Every so often, when I meet a Nigerian at a restaurant, the library, the museum, or at any social gathering – no matter the topic of conversation – the tête-à-tête would invariably end up being “why are we in this country, and not in Naija?” Or, we’ll end up concluding “we miss naija.” There is always a sense of sadness; a melancholic tone, regret and a deep sense of loss. I have on occasions witnessed people sob, or become misty-eyed, when they speak of how much they miss friends and family and the community grew up in. They may grumble about this and that and about everything that is socially, politically and economically wrong with Nigeria; still, they’ll tell you how much they miss home.
They will recount a time that once was. Every one I know does it. Attorneys and bankers and scientists and big time merchants all do it. Friends and acquaintances with little or no formal education all lament over this same issue. What’s the point in grieving over our fatherland? Why? Could it be that those of us who engage in such memories genuinely love and misses Nigeria; or is that our reminiscences are indicative of some sort of psychosis? If we truly love and miss our home, why don’t we just pack our bags and go? After all, no one is forcing us to stay in exile, and Abuja has not revoked our citizenship.
Truth be told, I very much miss Nigeria. Every time I am getting ready to leave (for good), something always blow up my plans. At other times, one or two friends back home would ask: “what are you coming home to do…is America asking you leave?” Furthermore, by virtue of my training, I generally engage in mental cost-benefit-analysis to help me decide whether I should “pack and go”? At every junction, I see “red, not black bottom line.” My weakness has been not being able to overlook all the negativities, cast aside all the voice of discouragement and then take the bull by the horn.
For me and for the vast majority of my generation, home is where the heart is. Nigeria is where our hearts are. If you are new to America, that’s ok, you still have miles to travel. If you are fleeing persecution or unjust prosecution, that’s ok, stay and safeguard your safety. And if you have unfilled dreams or have unmet expectations, that’s ok too, as you may need more time to get your acts together. Having said that I would suggest my generation and the majority of other Nigerians have no business being in this country for this long. If you think about it, if you really think about it, most of the dreams we pursue in the United States could also be pursued in Nigeria. America is not “do or die!”
Collective self-deprecation and collective low self-esteem aside, the United Kingdom and other European countries have less to offer us. There are things these and other countries can never, and cannot offer us: acceptance. By that, I mean acceptance and a sense of belonging. Now, not discounting the crazy and unhealthy things in and about Nigeria, the simple truth is that when you are in Naija…Oh heavens…you feel at home, you feel welcome, and you feel alive. You feel it and you know it: you know you are surrounded by your own, you know you are home. Home is where our heart and our essence breathe the best.