One of my friends, a fellow Nigerian, asked me last week why I’m going to Nigeria. I told her the event that would be taking place while we are there, and she followed up her question with
u hate nigeria
She then asked me to list three good things that had happened to me in Nigeria and three bad things.
I was surprised by the first question, and my only response was to give a rhetorical “I do?” in response.
The next day, I asked her to clarify her reasons for asking the question, and the answers only made me feel more uncomfortable. She said that I never say anything nice about the country or my experiences there. I told her her words had triggered a blog entry: she definitely got me thinking.
It was never my intention to portray Nigeria or Nigerians as something I didn’t like. In fact, the whole reason I started this blog when I had another blog already was to become closer to other Nigerians, share my experiences as an immigrant born to Nigerian parents, who feels neither fully Nigerian nor North American, and learn more about Nigeria. I met this particular friend through one of my earlier networking attempts a few years back, so I think that’s why her words were still on my mind the day after I spoke with her.
My life in Nigeria can be broken up like so:
- I lived there between the ages of three and six. I remember having good times there, though the memories of what I actually did are not particularly clear.
- I lived there for six weeks when I was 14, when my entire family went to visit after being abroad for almost eight years. It was a whirlwind of visiting family and our parents’ friends.
A couple of years after the latter trip, I found a curious thing had happened: I wasn’t able to fully separate which memories were from 23 years ago, and which were from 14 years ago. I know which of my stints in Nigeria the big events happened in, of course, but the smaller, every day things I can’t quite recall during which of my times in Nigeria they happened. I’ve been meaning to jot down these small snippets of memory so I don’t forget any more.
Of course, if my friend thinks I complain about Nigeria a lot, and never say anything nice about the country or people, I have to look at what she could be basing that on, and it had to be the blog, since she said she had read my blog and since I don’t think I bash Nigeria when I talk to her. So I had a look and discovered some things.
I have written about why I want to marry a Nigerian man (here too), and expressed pride in my Nigerian heritage. However, I’ve also written about why I don’t like the idea of Nigerian men in Nigeria seeking love with Nigerian women who are exclusively abroad, because I think there are plenty of good women in Nigeria, and there is no need to look so far and wide unless you’re looking for something else too. I’ve complained about how Nigerian events that I have attended and helped at are disorganized and start late (Nigerian time right?), and how Nigerians are cheap and are always looking for volunteers to help out at formal events, but I have also commended Nigerians on their sense of community. I have complained that my relatives, in particular my cousins, are greedy and don’t make me feel welcome in Nigeria, but perhaps if they were asked they’d have some things to say about me too. I have commented on the tactlessness of some Nigerians, while recognizing at the end of the same entry that not all the tactless comments are meant to be mean. You agreed when I warned a reader that her Nigerian “boyfriend” was likely a scammer.
(The above is not an exhaustive list of all I have written negatively or positively about Nigeria and Nigerians.)
You have been there to correct my misguided words too. When I told you some things that I had never heard a Nigerian man say, you came back in the comments and told me I don’t know enough Nigerians, clearly, which is true! You set me straight on Nigerian reunions and corrected some of my Pidgin. You told me where to go for information so I’m not such a dummy on the topic of Nigeria. You explained that some of the things I considered superstitions are not that at all. You encouraged me to get more comfortable sharing my culture.
Writing this blog and reading your comments have enriched my life and my understanding of Nigeria and Nigerians enormously, and that is why I was affected by my friend’s comments. Hopefully those of you who were feeling similarly to my friend now know where I stand: I love Nigeria, I love Nigerians, but like all things, there are good and bad aspects. And because it’s human nature, perhaps I focused more on the bad. And like I say in my disclaimer, I’m always only talking about my experience, or some Nigerians, and not all are guilty of whatever I am complaining about.
Thanks for sparking an entry, B. To spread love about Nigeria and Nigerians, I’d like you to leave in the comments one thing you love about Nigeria and/or Nigerians. We’ll resume bashing the country tomorrow ;)
And the thing that I love about Nigeria is the richness of the cultures represented in the country (or is it considered collectively one culture?), which highlights how little I know about the country and specifically my (Yoruba) culture.