Today you celebrate 53 years of Independence. I woke up this morning praying for you more than I normally do. Even though today is a day of celebration, it’s also a day pf reflection, because you are not where you should be. I find myself praying that you become better, that the greatness that I remember you to be and the stories that I hear of your glory days become a reality. I pray that your citizens realize that they have a lot of impact and that they are responsible for making you better. I pray that their eyes are opened, that they put down the hate that tribalism and religion has caused and love each other. I pray that those who continue to divide with violence come to the realization that they are bringing more pain than joy. I pray that those who constantly complain about you, realize that they can change you, and that they have more power than they think.
Sometimes I sit there and I think about the memories that I had when I was with you. It’s easy to only see the good as a child. I remember days spent playing with kids in the neighborhood. I remember that because of those days, I learned to love the freedom that kicking a soccer ball could give me. I remember when Nigeria would have a game, how we would all crowd around and watch together, until NEPA took the electricity. I remember shouts of Up NEPA that still follow me today when a storm comes and knocks out the electricity here. I remember learning how to worship God with reckless abandon and how because of people like Ebenezer Obey, a love for music was birthed in me. I remember ridiculous proverbs that my dad would say to me in Yoruba. I remember being comfortable in the streets and never having to worry about being kidnapped for ransom. I remember the night vigils that I went to and how there were so many people who would sing and dance and worship God. I remember that because of their love for God, I found my love for God. I remember the way I would feel when we had to drive to the village to visit my grandparents and how I would feel like I was transported to another world. I remember suya and how good it tasted in my mouth, or how my dad would buy us ice-cream after a day at unilag. Oh God I remember the ice-cream, nowhere in America has had ice-cream that is as good as that was. I remember agege bread, and the jollof rice and pounded yam, and how no hamburger can replace it. I remember women carrying buckets of their head with nail polish in them, and how I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to wear it. I remember wearing Ankara and how when we partied, we really partied. I remember birthdays and holidays that were celebrated with family. I remember fresh chicken, that was killed by my parents and then cooked, and how good it was. I remember looking forward to being able to kill and cook my own chicken one day. I remember feeling so loved, because I knew my neighborhood and they knew me. They watched over me, and they protected me. I remember how when my siblings were born, everyone came to their naming ceremonies to eat and celebrate. I remember it all, because despite my age, those were the best years of my life.
That’s what I want. I want to be able to go back and remember those days, I want to rejoice and take my kids there without worry. I want those roads to be fixed, I want the resources to be used in a way that will benefit everyone. I want people to live lives of ease, and feel joyful when asked where they are from. I am tired of being associated with 419 and underwear bombers. I am tired of hearing stories of Boko Haram, and kidnappers. I am tired of jungle justice that causes more strife than relief. I am tired of old men marrying young girls, and thinking its okay. I am tired of people taking bribes when they should be doing their jobs with pride. I am tired of an education system that isn’t where it should be. I am tired of hearing about health problems that could be solved with a better health system. I am sick and tired of leaders that don’t lead but instead steal from their people. I am tired of elections that are rigged and of people who make promises that they don’t plan on fulfilling. I am tired of hearing that people are losing their culture, and that they don’t even know their national anthem, or pledge. The same pledge that I used to play clapping games with as a child. I am tired of realizing with age that those good memories might never happen again. I bet you’re tired to.
I want to help you, I want to become a person that you are proud of. Because of you, I am motivated to try my hardest, to become a doctor, to fix your health care system. Because of you, I want leaders that won’t take money that isn’t theirs. Because of you I intercede, and ask God to have mercy on you. I believe that one day you will rise, one day your people will see that they are capable of bringing change, one day you will be the place that I remember.
Happy 53rd Nigeria.
- Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey
- To serve our fatherland
- With love and strength and faith
- The labour of our heroes past
- Shall never be in vain
- To serve with heart and might
- One nation bound in freedom, peace and