Andrew famously “checked out” in 1984 and Nigerians have never forgiven him. Somehow Andrew has become a permanent target of the ire of home-based Nigerians. Could it be his arrogant swagger and dismissive mien at the Murtala Mohammed international airport on his way out? Could it be that demeaning tone in his voice as he catalogued the tragic failures of the Nigerian state as his excuse for checking out? “Men, I’m checking out. No good roads, no light, no water. Men, you can’t even get a common bottle of soft drink”, he had proclaimed pompously in the nascent Ebonics he had already begun to affect.
Twenty-five years later – yes, it’s the silver jubilee of one of the most famous characters in Nigerian lore! – Andrew is still out. His kids are in college, pronouncing their Nigerian names in all kinds of funny accents that make you want to scream blue murder. Often, his kids cannot locate Africa – let alone Nigeria – on the map. He has paid off his car loans but still has outstanding student loans and a mortgage. He wants to be relevant in the scheme of things back home. He wants to check in. He has acquired some expertise and wants to give back to Nigeria. He’s been home once in twenty-five years and ran back to England or America, horrified by the discovery that what he had mistaken for infrastructural collapse in 1984 was in fact paradise! As soon as he left, the Nigerian state simply took a permanent sabbatical from the responsibilities of modern states all over the world.
The discovery that Nigeria regressed – infrastructurally – to pre-historic conditions since he left kindled a patriotic zeal in him. He formed an organization called NIDO and began to make considerable noise about how to do things properly. Nigerians back home told Andrew to go and jump into the Atlantic ocean. They have not forgotten that this guy left and was not there as successive military tyrants raped their humanity. Where was he when the goons of Generals Buhari and Idiagbon frog-jumped them for indiscipline in the streets of Lagos? Where was he when General Babangida kicked them a little to the right and a little to the left continuously for eight years? Where was he when General Abacha fed them bombs for dinner? Did they not survive Generals Abubakar and Obasanjo without him?
They went through all this while Andrew drank hot chocolate and ate pizza in Euro-America. Now he’s the “Mr Too-Sabi” who wants to come home, wave a magic wand, and transform Lagos to London, Daura to Dubai. Nonsense! Daily, they abuse him in hundreds of Nigerian news sites and internet fora. Andrew cannot go online these days without encountering somebody railing against “those arrogant Nigerians abroad”. Recently, Professor Pat Utomi has been after Andrew. This eminent public figure and intellectual cannot possibly fathom a role in national development for somebody blowing hot air from what he contemptuously calls the “comforts of American suburbia”. So, he dismisses Andrew as an “internet warrior”. Pat Utomi now behaves as if Andrew resides under his pillow, giving him endless nightmares.
Popular Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, has been up in arms against Andrew lately. Andrew started a website, Saharareporters.com, and it has become the Mecca of Nigeria’s community of conscience. Saharareporters is the only remaining space where Nigerians can dare to hope and aspire to a modicum of humanity. Saharareporters is the worst nightmare of Nigeria’s internal colonizers, the traducers of our destiny. The Andrew who created this space of activism and alternative journalism wrote an open letter to Mr. Keyamo, raising questions about the lawyer’s worrisome silence on some recent corruption issues. In replies dripping with sarcasm and insults, Mr. Keyamo has turned his interlocutor’s location in New York into the issue. Who the heck is this Andrew to talk about developments in Nigeria when he is based in New York?
The other day, another Andrew published an essay that circulated widely in the internet. His title, “Is Nigeria the Capital of Hell?”, immediately drew fire from home. He was thoroughly abused. Stay where you are as a second class citizen in the white man’s land, they thundered at him from home. We are doing just fine. We get by in our hell without you. Where Andrew is a creative writer, his peers in Nigeria tell him that his novels do not qualify for the Nigerian Prize for Literature just because he lives abroad. Now a perplexed Andrew is afraid to even go online these days. The hostility and resentment from home overwhelm him. Andrew is tired. Just tired.