In the 80’s when large parts of the world were mesmerized by Madonna’s chameleon-like personality, her heavy eyebrows and overt sexuality. When the first ever space shuttle, The Columbia, was launched, and Sony made her first ever digital camera, and Microsoft had just created the incomparable, Windows Program and a hapless 25year old pulled the trigger on Beatles legend John Lennon; Nigeria was afloat. Buoyed by the oil boom in the 70’s, Nigeria waddled about indulgent like a well kept woman, skirting her way amongst the world’s elite, nodding her big head, leaving her purpled frills behind. In those days ONE Naira, could buy you SOMETHING, both in Nigeria and in Jand and ten Naira could feed you for a week!
In those days, I was a wee girl. All I knew about oil companies was that my uncle worked in one and so he had a lot of money. Whether he had a lot of money because he worked in an oil company or he worked in an oil company because he had a lot of money was truly over my head. But I grew up knowing that if you want a lot of money you work in an oil company. In those days, the question, ‘Where would you like to work when you grow up?’ had two word answers; Oil Company!
By the late nineties, the weight of the pendulum had shifted and rested heavily on banking. Everyone wanted to belong to this movement, this vogue, this era of snazzy, sleek suits and quick steps. And although the question, ‘Where would you like to work when you grow up?’ remained the same, the answer had become less cumbersome, in fact it was just two syllables Ban-ker!
By the mid of the 21st Century, the pendulum shifted towards POLITICS. And here we are in the days when every Femi, Uche and Zainab wants to be a politician. My political awakening, like many Nigerians, started in 2004. And like many people (you included, Yes you) it was kindled by the Obama Story. so taken was I, by the audacity of Obama’s dream, I officially became an Obamalite. I trolled poll gathering websites like a hunter with a quick sense of smell, I sniffed out anti-Obama comments and challenged them with much enthusiasm. By election day, I had worked myself into overdrive. I sat all night waiting for the polls to close, even though I am Nigerian, even though I resided in London, even though it was really none of my business.
As a consequence of this, and as with most Nigerians, I pined for a human story: a sob-story, something devoid of the heaviness and viciousness of politics. I longed for a flag to wave at my non-Nigerian friends. I longed for an illuminating story that would inspire the world. Yes, I longed for sentiments. I/we got it in Jonathan Goodluck’s ‘one shoe story’, and girl, I ran with it. I told everyone who cared to listen. I drew many, many parallels with the Obama story. I rebuked any reference to rational thinking. I constructed arguments like this,
Premise 1: Anybody from the South-South, who had only one shoe, will make a good President
Premise 2: GEJ is from the South-South, and had only one shoe,
Conclution: Therefore GEJ will make a good President.
These days when people try to bring up #BringBackOurGirls, #Baga etc I pretend I am deaf. This deafness is not a solitary commitment. I have come to realise that many Nigerians in Diaspora share this condition. In discussing Nigeria with them they try to change the topic or offer no real input. Politics is very much like football, everyone has an opinion, but many Nigerians abroad have opted for silence.
I have lived long enough to know that there will always be the ruling party, there will always be the opposition. There will always be a defendant and a plaintiff, there will always be tradition there will always be dissent. People will always argue, disagree, agree to disagree.
This February we will have a president HOPEFULLY! As a Nigerian, we have learnt to hope for small things. We hope that the new government will be minimalist, in matters that concern its aggrandisement. We hope that this government will understand accountability – a word that has continuously eluded previous governments – and will account for its actions or inactions. We hope the new government will not ‘remain quiet’, but will make bringing back our girls its NO 1 commitment.