Wednesday, 12 June 2019

To The Runaways, The Misfits & The Radicals


What I negotiated for me
When my father first learnt that I had travelled out of Nigeria to the UK, he was not in jubilant mood at all even though that first trip was to acquire equipment for a company in which I had 30% equity. I returned and, in the meanwhile, the relationship between my business partner and I deteriorated because I was neither obsequious enough nor too enamoured by the opportunity I had, I had many professional responsibilities of which NextStep Limited was just one.
After my return, I visited the British Consulate to fix my status, both to be able to travel to the UK and if I needed to, emigrate. The need to leave Nigeria was not pressing, though one of the contractual engagements I had from a year before included the full payment for my flight ticket to the UK.
When I seized control
I was not mindful of that prospect, even as Deji Sasegbon engaged me as a desktop publishing consultant at his legal publications outfit. My father thought I had abandoned academic pursuits to the whim of activities he never really understood. He took it upon himself to attempt to secure my admission to an HND programme at the Federal Polytechnic, Bida and despite his engagement with the Rector, my name appeared to be switched with another in the rector’s files.
None of this bothered me, as after my visit to the UK, I found that there was a market for my Nigerian-acquired skill because I was more knowledgeable about the things I wanted doing compared to the technical staff who were there to demonstrate the kit I was acquiring.
Then I cared less
In the background, in communications between my father and guardians who had direct influence over me and access to me, he had suggested I was running away from responsibility. Responsibility is a nebulous concept, but it is never 'responsibility' in its distilled form, rather it is one of whether you can control, decide, instruct, and require without question, someone to do your bidding.
It is one where your independent view must seek the permission of another deemed superior, where your initiative must encompass the pleasure of another who has set the expectations, where your individuality and uniqueness is a function of conformity to some generally accepted norms and values or you are a misfit, you cannot chart a course of difference else you would be excoriated, called to order and commanded to obey or risk ostracism and be condemned as a radical.
Yes, I could run away
We were the runaways, though I do wonder what kind of a runaway I am. My father is essentially Nigerian, a proud one at that. I doubt if was ever Nigerian even if I spent some of my formative years there. Daily, I was reminded that I was born abroad, certain quirky mannerisms and my accent modified by influences from England and in Nigeria put me in a limbo of identity.
I probably found ways to navigate the system, but I really do not think I belonged. After having moved to the UK, my father was a resident of the 60s, I became a resident of the 90s. His experience of society then was radically different from my experience. He was treated like a second-class citizen and hardly appreciated, yet, in Nigeria, you could be a first-class citizen and it counted for nothing.
My storied identity
The greatest benefit of our returning to Nigeria after the Civil War was that I attended really good schools with an international pupil population, I grew up a world citizen, self-assured, confident, curious, precocious and inquisitive, our teachers open to questioning and discussion that we were free to be ourselves.
Within the non-formal educational setting, I learnt without noticing it, to appreciate who I was in terms of my identity and consequently my sexuality, though along the way, I was abused, exploited, violated and much else. The end-product is tried by experience good, bad, hard, and bitter, it would not be traded away to anyone, if I could help it.
Nigeria? On my own terms
I can understand my father’s desire for me to return to Nigeria, maybe to visit, even dare to settle down, I do not share any of that sentiment, especially the latter. I am first, an Englishman who happens to have Nigerian parents, I don’t expect many to agree with that, but it is my story to tell, not for others to usurp and retell to their own intentions. I owe no explanation to anyone about my sense of self, you can accept me for who I am or leave me be.
I ran away for my freedom to be who I want to be, I ran away for the need to be independent of influences I cannot reason with to get across my point of view, I ran away to take on responsibilities I choose to shoulder rather than those thrust upon me, I ran away to have my own prerogative in matters concerning myself, my welfare, my sanity and my life. I ran away to thrive outside the confines of unwarranted interference and according to my own terms.
Would I be returning to Nigeria soon? I don’t know, but if I do, it would be on my own terms, at a time of my choosing and if I find it convenient. I guess that is the most inconvenient thing if it gets to the notice of my father, we are not the same person, not by a running mile. Maybe, I could be given a little credit for having my own mind.

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