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Funmilola Ogunseye: Aching For the Kind of Passion For Nigeria that Nigerians Outside the Country Have

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I wonder how it was so easy for Folu to love Nigeria.

“Gosh! I love this country. The food, the art, the people, the language”, she gushed.

I need to scratch the first thought. Why do I even wonder? It was very easy for Folu to love Nigeria. This is Folu with the American passport. This is Folu, Nigerian-American to be precise. This is Folu, undergraduate in the University of Pennyslvania. This is Folu that is on the dean’s list. This is Folu that does not have to worry about NEPA. When I am busy complaining about the shoddiness of facilities in my university laboratory, Folu is tweeting about the lack of diversity in her class, which is valid too.

Folu comes to Nigeria once in two years. A driver picks her from the airport in a posh car. Our family house is at Gbagada, but our Uncle that lives in Ikoyi feels she won’t be comfortable there. This is Folu that stays in Ikoyi. This is Folu that spends a week at Omu Resort before we meet up at Terra Kulture.

“How can you not love this place? It is quite hot, but I love the scenery”, Folu said while welcoming me.

We try to catch up; she is always interested in gist about school, the family and my well-being.

“We should go to the Blowfish hotel”, Folu added after her meal.

“I am not sure about that. It is quite pricey, and I’m not up for it”, I said

She went on and on about how I should not bother about money when we hangout. She is trying to be the good cousin here. We are both 20 years. The difference is that her mom left for America and got married to a Nigerian-American, while my mom stayed here. We are age mate, so I do not feel the urgency for her to pay when we both have the same opportunities. Oh! I forgot. I have just the Nigerian passport, I attend a Nigerian university that consumes my time. I can’t take a job because my parents feel it is a distraction but my ivy-league cousin can.

I love Folu. I am not jealous of her in any way. My rant might seem like an effort to belittle her struggles, but that is not what I am driving at. I just wonder if she would still look at Nigeria with the same light in her eyes if it were not her second option. If she had no choice, would she still be crazy about Nigeria?

Honestly, Nigeria is beautiful if you are in it but not really in it. Nigeria is something you are not stuck with. If you could flip your American passport when things got too hard, it would be a good country to just catch trips.

The boisterousness that oozes from Folu should be palpable, but my senses are blocked. Blocked by the frustration I feel spending hours in traffic, blocked by the unending web of corruption we are in, blocked by the teenager that unconsciously throws biscuit wrapper away in the middle of the street.

“Nigeria Twitter is the best. The people are ruthless, fierce and petty”, Folu thought out loud.

There are times I want her to see from my perspective. Can we exchange lives for a moment? Or at least have her see through my lens for just once? Can you feel the dread I felt when I heard of the Otedola inferno? How I felt about the killings in the north? You probably just said “OMG!” and moved on. Did you know how fear cleaved to my heart when Tosan told me his brother was unlawfully arrested? How sometimes I feel like I might not achieve my purpose because all I will ever be bothered about is my safety?

Maybe if it was just about Jollof rice, Suya, Shoki, Nigeria Twitter, I’d be enthusiastic. Maybe if you felt the ugly part you would be sober.

I know that there is an ugly side to even the best countries, but maybe Jollof rice, Shaku Shaku and Amala can’t make up for the bad roads, bad education, terrible governance or lack of basic infrastructures.

I lay on my bed, thinking about my upcoming trip to America; my first time outside Nigeria. I love my dad but sometimes I wish my mom followed her sister and married a Nigerian-American too. I would probably have more piercings and my mom would not flip the script on me. This is otiose but one of those things that I have thought about. Do not judge me. It is just one of those options I have explored in my head. In America, I will stay with Folu and our conversations will be filled with ‘representation, marginalisation, misogyny, patriarchy’ and all those things that bring that sparkle in her eyes.

I mean it when I say I love Folu, I just can’t stop these questions from the well they come from; the well that never runs dry. I really want to be patriotic, I really want to have so much gusto when I talk about this country but I am tired.

I know two weeks in America wouldn’t give my life a 360. How can I help this country?  I hug my PVC at night, hoping that one day it would contribute to a change in this country but before that period can my fellow Nigerians at least stop throwing rubbish on the floor? Maybe it would in one tiny way help this country or not.

At the end of the day, what do I know?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Ogunseye Funmilola (dasience) is a professional reader, budding writer, blogger and a psychology student. One day, she hopes to visit places she has been to through books. You can catch her on http://dasience.com

26 Comments

  1. Didi

    July 17, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    I think the subject of this article should read ‘ACHING FOR THE KIND OF PASSION THAT NIGERIANS OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY HAVE FOR NIGERIA’

  2. 'Diddie

    July 17, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    A very interesting read
    I used to be so patrotic but these days with the state off the Nigerian economy and the stress of living in Lagos, I am considering that ‘porting abroad’ might not seem so much of a bad idea

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      July 18, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      I ported in the opposite direction, at the beginning of this year….. and I will be the first to admit that my love for Nigeria completely changed (entirely changed) once I started living in Lagos as my home. Now, I look back at the me who used to long to visit “home” (ignorance is truly bliss) and I realize how much I idealized this country.

      Like Folu, “home” was simply having 2 weeks of eating Nigerian food, escaping the cold and reuniting with family. And it’s very hard to appreciate the full Nigerian reality in 2 weeks – you think you have a fair enough idea (because…. how bad can things really be? You’ve kept in touch with home, heard all the stories….. but how bad can it be?) until you’re actually back, And witness all the social and moral injustice that the millions of voiceless masses endure everyday. If you’re not careful, Nigeria will begin to harden you in an awful way, you start to find yourself getting used to terrible things as being “normal”. No need to list them all but the wickedness and selfish greed, which abounds will affect even you in your ivory castle, People back in the UK say things to me like, “Ah, you’re lucky, at least your move back was a comfortable package and you don’t have to worry about the Nigerian problems”….. but nobody is truly untouched.

      And like Folu, I have the option to reverse that decision (that will eventually happen) but it’s terribly sad that your own country isn’t a “home” that’s meant to denote comfort and security and a sense of care. We accuse westerners/Caucasians of many things but at least they still have the collective morality which is shockingly missing from our streets lined with churches, upon mosques upon religious houses (but mainly churches, no need to pussyfoot).

      For anyone, who’s been away from Nigeria for over a decade and, like me, lost touch with the reality, please relinquish your fantasy of moving “because it’s home”. Nigeria doesn’t love you back and the very people you’re missing will erode your own humanity (my goodness, how they’ll try)….. so please, only move for your self-seeking objectives. Not even to help loved ones, lest you pour your frustrations out and blame them if things go sour. You moved abroad to ensure your own personal progress, don’t move “home” unless you’re assured of the same kind of overall goal and don’t be motivated by unrequited sentiments.

    • bolintin

      July 19, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      You could have said it better.
      I am a die hard fan of Nigeria living in Nigeria. I like it a lot here and I am never impressed when well settled Nigerian relocate. (I don’t have issues of hustlers relocate but when I banker packs his bag I cringe).

      But despite my deep seated love fro Nigeria, I always advice those who have relocated for so long to be over sure if they must relocate back to Nigeria.. Matter of fact avoid it. I have seen too many of them who just never acclimatize and end up going back after having lost so much in terms of emotion, finance, time, opportunities in their abroad etc.

      And you are right its not about leaving in Lekki or VI. Nigeria is Nigeria. Unlike abroad where the system works and you just have to fit into it, here you work your personal success and emotional stories.

      I just feel for those who left before they even had the opportunity to choose and where to old to really make the foreign land their homes e.g those who leave after secondary school., no close relative,

    • Dr.N

      July 23, 2018 at 11:37 am

      When are we meeting up please? You mean you’ve been here for a year?
      Aunty…we need to do this biko

  3. debs

    July 17, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I love everything about this article. It captures my exact thoughts about this country. Sigh. #egobetter

  4. Beht why

    July 17, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Everything that was stated in this article is brutally honest. It is very easy for me to miss Nigeria from “the abroad” but when I return, I itch to go back to my life. My reality is that I have a means/privilege of going back. What of the others whom this is their reality? I long for a time (and soon) where Nigeria isn’t just a getaway.

  5. PBD

    July 17, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    I draw three things from this.

    The appeal of the idea of Nigeria being greater than the reality.

    The classic “Grass is greener on the other side” syndrome(you might not be as appreciative of the US and disdainful of Nigeria if you’d been brought up there as your cousin was).

    Finally, first-world/third-world problems. Here’s the intriguing part. Not having to deal with the nuisance of bad roads and electricity, a beleaguered healthcare and education system, these sane countries have time and some sanity left to probe and pursue abstract and intangible ideals and concepts. They are just as important, but the average Nigerian is too busy surviving to live. Hence why, that turnip-for-brains lady on Fox had the gall to say that Chimamanda, in raising the consciousness of humanity as to the benevolent sexism that is chivalry, had no call to do that as a writer from a third-world country and should instead shine the spotlight on primitive issues like FGM.

    We CAN do both. It’s the beauty and bane of Nigerians – working twice as hard to pass muster, hence why we flourish once transplanted to foreign lands.

  6. Larz

    July 17, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Lollllzzzs

    I had this debate with a friend 5 years ago. She lived in England since 5yo and when she went back to naija nearly 20 years later, her uncle in Magodo asked her to stay with him. For 2 weeks, she had generator every night, driver everywhere etc. My friend began to dream of moving back to naija. Thankfully she decided to go back to visit again over Christmas break for 2 months (from her early naija visit). Things changed when she got back, number one, Magodo ppl did not have her the whole time and when they did no generator every night. Then she had to shuttle between Ikeja (her cousins house who is only slightly older than her and her Magodo uncle.

    She found the real cost of generator and tried as she might, she couldn’t afford generator every night for 2 months.

    She found that her cousin who is a professional and lived in an apartment in India could only afford her lifestyle because she had two married be a, both are uncle ages and one was her boss.

    Her cousin tried to hook her up with her manfriends middle aged friend when she was running dry on cash.

    My friend came back and immediately killed any notion of moving back to naija.

    • bolintin

      July 19, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Hilarious but sad.
      Truth is leaving in Nigeria can be expensive and stressful especially for people leaving outside the country

  7. Dolly

    July 17, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    Mostly this passion stems from craving a sense of identity in a foreign land (U.S especially) that is quick to ask you “where are you from” and if born & raised, reminds you, you are not from here.

    Having a sense of pride in your heritage is mostly an acquired feeling here as a shield against oppression but I digress.
    I guess all I’m just trying to write is the struggle is real on both sides just different coping mechanisms & results.

  8. Wuraola

    July 17, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    This is such a beautiful narrative!

  9. yes maam

    July 17, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    hilarious read but so truthful.

    ‘ I will stay with Folu and our conversations will be filled with ‘representation, marginalisation, misogyny, patriarchy’ and all those things that bring that sparkle in her eyes.’

    You forgot ‘blackness, cultural appropriation and afro punk.’ 🙂

  10. Sokuma Theophilus Mshelia

    July 17, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    A really interesting read. I Love Nigeria or I think I do. I don’t want to come out as unpatriotic but there are times I wish I could escape from this country. Most times in my fantasy I imagine myself taking in the air from another country, maybe Spain because I have a thing for Spain. But I wonder maybe the air would feel different in my nostrils. Maybe the wind blowing will have a different sensation on my skin. Would the sun sting the same way it stings here.
    I always wonder

    And about littering the floor. There are times I have to put in my waste in my pocket because I can’t find where I’ll dump it but there are times when I conforn to others. I’m not unpatriotic but Nigeria be making me unpatriotic really.

    • Kim

      July 18, 2018 at 2:22 am

      You should be a writer 🙂

  11. Sokuma Theophilus Mshelia

    July 17, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    A really interesting read. I Love Nigeria or I think I do. I don’t want to come out as unpatriotic but there are times I wish I could escape from this country. Most times in my fantasy I imagine myself taking in the air from another country, maybe Spain because I have a thing for Spain. But I wonder maybe the air would feel different in my nostrils. Maybe the wind blowing will have a different sensation on my skin. Would the sun sting the same way it stings here.
    I always wonder

    And about littering the floor. There are times I have to put in my waste in my pocket because I can’t find where I’ll dump it but there are times when I conform to others. I’m not unpatriotic but Nigeria be making me unpatriotic really.

    I still pledge to Nigeria. I can still recite the pledge even though I have never lived it really.

  12. 9ja4Life

    July 18, 2018 at 2:18 am

    I was born in the US and raised, educated and worked in the US and UK, never ever thinking about visiting Nigeria much less settle here. But I visited, came back on an expatriate contract and ultimately decided to settle and do my own thing here. It has not been a walk in the park and has required a monumental reorientation of expectations and mindset, but frankly my only substantive regret is not having done it earlier. Now, I am “woke” enough to realize that my reality is not that of most Nigerians (and of course can always ‘escape’ with my US pali), but then again the reality of Nigerian professionals in the US and the UK (and definitely anyone privileged to attend an Ivy League school) is NOT the reality of many (if not most) Americans and Brits – and certainly NOT the reality of most US and UK blacks.

    There’s more to Nigeria (and being Nigerian) than the material challenges that we are always quick to list. Accordingly, there’s a reason that Nigerians (or Nigerian-Americans, as folks love to call it these days) are among the most educated and successful segment of the US population. It is NOT merely coincidental, and even though exponentially more opportunities to excel exist in the US, there’s a reason that Nigerians are able to take advantage of same to a greater degree and in greater numbers than even many of those citizens indigenous to the US. Folks like my parent, for as long as they lived in the US having arrived at a young age and subsequently assimilating into the US society NEVER stopped being Nigerian in their core values (including that near-religious faith in education, family and hard work) – and that was the primary success factor in the lives of most Nigerian-Americans, including those who have never set foot in Nigeria (as I had been).

    The US that the author so admires ultimately got to its present point after over 200 years of slavery, building its economy on the back of the enforced free labor that people like you and I provided, a brutal fracticidal civil war, decades of official Jim Crow segregation (complete with lynchings) and unofficial thereafter, interment of Japanese-American CITIZENS, institutionalized racism, and sadly till the present day the wharehousing of African-American males in for-profit prisons while liberally extra-judicially executing unarmed black males. Just as Americans fought to change the US and get it to the present state that the author admires, Nigerians will collectively have craft their own fortunes, because ultimately Nigeria’s condition is a culmination of the collective actions of ALL Nigerians either by commission or omission.

  13. Chidinma

    July 18, 2018 at 5:44 am

    Funmi, this is an amazing write-up, I totally agree with you. God is taking you to places you will never imagine. Keep it up

  14. BlueEyed

    July 18, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Let’s talk about the ones that read up on Nigeria’s issues on the internet and they have one million opinions and answers, yet these same people haven’t lived their reality in Nigeria. They do not plan to come and effect any change but steady have all the answers. Those are the ones that irk me, I recently called one out online, dude is interracial with a white American mother, always riding his half assed opinion on Nigeria to make himself look like he is well identified with his culture, whenever he visits he’s in the village soaking in and doing all that village stuff for the gram. Uncle has very vocal opinions but ask him to move back, it becomes another discussion. Miss me with that bullshit yo.

  15. Adenike

    July 18, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Hello Funmi, lovely write up. I love your writing style and your thought process it was as thou you where in my head. I feel and think exactly the same way all the time. I look forward to reading more of your articles. well done!

  16. Kenny

    July 18, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I think Dolly nailed it in his/her comment “Mostly this passion stems from craving a sense of identity in a foreign land (U.S especially) that is quick to ask you “where are you from” and if born & raised, reminds you, you are not from here.”

    ‘Moved’ from Nigeria to the UK a decade ago and gosh i miss it in a Folu kind of way. The western world (UK, US, Canada, spain e.t.c) also comes with its perks (story for another day). Even for those born here still get a feeling of not being fully british/american albeit life is relatively easier.
    The rise of the far rights just makes you wish Africa (Nigeria, Ghana e.t.c) would wake up and step up to its potential.
    At the end of the day we have only one life to live, wherever you fine yourself make sure you live not exists

  17. Eyimofe

    July 18, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Beautifully captured

  18. Azeeza

    July 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Just last week, I was telling my friend that I’m going through a scary phase. I told her Nigerians abroad are celebrated more than Nigerians in Nigeria. The footballers, the writers and the returnee celebrities. And it makes me really insecure.
    .
    .
    Funmi, your words are beautiful and thoughtful.

  19. Toluwani

    July 18, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    Nice write- up❤

  20. TheRealist

    July 20, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Funny how some seem to think that Nigeria’s third world issues are somehow uniquely or peculiarly Nigerian…

    If the problem is Nigeria, rather than the sheer attraction of enjoying the creature comforts of mainly advanced Western economies, why not relocate to Cameroon, Benin Republic or Togo (where you do not even need a visa) or, if more adventurous to Congo or CAR? The reality is that even folks in relatively advanced industrialized countries like Australia look to relocate to the UK or the US for better opportunities – even those who are relatively successful professionals in their own countries. Heck, even Canadians move to the US and UK for better prospects. Let’s quit bashing Nigeria for a UNIVERSAL phenomenon, for however successful Nigeria might become there will ALWAYS be folks migrating for better prospects elsewhere. Migration is a universal phenomenon as old as humanity itself, the only apparent difference here (and a sad one at that) is the rank eagerness of certain Nigerians to virtually destroy and defame Nigeria as they head out the door. SMDH

  21. Chiamaka

    October 25, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I love this!

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