October 1, 2014 by Kambili M.A. Chimalu
It is that time of the year again. A time when Nigerians everywhere display their patriotic spirits by congratulating Nigeria on her birthday and/or draping themselves in green-white-green to express their love for their home. Our displays of love come in various forms:
1. Some point out the numerous failings Nigeria has.
2. Some overlook the numerous failings Nigeria has.
3. Some do not care either way about the first two groups.
Every year, I tend to fall on the side that point out the failings of Nigeria. I know that Nigeria has not yet become the country Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and so many others fought for. These people believed in our ability to govern ourselves and were convinced that we could create a great nation where its citizens would lead fulfilling and prosperous lives. So, every year, on October 1, we gather to celebrate the men and women that believed in our innate and indispensable right to self-determination, but every year, some of us are left wondering whether we have realized the dreams of our forefathers or if we have just become a country of dreams deferred.
Nigeria has a lot of issues in certain areas like education, leadership, healthcare, security, and power. If I decide to name them all, I don’t think eternity will be enough time. However, I have decided that this year, I will focus on some of the things I absolutely love about Nigeria.
- The People: Nigerians are some of the most optimistic, industrious, hardworking, friendly, welcoming people that can be found anywhere on the face of the Earth. Nigerians always believe that things will eventually get better, hence the constant belief that “God will help Nigeria one day.” Nigerians are a people that believe in industry and hard work. After all the hard work, we love to visit and celebrate with one another.
- The Cultures: Just like the people in Nigeria, the cultures are very diverse and engaging. The different cultures showcase the various types of people that have come under the umbrella of one country. From carnivals to Masquerade festivals, Nigeria is a country that is rich in culture.
- The Food: The saying “there is no place like home” becomes extremely apparent when one is away from Nigeria and salivating for the delicacies that can be had back home. With the different spices used to garnish dishes like soups, point-and-kill, Isi Ewu, Yam, etc., eating becomes an orgasmic experience.
- Familial Relationships: Nigerians do family and we do family extremely well. The extended family from uncles, aunties, grannies, kindreds, to cousins, foster a sense of communal belonging that ensures no one ever feels like he/she is in this world alone. This sense of connectedness gives us a sense of security and assurance that we always have a place to call home. Plus, an owambe cannot be complete unless all the extended family members are there to get down.
- The Land Itself: For a large number of us, Nigeria is our birthplace. It is the mother that suckled us with the fruits of her land and caught us when we fell. This land provided a place for us to build our shelter while we hid away from the stormy elements of nature. It first introduced us to beauty with its clear night sky dotted with stars, its streams and rivers, and its evergreen forests. It provided the foundation from which we launched into the global village to explore and experience new things. It was there for our birth and it is always ready to welcome us home.
Nigeria is a lot of things, but I am constantly reminded of what I want it to become. A nation of possibilities. A nation of love where our tribal or religious affiliations will be secondary to our identities as Nigerians. A nation where some of its citizens will not be discriminated against on the basis of sexuality. A nation of scientists, entrepreneurs, humanitarians, innovators, and thinkers. A nation of hope.
Maybe, if we had been given the chance, the choice to choose our place of birth. Maybe we would have chosen someplace other than Nigeria, but the “accident” of birth took that choice away from us. It did not consult us or ask for our opinion when it decreed Nigeria be our birthplace. It just randomly/divinely assigned us to Nigeria, but in not giving us a choice, it gave us a whole load of choices. The choice to look at our leaders and see exactly the kind of leaders we don’t want to become. The choice to give back to society exactly what it gave to us. The choice to be better citizens, and symbols of Nigeria’s greatest hope, for we all carry within us a nation on the verge of springing into life. We are Nigeria. We are a nation. We are family.