Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Nigeria: My last flight from the motherland

Last view of Nigeria
We arrived almost 6 hours behind schedule, that was my last direct experience of Nigeria after our flight to London Heathrow was delayed for just about the length of time it would have taken for our flight to be entering the French airspace and for each hour of delay no one could clearly state when we were going to depart.
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport was probably a different place, and Nigeria Airways was probably one of the safest airlines in the world, though from the vantage point of my residence; just a wall separated us from the runway in Shasha-Akowonjo, Lagos we could very well have our finger on the pulse of the country.
A lull in air traffic almost definitely meant there was a military putsch in process, whether it would fail or succeed was another thing. At other times that would bring water to one’s eyes, there was nights of power cuts to the airport, that then was redolent of the systemic malfunctioning environment that Nigeria had become.
Factored in the end
In my somewhat successful professional life as a company director, a desktop publishing expert and trainer, it was rent seekers who always thought they deserved a share of my invoices even though they were well paid for doing their jobs.
A few days before my departure, I was sat in a police station for almost 6 hours trying to get my staff out on bail because my bumbling business partner felt he had the power to wield with impunity whilst lacking the courtesy to inform me of why my staff had been corralled with others on the false accusation of theft.
When I finally gained the release of my staff, I had parted with 500 Naira and signed a legal document that said nothing of the sort had happened.
A changed Nigeria
The promise of Nigeria of my youth was no longer looking like the dreams we once had, it had become nightmarish and ghoulish, a caricature of itself as it was being mismanaged by yet another military junta that once appeared to be a salvation to Nigerians but was in fact the demise of everything that was good and lovely of our dear motherland.
Other little things I could handle, the lack of attention to detail, poor timekeeping, sometimes supercilious buffoons who had come into money and power, not to talk of the pretences that were exhibited in hedonism and ostentation, but that is typically Nigerian.
An alien to many
However, one thing always stood out in my almost 19 year Nigerian experience, I was never really accepted as one of the many, even though my accent which had a West Midlands sound had softened to a non-descript mishmash of experiences in England and Northern Nigeria, it still betrayed an otherness that people immediately picked up on and used to either castigate or excuse me.
To many, even close relations, I was always going to be the boy born abroad, no matter how adapted to Nigeria I was, though on the matter of integration, there were just some customs I was never going to absorb.
Maybe we had a brashness, a boldness, a precociousness, a forwardness, a sometimes lack of reverence, definitely an absence of obsequiousness and much else that annoyed a few as it won recognition from others, something set us apart.
Honesty still the best policy
Having visited England just over a month before after an interesting visa interview that left the consulate officer quite surprised that I was not driven to abscond, but return to what I enjoyed doing in Nigeria, our discussion became one of sharing experiences of the penchant of certain Nigerians to lie at interviews and lie again to cover other lies that the interviewer is literally embarrassed for both the Nigerian and themselves.
Yet, it was an eye-opener that showed that there was a place where I could belong, feel at ease and even thrive without the inconveniences that were the Nigerian narrative.
When I returned to the embassy a month later, it was a breeze to get the Entitlement to the Right of Abode because the queue for getting a British passport in Nigeria was a good 18 months long - I had no time for that.
Disillusioned at home
However, this amongst many other things became how along with many of my generation, we left Nigeria disillusioned young people to build our lives elsewhere - the sad thing is that of the many that left, probably most have never returned.
That was 24 years ago today for me, but it has not diminished my desire for Nigeria to be a better place, to be better run, for the people to have better opportunities and a great pride in a Nigeria we once knew worked, in a fashion.
Long live Nigeria and may it be liberated from the grip of an unconscionable kakistocracy that has no desire for a great future beyond what it does for their bellies.

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