My dear Nigerian brother, this is your life.
You were probably delivered in a dingy clinic by a weary, half drunk doctor, who hadn’t been paid his salary in months. Your mother, almost certainly, received a wicked slap from one of the under-paid semi-literate nurses when she screamed from birth pangs.
When you came out, you looked around and sighed. No light; nurse holding on to a torch. Immediately you knew where you were.
You refused to cry; until the doctor slapped you rather severely on your buttocks. Then you opened your mouth and wept bitterly- for all that you have heard in Heaven about this place, for God not telling you this was your final destination. You had hoped for Europe… any continent but Africa.
At three, you started washing your clothes- your tiny hands in a bowl, water and a small sachet of detergent, so small you could lick it and it wouldn’t cause you any harm; when at that age your mates, in privileged dwellings, were pulling at their mother’s dress for an extra bowl of Cocopops after the last one they had two minutes ago.
A stubborn cough stayed with you all through infancy, and the thick yellow catarrh sticking out from your nose was a trademark. You had the tiniest piece of meat, the size of a bug, placed in your palm every Saturday evening as a reward for nothing- the only time you got to taste beef.
You went to primary school with no fancy leather shoes. Your teacher was always pregnant and exhausted. In secondary school they sold jewellery and hair accessories and gossiped a lot, they forgot to carry out their primary assignment – giving you an education.
For three years you sat for JAMB; it became the easy excuse for doing nothing. “Waiting on JAMB” is a fulltime job. Who can possibly blame you?
You have inhaled the chars of human skin. You have seen someone get burnt to a crisp at the open-market for stealing maggi cubes- tyre around his neck, drenched in petrol with eyes possessed by death.
Petty thieves beaten to a pulp and dragged around the neighbourhood, stark naked with frightened humiliated penises, was a weekly occurrence.
Stories of little children, playing in the backyard, missing one step and falling into a pit toilet; mothers crying, rolling on dirty floors with dull-white underskirts exposed; cursing their enemies, begging God… they don’t make you shudder anymore. You have grown accustomed to despair.
When your neighbour throws his wife’s belongings through the balcony; when you hear him call her “ashawo”, you will look up then look away, minding your business. You will wave to them casually, even with a smile: “una well done oh.”.Even if he slaps her and kicks her in the stomach, your well of pity is dried up and caked. This is the way of life. You’ll still hear the creak of their bed at midnight, so what’s the fuss? After all marriage is a do or die affair.
You have fought with conductors; escaped the brutality of touts by acting like one. You have watched your whole day slide by as you sit in traffic for hours in a stuffy and rickety bus.
Alomo keeps you happy. You have had girlfriends who sampled with hydroquinone- the cheapest bleaching tubes causing terrible skin damage, with names like: “sweet peperempe”. You have had unsafe sex with a prostitute- maybe just once. She looked so yellow and fine, you didn’t think an ugly disease like AIDS could possibly reside in such beauty.
The rains have definitely kicked your roof off at one time; left you running around in your boxers, looking for where to hide your television.
You have been told “NO” so many times, you could easily make it a middle name.
Money is always scarce and its insufficiency must have pushed you, at one odd hour, to beg a beggar for some of his “change”- the same beggar along the road leading to your best friend’s house (after all, you have tossed him a fresh stick of cigarette before). He would look at you like you were mad, you would stare back at him like: I-can-see-over-five-hundred-naira-in-that-fucking-bowl.
You have done the whole church thing. Prayed and fasted and given your brand new loafers as offering. You have washed the toilets in church, worshipped your pastor, admired the trimming on his wife’s shoes…all because you needed a miracle. What is it you want precisely? You don’t know. But you want it, and you want it now!
You have gone for bank interviews when you’d rather work in Advertising. You have tried to fake an accent on many occasions- when talking to the girl with the cute ass at the mall, when you bump into an old classmate from the ‘90s, or when you call the radio station to win tickets to Bovi’s show.
At a point in your life, you have spent your whole salary on a Unilag girl who you later discovered was banging her lecturer(s).
You have tried to live the Island life on a mainland budget, hanging around The Palms speaking through your nose, rubbing shoulders with “oil kids”; you in sneakers, your girlfriend in bum shorts feeling like Brangelina.
You have lost aunties to child birth, uncles to hernia, nieces to tuberculosis.
Police men have harassed you and your friends for drinking under a tree- in public; you were locked up for 24 hours, all your items- phone, watch and wallet taken from you.
And. Nothing. You. Could. Do. About. It.
You are governed by politicians who make you question human sanity. You have been judged for your lack of finesse and by your tribe too many times.
You probably have tried “yahoo yahoo”; chatted with an old white woman, promising her your undying love. She wants to come to Africa and settle down in a quiet forest with you and chirpy monkeys, but you try to convince her to bring you over instead. One day you chicken out of the scam when EFCC comes to your neighbourhood to pick up a $500 fraudster. That will be a national achievement and will appear on blogs. The corrupt unit is (t)werking!
Now you are 44 with three kids and an overweight wife who used to be fair. You drive a tokunbo car, work for a crazy man who travels to London frequently yet owes salaries. You have a few passions- you can sing, you can be funny, you can write…but Nigeria has made you this man who stands at the vendor stall chewing on politics like kolanuts. There’s not much to dream about.
You are a Nigerian with bombings and kidnappings that go unsolved; embezzlement and poor living. Bad roads and electricity wahala since the day you were born! The lower-middle-class status that you hold onto so dearly is gradually slipping through your fingers.
You have owed school fees for many terms, now you cook up lies- the latest one is the money-gulping illness of a dying stepmother; a lie so thick, just so you can revel in the sympathies of your children’s school proprietor.
You check your bank balance every other hour. You are going to be a poor man if one more naira leaves your bank account.
You will be diagnosed with hypertension soon.
You have lived in your own hell, what more surprises can there possibly be in the land of the dead.
Like Mama of Nigeria will say: “Dia ris God!”