I am Nigerian, through and through. But before I was Nigerian, I was human, and there are certain things that the fact of my being Nigerian cannot expunge. Like my total support for homosexuals, like my inability to believe in or subscribe to any deity, like my disinclination to pretend respect for my elders simply by virtue of their seniority, like my unwillingness to accept half bread when I paid for a whole and be grateful. So I speak my mind and speak my truths, live my life as though it were my own and as though I have only this one life and cannot live it at the behest of somebody else. This is why I cannot wrap my head around things like;
-I am very unhappy in this marriage, but a)what would people say if I left or b)how can I raise my children without their father. So what if he hit me a few times, not every man can control his temper.
-I cannot marry her, my mother does not approve.
-I hate that co-worker but she is getting married and we all have to contribute to buy her a wedding gift.
– hate children but…you know, I have to have children. It is expected of me.
-I don’t think I was cut out for marriage but people will say I am irresponsible.
-every man cheats. As long as he takes care of me and my children and does not flaunt it in my face, after all, I am the one he married and comes home to.
-madam, just manage this paint now? I know you asked for maroon but I saw only oxblood.
-let me attend to him first, he is buying only two things whereas you are buying ten.
-my boss wants me to pick her kids up from school. And we are working this weekend. No, no extra pay.
All these things we come to accept as normal.
But I cannot.
And I feel that however Nigerian (African?) we are, everyone has a right to be themselves, and to their quirks. And while some things may be considered normal, if you find that you cannot deal with them, do not be afraid to reject them.
A little over a year ago, a friend was complaining to me about his brother’s wife. Obviously, one of their siblings wanted to come and live with them and she refused. My friend was livid, said she was a bad bad woman. I listened. I was quiet. Then I started talking. I told him that every adult has a vision for how they want their home to be. Now, if your vision is you, your husband and any children you might have, brethren, you have this right. But in African custom, it is unacceptable to not want relatives to come and live with you. Now, some people are okay with this and it’s great. But if you aren’t, if you are like me and your headspace is very important to you, and you like things just so, if you have a very specific vision for how you want your home to be, it is your right.
You see, your home is your oasis. It is the place where you should walk about naked from room to room if you so desire; where you should be able to have total silence if it is what you want. You should be able to decide whether you want to cook for two mouths or an army. And we Nigerians need to understand this. So don’t quarrel with someone when they tell you to inform them if you intend to visit and for how long you intend to stay.
Another thing I worry about is how people freely pass on other people’s personal information. Someone asks, do you know this person? Yes? May I have their number? And without checking with them, you pass on information that was entrusted to you. It is unacceptable. And incredibly common. Me, I always react badly. If you call me and I didn’t give you my number or was told to expect your call, I would give you a message for the person who shared me so freely.
Other instances are the way people freely comment on your weight, or touch people’s babies or press against each other in public places. You go to an ATM machine and someone is breathing over your shoulder. You sit in a bus and someone is reading what is on the screen of your phone. Haba, we need to chill and learn a thing or two about respecting people’s personal space.
‘nuff said, and Je suis Nigerian.
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