In light of the rigors of the socio-political and economic melting pot that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, any sane human would be inclined to get up and go. Legally, illegally; potato, tomato. At the point of departure only the destination matters, not the determination thereof. But not everyone goes.
Of the people travelling on foot, on a boat, via marriage, or a plane; some have a destination. Most have an idea. Not all will arrive. But some will return – to the same place that they fled from. Because they leave only momentarily; for some it will be for a summer, for others for seasons, for some for years, and for others until their remains are brought back to be in a place they still feel a kinship too.
This essay has only personal sources. It is not an academic piece. It does not seek to vilify. It only wants to investigate, and relate to as is the author’s tenet, on this Independence Day; why we stay.
Even on this Independence Day, I cannot truly say I completely know why we stay. There are perhaps no words yet to fully explain. Now this does not mean we do not crave going. I sometimes want to go back to where it is more comfortable, or at least easier to be comfortable. Where I can estimate my salary in five years. Where tax takes, and returns.
I want to go back because it is sane. It is not lawless. It is largely a meritocracy. I can have a pension that won’t be stolen without a fight fought and won fairly. I could contest for an election without fearing for my physical life. It is almost paradise, thinking of places on this earth so much more advanced than where we stay.
It is still undeniable, that it would not be where I was born. Or from. Or formed.
I would (always) be an immigrant. I may rise, but only so far. I would be accepted, only so much. Wherever I would go would be a base, but not a full foundation. It would still feel, in still quiet moments, like an economic exile.
It would be more of a home, when there are more and more people to ground the emigration. A partner, children, friends. Family already there would rally when they could. Holidays would be epic, weddings, funerals, anniversaries would be duly celebrated, but there would always still be another home. A homier home. How ever uninhabitable.
So, we stay – not because we have nowhere else to go, not because we have nowhere that would fully accept us, or at least on the face of it, lie that they will. But we are not aloof. We know our homier home is not infrastructurally institutionalised enough to not take everything from us.
Some people speak of concrete jungles where dreams are made of. Here, we have no such luxury. There is no paving to our success. We make it and lay it as we go. For those so inclined. Some wipe out the path to their success so there are no intellectual successors, and even go as far as blocking the path to people seeking to follow in their footsteps.
That is not why we stay. We stay to create empires, dynasties, intellectual and innovative pyramids that cannot be gnawed through; that will outlive us and our descendants’ descendants. But not that it will be solely a familial heritage. Ours is the kingdom of excellence, and excellence is not by village or lineage but by decision, discipline and grace.
We stay to make headlines here, and not be footnotes elsewhere. Our dreams have no other place to fully be planted – no other location where they can begin to begin and germinate. There is no other place where we can set eight separate hustles sail, and not go (fully) crazy in the process.
‘Crase’ itself is relative.
It does not mean it will be easy. But nothing great ever is. Staying away enables us to maybe be great; by building on established foundations. But there is a ceiling, however glassy. Outliers do not constitute evidence; for the called it will not be enough. Innovation, imagination and invention, operate in and adapt to the most hostile of environments.
Not all will have the heart, soul, mind, for it – or even interest in it.
And that has to be okay.
Each must choose.
Comforts are not a sin. It is not a sin to want and seek and find a quality of life superior to the one found in a homier home. It is not wrong to want better for your offspring. It is not wrong to want social security. But it is wrong to seek comfort above a call. For those who are called, we will go… but we must return. Or we stay, to go, but never really leave.
It need not take our whole lives. The sacrifices and opportunity costs of the decision to stay need not be long term. Because when we establish what we must establish, it won’t matter where we as individuals, physically are. Because we will have crafted institutions bigger than our lineage. It just depends how long it will take. For some it will cost their lives.
It will have to be a sacrifice we are willing to make. Not because we want to die, but we know that probable death (actual, mental, slightly financial, and probably psychological), is better than not living, not executing purpose. There is an age, a window, when such ruthless and rash sacrifices can be made. After which, the loss may be too great.
Our work is not easy. It is not even noble. To most it is dumb, idealistic, and useless. It is a thankless duty that may never fully manifest until long after our children’s great-grandchildren are gone. But we do not mind. We are laying new paths. They will become visible in their time.
And others will pick up from where we left off.
In most cases, there is no foundation. Or there once was, in relatively prehistoric times; and is now so eroded that there are justifications for its absence: no need for unilateral integrity, responsibility, stewardship, justice, and so on as ‘man must wack’. What we are building is bigger than who we will become elsewhere. We are superheroes, liberators.
Maybe this is why we stay.
Happy Independence Day!
Photo Credit: Kadettmann | Dreamstime