by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji
You’ve been put on this earth to be all you can be, like the reserves.
– (Jay- Z) Lost Ones.
I couldn’t help noticing the kidnap of Ngozi Iweala’s mother’s dominate the headlines this week. It is just one of many stories of how like a murderous sow, Nigeria continues to eat into frustration, its brightest and best.
Hearing about the finance minister misfortune took me back seven years in time. I still remember the somber scenes from December 10th, 2005 like they were yesterday. Missing the morning bus to the airport because I slept in. Hurriedly squeezing my belongings into a maltreated piece of luggage so I could make the Shell bus. The excruciating, almost endless wait at the airport. The worryingly telling faces and hushed tones as we made an emergency stop in Lagos because there was no way we could now land in Port Harcourt. Mother’s screams of joy as I walked through the door. Watching the evening news. Bawling in my room. So many funerals. The darkness that hung over our school campus when we returned in the New Year. The empty desks and bed frames. Way too many repeat plays of “You raise me up”.
I still don’t know how we got through it all but we did and we are better for it.
In hindsight, it all happened for a reason. December 10th made all of us stronger, more ambitious human beings. We learned the hard way, too early in our lives, that life is too short to not make it count – especially in Nigeria. Yet, killing our 60 angels is a crime I can never forgive Nigeria for.
What is interesting is that over the years, my perspective on how best to avenge their deaths has changed.
You see, when I was still a young, wild eyed, idealist I always thought the best approach was to challenge the evil in Nigeria head on brain power. In my head it was as simple as getting a world-class education, boarding the next flight home and fixing everything. I naïvely viewed Nigeria as a problem that required a series of quick fixes our ‘dumb’ leaders were too blind or lazy to see. As experience and reality humbled me, I began to understand wit and will ain’t enough to fix Nigeria. In fact, nothing is.
A few months back, after my ‘world-class education’, I seriously considered moving home. Understandably, I was haunted by my commitment to the memory of our angels. I had promised, after all and a promise is a debt. For several months at a time, I had a chrome tab open to an Air France webpage reminding me to complete a transaction I had initiated for a one-way ticket from YYZ to LOS. As I heard news of friends who moved home to make good on their commitment to Nigeria, I felt even more like a fraud. ‘Abo’, the firebrand patriot would never actually make it home.
The truth indeed is that as much I desire to, I may never actually have the privilege of truly calling Nigeria home in my life time.
Why? Well, I would be doing my future generations an obvious disservice by not enabling them make the most of the lottery of birth. Who would be happy their father’s misplaced idealism for the world’s worst place to be born lost them the chance to be born in the 9th best place best place to be born in the world?
I am not the only one. Many intelligent young Nigerians like myself are making similar choices. Who can blame them? The other option seems woefully irresponsible.
So what does this mean for Nigeria? It means the talent Nigeria needs to get out of the hole it has found itself can only offer a helping hand from a safe distance. It also means that the next generation of young Nigerians has a better chance at becoming the next generation of Jews – great citizens of the world, unencumbered by the mental and physical prison that has doomed their homeland.
Surely, Nigeria loses in this equation.
But perhaps one day, it will be enough to remember there was a country.