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.
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.
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.
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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