Arise O’ Compatriots; Nigeria’s call obey,
To serve our fatherland,
With love and strength and faith,
The labour of our heroes past
To serve with heart and might,
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity
Oh God of creation,
Direct our noble cause,
Guide our leaders’ right,
Help our youths the truth to know,
In love and honesty to grow,
And living just and true,
Great lofty heights attain,
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign
I pledge to Nigeria my country,
To be faithful loyal and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honour and glory
So help me God.
The above lines are lyrics of my country, Nigeria’s national anthem and pledge, and as I recite it in my head, I can’t help but ask myself if indeed the labour of our heroes past is not in vain. While it is true that being a black person anywhere in the world can be challenging, being Nigerian is worse. It’s a common joke amongst us that Nigerians who would eventually go to hell fire would just changing locations since the circumstances would still pretty much be the same. In other words, Nigeria is likened to hell fire. Just Imagine!
Being Nigerian means that you are waiting every 4 years for politicians to bring the branded rice, food items and money intended to lure you to vote for them so that you can survive a few more days because you are really hungry, because you are really poor. It means that you are a hard working middle class family who has nothing to eat because the government has not paid salaries. Being Nigerian means that you are student used to having over 5000 people in a class intended for 200 students without complaints because everyone is grateful that at least they are in school. It means that you are a first class graduate with no job because your parents are poor and have no connections.
Being Nigerian means that if you are an hard working academic who can only fend for his family, you would not be as respectable as a fraudster who gives to beggars on the street because people are really starving. It means that you have to work twice as hard to prove that you’re just as good as your peers because you are highly disadvantaged. Being Nigerian means you have seen illiteracy, poverty, insecurity at the worst forms possible. It means that thousands of people would die today and nothing would be done about it, only for more people to die the next day. Being Nigerian means that your dreams are limited because really how can you dream of a Lamborghini when all you have ever seen in your life is a bicycle.
Being Nigerian is being taken for a fraudster always, so much that your school certificates, documents and even words count for nothing. It means that embassies look at you more keenly and reject you in their minds before you even begin talking. Just look at this exchange that happened between me and a consular officer at the United States embassy
Me: Hello, Good Afternoon
CO: Why are you going to the United States?
Me: I have been invited as delegate to participate in the Future We Want Model United Nations Conference holding in New York City from March 1st– 3rd
CO: What delegation are you going with?
Me: I am not going with a delegation; I am going as a delegate
CO: Okay. What committee and country would you be representing?
Me: I would be representing the republic of Zimbabwe in the Economic and Financial committee and we would be deliberating on two issues, the first is ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Second, promoting international co-operation to combat illicit financial flow
CO: Oh! Good. Are you single or married?
Me: *I laugh because it’s funny*. I say “No” but what I really want to say is Damn it! “I’m just 20 years old, how can I be?”
CO: Who would be paying for your trip?
Me: I’m on a scholarship for the conference and my accommodation would also be taken care of. My father would cover the remaining costs.
The Consular officer takes my passport and confirmation page to discuss with another consular officer and says she would be back soon. She comes back after about 3 minutes and apologises to me as she returns my passport with a blue form saying my visa has been denied
I said thank you and left before reading the form. I already knew what was in the form; it was section 214(b) saying that I was not able to demonstrate that I was not an intending immigrant. I had read several articles and watched many interviews prior on US Visa interviews where various consular officers had been invited to speak on the interview process. I remember the one thing that kept reoccurring was that one has to demonstrate ties to their home country and fill the form correctly. I filled the form very correctly and answered the questions that were asked of me at the interview confidently, yet, I was denied which I felt was really unfair because I really wanted to attend that conference. I had made a lot of investment (both monetary and research) because attending the conference was going to boost my portfolio and give me an edge for my future goals. But here I was.
The one question I kept asking myself was how could I have demonstrated the ties I had to my home country if the only personal question that was asked of me, a 20 year old was whether I was married or not? I am a student and as bad as my country is, it is still home and I would never be as comfortable here (amongst people who look, act and talk like me) anywhere else in the world. I started to worry that could it be that perhaps a young, bright, unmarried Nigerian girl automatically strikes a consular officer as a person who would go to the US to stay illegally? Even though there was glaring evidence to prove otherwise, as I am a student and would need to come home for my exam results and certificate. I may never get the answer.
Or should i talk about my friends who would not be able to represent Nigeria at the Africa Regional Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition, organised by the University of Oxford because their visas were not released by the South African Embassy for reasons unknown. Being Nigerian means that you are treated as a miscreant and disdainfully most times, after all, your leaders don’t rate you and you keep voting in those same leaders. It means that you are a born activist because you actually have no choice as you either live in harsh conditions or constantly rebel.
But in spite of it all, I see a diverse group of people coming together to beat all odds, survive and thrive. I see Debola Williams, Chude Jidenwo, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Social Prefect, Abiola Olaniran amongst many Nigerians making a path for themselves despite all of this chaos. And in that moment I realise that although Nigerians are highly disadvantaged and it’s tougher for us, we are a people who have not stopped dreaming and working hard to ensure our dreams come true
So, if you ask me what it’s like being Nigerian, I’d tell you a story of resilience, hard work and a people who would not give up until their dreams are fulfilled.
NB. This is an abridged version. Click here to read the entire article.
Click HERE to subscribe to this blog via email for immediate notification.