by Ayomide Oke
“So what do you intend to do while you’re in South Africa? Are you planning to overstay your visa? How much money did you bring along?”
These were some of the questions being asked of a young man in front of me as we stood on the queue, waiting to pass through immigration at O.R Tambo Airport, Johannesburg. Finally he was let off the hook, and as we waited to collect our luggage later on, he turned to me, and with a big grin on his face, said “Bros I don make am”.
Later, in a taxi on my way to my hotel, I wondered if this young man knew the long hard journey that lay ahead of him. Teardrops from nowhere filled my eyes and I nearly wept out loud for my generation. This generation seems to have failed to understand that our destiny is in our own hands, and no matter how far we flee from our fatherland, we can never flee from our identity as Nigerians.
Whether we proudly carry an American passport or a European one, the minute we open our mouth the Nigerian in us comes rushing out. I once asked my mum why we didn’t go to live in Europe like the rest of our cousins. In that no-further-questions tone that mothers have, she replied: “God created us as Nigerians, and he didn’t make a mistake”. That was fourteen years ago, and after six years in the UK and numerous stints in European and Asian capitals I’ve come to realise that I don’t want the American dream or the dream of any other fabled land. I want my own Nigerian dream here in Lagos.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of young Nigerians and all I hear is “Mehn, I can’t wait to check out”. I think this ‘anywhere but here’ mindset is miserable – young Nigerians wasting the best years of their lives trying to get out of the country. At least the generation before us were mostly Europe and America bound, but now even Bangladesh is seen as an attractive destination in this confused generation of mine. It will take me months to pen down the tales of my misadventures in the Queensland.
I know that the best decision I ever took was the decision to buy a one-way ticket to Lagos. Now I’m sitting at the back of my newly acquired luxury automobile, and I can’t help but feel a burst of nostalgia as D’banj’s Mobolowowon comes on the radio. As a generation we need to re-think on our dream. The American’s have theirs’ the Aussies have theirs, and so do the Brits. I think it’s a wrong approach to run away from the actions of our fathers and become a social nuisance in other people’s country. Yet when that twenty-five year old white immigration officer talks to us disdainfully, we play the battered racial card.
We can only be the best in a country where we have the rights of a first class citizen (excluding politics, I must admit). I will not say that living in Nigeria is a walk in the park, but at least take a chance on your own fatherland instead of going through hell in another man’s country. I know for a fact that if some people spent half the energy they spend in procuring visas and its associated issues on giving themselves a better livelihood, they would end up far better than those who won the American visa lottery in the nineties. I happen to know some hardworking young Nigerians who will get to Heathrow after a fabulous time in the first class compartment, and the dialogue would go: “How was your flight sir?” “Fine, thank you.” “We do hope you have a fantastic stay in our country sir”. Wouldn’t we rather have the latter?
After a fabulous week exploring the delights that South Africa had to offer, I touched down at Muritala and couldn’t help but feel good as the immigration officer on duty stamped my passport and said “Welcome back OGA, wetin you bring for your boys sir!!!”