By Adeola Aderounmu
One day in December 2006, I sat in my car for more than 4 hours at a gas station in Festac Town, Lagos. We had queued up for petrol because the commodity had been scarce for some time. That morning when I arrived at the gas station at about 6 a.m, I thought I was going to be one of the first people at the station but to my chagrin surprise it appeared that some people slept over at the gas station.
As I waited and drove at snail speed to the nozzle where all the attention was, I saw how people struggled and fought to procure a commodity that is flowing freely right underneath their feet. For the first time in my life, I cried out loud, profusely with lots of tears flowing from my eyes. I was alone. There was no chance of consolation and my emotions burst without any hindrance. I had returned 2 weeks earlier from a place where I just drive to an unmanned gas station, fill my tank and drive away in no time. MyNigerianness had expired.
One day I wrote to a friend discussing about my paternal leave in 2007. He was shocked as I explained the process to him and that the plan was to be at home with my daughter who was one at the time. In 2011 I repeated the process taking care of our second child. In this piece titled- An argument for parental Leave,http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/articles/adeola-aderounmu/an-argument-for-parental-leave-13.html, published here in the village square and in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper I shared the experiences and the benefits of parental leave. But I know how far Nigeria and Nigerians are from such idealism. I know that my Nigeriannesss had expired.
When I’d talked to some people at home and abroad about picking up my children from school and making them dinner, I know the type of scorn and other types of reactions that people show (or sometimes fail to show). But if you grew up with my mother of blessed memory, it was imperative that you could cook. It was our next line of training after high school to take over the kitchen tasks while waiting for admission to the University.
During our younger years, we were required to be at home when the food was made so that we can participate in the consumption. If you were away, your reasons must be genuine and understandable. Unfortunately this family value given to boys and the ability to use it at home in the presence of the female members of the family is not generalised in Nigeria. Things fell apart many years ago and some misunderstanding of cultural values tangled with ego and ignorance.
There was one man I’d met regularly in Stockholm in the early 2000s. He was always late to our meetings and there was always one reason or the other while he came late. My replies were blunt; I always told him that I didn’t believe him. His problem was that he did not know how to shed the African time syndrome. I don’t meet this man again. He had since found his way back to Ibadan.
There are other things that remind me of the African time syndrome. One day I was invited to an event that was slated to start at 5pm. By 7pm, they had not even finished preparing the venue, so I left and when I got home I was able to see one of the football games for the evening. About a week later I heard from other people at another event that the New Yam Festival event went on to start around midnight! I was glad for the call I made-to return home before the evening burnt out. My Nigerianness had expired!
Last summer (2013) I started using my bicycle more often. I biked to the train station and then join the communal transport. When I arrived at work, I would have been on the bicycle, the train and the bus. I thought it would be over by the end of summer. No, it didn’t! I went on to bike to the train station over the autumn and then winter. Around 2008, I’d found the idea of people changing the tyres of their bicycle to winter tyres ridiculous but that was just what I did in December 2013 as winter sets in. My Nigerianness is over!
If someone had shown me this vision in 2001 or even in 2005, I would have laughed. Now I know that myNigerianness had totally expired. I no longer see the egoistic statuses that we went about dissipating when I was living in Nigeria. I know I’m never going to be able to give up that Nigerian sense of fashion and beauty. But for cars, they don’t mean the same thing to me as they did in 2001.
In another essay from July 2007 I’d asked a question: Who Planned Our Lives In Nigeria? Life can be easy or easier if we judge it by the simple things that have self-fulfilling effects. Life can be more meaningful if we don’t live above our incomes and if we stop setting standards just to meet other people’s expectations or their fantasies.
Life is more worth living if we live gracefully. My hope for Nigeria is that the time will come when the majority of the people will stop struggling just to survive but rather that they are presented with the fair opportunities to let them reach their potentials and accomplish happiness built on contentment and selflessness. That time will be freedom time, a freedom that will be fought for.
I’m feeling that my hopes mean that the possibility of reviving my Nigerianness may have been lost forever.