In Pursuit of the Nigerian Dream

It’s 2AM but he’s up.

The future is bleak, the odds are against him but his bag is packed.

His bus fare is about all the money he has on him and he has left necessary instructions regarding the running of his home.

To the west he ventures, with no hope but the promise of meeting people like him; with no skill but the desire to learn to do anything that’ll get him and his family at home fed; with no ambition but the responsibility of manhood in an African culture.

He looks again at his wife and kids; but for his background and innate beliefs he would have given them all hugs and kisses but his culture demands he be a man and act manly, so without another word he leaves the north…and arrives the west, the west our land.

He’s been told that we have money that he needs to serve to get it; but that we’re hard bargainers and that with every chance we get, we’ll try to cheat him off his fair wages.

With this conviction he works, but always has a ready stance against any perceived form of injustice: real or imagined.

He wishes he could be friends with us, but he’s been told otherwise, and sometimes we reinforce those tales by our actions and inactions.

He is unassuming and desires nothing but his right wage; he earns meager and lives on a lot less than meager just so he can have enough meager to send back to his family.

He doesn’t have a name of his; as far as we are concerned, he is just another ‘Aboki’ or ‘mallam’, and he couldn’t care any less. He couldn’t even afford to say if he did.

His home is usually just a sleeping tent; beds, clothes; no toilet, no bathroom, no kitchen, no nothing; and so he must wake as early as 4AM if he must shower for the day even though he’s usually the last to sleep.

He likes to laugh, play and chat but seldom can afford the time for such.

His life is no product of his choices, he had no choices; just one reality: the life he lives.

He doesn’t have lofty dreams, he simply desires to have enough to be a man in the African context: take care of his home, be an asset to his community, and have a voice amongst the elders of his community.

He is Adamu, and his story is our collective story as a nation.

His reality is our collective reality.

His dream is ours.

As a country we travel the globe, trying to do honest work, to get honest deals, to get recognized for our hard work, but we are very often dismissed in the comity of nations; like Adamu, our robe stinks, we are looked down upon, dismissed and only acknowledged when our natural resources are needed.

As individuals, we endure long queues for approval to go and spend our hard earned money in other countries, and when there, we endure the discrimination; sometimes we ignore it like it’s not there.

We don’t want to be the world power, we just want to be self sufficient, respected, and respectable. But until Adamu achieves these, until we help him achieve these, we won’t.

Not just Adamu, Obinna too who has left his family in the east to start his spare parts business in Lagos; Sewa who has spent all her single mother’s savings to get a good university education and now wants nothing but an employer who’d dismiss the useless job conditions and trust her with an opportunity.

As we mark our 56th, I am reminded about how inextricably tied all our destinies are; we are Adamu, we are Obinna, we are Sewa and they are us; we will never rise above the level of their collective life realities.

Happy 56th, Dear Nigeria.