by Abisola Johnson
I started today with my usual quote: “my name is Abisola Johnson….my mission today is to be a patriotic Nigerian”. I woke up excited, not exactly sure whether it had more to do with the fact that my country turned 50 today, or that it was a public holiday.
Determined to be a patriotic citizen, I started the day by tying green and white ribbons to the gate, of the house, hoping my dad wouldn’t yank them off. I made breakfast and gave some to the security guards in the neighborhood regardless of the fact that some of them could only thank me in a language I don’t understand.
I spent the rest of the morning in front of the TV. There was a live program going on, and viewers were calling in to give their opinions on ‘Nigeria at 50’. Nobody had a compliment to give, they went on about corrupt leaders, kidnapped children, striking doctors, bad roads, ritual killings, low standard of living, and of course PHCN. When I’d had enough, I turned off the TV. It wasn’t because I didn’t agree or understand the pain and anger of the callers (if anything, I had twenty more issues to add), but how does complaining ever help?
The radio stations were more comforting, they dedicated the day to Nigerian music. I found myself dancing as I did my laundry – Nigerian songs, they just get you moving. I smiled to myself as I thought; Nigerians are happy people and it shows in our music. Even when the theme of the song was remorseful, it still made you move.
When it was time to go out and enjoy the holiday, I chose my favorite white top and boldly inscribed ‘PROUDLY NIGERIAN’ on it with a green marker. If I was going to be a true patriot, I couldn’t be thinking about how I just ruined a really expensive top – anything for my motherland.
As I drove to meet my friends for lunch, I noticed cars with the Nigerian flag, people in green and white clothes, buildings decorated with the same colors, the festive smell was almost as strong as at Christmas time. Just as I was about to sigh and bet that things were falling into place, an okada ran into a danfo bus, the drivers insulted each other, the bus driver ranting in Yoruba and the other in Hausa. I really was not interested in the violent and vulgar reality show but I was stuck behind them and they weren’t going to let us go until they were done. A thousand more bikes parked to contribute abuses and totally ignored the hundred cars hooting and horning until some law enforcement agents came to our rescue.
I was just getting over that when I noticed what was going on in front of me, the driver of the white Mazda was feasting on groundnuts and uncontrollably throwing the shells out the window. That made me more upset. He was probably one of the callers on the morning show or at least had the same opinions, and here he was littering the streets without a pinch of guilt. You know what they say about pointing fingers?
My friends were already settled at the restaurant when I got in, there was green and white everywhere and they were serving only Nigerian food today, my favourite P-square song was playing. I settled with my semovita and afang soup, mmm…. it tasted even better than it smelt. As we ate, we talked about Nigeria and concluded with this ideology: ‘if life begins at forty and a man lives for an average of seventy years, then it’s too early to give up on Nigeria’.
At the end of the day, I recounted the things I had seen and heard about Nigeria at 50. I saw hope, I heard hope and I realized that hope is all it takes to start change. I’ve decided to be patriotic everyday, to be the burning candle of hope that lights other candles and when we’re all lit with hope, we’ll be the change we want to see and see the change we want to be.
The end of another day…