The Things I Love About Being Nigerian (By Dike Chukwumerije)

I came across this funny and nostalgic piece online which takes every Nigerian back in the days and reflects on the funny things and crazy day to day events that have helped to groom and form almost every Nigerian. This of course would exclude those who never grew up in Naija; the experience could never be the same...except if you lived here for a while before travelling abroad with your family and your parents and freinds carried the 'traditions' over to the other side of the world.

Read on...

By Dike Chukwumerije

Sekibo, Adeyemi and Nwaogu

When Nkechi Nwaogu stands up to speak on the floor of the Senate, she always starts by saying, “My name is Nkechi Nwaogu, representing the good people of Abia Central Senatorial District…” Then she pauses and waits for the unfailing reply from her colleagues, “Haba! What about the bad people?” And Smart Adeyemi (nicknamed ‘Radical Solution’ by the Senate President) likes to pre-face his own comments with, “I rise on behalf of the people of Kogi West Senatorial District and, indeed, on behalf of the masses whom I personify in these chambers”. You will hear those sitting around him laugh out loud – Masses ke? With this your stomach? And Senator George Thompson Sekibo likes to add “J.P” (Justice of the Peace) to the end of his name; and when he does someone always shouts, “Juju Priest”, right after that acronym. Ah! It is true that I’m praying the Nigerian government grows more competent with time, but – please – may we keep this our humorous ways of going about the business.

And the way we handle our children too. “If I catch you…!” “Before I count ten…!” “If you allow me to get up from this place…!” We are not afraid to threaten them with the most imaginative acts of violence, even in public. “You? I will soon break that your coconut head!” “Eh? You this boy, if I slap you, your face will face back!” And if they do not feel sufficiently threatened, we reach for ‘Pepperoni’, ‘Thunder Balogun’, ‘One-Blow-Seven-Akpus’ – a.k.a the family KOBOKO, by whatever name called. Once, my dad leaped down a flight of stairs in hot pursuit of my sister. It was the funniest thing I ever saw. She ran, shrieking, out of the house and down the road till she got to the petrol station at the Junction. Honestly, I’m really happy I have that memory. 

So, I was walking down the road the other day and bumped into an old school mate. She shouted (literally), “My God! You’re so fat now!” I laughed, of course, and told her, “You too! In fact, you’re like double your size!” Now, I know things are beginning to change because her face fell slightly; those imported images of beauty are beginning to register. But, for what it’s worth, I love our old-fashioned political ‘incorrectness’.

The way people still cross themselves and gasp out, “Blood of Jesus!” if they hear that you’re gay. We are not very good at hiding our ‘mouth’. So, someone could just walk up to you and ask, “Excuse me o, sorry o, but where are you from?” How old are you? Which church do you go to? What is your tribe? But (voice dripping with concern) why are you not married? Very little grasp of the concept of personal space. And it used to be that we had few qualms about sharing that space as well. But, like I said, these things are beginning to change.

And I love some of the people I’ve been blessed to share this nationality with. I still think Jay-Jay is the most entertaining footballer ever; and that it’s very rare to find an artist with the talent of Fela anywhere in the world. But, forget celebrity, I grew up in Lagos and the energy on the streets was, and still is, infectious. (It’s really sad that it’s so dangerous as well, because if there wasn’t, we could really enjoy this carnival of creativity.) People don’t sit down waiting for fate; they hunt it down in the most ingenious ways. This is a country where a woman who’s never gone to school, sends all her children to university, selling pepper. It’s just the way we hustle. I was at Uni with a Fulani – he went to classes during the day and drove his cattle in the evening. What about the countless who start and re-start businesses every day, refusing to give up? My brother, Chaka, selling sand to augment his ‘allowee’ as a Corper? Or Chika, who followed his dream all the way to the Olympics? Every time I walk through a mechanic village, or a street market, look out my window at another ‘shanty town’, homes knocked together by raw determination, I marvel at this our roiling, restless spirit.

View from the top of Olumo Rock, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
And the land…Ah! It’s a real pity that it’s gotten so treacherous to travel through it. But I’ve done some epic journeys in my time - had camel meat for the first (and only) time in Maiduguri, and danced ‘Awilo’ (like an amateur) in Gwagwalada; travelled to Jos to ask a ‘babe’ out, she said no, so I travelled back home; spent Christmas in Gboko and a week in Kaduna; and went to Abeokuta just to climb to the top of Olumo Rock; on a boat in Abraka; in a fight in Bauchi; and fell in love (again) with a ‘babe’ in Kano; passed though Ilorin; a wedding in Ado-Ekiti; and, once, because it had gotten too dark, we parked at Ninth Mile and slept in the back of a truck. 

But there are still things I would love to see. Zik took the boat from Onitsha to Lagos in 1915. It took him two days in open seas. And some of Ahmadu Bello’s classmates at Katsina College did the journey from Yola on foot. And when Martin S. Kirsch, a young British colonial administrator, first landed in Nigeria in 1908, he berthed at Forcados, caught a river-boat at Burutu to Lokoja, then he got on a steamer and then a train to Zungeru; and from Zungeru he walked to Sokoto. True, if I could, I would walk in all those steps; see it all - from the deep blue sea to the silent desert, the broken hills overlooking verdant valleys. To me, our most precious resource is not beneath the ground; it is all around us, in the sunrise and sunset, and the cocky seasons swaggering between thunderstorms and harmattan haze. Nobody told me; I’ve seen it for myself - this is a beautiful country.

So, whenever I am away, I am haunted by images of her; and it makes my heart bleed. IF only we could get our act together; show real promise of turning the corner; produce a class of leaders committed, not to self-enrichment, or to the empowerment of the ethno-regional/religious groups they belong to, but to helping this country realize her full potential; IF only we could put down and maintain basic infrastructure and public services; then, I tell you, honestly, no London or New York, no Dubai or Hong Kong could ever compare to standing here, on this black earth, in my Ankara shorts and faded singlet, looking up at our crystal clear stars. For THIS, indeed, is a beautiful place.

Dike Chukwumerije is a writer and poet. He also run a blog. Click here to visit.

3 Screamer(s):

I absolutely love it.....

Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful. You are good @ this.

Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful. You are good @ this.