

While some of these concerns are interspersed in this blog, their attendant remedies are not always the primary focus. In this blog, I chronicle the struggles, adjustments, acceptance, and denial of a returnee trying to resettle in Nigeria.  In short, my life the way it hit me when I first arrived.

I grew up in Nigeria during the seventies oil boom, the middle child of a middle class family. I had a happy and sheltered childhood. Idyllic days were spent being chauffeured to and from school, and special evenings were reserved for watching Mickey Mouse on the giant screen at the country club. Life was good. The concept of a malnourished child, a picture that is synonymous with suffering in Africa, was foreign to me. I never saw that kind of child.

The early eighties was a period of rising prosperity for my family. We moved to a bigger house that had a large compound for our growing fleet of cars. Even today, these possessions remain indices of wealth in our country. However, by the nineties, galloping inflation caught up with my family. As our purchasing power dwindled, so did our fleet of cars. My siblings and I got jobs and joined the masses hustling for a living in the big cities of a Nigeria different from the one we grew up in.

2000 heralded a new dawn and I moved abroad. I took in another culture the way one chews on a new delicacy—cautiously at first and then voraciously as the sensory nerves on the taste buds heighten pleasure. Sojourning for nearly a decade, I grew to appreciate a system that seemed to work. Despite this, my fit was usually in question as if I was a hastily sewn fringe to a perfect garment.

Returning home, I was caught in a world that I could not fully define. Sometimes I embraced life in Nigeria and other times I rebuffed her advances. Here I was in the country I loved, with the people I missed, I was not a foreigner, but I was no longer as Nigerian as I used to be. This was my country, I understood the culture, I knew how the system worked, or did I?

I am not alone. Returnees deal with paradoxical feelings for their native country and the ugly or beautiful realities of global capitalism in their host country regularly. Children born in the diaspora experience varying degrees of curiosity for the land their parents moan about. Exile literature captures the passion, ambivalence, grandiose notions of the homeland, and disenchantment with their new society that those who left feel.

Consider an excerpt from David Diop’s Africa:

Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river

I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins …

An excerpt from Tanure Ojaide’s Immigrant Voice in When it No Longer Matters Where You Live,1 captures the conflicting cultural identity and world view of people scattered in the diaspora.

America na big photo-trick to me.

If say big thief no boku fo home

And they no give man chance to live softly,

America no be place to live for one whole day.

The streets de explode kpa-a like Biafra,

Dead body no de fear anybody:

You no know whether the person saying “Hi”

Want to shoot, rob or rape you.

Neighbour no de, friend no de except them dog.

You de for your own like craze-man de pursue dollar

Which no de stay for your hand – they say na capitalism

When dollar the circulate, circulate without rest.

…beggar, thief, poor poor, all dem de boku

sometimes I cry my eyes red for night in bed

Wetin my eye don see for here pass pepper

It is true that the Nigerian landscape offers many reasons for sober contemplation, but within the dim picture, I found moments of patriotic pride, quiet amusement, and downright hilarity.  Glimpses of our heydays managed to peek through ominous clouds, an indication that lost causes can be found.

I hope that as I take a poke at some of the unique challenges and joys of living in Lagos, Nigeria, my stories will tinkle your sensibilities and resonate with everyone—those who work tirelessly to keep Nigeria afloat and those who have come back home to make their mark.

It is also my desire that friends of Nigeria all over the globe can commiserate with us as we continue to take wobbly steps towards mature nationhood. Nigeria: the future is still pregnant …

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Ojaide, Tanure, When It No Longer Matters Where You Live (Calabar: University of Calabar Press, 1999). http://www.tanureojaide.com/poetry.htm

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekai/8352124686/”>ekai</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

49 thoughts on “In the Beginning, God Created Nigeria

  1. Thanks Timi,
    I so so relate to this post.
    I didn’t spend a decade abroad like you. Mine is just a few years and as short as they seem coming back home still feels kinda strange. After the initial euphoria of returning reality sets in. You no longer see things the same way no matter how hard you try and you get pissed at things very few people will understand.

    I guess every ‘returnee’ have that feeling at one time or the other, wouldn’t want to wash our dirty linen in public but no matter how Nigerian we are, Nigeria still has the ability to shock you in an amusing way. Ask those who travel a week or two for vacation and they will write long epistles for you.

    Oya, I have to stop now. Nobody needs another epistle but I believe you understand where this directionless rant is heading to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One benefit of exposure to another system is that it opens your eyes to possibilities. No, we can’t look at things the same way again …

      … to shock you in an amusing way … I like that. I like that we can laugh at ourselves and we do that pretty well.

      I hope that returnees and those who stayed can work together to transform our society to the Nigeria we long for.

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  2. Hello Timi, I wanted to say thanks for dropping by my blog earlier on ( : This post was/is of particular interest to me as being in Europe for over 2 decades of my life, I took on a role as Head of Marketing Comms of an int. school in PH (whilst doing my fashion work on the side). I’m not in Naij full time as I work in the school (on ground) at specific times during the year…I was born in Naij and didnt have culture shock when I sorta kinda ‘moved back’ but my experience with regards to the social and personal….well, hmmmm….e get as e be…
    I’m still working out my feelings when it comes to Nigeria in fact our r/ship status is ‘Its Complicated’ On one hand, looking back I loved my childhood/growing up in Nigeria, I love the food, sense of humour, traditional style etc but there is so much that aggravates me to the point where I feel I want to pull out my eyeballs. No country is perfect, its just a case with whether you can deal with the place’s shortcomings or whether the positives far outweigh the negatives or ‘insert your own opinion here’…
    And at the moment, honestly, I cant deal…a lot of it is connected to the men and the way I’ve been received (or rather, not received) by the fashion/creative industry who are supposed to be ‘my people’- I feel on the whole that we don’t support our own.
    But there are a few gems I’ve met in the creative sphere who I’ve bonded with and do support- Nedu for one and that gives me hope….
    Looking forward to reading more of your posts. ( :

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lol @ it’s complicated XD

      I guess Nigeria grows on you, if you want it to … I like and I’m used to the relatively ‘straightforward’ way of doing business abroad. Some adaptation is definitely required to thrive in Nigeria.

      I hope you meet more great people who are doing wonderful work in the creative sphere. They’re out there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was speechless with awe. Your writing is eloquent, taking us with you on your wistful journey through discouragement to hope. And creating a hunger within me to open a door to a world previously unexplored by me. I will stop trying to express the explosions of thoughts and feelings this post evoked in me, so that I can read more of your posts on Nigeria. I am so blessed to have discovered you and your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i know very little of Nigeria – but I love the way you weave a story, the words you use roll like flavoured pebbles in the mouth – you have drawn me into your narrative and i shall be back to read more of what you write.

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    1. Thank you Thoroughbred24, I’m happy to hear my words sparked your interest… that means a lot to me 🙂
      At least now you know Nigerians long to see their country restored to its former glory 🙂

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  5. Thanks Timi well written:

    My Nigeria…i was born just as the war was about to begin…i remember little of it as i was but an infant..Dad was a senior military officer in the Nigerian Army but had to run for dear life back to the east with the Likes of General Madiebo to join the Biafra Side….the war came to an end..no victor no vanquished they said…the oil boom brought great hopes and expectations..but alas it was a pipe dream..growing up in the seventies and eighties the exchange rate was a dollar to 65k..it was One British pound to One Naira then the conspiracy of IMF and the thieves in government turned the dream to a night mare…SAP came, we as students we rioted and schools were closed down…we woke up to see the Naira rise to 10 Naira to a Dollar and we taught Armageddon had come, wish we had seen it at the rate at which it is now we would have all gladly continued schooling without the interruptions that followed after every strike…i now live in Johannesburg but hmmmmmm, home is still the best. they say Nigerians are the happiest people on the earth..like FELA sang “suffering and smiling”….then again..it is true..the dogged and aggressive spirit of the Nigerian born out of living in a hostile environment makes the average Nigerian a threat to their host communities abroad…..but to Nigeria one day we will all return our own dear fathers land!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peter-Damian, thank you for sharing about your Nigeria… in the beginning. I enjoyed reading your story and you took me down memory lane with you. It is the Nigeria we long for… Nigeria with peace and prosperity. I hear the same longing from Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora… we must do well, we must rise and do well; for ourselves, for our children and for their children! The future remains pregnant…

      Like

  6. I enjoyed reading this beautiful essay. Although I attended college with two or three students from Nigeria in the 1970’s, I have not heard or read any Nigerian voices for a very long time. It is refreshing to hear about the country from someone who has been there and back again.

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  7. Well written Timi. Still trying to understand the paradox of life as it relates to Nigerians returning home. In conclusion, it is by God’s grace. Take care of yourself. Love to Amanda and Eric.

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  8. Timi, so well written. Nigeria is pregnant, i agree with you. The Nigeria, i remember in the 70’s and 80’s is not the Nigeria we see today. Knowing what i know today, i wish i stopped more often to smell the roses on way to to today….Welldone, for a well written piece.

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    1. Thank you Adaora & thanks again for dropping by. How true- @stopping to smell the roses. But back then we rushed into the future confident of better things… ah nostalgia for the land of my birth!

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  9. Yeah, agree with you and Morayo. I remember how nostalgic I used to feel when I first left Nigeria. Anyone who met me knew I was in love with my country; so home-sick! But when I returned home feeling very loyal and disproving others who felt I wouldn’t return, my goodness, was shocked to see how challenging it was. Still very much in love with my country and long to serve her with all my heart. But I shudder at the adjustment I’ll have to make when I come back again finally…

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    1. Patience, your sentiments resonate with me. Even within the dim picture, we find moments of patriotic pride, quiet amusement, and downright hilarity. Nigeria, land of our birth, we hail thee. Nigeria, the future is still pregnant…

      Like

    1. Gabriel, I will catch you lol! Thank you for reading this. Now go to Menu, select All Posts, scroll to- Through the Eyes of a Child… let’s start with that post… More bait to follow in the coming weeks!

      Like

  10. Very nostalgic. Makes me miss Nigeria even more. Would love to read the stories of living in Lagos.
    Different from “body magic” and the one about ageing but I enjoyed it. Presents you as a serious author. Thumbs up 🙂

    Like

    1. Afi, thanks; glad you approve. Your appetite spurs me on 🙂 I wrote most of them a few years ago. They may not always match the present reality of living in Nigeria, but I think that there’s a timelessness to them that we can all relate to… at least, that’s what I hope. I’m also trying to blackmail with my writer friends to pen their perspectives for the blog so that we can have a richer reading experience.

      Like

    1. Yes Morayo, I agree, you put it across so clearly… that sense of belonging, but not really belonging… You long for Nigeria & when you go there, sometimes you almost can’t wait to travel back lol!

      Like

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