I love to hate Dubai by Pearl Osibu

I love to hate Dubai by Pearl Osibu

So I spent the last few days of 2014 and first few of 2015 in the UAE. What is this I hear, that Dubai is the new hub for Nigerians to go throw away money. Does this include Yoruba people? Rumour has it Yoruba people, they like London. So I suppose the rest of Nigeria has to leave London for the owambe people, hence Dubai.

It was actually a second or even third option. We explored the Gambia, or a cool beach front in Lagos. I’m not sure again why they didn’t take. Maybe we needed to go very far from the scene of our loss. Oh well.

dubai mall

Anyhow, I touched down and here’s one of the first few things I noticed and it’s stayed with me. These people like light. I mean, I love light, as in electricity. Who doesn’t – but that’s not what I mean. Their electricity is on point…let’s not go there. I mean that they like light, like bulbs, colourful, glaring, muted, neon, they just love lights. They have made this love into an art. You see it from the air, it follows you through the streets. It doesn’t end there. They try to use light to confuse us. They tell you someone is an exotic dancer and in the end, you realise that all this exotic dancer did was twirl around with lots of light in your face. If they could, they would eat lights. We are not to be deceived. And we Nigerians are not that easily impressed.

pearl dubai

Now, when I love something, I take it in little nips and sips. I never want to be inured to the things I find pleasurable. That is why I cannot live in Dubai. There is too much beauty. I have never seen so much beauty and perfection packed to saturation like so. I would become immune to beauty, and that I cannot abide. That is why I will not live here. I want to be able to see little slices of paradise, here and there, but retain the ability to be awestruck. You live with such unapologetic and unrelenting beauty – the architecture, the people, the cars, everything, hell, even the train station looks like a space station – and it ceases to matter. I want beauty to always matter. Maybe it is the Nigerian in me; to appreciate so much because we have so little.

Now make no mistake, we do not have little. Didn’t I hear that when Dubai was being built, Nigeria was one of the countries that they came to cap in hand, and we pitched in? So no, we do not have little. We have much. But in equal measure, we have many fools who have piloted our affairs, we have greed, we have ineptitude, we have a staggering lack of pride. And so yes, we have and will remain with very little, despite all we do have.

And this is another reason why I hate Dubai. The sheer contrast is staggering. The orderliness there! There are queues everywhere and for everything – taxis, elevators, everything. So rowdy Nigerians go over there and fall in line, literally and figuratively. Only to return home and immediately, the jostling begins. There was actually a near stampede at the escalator at the airport and you wonder how it is that people who just spent the last few days acting as human beings return to their natural animalistic patterns.

pearl dubai 2

I hate Dubai because it reminds me too much of all that we are doing wrong. I look around and see so much light and wonder how much light is generated, how? It is the same oil we have, no? It reminds me how I always say that Nigerians do not ask for much. Just give us light, water, roads. But mostly light and we will leave you alone and make successes of our endeavours. But it has proven too much to ask. Dubai is an example of having lemon and making lemonades. This is a desert but see what they have managed with it. They even have flourishing greenery everywhere! Amazing how the things that we think are special here are just taken for granted there. Their taxis are what we consider luxury cars here for heaven’s sake. It makes me feel so ashamed. Whenever I came across another Nigerian, I just ducked and put my head down. I refused to be confronted by our folly abroad, I do not want to read their eyes to see if they too feel the weight of all that I feel, the sheer disappointment in this country, in its leaders who travel to these beautiful places that run like well-oiled machines, enjoy it, and then return home with, if anything, a determination to make everything even worse. Because it takes determination to destroy a thing to the extent to which we have.

Yet another thing I find noteworthy, the fact that in the UAE, prime, enviable, lucrative positions are reserved almost exclusively for the Emiratis. They guard their citizenship like gold dust. The word is come here, work, stay a while if you like, enjoy, but you will never be one of us. They are a proud people. And I wonder what it’d be like if we had an economy such as theirs. Our own people would be the slaves on whose backs it was built, we would continue to hold the lowliest, grimiest of positions while giving everything good to the expats, because they are better somehow than we are. It makes me sad.

Every time I travel, I am reminded of one thing. We have nothing to be proud of, which is okay, because as a nation, we have no pride. We are a boastful lot but I swear, there is nothing to be boastful about. Sure, we have our so called traditions that we like to hold onto tenaciously, even the ones that hurt us. But in the scheme of things, we have nothing.

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photo credit

photo credit: author’s facebook page


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  1. ayowunmi

    Seriously u cn say all this again. A friend got back from Dubai last year(she just spent few days) n she almost killed me wv dis ur kindaa stories. Honestly, we cn b berra than our present state I tell. Never mind, wn I visit dubai also, I ll add my own version. Lol

  2. Dibs

    You have given us a lot for us ponder over. One cannot reiterate enough the need for good institutions and leadership. I’ve always found our boastfulness quite annoying, especially when there’s nothing to support such hubris. Perhaps things will get better someday, I’m still hopeful it will be in my lifetime .

  3. Joy E

    You have said it all, Pearl. For over 2 weeks after I returned from Dubai, I walked around with a heavy ache in my heart. I could not get over the fact that they are not better or more blessed than us, yet they had N217, 362 minimum wage, and a litre of fuel sold for N78.18. 1 Dirham = N45.64. Let’s not even talk about the amenities, the beauty, the order.

    I could not, and still cannot, understand how our leaders travel to these places and return without a desire to raise Nigeria. I don’t blame you for saying that they are deliberately destroying this country; how else can we explain the way things are?

    Dubai’s oil was discovered in 1966 and began production in 1971, and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum was concerned that it would run out within a generation, hence his famous line, “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel”.

    He thought ahead and invested in infrastructure to create other sources of income for Dubai. Look where Dubai is today. Meanwhile Nigerian leaders are here eating, dancing and seeking re-election. I’m glad the youth are getting more involved in politics and it is no longer business as usual. One day we will wrest power from the hands of evil men who do not have the love of this country at heart.

    The pain is indescribable.

  4. Negrodamus

    I appreciate the honesty of this post. I am a Black man in the USA, born and raised. I’ve looked to the leadership in Nigeria, Ghana and other African nations noted for exhibiting significant growth and I wonder… WHY with the wealth of natural resources to the leaders there take LOANS from those who NEED the resources that a host of nations there have in abundance? They should ONLY consider offering LEASES on land to drill, dig or mine upon. These leases ALONE could provide all that any nation would need to build infrastucuture…. roads, schools, hospitals even transportations systems. This does not include the royalties that any given nation would demand for the export of the resources in question. There is also a large cohort of Black men and women in the diaspora with expertise in business, engineering, medicine, education and constructions that would cherish the opportunity to return for the sake of building Africa to the state of prominence that it SHOULD demand in this present market of diminishing resource in the more developed American, European, Asian and Latin economies.

    There seems an inherent disdain that Black people the world over have towards one another. There seems also a desire to imitate the cultures and practices of the same oppressors that divided, enslaved and colonized the continent. Removing the stigma of colonialism by law CLEARLY did not remove the psyche of colonialism in the minds of the leaders or those who STILL find honor in the presence of their conquerers.

    I am inspired to see a similar sentiment is being expressed from the other side of the pond. The indescribable pain expressed by Joy E… is experienced even by those who have never set foot upon the contienent.

    The suffering is far reaching.


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