Culture, My Thoughts

Dear Nigeria

Dear Nigeria,

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.

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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.

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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.

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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
unity.
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