Nigeria, my homeland for nearly 86 years, has woven itself into the fabric of my existence. Having traversed the globe by air, sea, and roads, no place resonates with the essence of belonging like home. The echoes of songs sung during my school days, nurturing a profound sense of patriotism, linger in my memories.
However, I can’t help but wonder if the tunes and the emotions they stirred remain unchanged in today’s Nigeria.
The anthem, a timeless composition likely crafted centuries ago for military preparations, reverberates through time: “Oh, my home, my home (2x) when shall I see home? When shall I see my native land? I will never forget my home Home that was Nigeria.”
In the heart of memories, there exists a home that transcends physical walls—a home that was Nigeria. As I reflect on the vibrant tapestry of experiences woven into the fabric of my past, the rich hues of Nigeria’s culture, resilience, and diversity come alive.
Nigeria is a land where laughter echoes through bustling markets and the rhythmic beats of drums tell stories of ancestors. It was more than a geographical location; it was a sanctuary of shared dreams and aspirations. In the evenings, the air would be filled with the aroma of jollof rice and the sound of children playing in the streets, their voices carrying the promise of a united tomorrow.
But within this idyllic picture, shadows of challenges danced. The echoes of history, with its struggles and triumphs, were etched into the collective memory. From the fight for independence to the resilience in the face of adversity, Nigeria stood as a testament to the indomitable spirit of its people.
Yet, amidst the chaos, there was a unique harmony—a rhythm that connected the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, blending into a melody of unity. The diverse cultures were threads in a grand tapestry, each contributing to the vibrant mosaic that was Nigeria.
As I journey through the corridors of my memories, I recall the communal gatherings where elders shared wisdom under the shade of ancient trees. It was a time when stories were passed down like cherished heirlooms, creating a bridge between generations.
However, the landscape of this home evolved, and the winds of change swept through. Economic shifts, political currents, and the ebb and flow of time left imprints on the once-familiar terrain. The home that was Nigeria bore witness to transformations, both beautiful and challenging.
Yet, like the resilient acacia trees that dot the savannah, Nigeria’s spirit endured. It was a spirit that embraced the mosaic of languages, celebrated the kaleidoscope of traditions, and stood firm in the face of diversity.
As I pause to reflect on this nostalgic journey through the corridors of a home that was Nigeria, I am reminded that homes, like the people who inhabit them, are shaped by the passage of time. It is in the blending of past and present that the true essence of a nation is revealed.
Reflecting on the exodus of Nigerians today, it parallels the historical migrations during the slave trade. Unlike our ancestors forcibly taken away to cultivate foreign lands, today’s exodus is fuelled by aspirations for improved opportunities. Dr. Ekpo Eyo’s enlightening work, “Nigeria Art Two Thousand,” adds depth to this narrative by unveiling the advanced technologies that underpinned our development, science, and technology over 5000 years. These innovations birthed globally acclaimed artifacts such as Benin bronze, ivory, Ife iron, Igbo-ukwu woodworks, and Nok terracotta.
Regrettably, these strides in progress were wrested from us, and replaced by foreign cultures, education, and religion. The struggle to reclaim lost ground underscores a stark reality: our advancement necessitates external assistance.
However, in the contemporary landscape, 90% of Nigeria’s youth harbor dreams of seeking greener pastures abroad, while the fortunate 10% find ample opportunities at home. Reminds me of an advertisement Andrew (played by actor Enebeli Elebuwa) was a character in a national orientation ad in the Mid-1980s. I think it was either during the Buhari regime or Babangida’s regime.
Andrew resorts to slinging his traveling bag over his shoulder “No light, No water, Men, I’m checking out” A hand then grabs him saying “Don’t check out”
This later informed a line in Veno Marioghae’s popular song “Nigeria Go Survive” in which she sings “Andrew no check out o!”
Recalling Andrew’s dilemma in a past national orientation ad brings forth a sense of nostalgia. In contrast, today’s exodus is fuelled by aspirations for better prospects, with Western countries recognizing the untapped potential of Nigerian youth. Yet, systemic challenges such as low wages and limited opportunities impede these talented minds from thinking innovatively. Notably, the availability of graduate loans in these Western countries fosters an environment where great minds can think outside the box, contributing to new innovations.
Despite sporadic efforts to rediscover our roots, from slogans proclaiming “Black is Beautiful” to embracing indigenous music and fashion, the true journey of reinvention remains elusive. Past celebrations of returnees often masked the harsh reality: our education system delivered superficial knowledge rather than fostering true learning.
As military and political powers grapple with these challenges, the pressing question remains: who will spearhead the transformative journey that Nigeria eagerly awaits?