Today my country, Nigeria, celebrates 60 years of Independence. That is a huge deal, but there is really not much celebration going on. Many people are jaded, others have lost hope in the country. Still, others like myself carry hope in our hearts for this nation called Nigeria.
Even though I wasn’t born in Nigeria, Nigeria, as and will always be home for me. I have complicated feelings about this place I call home. This is where I got my foundation in life when it comes to my education and a lot of the values I have. Yet I have lived outside of Nigeria for most of my life. This means I have gotten the taste of what it means to live away from home.
But no matter where I have lived, be it Zambia, California, Kenya, or Arizona, I have always carried Nigeria with me with pride. It is in how I fought hard to be successful in my academics. Or how I savoured home-cooked Nigerian meals when I got the chance to eat them or being a good representative of Nigeria in any space I enter into.
It is not always easy to be a Nigerian, especially when travelling with our well known green passports. I know those stares, and I hear those sighs. It means I have to work 10 times harder, to prove I am not one of the rotten eggs.
I am often asked by Nigerians why I keep returning back home to Nigeria to live and work. Well, the answer is although I was brought up to be a global citizen by my father and mother. They also taught me to love my home and to always find ways to make a difference.
The truth is that for right now, the only passport I have is the green one. Someday I might acquire another, but until then, Nigeria is my safety zone, a place to land after my sojourns in different climates and cultures. I never want to live anywhere illegally, so when my reason for travelling out of the country ends, I will always come home. But I return home not empty-handed, I always come home full of new experiences and the hope that maybe I can make a difference.
However, Nigeria is not always a comfortable place to live, especially if you have no money or connections. I found out the hard way when I returned to Nigeria the first time in 2013. It took a lot just to register for NYSC and then to complete the service year. After the service year, I slowly entered into a period of depression.
So when I got the chance to travel to Arizona in the United States in December 2016, I was more than happy to get a chance to exhale. I know I am one of the fortunate ones, who has had the opportunity of living in other places. Which means I can only imagine how difficult it is for the average person on the street.
Yet, even with all the difficulties in our nation, there is a precious gift we have as Nigerians. The advantage of resiliency, it is embedded so deeply into our DNA. It is what pushes us to excel despite the challenges. So today, even though Nigeria is not where we should be, I choose to celebrate our everyday heroes, who are so resilient. The people who make something out of just a dream. They are what makes Nigeria great. It is what inspired me to do well when I got to Arizona, US. It is still what inspires me today, as I work in Lagos, Nigeria.
Happy Birthday Nigeria, may we grow wiser, and healthier!